Six Things Everyone Should Accomplish Before They Turn 18

What do you wish you had done before you graduated high school? Me?--a lot of things, but spilt milk doesn't taste very good. I've been challenged by Elizabeth at More from Elizabeth to list six things that everyone should do before they turn 18. I really appreciated her list, so mine will be somewhat similar to hers. There are a lot of other things I could have mentioned. Let me know what I might have missed.

It's easy to live vicariously through our kids. Usually that vicariousness is through sports, but it can also be through anything that they excel at. More important than expecting them to excel at anything, however, is to give them the tools to excel in whatever way they choose. Here are a few of those tools as I see it.

1. Learn how to manage money wisely.

My parents always gave me an allowance when I was growing up. I spent it on some foolish things, but they let me make those choices and learn their lessons. We do the same things with our children. Sometimes they think they should get money for every chore they do around the house, but if we carefully delineate what is a paid task, they learn a lot from the experience of work, as well as the acquaintance with money and how to use or lose it. Some of our kids are spenders. Some are profligate with their money, and others are savers. But in each of their unique ways, they learn economic consequences that will prepare them for adulthood.

2. Understand Human Intimacy.

Admittedly, my wife has done the lion's share of the work in this category. She's naturally better at explaining what's important for our kids to learn in an age-appropriate manner. Sexuality is a very important and non-dirty part of life, so it's important that we share this with our children.

A basic understanding of modesty as a tot, followed by understanding feelings that accompany courtship, and, finally, the mechanics of reproduction, help kids develop a healthy respect for sexuality, as well as a recognition of when its sacredness is cheapened by such things as salacious movies, books, and magazines.

A healthy understanding of one's own sexuality contributes to a healthy, whole person.

3. Develop Your Own Opinion About Religion.

I believe that my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is the only true church on earth, but I also encourage my children to develop their own opinions about religion. Naturally they go to church with us nearly every week, and they have even found ways to enjoy LDS sacrament meeting, but we won't disown them if they don't follow our path. What happens if they decide to belong to a different church--or to not belong to any church at all? I'll respect that choice. There are far too many people in the world who have incorporated only their parents' opinions about religion--and about many other things. There are a lot of people in the world as well who practice their religion better than I do.

4. Be Part of a Performing Group or Athletic Club

Or both! A couple of our kids are fantastic athletes, a couple are pretty good, and one had to be reminded that she had to take at least one PE class to graduate high school. They're all different, and that's to celebrate! One thing they have in common is that they're all in the Utah Valley Children's Choir, which is one of the most positive influences in their lives. It might be unusual, but everyone in our family has developed a great singing voice. While our oldest daughter is likely to become a concert violinist, and a couple of them might have athletic careers into high school and beyond, the fact they all participate is good.

5. Understand the Value of Service.

It's easy to find titillation in the world, but that's not what makes it go around. If, by the age of 18, kids haven't learned that the world revolves around a much larger group of people than it did when they were an infant, they probably won't ever learn this key fact and pass it on to their children. Not only should we let our kids see us donating regularly to our favorite charities, but we should spend some time with them sorting cans at the community food kitchen, cleaning up the cemetery for Memorial Day, and working on their Eagle Scout projects.

6. Develop a Zest for Reading.

Our home is busting with books. We need to get some new bookcases...or...we sometimes donate to the city library or the thrift store. My wife has hardly missed a night reading to our younger children in over sixteen years. Mainly because of this, but also because they regularly see us reading, our kids love to read. Some it has taken longer to develop that enjoyment than others, but they have all arrived. We get the daily newspaper, so that everyone has a reminder to become more aware of the world around them. Newspaper reading commences at younger ages with the comics, and then the perhaps the sports or lifestyle pages. Occasionally they find something interesting in the business and science section, and as they become older, they like to read the news.

Is that six accomplishments? Well, I can't resist another.

7. Develop and Celebrate Family Traditions.

Whether your family is of the nuclear variety--a father, a mother, and one or more blood-related children--or of any other type, the family is your fundamental unit of society. Family members see each others' warts, we smell each others' farts, and we fight most passionately on occasion about the silliest things. But that's how we prepare for the University of Life. Since we're going it together forever, we might as well establish traditions that engender fond memories. It was interesting in our case that we had gone to Disneyland several times together, yet since we visited Arches National Park in eastern Utah last spring, it's been determined that we'd like to go someplace like Arches again. Perhaps Mesa Verde (again), Yellowstone (again for most of us), or the Grand Canyon (for the first time), these are traditions that glue our family together. Going to the movies, cultural performances, or athletic events are some other things our family enjoys.

. . .

Okay. There are my six seven things. Now, as part of my obligation to Elizabeth, I tag six others. They are (somewhat randomly):


  1. Great post Frank. Arches rules!

  2. Great post. I don't particularly feel like I missed out on anything during my formulative years that I now wish I had done. It was what it was. I learned what I learned. I've moved on.

    We try to do all of the same things with our children that you have listed. Although we make sure that each child gets opportunities for athletics and performing arts, not all of them take to it. My oldest son detests sports of any kind. He had his fill early in life. He doesn't mind pumping iron, but that's a very personal thing. Although he has received piano and guitar training, he doesn't like to perform. He will sing with gusto as part of Boy Scout camp staff, but that's about it.

    I think the key is that each child should be given these opportunities, but if it becomes clear that it's not their thing, they should move on so that they can find something that better suits them.

  3. Sometimes letting them move on to something that better suits them is the hardest part.

    But you are correct.

  4. Thanks for the tag... I'm working on it... Perhaps in the next day or two.


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