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10 Simple Things Kids Taught Me

Updated on April 13, 2008

Through the looking glass... to me!

I've always loved kids... except when I was one! ;-)

Oh, I had plenty of friends... and wasn't outrageously teased, yet as a child I seemed to think about things in ways that were a bit different than most of the other kids I knew. At times it seemed like other kids didn't think... at all!

As a child I saw this as a 'flaw'... imagine my surprise at discovering, starting sometime in my mid-twenties... that this very quality in children brings great gifts!

Kids are masters at simply BEING! Especially young children before they've started censoring themselves and are still willing to share a warm snuggle and a sloppy kiss.

Because I value giving credit where credit is due...

and because I'm convinced kids have taught me more than I could ever 'teach' them... I want to share 10 of the simple but valuable things that kids have taught me.

1. The only time is NOW

Oh... I hear some groans. When you're in the middle of an intense outburst of (heaven forbid!) your child in the middle of the grocery story... NOW is a tortuous moment that seems to go on waaaay longer than anyone wants!

But it's valuable to remember that the point of power is in the present moment. And if you don't go with them when your kids lose it... a new, happier moment is just a blink away. I learned, from years of hanging out with young children that they are disinclined to hang onto the moment... and effortlessly willing to move on to the next moment. It's a happy way to live!

2. BREATHING soothes the body AND soul

Tyler, one of the adorable but more intense of the children in my life had his first "pass out" experience at the age of 35 months. As he burst into tears over an unavailable toy, my sixteen year old son scooped him up in an effort to soothe. (By then I knew better ;-)) This fanned the flames and served to enrage Tyler further... until he screamed so long he simply failed to inhale.

I saw the look of panic on my sons face as Tyler went limp in his arms and knew that was the time and the person calling for soothing. I gently said, "Give him a minute, he'll be back. The body wants to breathe even when we're focused elsewhere." Whew! Ain't that the truth?!?

Of course, I still had to let his parents know that he had a little 'episode' at daycare and that I was sure he was fine and there was nothing to panic about. They panicked anyway.

After getting home from the doctor Tyler's mom called to tell me I was right and proceeded to share that said doctor told her that we ALL hold our breath when we're upset... most of us just don't tend to do so until we pass out.

The point is... we actually stop breathing... but our brain needs oxygen to function. So if we're holding our breath, our brain isn't getting the oxygen it needs to think. If we can't think we can't figure out how to calm ourselves down.

I'm glad kids have taught me to remember to BREATHE!

3. Keep the small stuff small... and it's all small stuff

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will and the other from a strong won't.

--Howard Ward Beecher

I raised three boys as a single parent... running a childcare from my home. I knew they would grow, and with their growth would come bigger "issues" so I figured when it came to taking a stand I better choose my battles wisely.

One summer day we set out to do some bubble painting. This requires a lot of space, some tempra paints and a big batch of bubble solution. So I made a big batch... I'm talking the size of Tupperware's LARGEST bowl!

As we were heading out the door I heard a squeal from 3 year old Lindsay saying she couldn't possibly go out without her brand new flip-flops, so I set the giant bowl on the dining room table with a caution for everyone to be careful as we set about hunting down the missing flip-flop.

Well, 12 eager, boisterous kids and a bowl of bubble solution... you do the math. Yep! It ended up getting knocked onto the (fortunately) hardwood floor. Amidst a few screeches and groans four year old Josh pipes up and says, "Well, I guess we're blowing bubbles inside today!"

At which point we all picked up various tools like bubble wands, spatulas and string and had ourselves a bubbly ball! (And what a clean floor I had!)

I am super grateful kids have taught me to keep the small things small!

4. YES! It's the 'real' Magic Word

Kids have taught me that rarely, if ever, do you need to say "No!" Actually, it's really only needed when asking about preferences. Would you like another ice cream cone? NO! Do you like the color puce? NO! Like that.

We all know that YES is a far more powerful, pleasing word. It MOVES energy... and energy wants to MOVE.... energy screams for a YES!

And children have taught me that we human beings are ENERGY!

