People don't know things unless they're taught. There's no magic age where you suddenly realize, "Oh, this is how you prioritize your time effectively," or "Ah, okay, if you take the square root of the sum of the square of side A and side B, then you get the hypotenuse of a right triangle!" or "Oh, picking my nose in front of girls doesn't get me a homecoming date." These are things that you learn, things that you are taught either by experience or by someone teaching you.
Age doesn't give you any more or less ability or knowledge, just more of an opportunity to be taken advantage of or squandered. There's the age according to your birth certificate and then there's your life experience and what you've been taught. Those two have nothing to do with each other.
As adults, we use this cop out a lot. As the marking period comes to a close, report cards are starting to come in. That means that I'm getting a wave of parents who are complaining about their children not living up to their potential, getting grades lower than they should, etc. This, of course, leads to that 20/20 hindsight where now we look back and say, "Well he shouldn't have been playing those video games instead of studying." I then ask parents, "Well, then why did you let him? Why can't we put a schedule in place for him to do his homework and then be able to play games?" I get the same response, "This isn't his first school year. He should know better." Well, sorry Mom and Dad, that's not a valid reason, and honestly, it's an excuse for you not doing what you needed to do.
Harsh? Not really, well, maybe it's a harsh truth, but it's a truth nonetheless. You're in charge of your kids' day-to-day schedule, and that includes their XBOX, iPad, phones, sports, and other after school activities, including those homework and studying things. As I've said before [link to NMF, NMP], it's not your responsibility to actually do the work for them. That's not your name on the report card. It is, however, your responsibility to give them the best shot to get the best grade that they can. Don't just assume that they will do their homework; give them a real schedule. How often have you had three things to do all day and then managed to get none of them done? Probably a lot if you don't have set times to do them. You get to work on time(ish), don't you? How do you manage that? You know when to leave. When you're late, it's because you didn't leave on time (no, that 30-second red light did not make you ten minutes late, do the math).
Your kids need the same guidance, whether they're in first grade or their last semester of senior year. Set them up with a schedule to do their homework, and ALWAYS make it at a set time. "After dinner" means sometime between putting the dishes in the sink (I know, I know, I'm laughing just typing that, too) and going to bed. That's a long time to put things off but still honestly believe that you'll get it done. Instead of that, what about, "Do your homework at 3:30. Once you're done that, you can do whatever you want (within reason, and yes, you have to specify that, too)." Now your kid can look at the clock or, gasp!, set an alarm with that phone/iPad/whatever and have no excuse NOT to do his homework. If he still chooses not to, then THAT is the time where he "should" know, and then that is on him. You did what you could, you set him up to succeed, and he chose not to do it. Not your fault, not your problem.
And a small note: Even if you've already done this and established a schedule, remember that in 2014 our kids here in Delaware/Maryland have had exactly TWO full weeks of school thanks to the weather. They're not in a routine, so you really do have to reinforce it. They can say, "I know, I know" all they want, but it's better to be annoying to them than not give them the best chance to succeed.
This doesn't just apply to school; it applies to more important things, too. St. Patty's Day is coming up, and unless you've been living under a rock (not a shamrock, mind you), this is *THE* drinking holiday. And something about leprechauns or sales on green food coloring or something like that. And drinking isn't just limited to March 17. You may think that your kids know better than to drink or smoke or snort or inject or otherwise use drugs, but do they really? If it's not something that you haven't had a real conversation with them about, then they're going to hear about it from their friends. Without real input from you (conversation = input; lecture = not), they're going to go with what their friends are saying and doing. You can think all that you want about you've raised them right (whatever the hell that means) and they're old enough to know, but that's another cop out. Talk to them. Will they listen? There's a good chance. If you don't talk to them, though, then don't expect their age to do anything but give them the feeling of invincibility and a desire to fit in and do what feels good.
And yes, the same goes for sex.
I also hear age being used as a weapon in the opposite way, "Just because you're 16 doesn't mean that you know how to drive." Yeah, it's the same thing. If age isn't a real reason for them to understand something, then age isn't a real reason for them to not understand something, either. There are 16-year-olds who can be incredible drivers. There are 55-year-olds who shouldn't even be allowed to play Mario Kart. Just because you've been doing something longer doesn't mean that you've been doing it the right way.
The wonderful part about all of this is that it means that your kids are a lot more capable than you think. It may take a little longer, but at age 3 she isn't too young to put on her own shoes. She has to learn sooner or later, so try it sooner. In fact, the earlier that you give your kids the opportunity to succeed at something, the more likely they are to do so. Music, foreign languages, and vocabulary are examples of that. Get them started young, don't have unrealistic expectations, and you're setting them up for success for the rest of their lives. It will also keep them safer since you're teaching them early to not talk to strangers, to know their address and phone number, to know what to do if something bad happens, etc. There are 6-year-olds who've saved their parents by calling 911. Had the parents not taught them what to do, those parents wouldn't have the opportunity later.
Ultimately, the reason that we say "they're old enough, they should know by now" or its opposite is because we don't know what the hell that we're doing. It's easier to give that responsibility to an arbitrary number of times that we circle the Sun rather than taking the initiative to teach them ourselves. It can be confusing to know what to do, and when it's your child, your sense of logic and expertise can fly out of the window. This is something that my years in child welfare have helped me with a ton, and it's a skill that I work on with a lot of parents and kids who are approaching adulthood. Knowing what it is to expect at a certain age can be very hard, but I have the luxury of being an objective third party and the experience to know what can be tweaked to make pretty drastic changes for the better. Oh, and I have no problem calling you out on what you're making excuses for doing that you know that you shouldn't. No problem at all.
So, get in touch with me and we can talk more about it. The earlier in life you do these things the better, but it's never too late to get started. You do, however, have to get started, so shoot me an e-mail , contact me through this website, or give me at (302) 464-0021. If you're wanting to do things better for your kids, and for yourself, then now's the time to go down that path. I mean, after all you're old enough to know that, right?
Remember: Nobody said that it would be easy, but nobody said that you had to do it alone.