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Finding Purpose: 12 Things Kids Should Learn by Age 12

Finding Purpose: 12 Things Kids Should Learn by Age 12

Your sweet little baby needed you to do everything for them, and you did because you are a good mom. As our tiny kids grow into bigger ones, we get used to taking care of them because we always have! It’s what moms do.

However, doing too much for our children leads to burnt out parents, and it’s simply not good for our kids. They want to be a valued member of the family. Kids want to be seen as capable and competent people. When we ask too little of our kids, we risk raising entitled, helpless teens and young adults.

We rob them of finding purpose.

All moms and dads should ask themselves this question:

“Are we giving our kids enough opportunities to feel capable and independent?”

Here are 12 things I want my twins to know or be able to do before turning 12:

1. Water Safety

Yes, my kids complain, “How long do we have to keep taking swimming lessons?!” Simple. They need to be strong and confident swimmers to save themselves and someone else. In addition, they need to know basic water safety rules.

2. Pack a Suitcase

I will help my kids make a checklist on a whiteboard, but they are responsible for packing their own bag. If they forget something, they have to do without or come up with a plan of how to get it. You can make a Google doc and modify it after a trip to include what they actually used and what they wished they had.

3. Do Laundry

Some parents have each child take care of their own laundry, while others give each child a certain type of laundry to be responsible for, like towels, sheets, darks, colors or whites. At our house, clean laundry is put on the bed in the master bedroom and everyone comes to get their own, fold it, and put it away.

4. Handle an Emergency

In addition to being able to stay calm and call 911, your kids need to know their addresses and phone numbers. They should know what to do in a fire, how to operate a fire extinguisher and how to prevent and treat burns. Remember to teach them how to prevent and treat choking, bumped heads, cuts, and nose bleeds. This article can help!

5. Keep a Personal Calendar

I will retire as my kids’ personal assistant sooner rather than later, so they are learning to manage their own time. I let them pick out a calendar and buy some cool pens to fill it in. We all sit down at the beginning of the month and I fill in the family one while they fill in theirs. They now know when they are free for a sleepover and how long they have to finish that big writing project.

6. Make and Manage Their Own Money

Making their own money is a game changer. Encourage your child to start a little business or provide a service. Even if you are their employer! Don’t pay them for chores you expect, but jobs that are above and beyond the day-to-day. Let them waste their money, too. They’ll learn soon enough that they really didn’t need that many Pokemon cards.

7. Find a Non-Electronic Hobby

Encourage your child to find unplugged hobbies and interests. Do they like to write stories, act, do sports, build, or play an instrument? Can they sculpt polymer clay key chains for friends? Build birdhouses for parks? Make Perler bead magnets for nursing home residents? Kids should be able to carry on a conversation about more than video games and YouTubers.

8. Make a Meal & Clean Up the Kitchen

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but by age 12, your child should be able to prepare a meal for the family. Gradually release responsibility to set them up for success. Start by just having them make a side dish or dessert with you and work your way up to the whole meal. Check out this article for inspiration!

9. Care for an Animal or Younger Child

Putting the needs of others before yourself is a lesson many adults still need! Allow your child to care for an animal, even if it’s pet sitting. Younger children usually think older kids are super cool, so borrow some little ones for a few hours. Have your child plan some fun activities for them and it will definitely boost your child’s confidence!

10. Clean the Bathroom

Everyone uses it, so everyone needs to clean it. That is all.

11. Write Thank You Notes

Writing thank you notes will never be outdated. Make sure they know how to address and stamp it, too!

12. Look for Ways to Give Back

There are so many ways kids can help others. Help your child in seeking what it is they really care about. Does the fact that some kids go to bed hungry bother them? Or maybe it’s the fact that lovable cats and dogs spend weeks and months in a cage waiting to be adopted. How about the state of the environment? Check out this post for more ideas. Help your child do what they can with what they have to help someone else. The purpose is often found in making the world a better place.

“Feeling successful and living purposefully is important in any stage of life.” – David C. Borchard


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