As parents, we constantly try to teach our children and hope they’ll learn from the example we’re setting for them. But we should also open our eyes to the example they’re setting for us and how we can learn from them.
Getting older doesn’t always mean being wiser, so we should be mindful of the lessons we might have once known and forgotten as time passed. Spending a few minutes watching our children and their behavior may remind us of these great lessons for living a full and happy life.
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Sometimes, as we age, we become more judgmental, even if we don’t mean to be and are not even aware we’re doing it. Watching young children love everyone around them despite their size, shape, or color is truly inspiring. They’re not blind to people’s differences but don’t see them as important or view one’s appearance as inferior or superior. Young children simply accept people as they are.
I’ll never forget how my young daughter erased all my insecurities and worries about a huge, ear-to-ear neck scar I had. For me, that scar was a painful reminder of the thyroid cancer surgery I’d had when she was just 1 year old. As we were talking one day, my daughter, who was only 3 or 4 years old at the time, told me she loved that her mommy had two smiles. Sensing my confusion, she explained: “One on your face, and one on your neck.”
And just like that, my negative feelings about that scar vanished, and they’ve never returned. If my daughter could see the beauty in it, how could it continue to bother me?
Don’t Bottle Up Your Feelings
As adults, we often don’t talk about what’s bothering us. If we’re mad at someone, we don’t tell them why, and we allow negative feelings to build when a better solution would be addressing issues as they happen, discussing them, and not allowing them to fester.
Children have a completely opposite approach – they let it all out. Watching a young child throw a temper tantrum is fascinating – unless you’re the parent of that child and you’re in a public place. You see the stage is set for the upcoming tantrum when you notice your child is hungry, tired, or frustrated. But by then, it’s often too late to avoid it.
After a few minutes of pure rage, screaming, and crying, the tantrum is over. The truly remarkable thing is that the child doesn’t regret it, doesn’t beat themselves up about it, and after a couple more minutes, they forget it entirely.
They accept all sides of themselves, and that’s a beautiful thing. The lesson here isn’t that it’s okay to have a full-on meltdown whenever you feel like it as an adult. Instead, look for ways to discuss what you’re feeling when it’s bothering you instead of expecting your co-workers, partners, children, or friends to read your mind about why you’re upset.
Try New Things
To a kid on the school playground, jungle gyms can seem downright terrifying. It’s not a big drop from the top to the ground when you’re an adult, but as a child, it can seem like a huge fall if you let go of the bar. Despite the fear kids feel, they still attempt to master the jungle gym and all the other equipment on the playground with a lack of consideration for their personal safety that is alarming to all the parents who are watching.
Kids always try new things – they learn new subjects at school, ask out the boy or girl they like on a date, and learn to play new sports. They’re fearless, and it’s truly admirable.
Adults aren’t usually that brave. They stay in jobs they hate because they worry about the ramifications of leaving or they’re not sure a new workplace will be any better. They stay in relationships that don’t make them happy because they are scared of being alone. Living a life full of new experiences and without fear doesn’t only have to happen for children. With a little work, we can become braver and push ourselves outside our comfort zones, too.
Taking a Break When It’s Needed
A toddler runs full speed ahead, and it can be exhausting for parents to keep up with. We admire their high energy levels, even as we dread them, because we know we simply are no match for them.
But toddlers have a special weapon we don’t. When they’re tired, they rest and are not sleep-deprived because they don’t wake up until they feel like it.
With our jobs, homes, families, and responsibilities, adults can’t sleep all we want. But we can do a better job of prioritizing the amount we do get. Instead of pumping ourselves full of caffeine each day so we can take on more, we need to learn to say no to extra responsibilities sometimes and admit that we need a break or to pencil in more sleep for ourselves.
Watch and Learn
These are just a few examples of what we can learn from our children. A day spent watching your child will show you many more ways they’re sometimes smarter than we are. Try shaking things up by taking their unspoken advice to heart and seeing how it benefits you.