What I Have Learned from Conversations With My Child
Since my first son was born, I’ve learned a lot from him.
Kids will teach you all kinds of things. Many of those lessons are intangible, coming by way of observing children’s natural behavior, which is completely unobstructed by bias, fear, or preconceived notions of any kind.
However, you really start learning a lot when they get old enough to speak. Kids say the craziest things, some of them incredibly funny, some also incredibly insightful (for the same reasons as I mentioned above).
I can’t claim to know what the next ten years will bring, but now that my oldest son is six, there are a lot of things I’ve picked up on in conversations with him.
Parents and teachers, learn to listen, then listen to learn from children.
– Russell M. Nelson
I don’t know who originally said that the teacher learns more from the student than the student learns from the teacher, however, it couldn’t be truer.
Here are three significant things I’ve learned from my child:
1. We’re like emotional sponges
Kids internalize everything.
No matter what occurs around my son, he absorbs all of it, and it changes how he speaks, acts, and reacts to others. It’s crazy to see this process take place when they’re so young because it’s so clear to see. However, this doesn’t stop in childhood — it’s just harder to notice later on.
This spongy state of absorption continues on into the later years of our life and affects us in some really big ways:
- The people you surround yourself with literally dictate who you become
- The things you listen to, read, and watch influence how you feel about yourself, the world around you, and even change how you behave
- And everything taken together affects our outlook on life
In just the same way that I have to be careful what my son absorbs, from T.V. shows to games, friends he makes, and everything else, you have to watch what you absorb as well — because it literally shapes you.
2. Perspective changes everything
Often times, kids see things from a different perspective than us adults, and this can often make us realize the way we’re looking at things is either wrong or, at the very least, just a bit skewed. Well, if you bother to pay attention.
Sometimes, my son will say something that takes me for a loop. We’ll be talking about some aspect of the world, something new I’m teaching him or that he learned in school, such as a different culture, war and conflict, or something related to science, and he’ll ask a question that blows me away.
And, sometimes, it’s not so much that a child’s different perspective changes how you think or feel more than it just confirms what you already knew. This child, without any of the bias or preconceived notions that an adult has, also thinks it’s wrong to lie, mistreat animals, or hurt others just because we feel disrespected, or whatever the motivation might be.
As adults, if we can learn to see things from a fresh, new perspective like children often do, we’ll not only be a lot happier (and make those around us happier as well) but we can tap into our creativity and solve problems more effectively, a skill we could all use more of.
3. Our ability to express ourselves affects our well-being
Sometimes, my younger son has a hard time communicating how he feels about something. He’s four, so he’s at that age where he can speak well but doesn’t necessarily know how to describe certain things perfectly.
When he doesn’t know a word, for instance, he’ll become frustrated because he can’t properly convey how he’s feeling. This inability to express to us how he feels is quite frustrating (it’s actually the reason that infants cry as well), and it affects the way he thinks and feels.
Fortunately, this is a short-lived phase for children, as they’re already very quickly picking up whatever language they’ve inherited from their parents. However, unfortunately, this inability to effectively express ourselves extends into adulthood in a similar way.
Many people aren’t very good at expressing how they feel. Without the ability to effectively communicate how you’re feeling, both your mental and physical health can suffer a great deal. When someone makes you angry, do you yell at them or explain to them what you believe they did to you? When you’re afraid, do you keep it in or reach out to someone for strength? Ultimately, the better you can express yourself to others, the better off you’ll be.