In our circles, I have observed two extremes in how adult children operate. In one family, the mother loves to feel needed and so she does things for her children that most of us would agree  they should do for themselves, especially now that they are adults, well over 20!

For example, when her adult son, still living at home, wants to borrow a tool from a neighbour, she goes to ask on his behalf.  When he has paperwork for his insurance to scan and email, she arranges to get it done for him. When her daughter, nearly 30, needs a quote from a panel-beater to fix her car, the mother organises it, and in many other aspects of their lives, she takes charge, instead of leaving them to run their own lives.

The worst is that when they mess up, she makes excuses to cover for them. She blames others and so they never take responsibility for their mistakes or admit their faults. It’s an unhealthy co-dependency. The father is emotionally distant and uninvolved!

In contrast to this, in another family, the young adults are completely independent and do everything for themselves, but they have a good relationship with both their parents and will ask for help or advice when it is needed.  This is a much healthier situation.

With the use of modern technology, our teens and young adults can do a lot more than our generation could do at the same age. For example, they can do online shopping, book bus or air tickets online, book for movies or concerts and even order pizzas online.

This made me think about things we can do, while our children are still under age, to prepare them to take responsibility for their lives when they are adults – from 18 and older.

Here is a good rule of thumb to follow:

Never do anything for your child that she could do for herself.

This applies this to chores and tasks at home, like cleaning up their own spills, tidying their own toys, packing their clean laundry away etc. but it also applies to dealing with other people, in more business-like situations. Here are some examples to think about:

My 11-year old had a cough this week and we agreed she shouldn’t go to her gymnastics class on Monday. I allowed her to use my phone, to text her coach and tell her she would not be attending. She did it, not me. She took responsibility to notify the coach that she would be absent.
Your children can do this too.

Do you want to order a take-away? Let your youngest capable child write down the order and phone to place it – this will make him practice writing and spelling as well as help build his confidence speaking to a stranger on the telephone.

Does your child need to book his learner’s license test? Let him phone to find out how to do it and what is required. Then let him make all the arrangements to get photos taken, complete the forms and pay the fees. Don’t do things like that, which a 17-year old should be capable of doing alone.

Next he will need some driving lessons from a driving school. Get him to shop around, compare the options and then make the bookings.

Your teens could also call to make their own doctor, dentist or hair appointments, when necessary.

Birthday party or special occasion? Let your teen make the arrangements and do the invitations herself, by phone, whatsapp, email or whichever other method will work! Let them arrange a homeschool outing, youth picnic or other community event.

My 16-year old daughter runs an online business. Recently she had some very good lessons in solving problems by phone.

The first was handling a series of phone calls from a rather rude and impatient client who had not confirmed an order by email, but now expected delivery at very short notice for an expo. Besides trying hard to appease an unreasonable client, she phoned around to get quotes from various courier companies to see who could deliver to this rural area the fastest. Then she liaised with her grumpy client.

One of her suppliers sent her a huge printing bill and there was confusion on the emails back and forth – dates and invoice numbers didn’t add up. I could have called to sort it out for her, but it was a good opportunity for growth. She phoned herself to make the accounts query. She was rather timid doing this for the first time, but they confirmed that it was their fault. The problem was resolved more easily than we anticipated. I was standing by listening, just in case! Next time, she will be much more confident to handle a situation like that.

Running a business is a great way for children to learn to do adult things and solve real problems!

Does your child have a business idea? Ask him to submit a business plan. How should he do that? Let him use the internet to find a simple guideline. Don’t do it for him!
{Click here for more about Entrepreneurship for Kids.)

Does your older teen want to find a part-time job? Let her ask around or phone up in response to ads. Support her, but don’t do it for her. Here are ideas for ways to make money.

When children earn their own money, they are usually more responsible about how they spend it. Don’t give them pocket money or provide so much that they develop an attitude of entitlement.

Is there something your child wants to study? It may be a short online course or a more long-term career path she wishes to pursue. Let her do the research to find out what options there are, what they cost, what the admission criteria are and what other steps may be necessary to apply for acceptance to the course. Don’t do that for your child. Let her grow up and do this for herself.

If we treat our children like children and keep doing things for them that they could do themselves, it will be much harder for them to learn to do adult things. Its much better to take the approach described by a wise homeschooling dad. He said,

“I am not raising children, I am raising adults!”

Let’s do that. Let’s cut the apron strings and raise strong, competent, self-confident young adults, who can take responsibility for themselves and make an impact in their communities.