The older we get, the more mature we are, and the more we learn, the better able we are to know what’s right. Right? Not always. Sometimes the aging process can strip away the natural aspects that keep us curious and give us strength to figure out what to do. Children of all ages teach us lessons in life if we are willing to listen, watch, and consider how to apply those lessons to our own lives.
Honesty is the best policy. Ever had the experience where a child you know told someone, “that wasn’t nice” or “I don’t like your shirt” or “I hate that kind of food!”? It’s a natural reaction to shush the child and tell them it’s not nice to say those types of things, but they’re being honest. Children will often see a wrong being done and intervene to say it’s not right. As adults, we tend to sit on the sidelines and meld into the background, rather than take a stand or say something that might be perceived as unpopular. Consider whether your white lies are always necessary or whether a dose of honesty might – at times – be just the right approach.
It’s okay to show emotion. Kids cry. They stomp their feet. They yell with glee and excitement. While it isn’t socially acceptable for an adult to stomp their feet when they don’t get their way, letting loose with a little bit of overt happiness from time to time can be very freeing. Try jumping up and down and yelling “yippee” when you are happy about something. Have a good cry when something or someone upsets you. Stomp or throw a pillow when you are alone and need to have a release. Letting emotions out, and then moving on objectively to deal with something, can be very freeing.
You have a right to ask “why?” The public school systems are mostly set up to teach you what you need to know, then test you on your comprehension of it. The child who asks “why?” might be told not to be rude or disrespectful, but asking “why?” can be one of the most powerful things you can do. When things don’t make sense, don’t assume it’s due to your lack of understanding. Seek to understand why. Ask questions. Investigate. Learn about truths instead of taking what’s told to you at face value. Kids are often criticized for their “why” questions, but learning and understanding is one of the most valuable life gifts available.
Fun can be a learning technique. Adults need to be serious; life is filled with seriousness – jobs to do, houses to clean, bills to pay, places to be. Most of life becomes a series of chores once you reach a certain age. Finding fun and laughing seems out of place, or silly. It’s a waste of time. And yet, the evidence on the power of laughter is overwhelming. Enjoying something can be the best way to learn it, too. Teambuilding games at off-sites are based on this theory; the more engaging and enjoyable, the better you will remember the experience and take something away from it. Find fun whenever you can.
Have a passion. Ever see a child who loves to ride their horse or enjoys playing soccer so much they will stay out in the yard until the darkness of night forces them inside? Children who enjoy LEGOs or building can spend hours putting just the right pieces together. A child who loves animals can sit with an injured pet for hours on end, just cradling the animal and talking softly. Passion is what makes the world go round. Children engage in their passion with abandon, unless they have been thwarted in doing so. Find something you care about and be “all in” with it. The more you give to your passion, the more it will give back to you.
Not everything can be Googled: “Why is the sky blue?” “How much does an elephant weigh?” There are certain things that only the internet can tell you, but what about learning things firsthand? The science experiment in the kitchen, digging up rocks in the backyard, trying to see how high the bicycle’s wheels can fly over the gravel, and figuring out whether you can do a handstand or not are all hands-on learning. Adults get complacent and stop exploring; news on the internet becomes the only way to learn what’s happening. Get out and explore. Be in the world and find new learnings that involve your physical senses. Get engaged in life. Google doesn’t know everything!
Trust your intuition. Children are born intuitive. It’s a rare adult who hasn’t known a child who just “knew” something or didn’t like a person who ended up to be dangerous or difficult. Children seem so connected to nature, animals and the spirits of others. It’s a natural skill that gets tamped down over time as the seriousness of life becomes more important. Put a focus on bringing back your own intuitive nature. Don’t overthink or overrule when it doesn’t feel right. Honor those feelings and explore them in more detail.
The job of the adult is to help the child grow and develop and learn how to function in life; the adult who can also recognize the child as a teacher can learn some life skills that might improve their own life experience.