Did you know that your kids are smarter than you are? Let me rephrase that: Did you know that your kids are better at some things than you are? Yup. There are some skills that we actually lose as we get older. Silly as it sounds, these are the same skills that kids have and use regularly. We adults unteach them these skills. Is that a word? Unteach? Should be. Let’s learn from the kids, and let them be the teachers for once.
Empathy. Do you know what empathy is? I’ve talked about it before. It’s the ability to truly feel another person’s situation, to be able to really put yourself in it, to understand and share the feelings of another. Kids know how to do this. Adults are often blinded by skin color and appearance, locations and situations. Adults listen to their clocks more than they do other people’s needs. Watch your kids when they see another child hurting or upset. They know how to help that other child feel understood, and how to help make that child feel better.
Listening to their bodies. When kids are hungry they ask for food. When they are full, they stop. It doesn’t matter what the clock says, or what society says. It doesn’t matter that they are at a party and shouldn’t take the last whatever; they are still hungry. It doesn’t matter that it’s 7:00; they don’t want dinner yet. They are better at listening to their bodies’ cues, and responding to them.
Happiness. Unabashed joy? Laughing for no reason? Giggling uncontrollably? That’s a kid for you. Adults are self-conscious about laughing too loudly or walking around with a smile on their faces. Joy is reserved for private. Kids don’t care: when they are happy, they like to show. I believe there is something positive in being able to express ones’ joy without worrying what others might think about it.
Living in the moment. Like I said before, kids don’t have a fear of what people will think of them. They don’t think about what they have to do to get dinner on the table. They don’t worry about the car needing it’s oil changed or how much homework they might have to finish. Kids are able to experience their time now, and to live in the present. Granted, they do not have as much to accomplish around the house (who’s the one with the To Do list, right?) but they can focus on the present, instead of fretting about the past or worrying about the future. There is a lot of joy in being in the Now.
Acceptance. The boxes of blocks are taken? Okay. I have peanut butter and honey in my lunch for the third day in a row? Okay. My friend has a different skin color than I do? Okay. The clothes my neighbor wears are from the second-hand shop? Okay. The details roll off their backs; we adults are the ones that teach them to fret about the finer things. We care about labels and appearances and details. Pay attention to your child and how quickly they make friends because they don’t care about things like appearances or skin color. Watch how they see the quality of the person by how that person acts, not by how they look. This is an important skill that we unlearn as we get older, with stereotypes of ‘bad people’ regularly reinforced by media.
Forgiveness. One of the hardest things to do is to truly forgive another person for a wrong, especially one that genuinely hurts our feelings. Kids are able to forgive and forget much faster than an adult can. Adults can bear a grudge, and there is a huge cost. The stress, anger and anguish of bearing a grudge can take a toll on one’s health and mental well-being. Oh, but it’s hard to forgive. It’s even harder to forget. Kids (hopefully) don’t experience the kinds of wrongs adults may have, but nonetheless, they are also able to get over them quicker. Oh, sure, they get sad and mad that someone took a toy, shoved, or didn’t play fair. But they can also get over it, and move past it because to them, it’s more important to get to play at all rather than sit on the side and be mad.
Yes, I’m being overly simplistic here. There are a thousand different shades of gray that I’m am glossing over. But sometimes it really is as simple as that. Sometimes we just need to relearn the lesson from our kids, the very things we once knew well ourselves and then forgot as we got older and more experienced (though not necessarily more correct). Sometimes they are right and we are wrong.