If there’s one thing kids hate, it’s hearing parents say, “You’re not old enough for that” on things the kids want to do and “You’re old enough to know that” on things the kids don’t want to do. It does often seem that the first step toward being ready for exciting things is proving responsibility in more boring matters—a lesson even many adults are slow to learn, as any supervisor who’s fielded premature requests for promotions can attest.

Wishful thinking aside, there often are better criteria than age for determining who’s ready for what. Where minimum age isn’t a matter of law or other official policy, here are a few questions to help determine whether your child is mature enough (not just chronologically “old enough”) for what he or she wants to try.


Has Your Child Consistently Demonstrated Responsibility and Good Judgment in Other Matters?

Does he do agreed-upon chores without having to be reminded?

Is her homework finished before the last minute?

Does he save some of his allowance for emergencies or larger purchases, rather than spending it all in a week?

Are her time-needed estimates generally accurate?

Is he taking care of his health and not overloading his schedule?

Is it a rare occasion for something to be sloppy or unfinished? When there is a problem, does she show accurate understanding of what went wrong, and accept responsibility for her part?

A child with a good record of doing current duties responsibly is probably ready for bigger things.

Does Your Child Show Initiative in Most Matters?

An even better indicator than doing well at what’s expected, is voluntarily going above and beyond the expected.

Has he come up with successful ideas or enterprises to earn money on his own?

Does she have a record of doing a little extra, not just carrying out instructions?

Does he pitch in to help, or see what needs doing and do it, without being asked?

Does he pitch in to help, or see what needs doing and do it, without being asked?


If your child is afraid to confide in you about tough topics, there could be real trouble if she suspects she’s in over her head but won’t come to you for advice. If you’ve always been too busy to ask about the specifics of his day, his judgment may be poor due to lack of guidance. Start improving family communications immediately if you recognize yourself and yours in either of those descriptions. Even if communications are good overall, make a habit of asking “what do you think?” questions about anything the child wants to try. 

A child who always looks to you for all the answers will be handicapped when, inevitably, she’s forced to make a decision on her own judgment.


Finally, listen to your child! Don’t be the overprotective parent who automatically says “No” out of fear. Hear out your child’s reasons why he thinks he’s ready; even if you ultimately decide to say “No,” it’ll strengthen communications in your relationship. And it’ll help your child practice reasoning out a situation instead of just “following the rules.”