The dream of every Must Have Parent is to raise an adult—who will move away and take their stinkin’ Lacrosse bag with them.

But are they ready to go? Stanford Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims, came up with an awesome list of skills any 18-year-old brilliant enough to get into Stanford ought to be able to do before they leave home.

The dean thinks college kids ought to know how to talk to strangers, find their way around on their own, manage their assignments, do the work of running a household, handle interpersonal problems, earn and manage money, and take risks.

Already taught that skill, because I had to.

I agree—and I think in #MustHaveFamilies we start teaching those things waaaaaaaay before college. Because we have to.

When you are a #MustHaveParent you are already short one set of hands most of the time due to your partner’s job that demands unpredictable hours, mega travel, deployment and/or temporarily living apart from the family. We in MHPworld do not have the resources to helicopter our kids.

3 Best #MustHaveFamily skills to teach teens today

Although there are parents living on my block today who think I taught my kids these skills way too early (seriously???), I'm pretty much delighted with the way my #MustHaveTeens made these skills pay off for themselves.  They knew that their dad and I were always available for the save, and they also knew we expected them to come through for themselves first.  Here are three that made a difference:

1. Care and feeding of an alarm clock.

Although I am small and round and have a bright clean face, I am not, in fact, an alarm clock. In our family, the rule is that the minute you have your own phone, you and you alone are responsible for learning all about your alarm clock feature--- and using it every day.  Note to self: this skill takes years. Start now.

2. Permission slips are your business.

In grade school, I will dig through a kid’s backpack to find permission slips. There are only so many brain cells to go around in grade 5. I get that. In middle school, if you want to go on a trip, present me with the paper, a pen and my checkbook or, sadly, you might have to stay at school. Little paperwork responsibilities now mean that big paperwork responsibilities in college won’t be too much.

3. Talk through your own school problems.

Every kid has some petty problems in school—missing permission slips, lost gym uniforms, a bad grade on a test. Learning to deal with the adults at the school over small problems is the first step toward dealing with adults everywhere.

Starting in middle school, we don’t fly to the rescue every time there is a problem. We only come to school to help with a problem if our kid has tried to handle it first. In high school, they have to invite us in to help them deal. Unless it is a felony. So there is that.

One of the things I find most rewarding about being a #MustHaveParent is seeing how competent teens can be.  They have the seeds of adulthood in them--water and feed and watch them grow.  

Because when it comes right down to it, my husband and I never set out to raise kids.  We set out to raise adults--and the process is endlessly fascinating.

Jacey Eckhart is the co-founder of Must Have Parent.  Trained as a sociologist, she has been writing about military families since 1996.  She is the author of The Homefront Club and Signature Strengths of Military Families.  She is endlessly interested in the crazy skills people learn that help them build a life with a partner whose work demands unpredictable long hours, mega travel, deployment or living apart--without getting pissed off about it every single day.  It's a little miracle that makes happily ever after possible.