Dan is a family man, having raised two children, and has long been interested in the cultural, political, and social roots of our society.
We Don't Know It All
What can we learn from children? Three years ago today, I became a grandfather of two children, with two more on the way. It has been a true blessing watching my new grandchildren grow up and learn about the world, and I have learned so much in the process.
We as parents sometimes fall into the chasm of thinking we know so much more than our own children, but is it really true? Are there some things they know, some places their little minds take them, that we adults don't know or understand?
I believe that there is a whole host of things that most parents or grandparents can learn about themselves and the world around us from watching and interacting with children.
The Joys of Learning
The world around children, especially small children, is in a constant state of flux. Everything they see, hear or taste is new and different and that reflects in the joy of learning that nearly all children quickly embrace. We as adults very often seem to feel that we know it all, or at least enough to get by just fine, thank you.
What a loss that is for us! One needs only watch a two-year-old as he finds his first ant. Or leaf. Or flower. Whatever it happens to be the amazement, interest, and excitement of something new is an almost palpable force as they bring it to Mama or drag her to see. As adults, we seem to have lost that - the most interesting new thing to us elicits only mild enthusiasm and many new ideas are simply discarded as they do not agree with our preconceived notions of what is or is not. One of the best ways to experience this is to take your kids camping; especially for the younger children, it is always new and exciting, with new things to discover and enjoy. Watch and participate with them in the fascinating world of nature, away from the familiar surroundings of home.
An older child might come home from school almost shaking with excitement that they are learning to read "cat" or "dog" but as that child ages the excitement fades and new things learned in school are seldom mentioned. How often have you told your high school student "I didn't know that!"? Not often, I warrant, but the real question is why not? Is it because we already know everything or because we're just not interested in learning anymore and are slowly passing that attitude to our children?
Number one on our list might simply be that we can learn the lesson that learning is fun and exciting. We really don't know it all, and while it is unrealistic to think we should be interested in absolutely everything around us there really are interesting new things out there. Find them and re-discover the joys and pride of learning.
Children and Honesty
Small children are honest to a fault - they don't know how to lie. The hurt a small child feels is visible in their eyes when we lie by failing to follow through on our promises - why don't we recognize that and apply the knowledge that lies hurt to our own lives? As adults, we lie more and more often, make promises we have no intention of keeping, and often don't seem to care about the hurt we cause or that we have lost our integrity.
As children grow older many, if not most, lie more and more. Most parents will eventually begin calling their children on this behavior, requiring truth and honesty. The same parent will continue to lie to others, however, and not catch the irony of it. Older children learn quickly when adults fail to follow through on promises and mutter: "whatever" or "yeah, right" comments are not uncommon. Why can we not learn from our youngest that honesty really is the best policy?
Children and Change
Children do not live in a static world; it is forever changing. It is a strange dichotomy in that children need consistency (set bedtime, school every day, etc) but at the same time, they are forced to embrace changes that might send an adult into catatonia. Consider the first time a small child ventures out into a white, snow-covered world. What would you do? Run charging out to investigate the new phenomenon or slowly back up, slam and lock the door and call someone, anyone to find out what happened?
Experts tell us that such things as marriage, moving to a new home, or taking a new job is incredibly stressful and should be approached with caution. I say that if we would learn to be more like children and expect and embrace the inevitable change that will happen in our lives we would be a lot happier and less stressed. The world isn't static for adults, either: we just often wish it were and do all we can to make it so. Learn from our children instead and welcome change, good or bad, and make the best of every situation we find ourselves in.
Yes, We Can Learn From Children
There is actually an incredible number of things we can learn from our children. We might learn to trust as well as learn to gain the trust of others. We might learn to accept things as they are instead of demanding that the world and everyone else become just like us. Watching the intense concentration of a young child finding something new, we might learn to accept what is instead of what we want.
Watch your children, and the children around you, and find out for yourself just how much you can learn from the children. Grandparents may stand to learn the most; they not only have the most experience in life but are more aware that life changes.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 10, 2015:
Yes, it is different somehow. Perhaps because as grandparents we've aged, mellowed and continue to learn that we don't already know everything.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 10, 2015:
Enjoyed reading your hub. We have grandchildren and I really enjoyed being with them when they were much younger. I learned so much from them. I think we can enjoy them. It is different with our own children.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 25, 2010:
Thank you for the compliment. My two newest grandchildren, 3 years and 9 months have been special as they are growing up just a few miles away and I see them at least once a week. It truly has been fascinating watching them learn and grow. Their inquisitiveness astounds me, as does the rate at which they learn new things.
