Former Stanford Dean Shares Essential Life Tips for Every 18 Year-Old

April 19, 2016

11:00 am

Teenagers are rarely looked at as the overly informed demographic. In fact, 18-year-olds are arguably the dumbest people on the planet. But with prom, college and the right to gun ownership on their minds, who can blame them? The key is to teach them the right things, and former Stanford dean, Julie Lythcott-Haims is up for the task. In her book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, she insists that there are a few things that 18-year-olds need to know to make it in the big bad world. 18-year-olds must be able to:

Talk to Strangers

The real world is filled with people. Whether they are doctors, lawyers, plumber, mechanics, bosses, coworkers, landlords or deans, the abilities to communicate with someone you have never met is integral to success.

“We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones,” says Lythcott-Haims. “Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers — respectfully and with eye contact — for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.”

Navigate a New Location

New places are scary. No one is debating you on that. But having the ability to navigate a new location is going to be something you have to do for the rest of your life. And if you don’t even know how to talk to strangers, you should at least know how to read a bus schedule.

“We drive or accompany our children everywhere,” says Lythcott-Haims. “Even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don’t know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.”

Manage Time Correctly

Forgetting your homework was cute in high school. But missing assignments, delayed projects and missed deadlines are not only annoying in the real world, they are unacceptable. 18 year olds that can manage their time are leagues ahead of their immature counterparts.

“We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it— sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them,” says Lythcott-Haims. “Thus, kids don’t know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.”

Do Chores

We get it; your mom was great at folding your laundry and your dad could clean gutters like it was nobody’s business. But if you don’t know how to contribute to the running of a household, your adulthood badge is going to have to wait.

“We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work,” says Lythcott-Haims. “Thus, kids don’t know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.”

Resolve Conflict

When you threw a fit at your 5th birthday because someone stole your favorite toy, your parents looked the other way. But now, resolving conflicts with others is not so much an impressive trait as it is a necessary practice.

“We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them,” says Lythcott-Haims. “Thus, kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.”

Deal With It

The world is not a fair place. And while you received participation trophies for every sport you’ve ever played since kindergarten, the real world is full of ups and downs. The sooner you are able to deal with that, the sooner you’ll be a real adult.

“We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults,” says Lythcott-Haims. “Thus, kids don’t know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.”

Earn and Manage Money

A fool and his money are soon parted. And while being a babysitter and having a paper route helped teach you learn the value of a dollar, the ability to earn and manage money is the only thing keeping you from a double digit bank account.

“They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need,” says Lythcott-Haims. “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.”

Take Risks

While participation trophies, helicopter parents and baby-proofed electrical sockets have protected children from failure, the ability to take risks in life is a catalyst for success. The only way to be great is to fail. A lot.

“We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them,” says Lythcott-Haims.” Thus, kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. “grit”) or the thick skin (a.k.a. “resilience”) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

While these eight tips are aimed at teenagers, they’re all tips that we ourselves as adults need to learn (if we haven’t already).

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at

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