Happy Fathers Day: 25 Skills Every Dad Should Teach His Kids

Age 13: Build a good reputation, online and off. Keep your word. Be nice to the younger kids. And never post a picture online you wouldn’t show your teacher, the dean of admissions, or your boss.


Age 14: The first thing you need to know about using a compass: Put it away if you can’t read a map. If you don’t have either, look at the sun, which, as you know, rises in the east and sets in the west. If you have a watch, match the hour hand with the direction of the sun. The direction that is midway between the hour hand and 12 is south. Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, then that point is north. If it’s daylight savings, then replace 12 with 1. That reminds me: You should wear a watch.

Age 15: When chopping firewood, aim for the chopping block beneath the log, not the top of the log. Let the ax do the work.

Age 16: Sure, less than 10 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. have manual transmissions, but every kid should still learn to drive a stick. Renting a car overseas? Helping a drunk friend home? Driving a getaway car? Plus, stick shifts make much better sounds when you’re out on a date.

Age 17: Changing your own oil is an introductory course toward learning how your car works. It helps you to understand the mechanics, and to trust your own hand at making repairs. Warm up your vehicle a bit beforehand—it makes the oil flow faster. And it feels better.


Age 18: Make yourself useful on a boat. Unless you’re a Somali pirate, you won’t need to know how to commandeer a large ship. But if you find yourself on someone’s boat—be it a dinghy or a 40-foot Albemarle—it’s best to know what you’re doing so you don’t sit there like you’re riding the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. Learn the cleat hitch to ward off pilings when the captain is docking. And if nothing else, fetch the ice.

Age 19: Learn a second language, preferably math. Sure, French might impress the ladies. And Spanish will come in handy on spring break in Cancún. But math is the only truly international language. Master it and you won’t have trouble finding a job in any country in the world. Even France.

Age 20: If you’re asked for help opening a jar, you damn well better open it. Make sure your hands are dry so you can grip the lid as tightly as possible. For extra traction, wrap the lid in a kitchen glove. If the lid is stubborn, run it under hot water. If you’re truly desperate, fashion a handle out of duct tape. And if you give up (never give up), don’t claim that you loosened it first. Because you didn’t.

Age 21: Real men have green thumbs. A garden can provide more than herbs or flowers for mom. After spending hours staring at a screen, time in the garden gives your mind (and eyes) a chance to reset. Start with a tomato plant. Clear a patch of dirt or build a raised garden bed, and try growing some veggies from seeds. No matter where you go in life or your career, you will seldom get as much pride and joy as you do from a successful harvest.

Age 22: After writing an angry email, read it carefully, then delete it.

Age 23: Take on a woodworking. But never use a chisel for anything but its intended purpose. Or you will soon be out of chisels.

Age 24: Be a regular at your local flea market. You’ll find some of your favorite tools, some of your weirdest neighbors, and inspiration for some of your best DIY projects.

Age 25: Stay young (at heart). Accept a stupid bet. Make things. Break things. Eat something bigger than your head. Jump fences. Go on a spontaneous road trip. Never turn down an invitation to dance. Unplug, on occasion. And lay off Facebook—it’s all old people now.