My son is barely in elementary school, but I can’t help but look ahead to his teenage years and think about the young man I hope he’ll be at that point. I’ve never been a procrastinator, so I’ve already started a list of things I hope he knows but the time we celebrate his 13th birthday.

There are so many important lessons for our boys to learn in their early years that will carry them through their lives. If they know these 9 things, their teenage years and the rest of their lives will be (at least a little bit) easier.

1. How to Be a Good Friend

He doesn’t need to be the most popular kid in school, but in order to have friends, he needs to be a friend.

2. Budgeting

Image of child holding money.

It starts with his allowance. If our boys know how to save their money for a rainy day, they’ll benefit from a decent savings account when they graduate from high school, and they’ll hopefully avoid running into credit card debt problems as adults.

3. How to Cook and Clean

Boy washing dishes.

We’re not talking about being an expert chef, but he should know how to make more than toast and cereal. He should also be able to clean up after himself. Our boys won’t always have Mom or Dad there to take care of them. Most kids are old enough to babysit at age 13.

4. Find a Sport That He Loves

Sports are beneficial in many ways. First, there’s the exercise component. Many sports involve running around, and the fun and competitive aspects of the game are encouragement to run around even more. Then there’s the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team. Also, he’ll learn to be a good loser. Let’s face it, we can’t always win. We can’t always be the best at everything, and learning how to congratulate the winner, dust yourself off and try again next time, is a skill that’s essential for life.

5. Empathy

Emotions are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of emotional intelligence, and very successful people possess high levels of emotional intelligence. A key factor of emotional intelligence is empathy.

6. Respect for Authority

Officer Acerra sits next to Cameron Simmons on porch

This starts with respecting parents and teachers.

7. Respect Other People’s Boundaries

If someone says “no,” he needs to respect it. This can include everything from saying “no” to an obligation, activity, physical contact, etc.

8. Good Manners

Let’s be honest, when he wants to go on his first date, nothing is going to impress the girl’s parents more than good manners. For that matter, when he wants to get his first part-time job, he’ll need good manners during his interview and while at work.

9. Not to Jump to Assumptions about Other People

Schoolkids running

This includes not judging people by the way they look and not assuming you know what other people are thinking or how they are feeling.

What else would you add to this list?