Has it ever occurred to you that adults can learn a number of things from children, most especially those children between the ages of 2 and 5? I can confirm to you that they are great teachers. If you are ready to learn, observe children closely. As you take your lessons from them, you will soon discover why Jesus rebuked His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
The inspiration for this blog post came from a dialogue I had with my four-year old daughter last night. Our conversation lasted for about five minutes and I suddenly felt as if I was in front of my doctor answering series of questions. Wow! Where could these children have gotten their intelligence from? Was I like this at four?
From my interactions with children over the years, I have come to realize that they possess some magical attributes that we adults probably lost during our journey to adulthood. Anyone who could be patient to study the children carefully would learn a lot from them to reshape his or her life.
As I ended my “interview” session with my child, my inner voice posed a question across to me, “Wait a minute, Mister, what can you learn from that short chat?” After answering that question, another one crossed my mind, “Can you identify seven things any adult can learn from children?” Aha! It became an assignment, and here are the seven lessons I came up with.
Children are much freer than adults, and that’s why they are happier. As an adult, you live a guarded life. It’s like there are some unwritten codes for living by which we adults operate. We feel restricted to our unhappiness, somehow. Observe the children to discover that their life is so easy. A child shouts when he feels like, he cries when he wants to, and he talks as his mind dictates. Not so for an adult, he must talk in a certain way, act in a certain manner, and live in a certain pattern. We are judgmental about almost everything.
Consider how interesting life would be if you could live your life like a child, unrestrained by other people’s judgments. I’m sure we were all like that during our childhood. But what happened along the way? We succumbed to our parents’ and teachers’ interpretations of what life is all about, we accepted some unwritten codes of the environment, and we became much more “careful” in our dealings. Please don’t get me wrong. As a parent, I understand the fact that we ought to guide children properly so that they don’t go astray. In doing this, however, we must be cautious not to kill the fire of enthusiasm in them. We must not destroy a child’s God-given talents in an attempt to tweak his life the way WE perceive it. Mind you, your perception of life may not necessarily be right.
Children take life as they see it. Perhaps because of their limited life experiences, there is no room in their minds for negative feelings that could create fear in them. A child is ready to talk to the President of a country without any fear. He is prepared to try out new equipment. He is not afraid of sleeping all alone in the house. Children are not afraid to ask for whatever they want; they ask, and in most cases, they get. When they are asking, they don’t entertain any feeling that their parents may not give. Instead, they focus on their requests, believing to receive favorable responses.
We can learn fearlessness from children if we can also recognize fear the way children do. If only an adult could see that his inability to ask for a raise is as a result of negative feelings which are mere false evidence accepted as real, if only he could accept that his inability to talk publicly is because of those same false evidence that his mind is busy “talking” to him about, and only if he could recognize that those feelings, those negative mind assumptions, are not real; life would be much more better and enjoyable for him. A number of what we fear as adults NEVER happens! They only exist in the mind – negatively.
Why do we think? Well, we think for various reasons but, most of the time, we think in order to get a solution to a problem. We want to know about something. Yes, adults think, but we don’t think the way children do. We don’t think deeply because we don’t ask the right questions; so we don’t get the solutions we require.
Children are inquisitive little souls by nature. They ask and ask until they are satisfied. To them, they must be convinced. They must get to the roots of matters. But adults give up. We seldom ask the right questions. And we eventually drop in the couch in exasperation.
If you want to be a great thinker, if you want to learn how to ask questions, if you are desirous of getting solutions to issues; turn to the children. You will learn well.
Now, let’s see if the following conversation sounds familiar to you:
“You said it’s not good to smoke”
“But that man over there is smoking”
“Yeah, it’s wrong. Smoking is not good.”
“Why is smoking not good, daddy?”
“Well, because it’s dangerous to health”
“Who is health?”
“Health is about you being okay; not falling ill, and being able to walk or run about as you like”
“But this man is also walking!”
“It’s true, but he shouldn’t smoke”
“Why is he smoking if he shouldn’t?”
“Maybe he likes it. Smoking probably makes him feel good. Maybe he doesn’t know it’s not good to smoke.”
“Ok, daddy, I want to feel good too. I want to smoke”
“No, you can’t smoke”
“Why can’t I smoke like the man?”
When next you take your child to a new environment, simply watch how quickly he acclimatizes and becomes friendly with the other children around. I remember taking my child to a birthday party recently and was surprised to notice how quickly all the children there started calling one another by first name. They all became friends almost immediately while many of the parents were still busy “sizing up” one another.
Children are experts in the art of friendship. They mix quickly and don’t see anyone as an enemy. This, unfortunately, is one of the things that bad people capitalize on to harm children. When a child sees a stranger, he becomes friendly with him quickly. He starts to tell the stranger all about himself, what he had for breakfast and so forth. Children keep no grudge, and they detest no one.
I know there are many dangerous people out in the world so one should be wary of “talking to strangers.” But this should not be taken too far; otherwise the world will become a hostile place to live in. For those who find it difficult to mix up at social gatherings, they should learn from children. For those who are not good team players, they can take a lesson from children.
We often accuse children of being easily distracted. I think it all depends on what they are doing at any particular time. Children are very good in concentrating and they are so attentive to details. Recite a statement to a child and ask him to repeat it to you. You will be shocked to see how he repeats each word exactly as you have said it. Not so for adults. Our mind is constantly wandering everywhere. We find it hard to concentrate fully.
Observe your child watching his favorite cartoon program on TV; you will see how attentive he can be. Ask him to tell you what happened in school earlier in the day; he will give you graphic details. That’s possible for him to do because children show passion in everything they do, and they give it all that is required. Their minds are not clustered. Learn to do the same and you will be like children.
Gather a group of children together and ask them to line up on a straight line. You will see commotion. They will struggle with one another and it will take your intervention to keep that line straight. That’s because of the aggressive nature of children.
Let’s take another example. Make a promise to take your child for shopping tomorrow morning if he could go to bed early tonight. He would be the one to wake you up tomorrow morning with his shoes on his feet, ready for the promised outing. That, again, is aggressiveness. Children fight for what they want. They pursue it with their hearts.
Watch children play any game. Watch their dancing steps. Watch them in a concert. They do everything with their hearts. They don’t act halfheartedly like many adults do. If adults could learn this from children, we would have fewer abandoned dreams.
When some parents fall ill, they try as much as possible to hide their feelings from their children. The reason for this is not farfetched. It is because of children’s compassionate nature. Children can easily share other people’s pains and make them their own. A friend once told me that he would never again allow his son to accompany him to the hospital to see patients. Why? Because each of their previous visits together had made the boy sick. On getting back home, the boy would become a different person owing to what he had seen at the hospital.
A child is ready to stay by your sick bed the whole day, watching you. If she leaves you for a while, be rest assured that she will soon be back saying, “Sorry mummy.” She could even hide behind the door observing how you’re behaving. Let someone come into the room and you will hear her explaining, “Mummy was coughing. She has headache, she’s…”
Want to learn how to be caring and loving? Turn to the children.