Skills I Want My Boys To Have

Raising children is a slippery slope at times. We have to compete against friends and the media and our busy schedules to try to mold and grow children into productive members of society. I have one child that has left the nest and I am preparing for two more to leave in the next four years. What I am noticing is I am in a time warp of 18 years that goes by in a blink of an eye. I suddenly worry and wonder about what if I didn’t teach them everything they need to know to survive. I don’t want to be one of those moms who is paying for my 30 year olds cell phone bill. I wish I would have had a checklist when my boys were young to make sure that they had certain skills before they leave home. Lists are something that I can live by. A sense of accomplishment is felt when I can check that little box and say complete. But what if I was to create a checklist now, what would I want on it? Some things jump right to the front of my mind but may not be so obvious to others.

How to do laundry: This is a big one and it encompasses more than a FACS teacher can teach in a year. I want them to remember to always check pockets. Don’t dry a woman’s clothes….ever. How to fold and not live out of a basket of wrinkled clothes. These are the top items on my list.

How to clean vomit and other yucky things out of carpet: We have a dog that likes to leave surprises for us. A pet is a good training ground to learn how to clean carpet so that when they are a parent one day, they will not be squeamish about it. I personally am squeamish so I have raised boys who can do it!

How to plunge a toilet: It happens to the best of us and it is not going to magically fix itself. Better learn the art of the plunge sooner rather than later.

How to clean: Basics of weekly cleaning of bathrooms…and sometimes this needs to be done daily. Dusting and vacuuming as well as doing dishes are all skills that need to be perfected. Small things like how to load and unload the dishwasher, as well as the sooner you rinse and wash dishes, the easier it is.

How to cook and bake: You don’t need to train them to be chefs, but basic skills are important. Knowing how to make 5 main course meals is a great place to start. Teach them how to make your family favorites and maybe you can turn over the meal planning and creating over to them. Knowing how to bake a cake from a mix is a basic skill that will impress the boyfriend/girlfriend in their life when the time comes.

How to eat unique and creative food: How many business meetings are there where the CEO will only eat mac and cheese. Exposing children to different foods is an important step. Nobody likes going out with that person who makes 4 changes to their order at a restaurant. Taking my kids out for sushi is a fun experience and now the youngest will even eat it.

How to write a thank you note: I am always surprised at graduation gifts I have given that do not come with a thank you note. That is our last hope as a parent to make sure that they have that skill down. Writing a sincere note is a gift that people appreciate. Also a good refresher of how to write on the envelope is good as well.

How to have a good work ethic: Believe me, this is a hot commodity right now. If you have a child that knows how to work hard they will be miles ahead of most of their peers. Especially if they work in the food industry as everyone should know the importance of good customer service and how tipping is an art. If you have kids who can’t even take out the garbage without complaining you got a long way to go.

How to budget their money: Having kids have a debit card of their own and not a credit card is a good idea. They need to know that they have to earn more than they spend and that mom and dad are not there to always put money in their account for them.

How to organize: Having basic organizing skills is important. Simple things like if you take it out you need to put it back. Or don’t buy something unless you already know where it is going to go. My favorite is the one in one out rule; if you buy a new pair of shoes, an old pair needs to go.

How to deal with mail: Knowing what to shred and what keep. What to receive electronically as well. Just having it sit in a pile is not the option. Just because we get it in the mail does not mean we need to keep it.

How to shake a hand: I want everyone, not just kids to learn how to really shake a hand. Don’t give me the limp finger shake. Don’t avert eye contact. Don’t grab my hand and put it in a death grip either. Look me in the eye and shake my hand like you mean business.

How to hold a conversation: My youngest son does this when he and I go out to dinner together. I have him guide the conversation and it is amazing what he comes up with. When they start to date, they need to know how to look someone in the eye and talk to them without a screen in front of them.

As you look through this list, take the time to reflect where you are at on these items. Do you walk the walk or just talk the talk? What can you improve on? Because this I know for sure, even though you don’t think you kids are watching, they are. I know that as my kids grew it was even more important for me to have a presence at home. Even though your teen may not want to spend time with you, you need to be present just in case they say something that is important in their lives.


To Joyful, Simplified Living,

MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at

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