As adults we tend to believe that growing up means learning how not to act like children. But kids have got some important things right.
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “The Little Prince”.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? Spoken in front of a large audience? Ridden a motorbike in Thailand? Told your mother-in-law that 6 months really was a bit too much time to stay in your spare room?
By the way, if you chose public speaking, you’re not alone:
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two.
Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”Jerry Seinfeld
Let me tell you my most nerve racking experience. Teaching a martial arts class to a group of young kids. Yes speaking in public is scary! But I’ll take that over confronting a group of just-woken-up-from-a-nap-cranky-about-to-cry three year olds.
Because as soon as one kid starts to cry and shriek, it rapidly spreads to the others. Like a highly contagious Shrieking Virus. And unlike the coronavirus, social distancing will not help the contagion.
As if that wasn’t enough, have I mentioned the audience of parents and nannies sitting on the sidelines ready to watch the (meltdown) show? Phew, I’m starting to sweat thinking about it.
Despite the nerves, I love teaching children. They are absolutely incredible and after every class, I have this warm internal glow of gratitude for having (i) survived another day of the Shrieking Virus and (ii) enjoyed myself so much doing it.
One of the surprising things about teaching is how much you learn from it. It’s one thing to know (or think you know) how to do something, it’s another thing to explain it to someone else. Especially if that someone else is much more interested in heading home to watch Dora the Explorer.
Today I’m going to share some of the things that kids have taught me. Important things that as adults we tend to either forget or overlook.
What Kids Can Teach Us Adults
(i) Don’t overthink it, just do it
Tell a kid to spin on their head three times and then execute a jump back flip and they’ll go ahead and try. Seriously. An adult would just tell you you’re crazy.
By going ahead and trying something without overthinking it first, you can find your limitations without preconceptions.
As adults we often talk themselves out of something before even trying (“Oh no I couldn’t possibly do that!”). Why not try first? You will probably surprise yourself.
(ii) Curiosity & eagerness to learn
Kids are just so delightfully curious and eager to learn. They come naturally with beginner’s mind – that is, without pre-conceptions of what the process should be or how much they know already. They just want to learn and enjoy learning.
This is a great practice for adults. Too often we start learning and instead of enjoying the process, we become frustrated because we expected it to be easier or quicker.
Children are also very curious. They are not afraid to ask questions – to the contrary, they love to ask all sorts of awkward and difficult questions. Asking is their way of learning, so care is needed with the answers. Kids teach us to be curious and ask questions, as well as to think carefully about how we answer.
(iii) Mistakes are not bad
If you tell a kid matter of factly, “Don’t do it that way, do it this way“, they generally just go ahead and correct what they are doing.
This means they do not stop to think “OH NO! I’ve made a MISTAKE.. *shame* *frustration*”. We adults are the ones, that have learned (and taught) the negative emotions.
Adults often spend far too much time ruminating on a mistake, instead of taking the lesson from it and moving forward.
(iv) Boundaries are good
I’m not going to dare to give parenting advice here, but in my experience, kids respond well to boundaries.
While kids often like to test the boundaries (and leap-frog over them if they are not clearly enforced), boundaries create stability and predictability. They allow kids to express themselves in a safe environment.
As adults, we also benefit from establishing boundaries regarding our own behaviour and how we permit others to behave towards us. Boundaries are a healthy way to protect our personal & emotional space, allowing us to feel more secure in our interactions with others.
(v) Recognise your emotions
Yes that screaming child is recognising their emotions alright (now stop recognizing them already!!). However adults can be at the other end of the extreme, controlling our emotions to the point that we no longer recognize them.
The problem with repressing our emotions is that it often results in ignoring the underlying problems that are causing these emotions.
In addition, by ignoring our emotions instead of finding a healthy outlet for expressing them, we often end up suffering from elevated levels of stress and engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Like drinking 6 gin and tonics every night before being able to sleep.
(vi) Lighten up and enjoy the moment
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”Angela Schwindt
Kids just love to have fun. Their favorite game, which they NEVER grow tired of, is…. tag. Running around and touching each other. Yay! But boy do they have a good time.
By contrast, us adults are often in the habit of being “mature” and serious. This means we are so busy regretting the past or worrying about the future that we forget to just have fun and live in the moment.
By “fun” I don’t mean go out and drink 7 wines while lamenting to your friends how much your job / partner / dating life sucks (the adult version of “relaxing”).
I’m talking about having fun by doing something light and free. Dance in your living room wearing only a collared shirt and socks Tom Cruise “Risky Business” style. Play tag. Strip tag (just make sure the kids are in bed first).
(vii) Love freely
Kids live with their hearts open – they give and receive love without question. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Now sure, they haven’t had their hearts broken and crushed by online dating. But although us adults find it harder to open ourselves to love, this doesn’t mean we are any less dependent on it.
While we need to develop adult ways of loving, kids remind us that that happiness comes from keeping our hearts open to love.
Being An Adult Doesn’t Mean We Shouldn’t Be Kids Sometimes
I am always amazed by how incredibly bright, observant and sensitive children are. Which leads to them absorbing EVERYTHING (as every parent who’s dropped an F-bomb in the earshot of their little darling knows).
This means that while growing up, kids learn among other things: self-doubt, frustration in learning and making mistakes, suppressing emotions and forgetting how to have fun. Welcome to adulthood!
So, while being the responsible and mature adult you are, find some time to reconnect with your inner child (and if you’re lucky enough to actually have a kid, take them out to play together). And remind yourself of some of the amazing qualities of being a kid that can get lost in the journey to adulthood. Enjoy!
“In every real man [and woman]* a child is hidden that wants to play”Friedrich Nietzsche
*Added by me – I’m sure Friedrich wouldn’t have minded.