It is amazing what we can learn from kids. Inexperienced and naïve, they have some truth they were born with and I wonder if we can borrow this naivety from them, until we also grow our happiness.
Do you not feel sometimes that “growing up” also means losing something?
For a long time, I held the belief that being around kids would remind me that I needed to unlearn some things in life and go back to the source, to the original state of trusting life, unexplained, to laugh at silly things and possess a strong belief that “everything is going to be all right”. Kids are great reminders of this state.
Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul
– Samuel Ullman
Please do not get me wrong. There are frustrations, tears and problems for children, but most of them can be fixed with simple things like a kiss, a balloon or just a suggestion of a better option to choose. The younger they are, they easier it is to make kids happy. My two new nephews who live on the other side of the world and I see in photos, in videos and on Skype, remind me of this purity, this innocence and joy. Every time I talk to them, I find out how much they have learned from the previous week and realize that their mothers, my two younger sisters, probably learn lots more every day.
It is funny that for most of my childhood, I thought that as a kid, I needed to learn from the adults in my life. The older I get, the more I believe it is the other way around. Although we do not want to admit it, we learn a lot from our kids and the best lesson is how to be happy.
I think kids can teach us a great deal about happiness. Kids do not have more opportunities to be happy. They have a better definition of happiness.
I think the main problem grownups have is that their definition is very tough and contains too many “only”, as in “I’ll be happy only when I earn/get/have/feel/can/do <something>”. Kids, on the other hand, have lots of “every time” and “every opportunity”, as in “Every opportunity I have to laugh makes me happy” or “I’m happy every time I go on break”.
I think kids, as young and inexperienced as they are, have a good understanding that “grownup” is the not the same as “mature”. From their perspective, being a grownup means you have grown out of your childhood and they feel sorry for you. For them, being a grownup only says that more time has passed since you were born. Unfortunately for some grownups, it says nothing more.
Learning from kids’ perspective
Kids look at another kid who is 3 years older than they are and think they are “older”. When my daughter Eden was in high school and about 14 years old, she came home one day and said, “An old man came to talk to us today”, and told us about the session with that man. Gal and I thought his stories and the session topic did not seem like they came out of an old man’s mouth, so we asked her, “How old was this man?” She thought about it for a while and said, “About 32, I think”. We were roughly 40 at the time and felt we were half way to the grave for her.
Eden was just being a kid, but she taught me a lesson in perspective (one of many lessons). It was that we all measure other people in comparison to ourselves. When I was 16 and one of my best friends’ dad died, I felt sorry for him and said, “Well, he is about 40 years old, so at least he was old”. Now, when I hear about a 40-year-old man dying, I say, “Oh, that’s so sad, because he was young”.
Kids can teach us many lessons if we are only willing to listen, stay open and understand, if we just change the perception that time is the only parameter needed for growth and that growing wiser is better than growing older.
Here are 20 things we can learn from kids (but I believe there are many more).
20 things we can learn from kids
We can learn to laugh from kids. It is very healthy to laugh. Some say it is a great medicine, I know so many adults who could use this medicine. Do some laughter therapy and you will see.
We can learn from kids to cry and forget everything three seconds later after getting a kiss.
- We can learn from kids to miss school during school holiday. I know many people who can get sick just thinking of going back to work after a holiday. My mom used to say that after a holiday, she needs 3-4 days to rest, but kids area ready for action again.
- We can learn from kids to get up at 6am on weekends to enjoy their day off and make the most of every second of it. I know many adults who use the weekend to sleep in (I do not have that pleasure, because we have something that starts early every weekend).
- We can learn from kids to look in the mirror at messed up hair and clothes in weird colors and say “cool” to the reflection with a big satisfied grin. I have learned it from my kids, although I do not do it so well (yet).
- We can learn from kids to draw for the fun of drawing without the need to please anyone or criticize every creation.
