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Handing Off Responsibility

Junior Executive on a cell phoneAt orientation at my son’s college, the Dean of Students delighted in sharing crazy stories of “helicopter” parents. Parents calling deans to make sure their son or daughter was out of bed. Parents asking a dormitory head resident to assist a daughter with laundry. Parents calling roommates, saying, “If you ate the last piece of pizza, then you have to order another one so his son gets his share.” Crazy, yes, but these are all signs of panicked parents who suddenly realize their children may lack a few adult life skills!

Here’s a short list of things children should be able to do before they go to college

  • Laundry
  • Set their own alarm and be ready on time each morning without parental nagging
  • Buy groceries and prepare simple, nutritious meals (the requirements in the house I grew up in were that both boys and girls needed to be able to scramble eggs, bake chocolate chip cookies, broil meats, and whip up spaghetti)
  • Schedule doctor and dentist appointments
  • Clean bathrooms, vacuum and dust
  • Choose school courses
  • Contact teachers about difficulties with assignments or questions about grades
  • Budget for clothing, toiletries, entertainment

You don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach at an early age, but what might your children be doing now? Preschoolers can pull their own socks out of the laundry. Grade schoolers can sort lights and darks into separate loads. Middle schoolers can calculate how buying that “in” pair of jeans means they’ll only have one new pair of pants for the fall. High schoolers can discuss and keep track of a reasonable budget.

Post this list inside a cupboard or above the washing machine and contemplate it every so often. Where might you next hand off a bit of responsibility?

Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is