What lessons can adults learn from children?
Now, I know we don’t all have children. But the one thing I feel I can be pretty safe in saying is that we have all been children at one time.
So, we might not remember it so well, and we may have had good experiences or even terrible ones. But hopefully we all remember a little of what it is like to be a happy child.
And for those of us who do have kids, or young people we care for, we find ourselves being reminded of this feeling on a daily basis.
It got me thinking about the things we can learn from children. I’ve always been fascinated both by the things we gain and the things we lose as we get older and become adults.
So what can children remind us about how to be a happier human being?
Many of you will probably share my own experience. As you get older, you become a little more fearful. Hopefully not cripplingly so, to the extent that it stops you from doing and trying new things.
But rather, it happens in a more gradual, subtle way. We begin to think more about the potential risks and harmful consequences of our actions, rather than just getting stuck in and seeing what happens.
Kids are the complete opposite. They’re sometimes shy of new situations, of course, but that is usually more about a social nervousness than a fear of the unknown.
Generally, kids are masters at putting themselves into tricky situations, and then learning (on the job) how to get out of them. We could all do with a bit more of that spontaneity and bravery in our lives.
I have previously talked about beating fear in a previous article, if overcoming this is something you struggle with then it might help to read my blog How to beat fear.
Absorbing knowledge through focus and joy
Speaking of learning, there is a lot we can learn from kids about that, too. Watch a child playing, or investigating something that interests them, and there is one thing that always shines out: pure and total focus and joy.
This is most apparent when you ask them to do something different, while they’re focused on something they enjoy doing. Of course sometimes they’re just wilfully ignoring you. But more often than not, it is down to the way they apply an intense, focused attention on only one thing at time.
The lesson is that kids, consciously or unconsciously, have discovered that the best way to learn is to do things with such joy and focus that we don’t recognise it as learning. When we forget what we’re doing, and lose ourselves in the moment, we’re open to absorbing anything.
Building on this, it’s clear that for kids, play is also an important developmental tool. It’s how they test themselves and others, and how they come to understand their capabilities and limits. It’s how they learn to improve through failing sometimes, by learning the things that don’t work, and what does.
As adults, we tend to forget this kind of playful behaviour. When we do play, the focus is often on competition, or self improvement.
But play should simply be fun too. And it should also be about that process of teaching us more about ourselves and our relationships with others. It’s important we don’t forget that.
Finally, I think we can all be inspired by a child’s open-hearted approach to life and to new situations.
I’ve already spoken about their fearlessness. But there is also a point about approaching the world with a less judgemental and cynical viewpoint while being compassionate.
As adults, it is easy to get jaded by the trials of life. Kids teach us that there is a lot of wonder to be found in the world too, if we’re open to discovering it.
About Graham Tomlinson’s blog
Graham Tomlinson With this blog I aim to create an open website for sharing my mindfulness & self-improvement tips with as many people as possible.