Teenagers can’t wait to be liberated by adulthood so they could do what they want, how they want, and when they want it. Then they become 19, 20, or maybe even 21 and discover adulting is hard. Many people at this age may struggle with identifying themselves as adults; after all, they struggle to handle themselves financially, relationships become complicated, their health becomes their problem, and what even are taxes?
WinksForDays decided that reward systems and positive reinforcement shouldn’t just be for kids being trained to brush their teeth or do their homework. Adults deserve to have some fun and earn completion badges as well. After all, adulting can be hard and it’s about time there’s that acknowledges that.
The Peter Pan Generation
When it comes to settling down with spouses and kids, choosing a career, and buying a house, many ‘emerging adults’ have the same answer: I’ve got time.
“A word sometimes used to describe these people is ‘adultescent’ — some who refuse to settle down and make commitments, and who would rather go on partying into middle age,” says Professor Frank Furedi from the University of Kent. “These people might live with their parents until they are in their 30s, continuing the life had in their early 20s.” 
This phenomenon didn’t come from “millennial laziness” but rather the economy and their upbringing. Buying or renting a house has become more costly, especially for people with entry-level jobs and student loans. Many live with their parents to try to save up money.
There is also the emotional aspect of growing up: It’s scary. It’s much easier and seemingly safer to stick to the status quo of younger days, even when it’s not what is best.
Additionally, some parents who want their children to ‘grow up and act responsibly’ perhaps should look at how they raised these adults.
Humbelina Robles Ortega, a professor of the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment of the University of Granada and an expert in emotional disorders, states parental overprotectiveness “usually affects dependent people who have been overprotected by their families and haven’t developed the necessary skills to confront life.”
The ‘Peter Pans’ of today “see the adult world as very problematic and glorify adolescence, which is why they want to stay in that state of privilege.” 
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Learning to Adult
That is not to say that people who balk at adult-type tasks don’t want to grow up. As with most challenges, the hardest part is figuring out how to begin. Adulting includes many tasks from finding and booking medical professionals, keeping up at work, using time productively, eating healthy food, to more complex features like being a good partner and friend, how to deal with toxic people, and how to be punctual. It’s a difficult process, and many emerging adults feel unequipped to begin.
UC Berkeley is now offering an “adulting class” led by two undergrads, Belle Lau and Jenny Zhou, who schedule guest speakers and plan discussion topics. Life skill classes like these have become popular for college students and postgrads as classes like home economics are being canceled in high schools. Many people who take these classes can score a five on their AP Physics test but are lost when it comes to budgeting and meal-planning.
“We’re thrown out into this world and have little idea about what the heck we’re supposed to do,” says Lau, 21. “I think in general we all feel a little bit lost and don’t know where to start.”
Lau’s mother, Allie Wu, agrees and says that parents “don’t trust their kids enough to do things on their own,” and “when they’re at home their parents pretty much take care of everything for them.”
In Portland, Maine, there’s an Adulting School that teaches “soft” skills like making friends, conflict resolution, interviewing, personal finance, basic home maintenance, and much more.
“We’ve had clients who are millennials having major anxiety that they didn’t have these skills and didn’t feel successful as an adult,” says Principal Rachel Flehinger. “There’s a lot of self-loathing that happens.”
Similar classes and workshops are available at universities, libraries, and even on social media private groups, and blogs.
“Maybe it is our parents who aren’t teaching us these things we thought we should already know, but we don’t want to blame our parents for us being naive or ignorant,” says Lau. “It’s our responsibility as college students to know that if we’re struggling in some aspect, there are resources out there for us.” 
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Adulting Merit Badges
These merit badges are really just for fun, but they could serve as a cute reminder for the little responsibilities adults have to tackle every day. Mostly, they are perfect for a good laugh. After all, humor is a great way to deal with challenges, even ones as non-challenging as putting on pants.
They are made from colorful polyester thread and can be ironed or glued with E6000 craft adhesive glue onto backpacks, hats, shoes, and jackets.
Here is a full list of the badges available:
- Abandoned My Shopping Cart
- Went Makeup-Free
- Avoided Confrontation
- Paid Bills On Time
- Responded To Emails
- I Tried My Best
- Minded My Own Business
- Drank Some Water
- Did It Myself
- On Time For Work
- Packed My Lunch
- Saved Some Money
- Only Watched One Episode
- Paid With Cash
- Learned Something New
- Lip-Synched An Entire Song
- Went To The Gym
- Only Had One Glass
- Used A Coupon
- Called My Mom
- Took My Vitamins
- Ate A Vegetable
- Made Coffee
- Updated The Software
- Walked The Dog
- Reduced Screen Time
- Watered The Plant
- Went Outside Today
- Put Pants On
Each merit badge comes in a set of three and can make a hilarious gift. Plus, if you ‘earn’ all 10 sets, congratulations. You are a real adult!
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- Headway Fourth edition. The Peter Pan generation. Upper-Intermediate Student’s Book Unit 7. https://elt.oup.com/elt/students/headway/pdf/dyslexiafriendly/headwayfourthedreadingtextunit7.pdf Oxford University Press 2014
- University of Granada. Overprotecting parents can lead children to develop ‘Peter Pan Syndrome.’ Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070501112023.htm May 3, 2007
- Hannah Fry. ‘Adulting’ is hard. UC Berkeley has a class for that. LA Times. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-10/adulting-is-hard-uc-berkeley-has-a-class-for-that December 10, 2019