What we can learn from children

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” Franklin P Jones

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Children – our future and our past.  We’ve all been a child, and many of us will also raise one.

As an adult, it’s easy to assume that this grown up, rational state we inhabit now is superior.  Yet, spend any time with children and you remember that kids have a lot to teach us.

1. Have more fun

Spend any time hanging out with a 2 year old and you’ll realist that they like to have fun.

It’s joyful to paint all over the kitchen table, roll around laughing at the funny cow in a can noise thing, climb through a play tunnel for hours, hide behind the door and play peek-a-boo.  In fact it’s a laugh riot.

Somewhere in the Laws of Adult, most of these games become verboten. We have to suppress our emotions, act stiff and try to protect our dignity.  Sure we can laugh at other people, preferably behind their backs.  However, good old fashioned innocent fun and play is banned.

I’ve spent a lot more time playing recently – just throwing out dumb word association games, dancing around singing into a hairbrush, a spot of tickling here and there.  Try it out for yourself – fight back against the fun ban!

2. You are allowed to daydream

Grown ups rarely daydream. The adult world considers them to be naively hilarious and a sign of weakness.  Here is what often happens when an adult shares their burning dream:

Person A: I’ve always dreamt of being a polar explorer and I think I’m going to go after it

Person B: Snigger.  Good luck with that – send my love to the polar bears.  See you back in the cube farm next week.

Dreaming is seen as childish and foolish.  Wasting time going after doing what you really want when you could be getting on with your serious, boring adult life.

Children love to dream.  They use their imagination and create amazing possibilities.

Dreaming is a healthy way of stretching ourselves.  It gives us a roadmap for making the life we want.  Reconnect to what makes you excited.

3. The world is infinitely fascinating

I was probably the world’s most annoying child.  I fired out questions like a machine gun to anyone in range.  “What’s that called?”, “How does that work?”, “Why did that person say that?”, “Where are my Christmas presents hidden?” etc.   Children stare in wild-eyed wonder at the world and want to know all about it.

As adults we are told that we should be very clever and already understand everything. There is a stigma about asking too many questions – we might show our weakness, reveal some ignorance, people might think less of us.  Horrors.

As we stop asking questions and getting stuck on the hamster wheel of life, the world around us can lose its sparkle and appear mundane.  We take the amazing people and things around us for granted.

See what happens when you start to be more interested in the world around you and engage with it.

4. You can express your emotions

When a child is upset, you know about it.  No wait, you KNOW about it. Same when they are happy, joyful, bored, angry, afraid.  Bottling up emotions is simply not an option.  When a child feels something, they tell the world.

The adult world teaches us that suppressing our emotions is important.  We shouldn’t inflict our feelings on others. Better to keep them locked up and spend time brooding over them.  Or suppress our natural joy over something in case we make a fool of ourselves.  Frankly a lot of the time, this leads to unnecessary suffering when simply expressing ourselves would be the better option.

Learning to express our emotions effectively is important.  I’ve really worked on understanding my feelings and being able to put them into words and actions.  Letting them out into the world as they arise has taken a huge amount of weight off me and I feel lighter for it.

5. You should live in the moment

Children are born with very little conception of time.  When you’re young, your only concern is what is happening right now at this very moment.  The past is quickly forgotten, and the future is of no importance.

When children play, they are absolutely absorbed in the game.  Just watch for a minute or two  – eyes wide open, face alert and active, attention unwavering on what is unfolding.  Kids are mini Zen-masters.

We are taught to analyze everything, to pore over the past for what we did wrong, and to constantly be setting out a better future for ourselves.  How often do you really live in the moment as an adult?  Try it and see how different the world looks.

Release your inner child

I know that I learn a huge amount when I let my inner child out to play.and try these things  It keeps me open to learning, joy, curiosity, authenticity.  I get back into living in the moment.

Over to you

How do you connect to you inner child?  What do you learn from doing so?  If you have children, what have they taught you?  What would happen if you spent the day living like a child?

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Further reading

Patty at Why Not Start Now on how to play more

Arvind Devalia on why we should laugh more

Photo credit : Ernst Moeksis on Flickr

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Comments

  1. Phil
    March 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    What have you learned from children? What do you remember from your childhood about how to enjoy life?

  2. March 19, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    You couldn’t have said it better, Phil. This one just nails it. All of it. And I’m very honored that you linked to my post about play, because that was a moment of revelation for me. Epiphany time. And when I went back to read it, I realized that it requires constant tending, this play thing. Constant remembering. I probably need to read that post every single day, in fact. Because the adult world intrudes so slyly, without me even knowing it at times. I guess my quest is to live in that place between adulthood and childhood, because you know, children can be oh so very wise, too. Maybe that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from them: they teach me how to be a better adult. Thanks much!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Life as a Work of Art =-.

  3. Helen
    March 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    What have I learnt?
    *Always a fresh perspective*
    There is always another way of looking at a situation and it might just astound you …
    However the lead quote about children teaching you how much patience you have is also a very pertinent point …
    After over 3 months of snow, which is finally melting, my two were still climbing snowdrifts and poking them with plastic spades on the dogwalk this afternoon … incredible … and while part of me was wanting to scream ‘Come on! make linear progress towards home and kettle’ there is part of me that is just amazed by the simplest pleasures in life.
    Stamping on frozen puddles, for instance, try it – it’s almost as good as bubble wrap!

  4. March 20, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Wow! Top of the line work here. I agree with every one of these points. I’m going to be a child forever. I’m going to be a child in the sense that I won’t lose sight of what I dream of. I will enjoy every minute I am here. You have to right? Such a great post. I have to save this and refer back to me because this really pumps me up. I hope more people feel it too
    .-= Alex´s last blog ..The Virtue of Obsession =-.