Ever lived with a thirteen month old who wants to climb the stairs? The six year old that wants to climb a tree? The ten year old with a brand new bike?

Figuring out ways to say YES! to everything has led me to move past my fears. I'm forever grateful that kids taught me how to live in a YES! environment.

5. Life is in the VERBS

Going back to that conversation about 'no'...

When a kid is flooding the bathroom, throwing cereal around the kitchen, hitting someone, unrolling the toilet paper from the spool and stuffing it down the drain it has to be stopped. And it's from kids that I learned that Stop seems to be a more effective word than no.

No begs for an argument... Stop says it all: quit, cease, stand still, halt, and cut it out! Notice that STOP is a verb. (At least when used in this sense). Verbs go well with energy... and we've already pointed out that children remind us that people are energy.

I remembered from my schooling that young children will most closely focus on and remember the last word you say. Combining that awareness with the discovery that verbs seemed more effective, along with a YES environment, I started experimenting... with both the children and myself. Sure enough, "Let's walk" produced walking where "Don't run" fell on deaf ears.

This was a great 'AHA' for me. It dawned on me that verbs are about our BEING and DOING...

Yes! Life is in the VERBS!

6. All People are Psychic

When Lou Holtz, Notre Dame football coach, first arrived at Notre Dame, there was a very talented, young quarterback on the team. After reviewing the previous season's stats, however, Holtz realized that the quarterback had thrown many interceptions. He called the young quarterback into his office. "You're a great athlete," he said. "And you can expect to continue as starting quarterback. However, you're not going to throw more than seven interceptions next year."

Looking puzzled the young man asked, "How do you know that?!?"

"Because," Holtz drawled, "after your seventh, you'll be sitting on the bench next to me."

My training from children over many years taught me a lot about agility, flexibility and predicting into the future.

I remember a beautiful spring day, all but two of the children had been picked up from Daycare and I noticed I had that itchy feeling in my belly signaling me to heighten my awareness. Hmmmm... it dawned on me that I hadn't seen my two oldest sons running in and out as usual. With relief I saw a Mom coming up my sidewalk and asked if she had a few minutes to stick around with the younger ones while I went off in search of my oldest sons.

Turning on the 'Mom radar' I headed down the alley in the direction of their usual haunts. We had a big, old boarded up school across from the houses on the other side of the alley from us. Now, where most people see a boarded up building as merely an eyesore... I knew that most children, especially those of the male persuasion... saw mystery and adventure. So the boys had been repeatedly cautioned to stay away from the building... and it hadn't been a problem.

But two strides down the alley and I knew with certainty... the boys were in... or near the school. By the time I loped around the corner of the building there they were, along with a neighbor kid, backs against the wall, towered over by a police officer!

My sons were 9 and 10 at the time and had certainly never been in any trouble that required police intervention! Glad I got to them before they got to me. The officer was a wonderful guy, came over to me to share that he was just doing his regular rounds and saw the boys crawling through a loose board. We both acknowledged the probablitiy that we would have done the same when we were kids. He asked if I minded if he gave them a ride home in the squad car... just to reinforce for them that No Trespassing means NO TRESPASSING!

As the police officer was walking away after dropping off my two tearful boys, he expressed his appreciation for my awareness and 'being there' for my kids. HA! If children hadn't already honed my psychic skills I would have missed that one. I'm really thankful for this lesson about being psychic!

7. Good Marketing Reaps Great Rewards

Kids teach a LOT about good marketing! There's a Ziggy cartoon that reads, "We are able to process your call. We just don't feel like it." That sums up a stance that kids can take. It's a stance that calls you to wonder how the marketing director from a company like Coca-Cola can convince so many people to choose their fizzy, brown, sweet liquid as opposed to the other guys when you can't even get your kid to put their pajamas on?!?

Ahhh... you gotta push emotional buttons! It's all about the feeling you're delivering! We're not just buying a fizzy, brown, sweet liquid, we're getting that "good feeling." Coke's messages stand out. We like it. We listen and respond.

