***This is the second post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 1

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3 Stages of Learning Square

Have you ever caught your kids doing something that you had no idea they were capable of? I think about the time my three-year-old made his own eggs. I was keenly aware in that moment that I wasn’t giving my son enough credit or enough responsibility.

In Duct Tape Parenting, Vicki gives us an excellent visual of how much we should be expecting of our children. She explains the Timeline something like this:


If we realize that we have just 18 years to train our children to be adults, then we must also realize that by age 9, half of that training should be done. That’s mind-boggling isn’t it! Even when I look at my son who is almost 5, I think he is still far away from having 1/4 of the skills to live on his own. If you think this is a little extreme, keep reading to see how these skills are broken down into 3 stages or windows of time. Vicki explains that there are ideal windows in which to learn certain skills and if we follow this layout, we will receive less push back from our kids and they will be more eager and willing to learn at each stage.

Birth to Age 9: Life and Self Skills

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Babies are constantly learning new skills and we hardly have to help them. They are eager to master one stage so they can move onto the next. First they sit up, then they crawl, then they walk, then they run. We are standing by, cheering them on and watching them change before our eyes. If we encourage this learning and refrain ourselves from saving them every single time they start to fall, they will grow up confident in their own abilities.

This window of time is ideal to teach basic self and life skills. This includes:

  • getting themselves up and ready for school
  • being responsible for their own homework
  • cleaning house and doing laundry
  • answering phones and making appointments

  • help with paying bills
  • creating shopping lists
  • learning time management
  • creating their own routines

There is a more exhaustive list in the book and when you look at it, it seems like so much!

In fact, in another part of the book Vicki explains that by kindergarten, her 5-year-old had learned how to get herself up, get ready, make her own cereal for breakfast, pack her own lunch, and head off to the bus, all on her own. Remember however, this kind of training doesn’t happen overnight and in the following posts in this series, we’ll learn how to train our kids and how to determine which skills to focus on.

Ages 10-15: Social Skills


Once our kids are heading into adolescence, they are much less interested in learning how to mop the floor and their life begins to evolve around their friends. This is an ideal time to learn social skills and how to be strong in social situations. These skills include:

  • Making friends
  • Saying no
  • Talking to a teacher about a grade
  • Making phone calls
  • Fighting for what you believe in
  • Accepting those who are different

  • Accepting themselves
  • Defining their identity
  • Exploring new interests
  • Conflict resolution
  • Prioritizing
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Respect

It’s easy to see why so many older kids give us such negative attitudes about cleaning up when it isn’t something they’ve been doing since they were very young. With so much brain power being focused on learning these kinds of skills, it is much harder to devote some of that to learning basic cleaning skills. If it isn’t a habit already in place, it will be so much more difficult to develop during this window of time. We want our kids to be resilient and responsible. We want them to be able to stand up for themselves among their peers. If that’s the case, we need to invest in them when they’re young so that when they get to this stage, they have the confidence and available mental energy to do so.

Ages 16-18: Life Skills and Lessons


Once puberty is on the downhill slide and our kids are approaching high school graduation, they start to realize how much they have left to learn! This small window of time is where a lot of important skills must be learned, many of which are not taught in school. Some of these things include:

  • Buying a car
  • Dating
  • Finding a job
  • Budgeting their finances and opening a bank account

  • Handling offers of drugs or alcohol
  • Choosing a college and applying
  • Following through with plans
  • Resiliency
  • Taking responsibility for their choices

If these skills can be mostly mastered before age 18, think of how much easier your child’s college experience or work experience will be! I remember getting to college and was lacking in so many of these skills that it was completely overwhelming. How could I focus on school when I couldn’t even pay my bills?! I wish I had been a little more ready to deal with those parts of life before I left home.

List of Age Appropriate Chores

For the purpose of this series, I will be focusing on the life skills portion of this timeline, namely ages 0-9. Here is a list of chores or “life skills” most 9 year-olds should possess and a goal for you to work towards with your younger children.

  • Getting up on their own
  • Getting themselves showered and ready
  • Making breakfast
  • Packing lunch and backpack
  • Organizing and turning in homework
  • Washing dishes
  • Doing laundry
  • Cleaning bathroom
  • Making shopping lists

  • Vacuuming
  • Sweeping and mopping
  • Learning how to cook
  • Making bed
  • Answering phones
  • Help with paying bills
  • Making appointments
  • Setting the table
  • Dusting

Once these skills are in place and become habit, it will be much easier for them to continue while learning other, more advanced skills.

Your Homework

Your homework is, over the next week or so, to observe each of your children and to write down, in three different columns, the following: 

1. What your kids can do and will do

2. What they can do but don’t do

3. What they can’t do because they haven’t been trained

It’s important that while you observe, you refrain from reminding, nagging, or threatening. Just simply observe what your kids do on their own and without reminding. This will help you prepare for the next post when we talk about how to invite our kids to learn and do more.

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Does this resonate with you? Do you think it’s possible? Have you tried it?

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