I’ve always thought it was my job, first as a teacher and now as a mother, to teach my children about the important things in life. However, watching my children interact with one another and thinking back to my days working in an early learning center, I’m sure I’ve had it backwards all along.
I realized these small children have been teaching me life’s essential lessons once I finally stopped “teaching” and simply paid attention. Here are five truths I’ve learned from small children that hold the secrets to a happy, successful life:
It’s okay to cry
Boy, do kids cry. They cry about dropping a cracker, singing a song the wrong way, and having to leave the playground. One time my son cried because he tore the wrapping paper off a gift too fast!
I’m not suggesting you cry for any of these reasons, but you should let your emotions take over sometimes. Really, go ahead, let it out. Grab the tissue box and just go for it, snot and all.
Far too many of us are always trying to keep it together. We fight back the tears when something makes us happy, and we hold back those fiery hot tears when we’re sad or upset because we worry how it will look.
Here’s the good news: Experts say crying is a natural way to reduce emotional stress that, left unchecked, has negative physical effects on the body, including increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other stress-related disorders.
Be brutally honest
Most of the time we cringe because of how honest our children can be. Lately, my son has been informing people at the park that “his mommy is waaaay older than his daddy.” I have to stop myself from lecturing him in the car because I want him to be honest – though maybe not that honest about me.
The point is, children don’t know how to sugar coat things. They’ll tell you if your breath smells or your shirt is ugly. While we may not need to get as personal as our children do, we could all use a dose of good old honesty. How many times have you accepted an invitation you later regretted? Or how many times have you told someone you felt fine when you actually have a splitting headache?
Try this: tell the truth when people approach you with something. Did you get an invite to a BBQ on a weekend already filled with soccer games, pool parties, and a graduation party? Just say no. Yes, you could squeeze it in, and no, you don’t want to be rude, but you should be honest. Otherwise, you’ll find your cranky self at a party with a backache trying to make small talk, all while wishing you were home submerged in your tub.
Take a nap
Put the afternoon cup of coffee down, and don’t even think about grabbing that energy drink. If you’re tired, take a nap. Even if it’s only a 15- to 20-minute nap, catch your z’s. Science says that naps are good for most people. They can improve brain functions ranging from memory to focus and creativity, and for some a nap can be as restorative as a full night’s sleep!
The kids in my classroom were different people after naps– all bright-eyed, cheerful, and ready to go. Couldn’t you use a little of that pep in your step? Scrap that caffeine binge and take a nap when possible.
Forgive, forget, and do it fast
The other day, my 18-month-old pulled a chunk of my three-year-old’s hair out and got a huge bite in exchange. There were lots of tears, but less than five minutes after the violent showdown they were in their room playing with cars. You never would have known what happened (except for the bite mark and bald spot).
Are you holding a grudge against someone you love? Are you one of those people who need time and/or space? Life is too short. Call or text or email whoever this person may be. The only time that’s guaranteed is the space of time you’re standing in right now. It doesn’t matter who did what, or who was more wrong. What matters is that you make amends.
When I worked with those tiny kids, they would fight and bite every day and the only ones who had a problem at the end of the day were the parents. Kids are too busy and too happy to hold grudges. We should be, too.
Find joy in the simple things
Have you ever seen kids at the park when someone pulls out a tube of bubbles? What about when a child sees an airplane, or a butterfly? My kids bounce around the house joyfully when I announce bath time! How amazing would it be to stop and smell the roses? How different would life be if we could let ourselves enjoy all the small, wonderful things that happen in our everyday lives?
I’ve learned so much from people so small. What are your children teaching you?