A lucky few among us are old souls who achieve a level of wisdom, compassion, and basic life skills when they've barely reached their teens. Others are hot messes who can barely manage to pay the electric bill on time into late middle age.
In short, 18 isn't a magical number. Being a functional grown-up is something people manage at wildly different ages. And thanks to today's trend towards helicopter parenting, many young people are achieving a state of mature competence later and later.
So what are the signs someone has made it? Is there a quick rundown of essential skills that indicate you've reached a basic level of maturity and can proudly and accurately proclaim yourself (or your kid) a functional adult? In a fascinating Quora response, Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford dean and the author of How to Raise an Adult, offers just such a list.
Not only does she outline the following eight essential skills that every true adult should have down cold, she also delves into how parenting practices can hold young people back from mastering them. That makes her answer not just a handy way for young people to gauge their readiness for the real world, but also a thought-provoking read for parents as well.
1. Talk to strangers
We offer dire warnings to kids not to speak to strangers, but the ability to strike up a polite conversation with everyone from the bus driver to your new boss is actually a hallmark of maturity, according to Lythcott-Haims. Parents, she feels, would do better "teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones."
2. Find your way around
Lythcott-Haims asks parents: If you drive or walk your kid everywhere, how will he or she develop the essential adult skill of finding "his way around a campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad"?
3. Manage your workload and deadlines
It's no surprise that a former university dean would be keen for young people to be able to finish assignments on time. Lythcott-Haims notes that when parents continually remind their children about deadlines and responsibilities, they hamper their kids' ability to master this important skill.
4. Do basic household chores
If you don't insist that your kids help around the house, how are they going to learn to take care of themselves? Sure, after-school activities might be important. But are they all more important than knowing how to wash your own socks or feed yourself properly?
5. Handle interpersonal problems
I'm betting this one is where a lot of people--young and old--will fail the functional adulthood test. Resolving relationship issues is genuinely hard to master. If parents always "step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings," kids won't learn "how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention," Lythcott-Haims cautions.
6. Cope with life's ups and downs
No matter how sensible (and lucky) you are, you will face hardship. True adults understand that and have the resilience to weather the inevitable storms.
7. Manage money
Managing money is another toughie for lots of people, and the fact that these days many kids "don't hold part-time jobs," doesn't help, Lythcott-Haims feels. "They receive money from us for whatever they want or need; thus, kids don't develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn't inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money."
8. Take risks
To be a true adult, you need to be able to cope with the reality that accomplishing anything worthwhile means risking failure, and that achievement almost always involves repeatedly stumbling and repeatedly dusting yourself off and getting back up again.
According to this test, when did you reach real adulthood?