I suppose as a parent I was too busy but now as a grandparent, more laid back and easy going with perhaps more time I truly enjoy watching and helping my grandchildren learn about the world around them.
fetty from South Jersey on August 24, 2010:
Very beautiful hub. Children are little people with amazing approaches to learning. They are open, curious and always on the prow to learn about their world. Very thoughtful hub with much useful advice.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 15, 2010:
You're right - we live in a world of euphemisms and have to be "politically correct" at all times. We could certainly learn from children in that regard as they have not yet learned those societal language rules that can be so damaging to truth and honesty.
Thanks for the insight, and I'm glad you liked the hub.
Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on August 15, 2010:
Our job as parents is to prepare children for living a productive and responsible life. In the process of meeting that obligation, we forget that learning is a life-long process. It doesn't stop just because we had a child or a grand child. And it doesn't mean that we don't learn from our children.
I have been privileged to work with young children in writing and poetry workshops. Their words never cease to amaze me. What they see of the world they translate literally into words, without euphanisms or any kind of self-consciousness. If they think something is stinky, they will say so. They haven't yet earned the punishment for speaking out of turn with their elders. They do learn that soon enough, but the the elders too often fail to miss the truth in the youngsters' words.
We adults need to take a lesson from children in this regard. Perhaps we have the need to negotiate relationships (a skill learned a bit later in child development), but that doesn't mean we have to abandon the truth.
Someone once said that the true poet is the child. With that I agree.
True to your words, "We don't know it all."
Thanks for a very thought-provoking Hub.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 14, 2010:
And I think you are also spot on. I'd not considered the effect on children of teaching Mom and Dad, but it certainly does present more than a few opportunities for them to grow mentally and emotionally while Mom and Dad also learn something new.
I've always made a point of excitement over their school learning, but they know I already know that; I'm just happy they're learning. The opportunity to be a teacher themselves really would be special to them as well as learning it's OK to not know everything as you point out.
Shadesbreath from California on August 14, 2010:
So true, you are spot on. I really think your point about investigating what they learn and admitting that you don't know something or forgot somethign they learned is important. Not only does it show interest in their world and allow them to take on the role of instructor (which is good for their confidence), I think it also shows them that it is okay to be humble, that it's okay not to know everything. Parents are pretty high on the list of idols for most kids, if not the highest, and when they see its okay for someone as amazing as mom or dad to not know everything, it doesn't change their view of mom or dad, it changes their perspective on what confidence is, that confidence and "awesome" doesn't require perfection.
Interestingly, I just read a really great article by Winsome on the topic of Play that was really cool and has some simlar concepts put together in different ways. You two should cross link to each other with these.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 10, 2010:
I'm glad you liked it. I really believe there is a world of information and attitude we can learn from children - they live in a different world than we do.
websclubs on August 10, 2010:
Like the photo: Grandpa promised to help his granddaughter and now follows through...children need consistency, at the same time they embrace change and view it as an adventure. It is very important to a child when promises are kept. Happier and less stressed, young children do try and make the best of almost each situation. The new phenomenon learn to be more like children and expect and embrace change. Be content and satisfied, accept things as they are learn to trust, that it will work out some how. Intense concentration and focus on one thing, as they play for hours with joy.
The laughter of children, personal integrity, good play, time out, loyalty someone else, the joy of child hood discovery's. The wonder of learning new things. Their little minds and the word WHY? watching the world through the eyes of a child. Lesson in the excitement of learning something new and fun in doing the little things. Enthusiasm in applying new ideas learned.
Nice hub Thanks for sharing.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 31, 2010:
You are certainly right - there is nothing quite like the carefree laughter of children. If only we, too, could learn to laugh and have fun like they do! All of those things we could benefit by re-learning - why did we ever let them go?
vydyulashashi from Hyderabad,India on July 31, 2010:
the purity in heart,the commitment to help and ability to laugh deep down from heart...we can,no no we have to learn from children