  5. March 20, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    I have learnt so many things from my children that it’s hard to know where to start. One thing that I particularly notice is that they truly believe they can do anything. My eldest once asked me if he could sing on the radio, and I replied that he could do anything he put his mind to. He wandered off and came back a short while later dressed in his outside clothes. He wanted to know when we were leaving to drive to the radio station as he’d decided on the song he wanted to sing. Imagine that, no self doubt, no inner critic, no fear. Just confidence in his own ability. I’m still learning that!

  6. March 20, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    I have learnt so many things from my children that it\’s hard to know where to start. One thing that I particularly notice is that they truly believe they can do anything. My eldest once asked me if he could sing on the radio, and I replied that he could do anything he put his mind to. He wandered off and came back a short while later dressed in his outside clothes. He wanted to know when we were leaving to drive to the radio station as he\’d decided on the song he wanted to sing. Imagine that, no self doubt, no inner critic, no fear. Just confidence in his own ability. I\’m still learning that!

  7. March 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Being present and enjoying every moment – is one of the best lessons I learned from my 3 y.o. son. I wonder when we lose this wonderful ability? Loved the post Phil, I am going to focus on releasing my inner child today.

  8. March 22, 2010 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Oh, Phil, this one\’s a biggie for me. I agree with everything on your list and have a few to add:

    Eagerness to learn. I remember a time when I felt I knew everything. Then I knew nothing. Then I knew some stuff. As my son displays an insatiable hunger for learning, I\’ve stopped keeping track of how much/little I know and focus instead on my eagerness to learn.

    Readiness to give. Kids don\’t keep score of how much they give. They just give with no expectation to receive in return. It\’s a great way to live.

    Be in awe. The moon, the sun, the stars, the horizon — these are all things my son goes on and on about that for a long time I took for granted. It\’s fantastic to appreciate them again.

    Believe in magic. I have no magical powers but my son doesn\’t believe that. Every time I kiss a boo-boo, he feels better.

    Consider everyone a friend. The protective side of me isn\’t convinced this is entirely a good thing but his charming overtures at strangers is a sight to behold and inspires me to see strangers as potential friends.

    Awesome post! Thanks for letting me go on and on.

  9. March 22, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Excellent post Phil.

    But I don’t see what all the fuss is, since I am still a child:-)

    Joking aside, I still remiain quite child like (and not childish). People take life too seriously.

    Out of your 5 tips the one I could do with applying more is expressing my emotions – as an adult we do tend ot stifle what we really feel. But I guess if we learn to be more in the moment and have joy in each moment, the emotions will naturally be expressed and they will more likely to be happy emotions.
    .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..Why it’s a Good Idea to Celebrate your Birthday =-.

  10. March 22, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Excellent post Phil.

    But I don\’t see what all the fuss is, since I am still a child:-)

    Joking aside, I still remiain quite child like (and not childish). People take life too seriously.

    Out of your 5 tips the one I could do with applying more is expressing my emotions – as an adult we do tend ot stifle what we really feel. But I guess if we learn to be more in the moment and have joy in each moment, the emotions will naturally be expressed and they will more likely to be happy emotions.

  11. March 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    An excellent post, as usual, Phil.

    God used my son to teach me many lessons, life skills and coping mechanisms to deal with life in a wheelchair. Children have the most remarkable, natural tolerance and acceptance of differences which could put any adult to shame. If only we could all live life with the same joy, and without all its complexities, as any child would do. Wouldn’t the world be a better place?
    .-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..How do I… =-.

  12. March 22, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Have more fun! That’s pretty much the bottom line. Kids just don’t put any ristrictions on that. I enjoyed this post, we can learn so much about children and having fun is something we may overlook but is needed daily.

  13. Phil
    March 23, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    @ Patty – agreed on the slyness of the adult world! It is insidious at worming its way back into our life and trying to suck out the joy. Keep playing Patty and thanks for the reminder.

    @ Helen – always a fresh perspective. It is beautiful to imagine your children playing on the snow drift. We’re all born again every morning and need to keep that perspective in mind. Thanks so much for the comment.

    @ Alex – love it! Thanks for the kudos. Keep the dream alive and enjoy every minute. That is such a great philosophy for a full and happy life. Don’t grow up my friend.

    @Topi – that is magical. I hope your eldest is still pursuing their dreams and you are supporting them. Why do adults start doubting our own power? It would be a happier world if we just went for it.

    @Lana – thank you for your present. I’m sure your 3yo is a gift to you every day. I try to stay present and enjoy the moment, go back to that state of contentment that living in the moment brings.

    @Belinda – I knew this one would get you going! Thanks for sharing your insights. I love the idea of believing in magic. I’m not sure that magic exists, however I know we’re all capable of astounding things when we truly live life.

    @Arvind – thanks so much – keep that inner-child alive. Expressing our emotions is so frowned on by our modern culture. Yet emotions are an important part of who we are and the story to tell to the world. Let them out and live your authentic self.

    @Tracy – thank you. Children are amazingly tolerant, flexible and adaptable. They can teach us so much about the art of living gracefully and wholly. I do think the world would be a better place if we all took off our suits of armour for a day and lived innocently.

    @Baker – fun is the bottom line here! When we forget that life should be fun, what is left? I see too many people mortgaging their future for a some mythical future. Waiting at life’s bus stop. Getting down and seizing the day works so much better and is much more enjoyable.

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  1. By Spring Clean your Mind on March 23, 2010 at 10:47 am

    [...] children, we sponge up huge amounts from the world around us.  We learn routines about how to live our [...]

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