Milestones are useful markers in many areas of one’s life as they offer guidance and give a standard which allows evaluation of one’s course. For parents, some of the most important areas include milestones for spiritual development and mastery of adulthood tasks.
Milestones for Spiritual Development
Parents who follow Christ recognize that leading their children toward spiritual maturity is the most important task of parenting. This responsibility takes priority over educational pursuits, athletic endeavors, and extra-curricular activities. At best, the Church can only reinforce parents as each must take responsibility for their children’s development. See my post on spiritual milestones.
Milestones for Adulthood Tasks
Following closely behind the task of developing spiritually mature offspring is preparing these same offspring to enter the world as productive, responsible adults. In today’s society one can observe the phenomenon of “extended adolescence” where adults by age are not becoming true adults until they reach their late twenties—if then. Social scientists have speculated on some of the factors behind extended adolescence. While many of the factors fall directly into the laps of parents, one should remember that good parents may have children who make poor choices and reject sound parenting. That being said, some of the suspected factors of extended adolescence include parental divorce, dual-income families, ill-equipped parents, unengaged parents, parental over-indulgence, and societal acceptance of extended adolescent behavior. Steps to overcoming the extended adolescent phenomenon is to, firstly, avoid the above parenting factors. The second way is guiding one’s children through the development of adulthood tasks is by teaching responsibility for chores, activities, and attitudes. Keeping in mind that some develop faster and others slower, allow me to suggest a few–far from exhaustive–milestones for teenagers preparing for the responsibilities of adulthood:
By the end of 7th grade a teen should be able to use a washer and dryer, fold towels and other simple clothing, cook simple meals, wash, dry, and put away dishes. Run the vacuum and sweeper. Maintain the orderliness of personal space, e.g., bedroom, desk, and perform basic yard work.
By the end of 8th grade a teen should be able to be responsible for personal hygiene without being reminded, do homework, housework, and yard work without prompting, prepare an occasional family meal, be responsible for younger siblings in a parent’s absence.
By the end of 9th grade a teen should be able to sort clothes appropriately for washing, fold and hang clothing, clean the kitchen and bathroom. Demonstrate a consideration of other’s desires and feelings when making decisions.
By the end of 10th grade a teen should be able to use an iron, maintain a car by checking and adding oil, gas, and air in the tires, reconcile a checkbook , and demonstrate a willingness to serve others.
By the end of 11th grade a teen should be able to do deep cleaning of the house and yard, responsible for earning spending money, budgeting the money earned, making a grocery list and purchasing nutritional food, purchasing personal clothing, demonstrate a decision making process that assesses likely consequences to oneself and others, able to differentiate between rational thinking and emotional impulse.
By the end of 12th grade a teen should be able to accomplish the tasks necessary to maintain a home, yard, and auto. Be able to handle financial and societal obligations responsibly including maintaining healthy relationships with peers and family members, and be willing to seek advice when needed.
Milestones offer checkpoints along the path. Meeting each milestone offers great opportunity to live a life which will point others to Christ.
(Note: This article was orignially written for our October 2012 church newsletter)