A common misconception about children and teenagers is that they don't have much wisdom to offer us on life. We make the mistake of viewing little humans as anything but human: discounting their emotional experiences, missing out on opportunities to really connect with them, and making false assumptions that we are the only ones with anything worthwhile to teach.
The truth about kids is the exact opposite. We'd actually go as far as to argue that when it comes to learning about ourselves, the world around us, and navigating relationships with others: kids have the most to teach us.
Know The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
While self-esteem and self-confidence are related, the little humans in our lives teach us that they can show up in different ways. Someone may have high self-esteem (an appreciation for and value of self) in some moments and self-confidence (a belief in self and one's own abilities) in others.
Someone may value themselves highly but feel unsure about their ability to accomplish something in a given moment. We might sometimes see little humans who are extroverted at home but shy and unsure in public. We might observe their confidence in their ability to do one thing shaken when they're confronted with a different challenge. So what do we take away from it?
Just as we come to kids' levels and allow them empathy and time to adjust to different scenarios, we can do that for ourselves and the other adults in our lives. The grace we give the kids we love can and should be extended to everyone we interact with.
Words Mean Things
While this one might feel like stating the obvious, there is no place that teaches us this lesson better than within our relationships with kids. The kids in your life likely take your words, the way you say them, and what they mean at face value. Their understanding of your words is based on their lived experience. It's likely that you tend to think more carefully about the language you use with kids and how you use it to make sure you aren't causing them harm.
That thought process should also apply to other people you interact with. Intercultural differences, different lived experiences, delivery, and word choice all matter. You are absolutely allowed to express yourself the way that you need to, but if you aim to be good human you should always be conscious of how your words have the potential to make others feel.
Everyone Deserves Duality
Another lesson we can learn from kids is that there are many different versions of one human. As they grow they have varying interests, emotional ranges, and personality traits. It's important for parents to be open and accepting as their kids figure out who they are.
Society shows us that the world is not often as kind to the concept of duality as a parent might be with their own child. We often unrealistically expect others (and even ourselves) to fit within specific "boxes.", but what we should be doing is taking a page out of the books of our little humans. Try it all, be it all, and do it all if it brings you joy.
If you've raised or had part in raising a little human then you know that kids don't naturally force themselves to do things they don't want to do. Before the pressures of the world begins affecting their resolve, children are likely to be the first to say "no" as a complete sentence. No, I won't be eating that. No, I don't want to interact with this person. No, I'm tired.
This is not to say that kids are inherently selfish, but they do show us that self-preservation and self-prioritization is important. So often we grow up to bypass those habits for fear of appearing self-absorbed, but in bypassing what we view as a "bad habit" we tend to bypass our needs. We challenge you to to lean into your childlike self more often. Say no. Put your foot down. Have your temper tantrum (okay maybe not). Prioritize you.
Have Grace For What People Don't Know
In a previous episode on weaponized incompetence we discussed the ways that people might take advantage of others by pretending not to be competent in certain areas. While that manipulative behavior is inexcusable, someone's lack of "competence" isn't always intentional. As our kids grow there is a LOT we have to teach them and tons of grace that has to be given while they learn what they simply don't know.
Through our assumptions and frustrations we may fail to give grace to the adults in our lives; making the assumption that someone who is ignorant has chosen to be. We live in a world where information is the most easily accessible it's ever been, but our lived experiences and abilities to process information remain different. So we challenge you to channel your inner kid and ask yourself: what would I need in this moment? Sometimes you may have to provide more insight or information to gain empathy or compromise. While you should alway be weary of being taken advantage of: a little bit of grace goes a long way.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from the children or teenagers in your life? Do you believe that they have the capacity to feel the same level of complex emotions as you?