More Age Bench Marks to Build More Grit in Your Children


In my last post, I talked about helping your child be responsible for their clothes and entertainment when they turn the age of twelve. Below is a continuation of our Age Bench Marks.

When your kids buy their clothes, they usually take really good care of them. My kids rarely put their clothes through the dryer because it can be hard on the fabric and sometimes the clothes shrink. They take ownership. It’s a wonderful thing.(I am continuing the last post where we left off at #5.)

6. When our children turn 12 they start making their own appointments and calls. The operative word is start. When they need to catch a ride from a YW leader, or call the library about a book I tell them to look the number up online and call. It’s amazing how that can be a 20 minute dragged out drama for a child. It seemed like every time I made a child do that, we would get the joyous song and happy dance after. They know that doing Hard Things makes them happy. You just have to be firm and encouraging. Hang in there, be coaxing and positive, and help them work out that talking muscle. I talk more about this in the next chapter as well.

7. Our kids do their own fundraisers. This is a great way for you to allow them to take responsibility. This is a squirmy, sweaty endeavor for them. Let them squirm, sweat and wrestle over their lists of people to contact. Why would you take this over for them? There is always such a feeling of accomplishment when they get their quota. You can’t have any ego over whether they make their list or not. You have to let it be their job.

8. Our kids pay half on school trips, and we pay for Especially For Youth. EFY is a religious weeklong camp for Mormon teenagers. We think the benefits are so enormous that we happily pay the large chunk of money that is required. On school trips they have more incentive to help pay for it because they want to be with their friends. The key is to break it down so they earn a certain amount a week. “Inch by inch life’s a cinch. Yard by yard life is hard.”

9. Our children have a separate phone bill and we don’t do a family plan with them. This a free perk in a lot of families. This is a great way to get an unmotivated child going, so again, with your teenagers, you are trying to teach them to work for what they want. Even if it stresses them out a little . Even if they are paying more off of the family plan. Your job is to harden the baby seeds into sturdy little plants. Do not pay for their phones! Everyone wants their own phone and it’s so important that they have to work for it. This has worked very well in our family to start our children off on the world of bill paying . Initially, we tried the family plan which should be a win/win for parent and child.   When my children were on the family plan, I had to hound them to get their money for their phone. I was asking different children for their share two or three times. Why don’t I just pay for it? The valuable lesson of having their first bill and the consequences when it isn’t paid is worth it for me. Someone else is teaching them that when they don’t work and pay for something it gets turned off. The cell phone company becomes the policeman, not me. Two of my daughters still wanted the savings of the family plan so they banded together. One daughter had to bug the other to pay her part so they soon dissolved the partnership. I believe in “clamshell” phones for teenagers—not iPhones—but that’s another post.

 10.Our kids also pay for the bad stuff…broken windows, library fines, speeding tickets, and other stupid stuff they get caught doing.

A child with a broken cell phone, said, “ I dropped it, I took it to the repair place and it can’t be fixed. I’m sick of this! I need a new phone!” And then looked at me expectantly– Mom. Solve. This. For. Me. I told her how frustrating that was, and I had just walked around with a broken phone for weeks ( a cracked face but the phone still worked)but unless she started earning some money she probably would have to do without one. I also told her that I grew up without a cell phone and you can do it. I didn’t say it sarcastically but really to get things into perspective. I was shocked the very next day when she showed up with a “new” phone. She figured it out! She had started, first in our family to see if someone had an old phone. My other son did and he let her have it. She was so thrilled with a phone that he was tired of because it kept dropping calls. His trash was her treasure. The point is, when I turned the responsibility over to her, she was so happy to have a sub-optimal phone. She wasn’t demanding a brand new phone from me. When you require your children to take responsibility, they start owning their own mistakes and problems. This makes parenting so much more pleasant for me. Remember the quote from one of my earlier posts? “Only you can give your children a happy mother.”

Really though. I don’t want high maintenance children. A lot of what stresses them are First World Problems. Things break, cars crash, tickets are given. We can’t jump in and fix everything and insulate them from the real world. We can commiserate, we can help them come up with a plan on how to solve their problem but make it their problem. We can also help them with their range of emotions and help them get into perspective what it a disaster and what is an irritation or an inconvenience. All of these hard experiences that we let them handle makes them so capable to handle harder stuff.


  1. Sunday Night Interviews Are A Must. We, my husband and I, meet every Sunday with our kids that are unmarried, individually. it usually happens after Sunday dinner when they are already here. Initially we didn’t do that great, talking about what they needed to fix and being more critical. Now in the twenty years we have been doing this we have mellowed. Sometimes we start with a prayer. We cover all the areas and ask how is it going. We always ask how we can help. We encourage. Sometimes we do talk about difficult stuff and ask hard questions. With someone who is struggling we have learned to back off and show an increase of love and to voice that to them. Sometimes kids ask for a father’s blessing. Interviews now last 20 to 30 minutes. Sometimes all we want to do is nap. But I love it now when the kids say, “I get to go first!” “No I do!” because it wasn’t like that the first few years we did it! This is one of the blessings of parenting. We can become “perfect in our trying”, as my friend Lisa Boyce said once in a talk at church. We can start doing something badly, and keep working on it to get better. We keep trying.

There is a balance of negotiating this transfer of responsibility to them. As your children do more and more for themselves the subtle shift of being the master of their fate will slowly unfold and their confidence will grow. Recently, one of my children, a college age daughter planned to go to Arizona to see a friend leaving on a mission. She called me from the Provo, Utah Airport saying, “I’m boarding my plane!” She had gotten her ticket, figured it all out without any drama, and I was so struck with how happy she sounded and grown-up. I was surprised when she called, because I had told her I would drive her to the airport, thinking she was going out of Salt Lake, and then hadn’t heard a word. Suddenly, the phone call where she was getting on her plane in Provo and she was off. It made me think of those hard-won confidence muscles she had earned by babysitting at 12, getting a job when she was 14, calling people for fund-raisers for her sports teams, playing musical numbers at church which stressed her out, and figuring out her classes for college on her own. As you expect them to step up to their own plate of adult life, you gracefully and willingly recede and allow them to be their amazing, independent selves. It’s a magnificent changing of the guards. The princess is growing up and becoming the new Queen of her very own kingdom.

  1. You need to figure out how to build grit and self-discipline in your children. There are many ways to do this–through music, sports, getting jobs in their teen years or all of you moving to a farm.
  2. Start helping your children when they  are young,  to be accountable.
  3. Teach them all the skills you can to help them navigate their adult lives. The more the better.
  4. Let them take responsibility for their own fundraisers, phone calls, broken things or mistakes. Remember a small amount of pain now will save them large amounts of pain in the future.
  5. Help them to become responsible by having them pay for their own clothes and entertainment.
  6. Make sure they understand what debt is and how to avoid it. Teach them that you are being merciful unto them by not giving them money with no effort given. You are helping them learn to navigate the big wide world.

What Age Benchmarks do you have in your family, that teaches your children to be responsible?





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