The best teachers

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
– Pablo Picasso

Every child is also a teacher. Here are things we can learn from kids:

A child looks things from different perspectives and surprises in many ways. Kids can be delighted because of the rain, when many adults wait for it to go away. When I was walking with my 3-year-old son to day care, and said with relief: “We are not in a hurry.”, he commented: “But I like hurry. It’s fun!” Or when I later sighed: “Why our home is again so messy?” he cheerfully replied: “Because we have so many ideas!”

Kids’ personalities and behaviour can often take you by surprise. Your child can be an outgoing chatterer even if you would be shy and quiet. Suddenly you find a toy car hidden in your shoes and a love letter (or some dry bread) hidden behind the sofa. I know a boy who walked from school to home barefoot when there was still snow on the ground, just because he  wanted to challenge himself. Only one thing is for sure: the next surprise is always around the corner!

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A child is an outspoken philosopher.
Children ponder issues and can suddenly say things like “What if this life is a game and someone is controlling us?” or give a clear answer for your question of what the word confidence means: “It means ‘I’m ready for this’!” They think about life and death: “Grandpa has gone to another world. I wonder if he has a phone with him there so we could call him…”

Children ask brilliant questions like “Would all the socks of the world fit to Switzerland?”, “Why there are clouds?”, “Why there is space?”, “Why there are fences?” and you’ll realise that often there are no clear answers.

Kids give their direct opinions. For instance, when I recently came home from the hairdresser, my son started to laugh when he saw my new hair, and when I said that he shouldn’t laugh at me, he said seriously: “But mom, if I would have hair like you, you would be laughing too!” Children do and say things adults don’t dare, mostly because adults are playing by the rules and thinking what other people would think.

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A child intuitively plays and has fun. Kids can help adults to find a funnier side of themselves, and to see that almost anything is laughable. Their curiosity and enthusiasm are contagious and the amount of energy admirable! Try bouncing like a bunny and you’ll see that some power is needed. When you’re keeping up with active children you’ll get some exercise, and as they often play outdoors you’ll get some fresh air too. Besides playing and creating things, kids like everyday tasks such as cleaning, shopping or recycling. “I like working,” stated my son when he was gardening.

Recently, a few 3–4-year-olds told me that you can get energy from mandarins, climbing, sliding, painting, eyelashes, people, water, ships, lamps, remote controlled cars, workplaces, swimming, swinging, bears and looking at trees… So now you know!

A child learns all the time. In addition to skills like interacting with people or dealing with disappointments, kids also learn technical skills like how to ride a bike, climb a tree or count numbers. As they learn, we adults get to re-learn things we once knew or we can learn something new. My sons have been teaching me words of a new language, stone skipping, the floss dance, magic tricks etc. As a bonus, kids keep you up to date with latest trends like newest games and music.

A child is a creator and storyteller with a limitless imagination. Kids can create art or stories that make your jaws drop. One day the child is a cat and you need to put milk for him on the floor and call him by his cat-name, the next moment he can be a lizard who says he can’t fall because he has a ‘lizard grip’. Young kids can sing in a tram or run outdoors in a princess costume. Kids dream big – they might plan building a new world in space or beat all the bad guys as a superhero. Everything is possible.

Children come up with things like: “My stomach asks for some ice cream and my nose wants popcorn!” or they blame an imaginary person for eating all the strawberries, or an elf for drawing on the wall. And the classic: if they don’t get something from one parent, they try to ask from the other. You have a great opportunity to become a better (or at least more productive) storyteller when you invent a new bedtime story every night.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.”
– John Muir

A child lives in the present moment and enjoys the little things. I’ve seen the wonder on my kid’s face when I’ve started to talk about some past event or planning the next ones, when they haven’t been relevant for that moment. One of the most heartwarming things to witness is to see how a child can wake up and be amazingly happy for ‘no reason’, happy just to be there. Children notice a ladybug on the leaf or a cloud looking like an elephant. Small things, like making funny faces, jumping in autumn leaves or blowing soap bubbles and dandelions can bring a lot of joy!

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A child teaches you responsibility, patience, tolerance and gratitude. There are many things you just need to do for your children. Basic things such as giving food, being there for them, keeping your promises… Kids can make you become more aware of your legacy, what kind of person you want to be and what kind of actions you want to take. You’ll learn how complex – even if also rewarding – life with kids can be and how different each child and family is.

As a parent, you get to practice patience too. A home that was clean an hour ago is not so clean anymore, your kid refuses to put shoes on or has a meltdown at a busy bus stop. Even getting out of the house can be an achievement! Despite all the challenges, being able to hang out with kids and to watch them grow is magical and makes you deeply grateful. I think the poem “The Last time” describes this beautifully.

A child shows emotions. Kids don’t usually bottle things up, they express if they are sad, tired, happy or something between. A child loves you unconditionally. As the imperfect person you are. When you may just be having a low moment or having all kinds of ‘should-haves‘ in your mind, your child can suddenly come to hug you and say: “You are wonderful. I love you.” You’ll notice that it’s true what people say about feeling such a profound love that you didn’t know existed. You would do anything for your kids.

A child changes constantly. Kids make you notice the changes. Already their quick physical growth makes you realise that time passes and is indeed precious. You’ll learn there are only so many things in your control. Kids’ skills develop, interests change and friendships form. Little by little their wings grow and you will support them more from the background.

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And whenever you think “I’ve got this!”, that you know how things work, that you have found a system or a routine – rest assured: a new situation, a new challenge, a new phase will come and you will need to find a new way to deal with it and reset your compass. You’ll quickly learn that kids just don’t stay the same, they are in a constant change. Just like everything in life.

Most of the examples are about toddlers and pre-schoolers. In later age, there will be many new teachings…!

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