HSL Better Than Stuff Series: Give the Gift of Crazy-Good Skills

Having trouble coming up with gift ideas for your family? Could it be because they don’t truly need anything… or because the stuff they need can’t be bought?

It is. You may not know it is. But it is. Teaching Middle School in the Covid Era… tells me this is true. Our children have tremendous need for stuff that can’t be wrapped… like skills. Life skills.


This year for Christmas, teach your family how to do stuff, how to make stuff, or even how to fix stuff. Why? Because competence breeds confidence.  Friend— KIDS NEED CONFIDENCE.


You raise your hand when you know the answer. You volunteer when you feel able to help or know what to do. When you don’t? You pray you aren’t picked, called on, needed, or forced into service. That might be irrelevant at twelve and thirteen years old. At thirty–it’s a problem.


Start close to home. Pair your gift of high expectations with the skills to meet them. Teach your kids how to do the stuff you are an expert at. Do you make a great dish, know how to fix stuff around the house… keep yourself alive??  Start there.


Teens are entering adulthood. Either with the skills it takes to live on their own or without them. (One could argue that someone isn’t really entering adulthood if they don’t have basic life skills… in fact, one is arguing this point. Me.)

This isn’t an indictment of young people, just a statement of fact in the modern era. We outsource everything and if we can’t outsource, we throw out. Post Covid, we cook less, order more, and discard anything that can’t be delivered anew. Read the room. The changing culture, climate, and economy is about to make that way of life expensive or non-existent.


You are about to have 2 weeks off with your kids at home. What do they need to know how to do? Notice the question wasn’t “What do they want to know how to do?” If the answer to both questions is the same thing, great! If not… start with need over want. Your kids likely aren’t going to come to you begging to know how to make a grocery list or detail a car. Teach them anyway. We complain because kids aren’t more autonomous or independent… while we teach them little to help them be so.


At twelve and thirteen our kids began hosting their own Christmas party for friends. They had to plan the evening, prepare the food, and execute. Was it The Barefoot Contessa with a saffron soufflé? Nope. It was teen charcuterie with pizza rolls and taquitos. Was it a string quartet with expensive door prizes? Nah. It was a game, caroling, and gift exchange. Was it my idea of a grown-up soiré…. uh no. But the point wasn’t for me to host a party, it was for them to host a party. And they did. They planned, prepared, executed, hustled, hosted, and then CLEANED UP. And this year they wanted to host their own birthdays, Halloween, summer swims, and fall bonfires. Because they now know how.


That was just one evening, but we packed a lot of good stuff into that vehicle… time management skills, budgeting skills, culinary skills, social skills… have you made a schedule for the oven to know what needs to go in and when, have you asked your friends about allergies, not everyone knows each other what’s your plan for that? Skills. Crazy skills. That made them crazy confident.


Give your family the gift of increasing independence and autonomy this year. They may not be able to identify the skills they need, but I bet they have an idea about the kind of life they want to have. Do they see themselves living on their own? Well then, they need money skills, maintenance skills, and self-care skills. Do they see themselves driving? They need car skills… cleaning, gas, insurance, maintenance.


Start with basics. Group some together in a fun task or challenge. There are infinite life skills lists for teens you can find online. Pick one and start working it! They will absolutely thank you… but not for 20 years.