14 Important Things Your Kids Will Teach You About Life
One of the main responsibilities of a parent is to teach your kids all the important life lessons, and it starts from infancy: how to eat, how to talk, how to go to sleep (hopefully). As they get older, the lessons become a bit more profound: how to make — and keep — friends, how to establish boundaries, how to use your head but follow your heart.
But what about the lessons you can learn from your kids? Despite being smaller in stature and having a lot less life experience, they can teach more than you might think. Here are 14 life lessons your kids can teach you — along with some hilarious perspectives from other parents.
A Good Night’s Sleep Makes a Big Difference...
Most parents spend a huge amount of time trying to get their kids to go to bed — and stay in bed. When your kids are in a good bedtime routine, the benefits are obvious.
“We see in our children how happy, calm and focused they are when they sleep well, as opposed to when they don't,” says pediatric sleep consultant Riki Taubenblat. “We can learn from our kids what a difference a good night's sleep makes, which should spur us to look at our own sleep hygiene and make sure we’re meeting our biological needs for sleep.”
...And You Can Thank Alexa
It’s Never Too Late to Start Over...
Adults often wait for some sort of milestone to try something new or begin again, like embarking on a healthy eating regimen on a Monday. If you follow your kid's example, you’ll learn that you can have a thousand new beginnings within the same day, says Jen Babakhan, author of “Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom and Educator.”
“Children know intuitively that change is possible at any time, and that can be incredibly inspiring for us adults,” says Babakhan. “Any child will tell you, right now is the right time — and we can use more of that kind of thinking!”
...Especially After an Uber-Quick Nap
Don’t Hold a Grudge...
Offenses in preschool may pale in comparison to adult issues, but a child’s natural willingness to forgive and forget may be what lets them start each day afresh.
“One thing I continually notice amongst preschool-age children is their ability to quickly forgive,” says Stacey Grumet, founder and CEO of preschool and childcare directory Paper Pinecone. “They never hold grudges, and they don’t stew in anger — tantrums aside. As quickly as they get angry with one another, or with their parents, they just as quickly move on as if nothing ever happened.”
...Especially When You Know Someone Tried
Freedom of Thought...
It’s impossible to view the world through the innocent eyes of a child, but you can follow their lead when you consider big concepts like conception and death.
“Children are born with a spirituality that may or may not dissipate when they grow into adults,” explains psychotherapist Dr. Emma Farr Rawlings, Ph.D., who interviewed hundreds of children around the world for her book, “The Divine Child.” “Try to allow your children to think freely, particularly when it comes to spiritual thoughts and realizations, and they may instill some greater beliefs in you.”
...Even the Thought Behind Who Should Undo Who's Seatbelt
Look for Fun...
Spontaneous, wholesome fun isn’t only for kids. “My kid can find fun in an office, a playground, a storage shed, a field of grass or a car seat. Why? Because he looks for it and takes the time to enjoy it,” says Clinical Psychotherapist Kevon Owen. “Learn to experience the fun that could be found in any place you're in.”
One way to have fun is to join in with your kids’ creative projects. Drawing, painting and playing with clay are great ways to lose yourself for a while, to forget about grown-up problems and have fun, just for the sake of it. After all, creative activities are just as worthwhile for adults as they are for kids.
...Even Without the Kids
Embrace Social Media...
Instead of fighting with your teen about their screen time and social media activity, why not get in on the act? “Young people have a lot to teach us,” says Janice Robinson-Celeste, early childhood specialist and former parent educator for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. “The biggest lesson I've learned from my own children is to fill your Instagram feed (or other social media) with amazing moments. This is not to show off, but to have a checkpoint for your bucket list that you can look back on and say, ‘Yes, I did that!’”
In other words, if you look at your Instagram feed and you’re bored, it's time to get moving. “Plan a trip or an adventure, and live life to the fullest,” says Robinson-Celeste.
...Or at Least You Can Try
Ask for Help...
When kids need help, they ask for it — whether they’re in physical pain or emotional distress, or don’t have the answer to a question or the solution to a problem.
“Another lesson I’ve learned from children is to never be afraid to ask adults for help,” says Robinson-Celeste. “So, follow their example and reach out. The worst thing they can say is, ‘No.’ And if they say, ‘No,’ just move on and ask another adult. Sooner or later, someone will say, ‘Yes!’”
...As Long as the Help Is, Well, Helpful
It Pays to Be Patient...
Every parent can relate to how difficult it can be to stay calm when your kid is acting up or pushing your buttons. “It’s not an easy task to stay rational while trying to decide the most appropriate response to what your children may be doing,” says Roseanne Lesack, a licensed psychologist and parent coach.
