We can learn so much from children. And most of us are lucky to have the chance to be closely reacquainted with the magic of childhood 20 or 30, even 40 years after we ourselves were children. When our children have children, we learn even more lessons further down the line.
It would seem that many parents see the teaching process as a one-way street. However, it would probably do them well to spend more time learning from their children and less time teaching.
Children know a lot more about having a good time than most adults. For instance, children know how to laugh. And they don’t need much to laugh at—sometimes they don’t need anything at all. They laugh because it feels good.
Norman Cousins, an American political journalist, author, professor, global peacemaker, and longtime editor of the Saturday Review, was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (a degenerative disease causing the breakdown of collagen). His doctors gave him a few months to live. Cousins, however, disagreed and reasoned that if stress had somehow contributed to his illness then positive emotions should help him feel better.
With his doctors’ consent, he checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel across the street and began taking extremely high doses of Vitamin C while exposing himself to a continuous stream of humorous films and similar “laughing matter.” He later claimed that 10 minutes of belly rippling laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep, when nothing else, not even morphine could help him.
His condition steadily improved and he slowly regained the use of his limbs. Within six months he was back on his feet, and within two years he was able to return to his full-time job at the Saturday Review,. His story baffled the scientific community and inspired a number of research projects. Cousins went on to live 26 more productive years, until the age of 75.
Have you checked your quota of laughs lately?
Children are delightfully spontaneous. They don’t analyze and work everything out. A little bit of spontaneity goes a long, long way. It teaches kids how to be flexible and loosen up. They learn that life isn’t always perfect. Children who grow up with rigid rules that refuse to bend are often the very adults who have problems adjusting when life throws an occasional curveball. Spontaneous, active play that children initiate themselves also exercises their creativity and thinking skills as well as their bodies.
Children are eternally fascinated and curious. Everything is new and an exciting experience to be absorbed. On the contrary, adults tend to switch off. Although we still have a lot to learn about things and life itself, the trouble is, that by the time we have reached adulthood, many of us have forgotten what a magical place the world we live in, actually is.
Children are also very accepting. They are without prejudice. Rich or poor, black or white, in their eyes, you’re OK. A child is not biased by your religion or your politics. They accept who you are, until circumstances teach them not to. How often do we hear children complain about the weather? They will quickly run to the window and marvel at the pitter patter of the rain, or can’t wait to be called to be the weather watcher for the day! They intuitively know that they have to “go with the flow.”
Children are delightfully (and sometimes, brutally) honest: “Teacher, why does your hair look electrocuted?” (after spending hundreds of pesos on a perm!); “Mom, are you going to die soon?”; “You’ve got lots of cracks on your face, grandma!”; “Teacher, you’re like a duck… (pause)… because you have a big butt!” (this last one meant as an endearment!).
Their thoughts are spoken without inhibition. They may say the most embarrassing, terrifying, hilarious or totally unconventional thing, but who can deny the fact that it provides many of us a stream of laughter?
Children have enormous resilience and determination. Their persistence is really something to marvel at, as well as to be endured! “Teacher, let’s do the spinning song again!” “One more time, teacher!” “Just one more time, pleeeeease!!!” When children start learning how to walk, they may have fallen over many times, but they keep getting up again and again. Until they finally learn how to walk. Do we still exhibit that kind of determination?
Laughter, spontaneity, acceptance, resilience, trust, determination. Just a few things we learn from children. When we think about who actually educates whom, we have to admit that children offer a wealth of knowledge for us.
As grown-ups, teachers and parents alike, our motivation therefore should be to be happy and appreciate every moment just like our children. “Yesterday” has already died, and “tomorrow” was not born yet, we have a wonderful “now” in order to live, to think, to enjoy, and to change something.