August 28, 2010

Learning About Life From A 3 Year Old

Disclaimer: I have the world's greatest 3 year old grandson. How else can you explain learning valuable life lessons from someone younger than any shirt I own? While I like to believe he is smart beyond his years, I would guess most kids have something to tell us, if we'd only pay attention. So I did pay attention during a long weekend with the family in Flagstaff. Here is my takeaway from that time together.

Finding Joy in Everything
He can find joy and excitement in the most common of daily activities. There is almost nothing that doesn't cause him to smile, gush enthusiasm, or run toward whatever it is that has captured his attention. He has yet to unlearn the precious belief that every moment of every day can bring a new adventure.

Sometime in the next 3 or 4 years he will probably lose this innate sense of joy. Disappointments, a bully at school, a friend who says unkind things, or a clearer understanding of  the existence of bad things in the world will cause him to exercise caution. He will moderate his enthusiasm and  be a little less free with hugs and smiles. He, his family, and our world will be a little less sunny when that happens.

Show Respect for Others
Something that used to be quite common in America, but now is often restricted to the very young is respect for one's elders. You might argue that he isn't showing respect, as much as awareness where the power in the family is. He may throw an occasional temper tantrum but Mom and Dad are going to win and he knows it. Even so, he speaks with respect to them and his grandparents. He listens when one of us is talking. He acknowledges our presence.

Respect for experience and for gaining some perspective are attributes that come with age. Respecting what someone older than you can teach you is a missing part of our society's character.

Politeness Matters
Being polite gets you farther than being nasty. He can overpower his little sister (who is also an absolute gem!) and take what he wants. But, he has learned the uproar isn't worth it. By asking politely to share more often than not he gets what he wants. Honey does get you more than vinegar.

The public discourse in our country has become quite unpleasant. Polite exchanges of honest differences of opinion are out of favor. Yelling and name-calling are more our style. Those who don't agree with us are not simply misinformed, they are probably evil. Politeness has become a weakness and we are the worse for it. We need to listen and learn from the children.

Money is often overrated
Money is completely unnecessary for many of life's greatest pleasures. I have yet to see my grandson decide not to explore something or taste something or do something because he has no money. He loves watching trains. He adores family picnics. He goes crazy over dinosaurs. He plays for hours by himself or with his sister. He doesn't miss any of this just because he has no wallet.

I'd contend that many of the sweetest experiences in life are absolutely free. A glorious sunset, a conversation with a friend, a cup of coffee on the back porch, a hand-in-hand walk with someone you love are still untaxed, unregulated, and available to you. 3 year olds have no concept of limiting their joy because of finances. We would benefit from remembering that lesson.

Control your own schedule
Eat when you are hungry. Nap when you are tired. Stop doing something when it bores you. Don't worry. My grandson has these guidelines pretty much figured out. Sometime soon he'll lose the freedom to act on them whenever he wants. But, for now he has life by the tail.

I wish I was less controlled by the clock, the to-do list, and my schedule. Come to think of it, it is time for a nap right now.

Before I go, a question for you. What lesson or fresh insight have you learned from a younger person in your life? What did a child say or do that reminded you of an important life lesson?  I'd be quite interested. Thanks!

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  1. I don't have grandchilren..not old enough yet. But, as a school teacher I learn a lot everyday by just listening. My kids are 8-9 years old and are still full of excitement when it comes to learning. I hope it lasts.

  2. Thanks, Bud, for your comment. I think it is great your kids remain engaged. Does it have something to do with their teacher? !

    We need more children that age who haven't started to shut down.

  3. I love learning from my children and it is a great reminder to see the world through the eyes! How everything is awe-inspiring and just incredible. I pray that I never forget how amazing things are and to look for them as often as I can!

  4. Very well said. Seeing the world through the eyes of innocents helps remind us of our blessings, not just our problems. You've started off my day well with such a positive comment. Thank you.

  5. It's time for a nap at 8:30 in the morning? Retirement really does sound like fun!

  6. Yes, it has its moments. 8:30 AM was a little soon. But, if lunch is at 11, then 11:30 AM is a real possibility!

  7. I have learned that it is ok to ask for help when you need it and it is ok not to know everything. Life is a constant learning process and looking to those that are wiser than I to help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of wisdom

  8. I love this comment. You are exactly right about asking for help and not pretending to know everything. My grandkids are quick to do both.

  9. These are some great lessons that too many people forget as they age. I remember some of my greatest times were playing with Legos with my friend, climbing trees, exploring the backyard, and just generally being a kid. It's crazy how none of these things seem to have made it to my adult life, considering how much fund I used to have.

    Someday, when I retire, I hope that I can get back into all the things that made me happy as a kid, and maybe get into some new hobbies that I enjoy.

  10. Recapturing some of that fun can be a very useful goal. Maybe not Legos (though I don't know why not!) but how about doing one or two things again that you loved as a kid? Marshmallows over the fire or exploring a new park. How about playing a board game again, this time with an adult friend? (remember Chutes & Ladders?). It is a ball to dig out a childhood game and play it as a adult. Memories come flooding back and you laugh out loud.

  11. This is such a great point and one that I try to hammer again and again in my posts as well. Life's greatest moments are usually relational or experiential not monetary, although sometimes it takes money for experiences.

    True Wealth is defined by the 3 P's - People, Passion & Purpose. We should use our monetary wealth to invest into our relationships, pursue things we are passionate about and live out our life's purpose!

  12. The 3Ps you note in your comment are perfect. When our kids were growing up we always gave them the choice between a family vacation to a nice spot (condo in Florida, Christmas in Hawaii, scuba diving in Key West) or something material for the house or themselves. They always chose the experience.

    I like the Ten Guiding Principles for the New Retirement on your blog. All solid points. Click on Jason's name above to go to his site and look for it.

  13. Thanks Bob! I appreciate that. I love the idea of family vacations and building memories rather than just stuff for the house. I hope to encourage that as much as possible as my kids get older.

    BTW - Here's the link if people are interested in the post you mentioned on the 10 Guiding Principles for The New Retirement:

  14. Hi Bob! I often say that my kids are my greatest teachers. Among the many lessons I've learned from them, I've learned to see people for who they are without judging. It's amazing how kids go over to any one and talk like they are best friends. How they play with any kid regardless of race or background. Kids blur all the barriers that adults create and they see each other as another great person to be with.
    Loving blessings

  15. I love your observation about the lack of barriers kids have. Adults teach kids to judge others based on criteria that the children would never think of on their own. Thanks for taking the time to share such an on-target comment, Andrea.

  16. I have a 2 and 5 year old. Here are my top things.

    I'm amazed at how much love and kisses can make just about anything better. Kids get great comfort knowing they have they're loved ones to take care of them. Adults don't seem to get as much comfort from they're support systems.

    Kids love learning. I still love learning today, so I guess that has not extinguished with time.

    Kids are not pressured by time. They never seem to be in a rush. They don't feel the need to cram 100 things in a day. We were staying at a lake a few weeks ago, and if they did nothing all day but throw rocks in the water, they would have still had a great time.

    Kids know how to enjoy the moment.

    Great article. Thanks

  17. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Sandy.

    Kids knowing how to enjoy the moment is probably the key to their happiness. They don't have much past to worry about and the future is a concept they can't really grasp yet, so what is left is right now. They squeeze every drop of fun and learning from it they can.

    I see from your blog (which looks interesting, by the way,) you live in western Massachusetts. That is a beautiful part of the state and a great place for kids to learn about nature and self-reliance, and throwing rocks into a lake if the opportunity presents itself.


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