Ever notice how you’re instantly drawn to the sound of a laughing child? You turn to see where the noise is coming from, and the sight puts a smile on your face. What is it about that child that gets your attention? Is it the rare sound of real laughter? Or witnessing them finding joy in just a simple moment?
Somewhere between childhood and the journey towards adulthood, we tend to lose sight of instinctive traits because of the influences we face in our community and world. We hear comments like, “Stop acting like a child.” I want to challenge that and say why should we stop? Children seem to be enjoying their life to the fullest. They have qualities that we long to have in our lives. They don’t carry baggage or hold grudges. Now I do realize that the responsibilities of adults are far greater than that of children, but why do we have to be so serious and stressed all the time? What if we started paying more attention to the qualities that children so innocently have claimed only for themselves, and ask ourselves why we can’t share those qualities as well?
How to be a Better Person: 3 lessons from children
- Stop judging other people.
Kids don’t come out of the womb already knowing the labels “needed” for all the different types of people in our world. They don’t see differences in religion, race, gender, or nationality because quite frankly they don’t care. If you put a very diverse group of young children in the same room with varying races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds, you’ll notice that they don’t treat anyone differently. Everyone is a friend because in the early years, young parents teach their kids (as I am doing right now with my child) to share, be nice, say hello, etc. At some point though, however, kids are taught the labels “needed” for everyone and this labeling is thus engrained in them. By the mere age of 6, the brain is already 90% formed with its’ opinions and thoughts laying a foundation for the rest of their lives. Since this is a learned trait, judging others is actually an unnatural concept. We weren’t meant to pay so much attention to how we are different from others, but rather realize how we all have the same label –human.
- Appreciate the small moments.
If you are a parent, you know that it doesn’t take much to entertain a small child. Splashing in the pool, blowing bubbles, throwing a ball, or seeing a train will make them giddy with joy. Yes, they do have short attention spans so you have to constantly be creative with your choice of entertainment, but the joy is the same every time. As we grow up and begin to mature, our entertainment needs also grow. All of sudden, small moments of joy are irrelevant. We need more, we expect more, and anything less is just not worth our time. Since we are more experienced than children, we actually have an advantage in this lesson because we can realize how blessed we really are. It doesn’t take much to appreciate small moments because they’re all around you. A beautiful day, a hug from your child, a pleasant conversation with your spouse, a delicious meal, and the list goes on and on. Whether you want to just think about it, say it out loud, or even write it down, it takes seconds to acknowledge small moments of joy. By doing this simple act, you are creating a shield of happiness for yourself because no matter how bad things get, you will still be able to find joy in small moments.
- Practice forgiveness. It’s very unlikely that a child will hold onto something someone said to them for more than a day. As adults we are so hyper-focused on being accepted by our society that if someone makes a comment that even slightly offends our ego, we hold on to that offense for a long time, maybe even a lifetime. I’ve come in contact with many children as a former teacher and even with my own child, and I’ve been amazed to see how they just forgive so easily. No matter what happened the day before, they greet you with a smile and a hug without fail. There is an age limit to this unconditional forgiveness however, somewhere between 10-11 years old is when we start to hold grudges against people and thus complicate our lives with the added baggage. I admit it is extremely hard to forgive, especially when your ego is at stake, but there’s no denying that the baggage adds stress and unhappiness to your life. Plus when you allow someone to get under your skin to that extent, you’re actually letting them win.
Now I don’t claim to have mastered all of these lessons, I definitely have some bad days, but I am working on making these a part of my daily practice. Instead of thinking of myself as the authoritative parent figure, I’m trying to take a step back and learn more about the simplicity of life and happiness through my son. I encourage you to also think about the qualities your child has that you may struggle with or lack in your life? What life lessons can you learn from them?
I’d love to hear your responses in the comments below!
“The task is to raise yourself into the most awakened and present individual you can be. The reason this is central to good parenting is that children don’t need our ideas and expectations, or our dominance and control.” -Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Stay blessed, Sharmin