So with a little thought... I realize that it's not only the emotional message but it's gotta be multi media to catch the 'best response' of all... so they can see it, or hear it, or feel it. And one exposure isn't enough -- we need a steady flow (which explains why you have to ask for the trash to be taken out over, and over, and over....)

Today I look back with admiration as well as appreciation and realize that all the messages written on bathrooms mirrors and windows all over my house, the little jingles about the dooming consequences of failed chores... it was all graduate level training for a whole new career... in MARKETING!!!

Thanks Kids!

8. Inspiration Trumps Motivation

It's like the difference between encouragement and pushing. Encouragement opens you up to feeling confident, pushing feels out of control. Inspiration comes from feeling a pull forward from the heart... motivation is more like being pushed from behind.

I've noticed this many ways, many times when watching children interact with one another. Kids seem to naturally offer inspiration. An example comes even recently from my four year old grandson, Duncan.

I watched him at his second swimming lesson just last week. There are only six children in his class, all around the same age. Yet six young children with varying levels of comfort around and in the water is plenty for an instructor to handle.

She has them lined up according to height, sitting on the edge of the pool. Derrick, sitting next to Duncan is a bit rambunctious, very comfortable in the water, and has a bit of trouble listening to the instructor. As she stands in the water coaxing the littlest guy at the other end to jump in, Derrick decides it's taking too long so he jumps up intending to help his classmate with a push from behind. That's met with HUGE resistance in the form of backing away from the pool altogether.

As the instructor gets out of the water in an effort to restrain Derrick, Duncan, with the crook of his finger and a grin on his face, inspires the little one to come take his hand, and hand in hand they walk into the water. Success!

Thank you kids, for teaching me and reminding me that Inspiration trumps Motivation... every time!

9. You Can Just Eat to Live

I was raised by a mother who would often confess with a chuckle that she "lives to eat." Because you can see it, smell it, touch it and taste it... heck, you can even find out the nutritional composition of it, food seems like it should be factual. It isn't! It means very different things to each one of us. And it's amazing how many different messages we have all gotten around food!

Elena first came to my Daycare right before her first birthday. The 'dealbreaker' with her former childcare provider was when Elena's mom discovered the woman was force feeding Elena foods she didn't want. It turns out, Elena was... and at age 20 today, continues to be... a very picky eater!

It was from kids like Elena that I learned a powerful lesson around food. Providing a variety of nutritious food to myself and kids was/is my only job... what and when you eat it can be totally optional. It really is possible to eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, select your food carefully and simply eat to live. Thanks kids, for giving me the food freedom and the body size I craved!

10. Finding a 'Fit' is Worth the Time

Whether talking about a literal, physical fit like when it comes to shoes or clothes, or talking about a temperamental fit like choosing a career, kids have taught me that it's well worth the time it takes to explore the best fit!

My youngest son was a pretty quiet, independent kid. He is quite brilliant and even as a young child was a great problem solver and handy with his hands. And... he also has dyslexia which makes it a challenge for him to read and retain written information... not a good fit for traditional school.

As this was becoming clear in first grade, I had a talk with his teacher about my concerns around him getting behind in school. She sympathized with me and pointed out that she was aware of his challenge yet because he was a quiet, cooperative kid she rarely got the extra time she needed to spend with him. She was too busy dealing with the louder, more boisterous kids that were literally pulling on her sleeve.

It was time to search for a better fit. I wasn't able to find something that was a good match for him in time to have him transferred during that school year. There were moments I felt a bit discouraged. Imagining I was somehow failing my son because it was taking so long to explore the options.

While I was on my search I had a friend who was also in pursuit of a new school for her son. She, however, seemed able to quickly find a replacement... but then, when it didn't work out in the new school she was tranferring him again. Her son is very spirited and restless and had trouble sitting still, he was giving her information about what he needed, she simply wasn't heeding the message and as a result they went through seven 'bad' fits... before finding a match.

Made my six month search seem like nothing in comparison. In second grade at his new school, my son built me a wonderful rocking horse in wood shop! He had found a home that fit him well.

I'm happy and thankful the kids in my life persistently repeated their messages to me and taught me that taking time to find the right fit really saves time!


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