5 Kid Behaviors Adults Could Learn to Do Better

by Cheryl Maguire November 29, 2017

dad pushing a young boy in a cardboard car box

Please use your inside voice. Eat your broccoli. It’s bedtime. Wear your jacket. As a parent you have probably said at least one of these statements more than a hundred times to your child. Adults are always telling kids how to behave. But there are times when kids do things better than us. Here are five behaviors adults can learn from kids:

1 | Just say no

Most toddlers’ favorite word is no. A child will cross their arms and stand their ground shouting no until they turn blue and pass out. Adults do not have the same ease of using the word.

Why is saying no hard for adults?

According to an article in Psychology Today Magazine adults struggle with using the word no for many reasons. Often, people want to belong to a group so they may say yes to receive approval from others. Another reason a person may resist using the word no is fear of upsetting another person. Lastly, a person may want to be helpful and feel valued, so they refrain from saying no.

How can adults just say no?

Psychology Today says the word no should feel empowering. By practicing and remaining diplomatic, most people will improve their ability to say no to others. Envisioning how easy it is for a child to say no may also help you realize you can do it as well.

2 | Ability to negotiate

If you tell your child their bedtime is 8 p.m., often they will ask, “How about 8:30?” Or if you suggest they eat five more bites of their dinner, they respond with, “Can I only eat three bites?” Children have little fear or resistance to negotiating with adults and other kids.

Why is negotiating hard for adults?

An article on Salary.com states, “our research found nearly one-fifth of workers never negotiate after they’re offered a job.” After interviewing 2,000 people about why they don’t like to negotiate, Salary.com found the biggest reason was fear of losing their job. Other answers were that people felt they would seem greedy or they wouldn’t get a raise anyway. In a Money Watch article by Jeff Haden, he states, “I hate negotiating, mostly because a negotiation often feels confrontational.” Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. shares this viewpoint by stating, “A negotiation is an experience that is rife with conflicting motivations.”

How can adults negotiate better?

Negotiating is an important skill. It enables you to earn a higher salary or pay less for a car or house. This skill can help you in both your personal and business relationships. Similar to saying no, you will feel empowered when you are able to negotiate effectively. In the Psychology Today article “How to Negotiate Like a Lawyer”, Ruth Lee Johnson J.D. offers five strategies you can use to improve your negotiating skills, which are to prepare, plan, assert, and implement the solution. She stresses the importance of listening to the other person and doing your research before the negotiation.

3 | Play creatively

If a child sees a basket of dolls or Legos, they have the ability to play creatively for hours. Sometimes a cardboard box is enough inspiration for a child. As people age, they no longer use pretend play.

Why is creative play challenging for adults?

In an article on Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. discusses why adults struggle with creative play. She states, “Play for adults is perceived as unproductive, petty, or even a guilty pleasure.” This leaves adults feeling as if the creative play is unnecessary. Yet she found play helps people to feel happy.

How can adults play creatively?

Tartakovsky suggests you can add play into your life by changing how you think about it. She recommends using your childhood memories of play to reconnect with the idea. You can also play with your child or other children you know. You need to give yourself permission to play.

4 | How to succeed

If you have witnessed a child learning to walk or learning to ride a bike, you will see that, despite falling down, they continue to get up until they master the skill. Children don’t allow failure to hinder them from trying again until they succeed.

Why is it difficult for adults to succeed?

Most success is the result of many failed attempts, such as mastering a new skill. In a Psychology Today article, Guy Winch Ph.D. discusses how, when people fail, they tend to believe they are helpless and unable to achieve their goals.

How can adults succeed?

Winch suggests the best way to overcome failure is to focus on the aspects you can control. After you are able to figure out what isn’t in your control, try to improve it by taking a class or preparing and practicing for the next time you attempt the skill.

5 | Find humor in everything

Children laugh at almost anything. If an adult speaks in high pitched voice, stumbles over a shoe, or mispronounces a word, a child will erupt into a fit of laughter. It is easy to make a child laugh. If you ask any comedian, they will probably tell you it’s not as easy to elicit laughter from an adult.

Why is difficult for adults to laugh?

People may hold back with laughing due to a fear of offending others. Robert Provine, Ph.D. author of the book “Laughter”, states that adults laugh less than children because they play less.

How can adults laugh more?

Provine found people are more likely to laugh when they are with other people as opposed to being alone. Read humorous books, watch funny TV shows, or spend time with your child. Laughter can be contagious. It can be frustrating to hear your child say no to you or negotiate a later bedtime, but next time it happens, notice how easy it is for them. It might inspire you to do the same in your relationships.

Cheryl Maguire


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