But patience is crucial if you want to avoid frustration and stress, and model respect, empathy and compassion. “When I ask parents to change their behavior to help support their children, they realize what a daunting task that actually is,” says Lesack. “It’s humbling to realize how much we expect of our children that we ourselves can’t always deliver.”
...But the Struggle Is Real
Appreciate the Moment...
Your kids can teach you to appreciate the moment and find the beauty in each day, says Parenting Coach Alix Strickland. She notes that it’s particularly important to find joy in regular, everyday things when you’re parenting a child with special needs.
“It’s important to take a step back from the bigger picture — there is so much beauty in small daily moments, like getting a smile from your child, taking a walk in the park or sharing a meal,” says Strickland. “Kids live for those smaller moments, and spending time with children helps us remember to slow down and appreciate those moments, too."
...Both the Sick and Not-So-Sick Moments
Clear Your Schedule...
With adult life comes certain responsibilities you can’t shirk, and those are tenfold if you’re a parent. But now and again, you’ll benefit from clearing your schedule — and your kid’s. “We need to slow down — childhood is a precious time,” says Teacher Rita Wirtz.
Ask yourself, “What’s the rush?” Is it really necessary to schedule every minute of spare time with activities and play dates? Try to have at least one afternoon or evening a week with no planned activities, no screens and no pressure. Do something together that you both find fun and relaxing, like baking a cake, going for a walk or reading a book together.
...Even Make Time to Wipe Your Kid’s Butt
Put Your Screens Away...
Most kids spend a significant chunk of their day with a digital device of some kind in their hands. But don’t underestimate the attraction of “old” activities because they might be new to your kids. If you want your child to spend less time on a screen, lead by example. Put your own screens away, and play a board game, go outdoors and get muddy, take a field trip or explore a local place of interest together. “It’s about giving time and attention, the most important lesson our kids can teach us,” says Wirtz.
Away from phones and other distractions, offer your kids a variety of experiences, and you’ll discover what they like and dislike and teach them life skills like sharing, teamwork, showing empathy and helping others.
...At Least to Make Way for Their Screen Time
We’re More Capable Than We Think We Are...
Kids often look to adults for reassurance and confidence boosts, but sometimes it’s the adults who need to work on their self-esteem. “We are so much more capable than we think we are,” says Breanne Monahan, co-founder and co-owner of Peace Tree School, a Montessori preschool. “I observe in our classrooms daily that, given the proper tools, guidance, encouragement and, most importantly, agency to do things on their own, children will rise to the occasion and accomplish tasks that adults don’t think they can do — and so don't expect them to. With proper guidance children approach tasks with such openness, free of fear or doubt.”
Monahan believes that the anxiety and hesitation adults often feel when faced with challenges has built up over time as self-doubt, and external expectations take hold. “If we can observe the way children play and work, we can gain so much insight into how capable our minds and bodies are when we are open and look at the world as if we are seeing it for the first time,” she says.
...Especially When It Comes to Bodily Functions
All Feelings Are OK...
So-called “negative” feelings, like anger, fear, frustration and sadness, are often not accepted in society, which means they’re hidden, ignored or dealt with in unhealthy ways. In Monahan’s classrooms, all feelings are OK. “We intentionally create safe spaces for all feelings, both positive and negative,” she says. “Children can feel and express joy, frustration, anger, excitement, fear and sadness. For example, if a child is feeling anger, we help them identify that feeling and why they are feeling it. They are not rushed through tantrums with exclamations of ‘Don't cry!’ or distracted with something to make them ‘feel better.’”
Instead, the kids are allowed to sit with their feelings, process them and move on when they’re ready. “In the adult world, feeling joy, happiness and contentment are good; it means you are OK. When the children feel safe expressing all emotions, they move between them more confidently and easily,” explains Monahan. “They can sit with sadness because they know that another emotion will soon follow.”
...Even Ones That Require a Little Vino
Simple Is Best...
In today’s consumer-driven, fast-paced society, simplicity can seem like a foreign concept, but it really is best, says Monahan, who has reached this conclusion from years of observing many different children and families. “It seems like there are unending options of activities, festivals, toys, camps, classes, etc., aimed at keeping children and families busy, busy, busy,” she says. “But children and families that do less are happier and healthier. Simple, predictable routines are what children crave most, and when parents can slow down enough to get on the same page, you see something amazing happen with the family's well-being.”
Stopping the constant barrage of activities and slowing down makes room for real conversations, sharing stories, learning lessons and experiencing new things — the things that are much more important for human growth and deep connections. “When you intentionally minimize the car rides, the start times, and all the hustle and bustle of modern family life, you are giving yourself and your children the message that you are enough and your relationship is enough,” explains Monahan.
...And Allows You to Recharge as a Parent