Monday, November 06, 2006

What I Have Learned From My Children

My baby turned 5 years old yesterday. I know it's cliche to say it but, "My, how time flies." I still remember the doctor laying Tyler on my chest and how my heart swelled then overflowed with love for this new life that I had been charged with molding and shaping. He would depend on the adults in his world to teach him what he would need to survive and thrive. But yesterday, as I refelected on the short time that my Ty-Ty has been on this earth, I thought about what HE and his little brother have taught Me.

1. Use positive words: I try to be very careful in what words I use when talking to my children, especially with Tyler who is a lot more sensitive than my baby. I have a bad habit of saying; “I don’t need your help” to them, especially when I am correcting one child and the other jumps in and adds their two cents. I say it meaning that I am the adult and don’t need help from them in disciplining their sibling. But I realized that they interpret it in an entirely different manner and often won’t ask for help when they need it. I learned that with the baby and potty training. He won’t ask for help with buttons or zippers and may not make it to the potty in time - which brings on a whole different set of issues. As adults, every word we say should build up the self-esteem of the young ones in our lives. Even when I am discipling them, I make sure to emphasize that it is their actions that I disapprove of and not them.

2. Look for opportunity everywhere: Tyler views the entire world and every new person, new object, or new event as an opportunity to learn something. When a new person walks in the room he wants to know who they are and if they would like to play. If I bring a new object into a cluttered room, he will spot it, touch it, pick it up, and ask questions about it. Nothing new goes unnoticed. There is something to be learned everyday no matter how old we get.

3. Persistence and Patience: Neither one of my children gives up easily and I try to develop this trait by not to jumping in too early and helping no matter how tempting it is. Unlike adults, most children won’t give up until they have a problem solved because they are not afraid of making a mistake. And the best thing I can do for them is to motivate and assist from the sidelines. To watch them has taught me patience and persistence in things that I find challenging. It has also taught me patience with them. And it takes a lot of it to endure the countless questions your child may ask in learning something new but it is well worth it.

4. To ask big questions: Tyler once asked me, “If God made me, who made God?” Good question, huh? Of course, I didn’t have an answer but it opened up a wonder discussion. And it also allowed my son to see me as a human just like him. The saying goes, "The only stupid question, is the one not asked." The smart comes in is knowing how to ask the question or learning how to find the answer.

5. To accept mistakes: In watching my son grow and learn, it has become clear that all learning is based on trying something new, making a mistake, adjusting your actions, trying again, repeating until you get the results you desire. That is how he learned to walk, speak, read, write, build lego monsters, set up train tracks, jump, run, and ride his bike. We don’t get everything right on the first try but if we think of ourselves as failures and don’t try again we will never experience success.

6. To pay attention to little details: Nothing escapes my children, which is why the phrase, “Because I said so” doesn’t work. They want to know the ifs and whys of everything. Sometimes as adults we get so caught up in the big picture that we overlook the small things in life that bring us joy. Tyler and Junior help me to remember to look at the world through the eyes of a child and appreciate the little things.

7. To stop complaining: Recently Tyler went through a phase where he complained about everything. His food was too hot, playtime was too short, he didn’t want to go to bed at night, everything was “too hard.” This experience forced me to think and come up with a plan to help my son through this phase. I developed some techniques to help him stop complaining. His phase taught me how irritating it is to listen to complaints without solutions. His complaining taught me to listen to myself when I start to gripe and realize complaining isn’t going to get me the results I desire. It is one thing to identify something uncomfortable or painful you wish to change, and another to sit and complain about it and do nothing. Solutions provide value - gripes drain energy.

8. To strive for consistency: If I am inconsistent with my expectations and actions my children will never understand what I expect. For example, if I tell him I won’t allow him to jump on the furniture and then let him do it occasionally; he becomes confused and jumps on the furniture trying to understand his limits. My father told me once, “If you tell your children something – whether it be good or bad – make sure you give it to them.” And I try to stick to that or there will be chaos. It is the same in my world. If I am not consistent, there will be chaos.

9. Be flexible in your thinking: This I learned from my baby. He can make a car out of anything. He is flexible. If he can’t find a Hotwheel, he’ll just make his own. Sometimes as adults we are way too structured and unyielding. And sometime we’ll miss out on a solution for a problem because we are unwilling to take the road less traveled.

10. To experiment: My sons learns everything by experimenting. They learn the rules of the house by experimenting. They must ask questions in their mind at some level - like “what will happen if I throw mashed potatoes at my little brother? or how will mommy react if draw on the walls? They learn really quickly what the consequences are going to be. Children illustrate how we learn. We learn by experimenting. Never stop experimenting.

So live, learn and never stop looking at the world through the eyes of a child!


  1. i love it when they teach us stuff!

    PS: i wanna invite you to our 2007 lit conference next year in nov. Will your schedule be free?

  2. Now why you gotta show the world that you're super intelligent AND fine as hell? :-)

    Tell Ty-Ty Happy Birthday!

  3. Children are our best teachers. Sometimes we as adults forget to live and laugh a little bit.

  4. Nikki Woods2:58 PM

    sylvia, k.o., writerwritz: thanks for stopping by. If you need a few more life lessons - feel free to borrow my little teachers!