- We can learn from kids to make everything into a game – to see life as a playground, the living room sofa as a jumping castle, the bathtub as an ocean and the dining table as the palace ceiling – oh, what a life we could have!
- We can learn from kids to fight with a friend and forget the fight after half an hour. How many times do we fight with another adult, then forgive and forget? I think the divorce wars would end if kids had to handle it.
- We can learn from kids to sit in the bathtub for an hour and enjoy the bubbles without thinking of all the things they need to do (or have not done) this week.
- We can learn from kids to get into the freezing water of the pool or the sea and still have fun. Oh, I remember myself in the water, my lips blue and shaking from the cold and my dad says, “You are freezing”, and me smiling, running back to the water and calling out, “No, I’m not”. I wish I could do that now. I need a warm bath temperature to get myself into the pool very slowly.
- We can learn from kids to enjoy sleep over with friends tremendously and not worry about what food there is to eat or how clean their room is. Hosting people is a chore for adults – it brings up performance anxiety and they wonder what the guests might say about then and their home, whereas kids just focus on the happy time they spend together.
- We can learn from 2-year-olds to say, “Me, me, I can do it by myself” when doing something new and difficult and feeling very proud of ourselves for trying.
- We can learn from kids that breaks and friends are the only reasons to go to school, which makes the learning a byproduct. Can you imagine every adult going to work thinking they are there for the breaks and the social interaction and work is just a side effect? Oh, that would be awesome!
- We can learn from kids that when you lie, Mom and Dad can tell, so we should not try. Children discover very early on that Mom and Dad can “see their nose getting longer” even if they do not. Grownups still try lie and believe no one can see their nose getting longer.
- We can learn from kids that breaking the rules does not kill you. If grownups thought that way, they would take many more risks and try many more things that seem scary at first.
- We can learn from kids to want. Kids want everything. They walk around with a look of excitement on their face and they want everything. Grownups forget to want. During life coaching, they tell me, “Life isn’t about what you want”, and I have to keep telling them that life is only about what they want. You are entitled to want. How on Earth can you get anything if you do not want it?
- We can learn from kids to live in the moment. I am not sure why kids can do it better than adults do. Maybe because they have not experienced enough frustration and failure and if this is the reason, oh, I wish so much to learn from them to live in the moment, to the max, without thinking about the past or about the future so much.
- We can learn from kids to be curious. I find the curiosity of children fascinating. Most adults do not check new things because of curiosity. They will check things when they have a need for them. If they do not see an immediate need for something, they will not put too much effort into it. I can see the point in saving time and energy, yet I think that sometimes, curiosity brings us surprising results and opens our mind to unimaginable experiences.
- We can learn from kids to tackle new things with courage. While most grownups perceive the new as a threat, kids will try more times. And on the topic of curiosity and courage, here is a true story for you. A very rich man in India put computers with touch screens in the wall around a slum. He wanted to know how people would respond to this flashy machine with lights that they had never seen in their life. Everyone, old and young, came closer and looked at it, but did not touch. Then, some kids came closer and touched the screen, trying different things until they figured out what they needed to do to get to some games that they had also never seen before in their life. Can you imagine how many new things “mature” people do not experience because of this fear of the unknown?
- We can learn from kids to entertain ourselves. You see, the older we get, the more we become dependent on TV, computer, cinema and other people to keep us entertained. Kids, on the other hand, do not really need gadgets. They can have lots of fun playing with a blanket or a rag doll. It would be so much easier if we could settle for simple things to entertain ourselves. Moreover, we can learn from kids how entertain themselves cheaply. You see, kids can have lots of fun with one balloon and keep themselves happy with a pack of balloons that costs a dollar, while grownups spend a fortune on keeping themselves entertained. Grownups are expensive to maintain…
We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else
– John Holt
Give yourself permission to learn from those who are smaller and younger, because their fresh perspective on things that grownups consider complicated can lighten up your stressful life.
I am sure you have some ideas of what else we can learn from kids. Please share them with everyone below.
Let’s grow younger and happier,