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This is one of those things that I suck at. I have to constantly remind myself to take a deep breath, step back, and let (or make) my kids do some things themselves. It’s just so much easier at that moment your making their sandwich or tying there shoes to just do it yourself.

The problem is, doing it yourself just means you will always be making their sandwich or tying there shoes. Those 2 minutes you save today doing something yourself will only cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of minutes over the next 5, 10 or 15 years.

Here are some ideas of things you should be having your kids do ASAP!

 Wiping their ass

Sure it sucks when you end up with a shit stained underwear you then have to wash. Real fun when you reach blindly into the laundry basket and pull out a dirty pair of underwear with your thumb knuckle-deep in poo.

But it gets even grosser if you still have to wipe their ass when their 8.

Kids should be able to wipe their own but between 3 and 4


And for the love of God, don’t be those parents that still have their kids in diapers at 5!

A. Your child need to be potty trained in order to start kindergarten, AND


If you start seeing messy underwear, that’s your sign to teach them how to wipe better. I recommend keeping disposable wet wipes in the bathroom to help with those really messy ones. Just make sure they are flushable so you don’t destroy your toilet or septic system!

Tying shoes

Sometime between 4 and 6 years old, your child should be able to tie their shoes themselves.

Don’t be that guy that makes their 10 year old wear Velcro sneakers because you didn’t feel like teaching them. Eventually, your kid will get to a size that doesn’t come in Velcro.

And the older they get, the older you get, and bending down to tie your own shoes become enough of a challenge for the day.

Here are some tips that I have learned to make the process a little easier:

  • Don’t waste your time with those books or toys. Trying to tie a lace on a piece of cardboard isn’t the same as a shoe on your foot. Have your kids learn with the shoes on their feet.
  • Stand behind them and reach around when you are teaching them, don’t stand in front. The mirror effect can create confusion for them.
  • Have them sit on the floor in front of the TV and practice. If you only do it once in the morning when they are getting ready for school, it will take forever for them to learn. Practice, practice, practice
  • Whether its bunny ears or loop, swoop, pull, that’s up to you…neither is any easier.
  • Get longer laces – many shoes come with laces too short for newbies with little fingers

Getting their own food

It is insane how much time I spend making breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, getting snacks, pouring cups of milk…you get the drift. How hard is it really to get a bowl of cereal or make some toast.

I have recently starting making my kids pack their own lunches and get their own breakfasts. I also am getting my 7 year old and 12 year old to help make dinner.

Family dinner’s are incredibly important for you and your family’s health and well being (if you want to know HOW and WHY family dinner is so important, check out my post 3 Reasons Kids’ Activities Are Bad For Your Family“) So take this time to get your kids to help and learn their way around the kitchen!

4 to 6 years old

Start small like cereal or peanut butter sandwiches – easy because there’s nothing to burn themselves on, no sharp knives, and no appliances. Try getting these cereal cups to make things really easy for them. All they have to do is add the milk.

6 to 7 years old

Graduate to simple “cooking” like using the toaster or microwave. Check out Kidstir, it is a great way to teach your kids who are 6 and up to really cook. Every month you get a cooking lesson in a box for you and your kids to make. They even send kid sized utensils and easy to read directions. My 7 year old made the stuffing for our Thanksgiving dinner with her Kidstir recipe and it was actually good. Kidstir is a great way to get them cooking simple meals on their own.

7 to 8 years old

Your next step should be teaching them to turn on the stove to make simple things like scrambled eggs or rice.

By the time they are around 10 to 12…

They should be able to follow some basic recipes to cook a meal, use a knife for chopping, and handle raw meat (don’t forget the importance of washing hands and food safety!)

DON’T FORGET! Be sure to keep a step stool handy near the kitchen so that the counter height is more appropriate. It will make it a lot easier and safer for them to learn.

If you take the time to teach them, they can make their own breakfast and pack their own lunch almost every day. Do you have any idea how many hours that will save you!! So go sip your coffee and read the morning paper with all that freedom!

Taking a shower

Kids should be able to bathe themselves as early as 5 or 6.

But DO NOT leave them unattended in the bath by their self! If they are still taking baths at this age, continue to supervise them, but have them do all the washing themselves. And at this point, you definitely want them to know how to turn the water on and off and check the temperature so they don’t burn or freeze themselves.

But if you really want your freedom, you can teach them how to take a shower by 5 or 6. They still may need some assistance with things like rinsing their hair, but should be able to do most on their own. By 7, they should be able to do everything without your help. Try using a combination body wash, shampoo and conditioner so they don’t get confused between what’s what.

Time for House of Cards!

Doing laundry

If you recall, I have 4 kids. Which means there is always a shit ton of laundry, dirty and clean. (“shit ton” is a standard measurement, isn’t it?) When I had one kid and 2 kids, my wife and I just did the laundry ourselves. By the time we got to number 3, we realized we needed to bring in reinforcements.

When your kids are 3 and 4

they should not only be able to pick up all their dirty clothes and put them in the hamper, they should also be putting their own clothes away in their drawers and closets. And while they’re at it, they should help put away their younger siblings’ clothes as well.

Between 5 and 7

they should be stepping it up by folding the clothes and matching socks. Of course the folding won’t be pretty, but does it really matter? (of course it probably does matter to your wife, but hopefully she’s not looking)

Now, when your kid gets to about 10 years old, you really get a win. At this point, they should be able to not only bring the dirty laundry baskets downstairs, but actually load and start the washer. And if they can do that, they can also transfer the clothes from washer to dryer and turn that on as well.

And that completes the process. After 10, your kids can do the entire laundry process all by themselves. And if you are really good, you won’t only make them do their clothes, but yours too!

What are you waiting for?

This is just a small list of things you should be teaching your kids to do on their own. Not only does it give you your time back, which unfortunately will likely just be used to do more projects around the house, but you are teaching your kids the invaluable lesson that work is a part of life. Your kids should understand and develop an appreciation for how hard you work and how much work these tasks actually are.

I tell my kids that they get to do tons of fun things and have tons of fun toys, but in order to have those things we need to do the work. Too many parents are babying their children way too long, and are ending up with boomerang kids that they have to support for the rest of their lives.

Sorry that I’m selfish, but I want to be able to retire and have my kids take care of me, not the other way around.

 Please comment below and tell me what you’ve learned from your experiences or let me know of any questions you have, advice you are looking for, or topics you are interested in reading about. Oh and don’t forget to share this post!


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I’m Rob, CPA at Against the Grain Accounting & Finance, co-blogger at Your Healthy Family Coah, father to 4, husband to 1, and down-right exhausted. I believe in putting family first and am on a mission to help every family live better. I want to help all of you save money, make more money and have your money work for you so you can finally attain the financial freedom you have been looking for.