What Children Can Teach Us About Being a Happy and Successful Adult

Often when we think of children, we think of them as tiny humans who bring both joy and destruction to our living rooms. We think of them as little people who need help navigating the world and who need to be taught how to interact with others.

After watching my son play, I realized something. There are things he can also teach me about being a happy and successful adult. He is only 3 years old, yet there are things that he’s taught me through his carefree and sometimes ornery attitude.

We often think that we have the most to teach children. After much reflection, I believe Children have just as much to teach us.

Be Happy with the Simple Things

Children are happy with the simple things in life. They’d much rather play pretend with a cardboard box than play with the toy that came in it. They take nothing for granted. Every experience they have is one of magnificent wonder – or debilitating frustration. Everything is a big deal to them, including the simple things that we take for granted. As an adult, we can increase our happiness by appreciating the simple things in life: the sunrise. Being able to take a run outside. Small delicacies. Art projects. Family. Friends. The wind. All of these things and more, we can appreciate.

It’s Okay to Say No

Yesterday evening when I was playing with my son, he randomly stood up, pointed at his toys, and said, “No, no, no, no, no.”

I never figured out why he was saying no. But one thing I did realize was that it was okay for him to say No to things he didn’t like. Sometimes he has to compromise – like he can say “No” to eating, but he has to do it. But then there are some things he says no to, and I relent. He gets his way – but that’s not necessarily always a bad thing.

Happy and successful adults say ‘No’ all the time. They say no to opportunities that don’t serve the purpose of fulfilling their vision. They say no to things that get in the way of them achieving their goals. Successful people say no to more things than they say yes to.

Think about it. If you said ‘Yes’ to everyone that wanted you to do some random thing, would you ever have time to work on the things you wanted to work on to be successful? Probably not.

It’s Okay Not to Share Sometimes

I often find myself getting on to my son about sharing. Then I realized, it’s possible I’m the one doing him a disservice. He is perfectly capable of sharing without my prompting – I’ve seen him do it, and it’s the sweetest thing to witness. However, I realized that sometimes it’s okay not to share.

Children are usually expected to share all of their toys. Is this really fair to them? After all, if someone asked me to share my car with a random stranger, or with someone who might wreck it, I’d look at them like they had four heads. If someone asked Oprah to give away every dime she owned that she worked hard for to other people, would that be fair to her? No. It wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Oprah shares with people. But she shouldn’t be expected to share everything she owns.

Children have the same fears. We should encourage sharing, but maybe we need to give them a bit of a break. After all, there are plenty of things we aren’t expected to share – because that’s what’s viewed as ‘fair.’ The same goes in the world of Children.

It’s Okay to Stand Up for Ourselves

Children are naturals at standing up for themselves – until we tell them not to. When other children are mean to them, it’s natural for us to encourage them to be nice and turn the other cheek. But is this really doing them more harm than good?

If a child is being mean, sometimes the other child will hit them or bite them, or scream at them, or yell at them. And what do you know, the other child usually cuts it out.

We tell them not to do this, of course. But in the world of children, is there any other way they are able to communicate and have the other child get their point? After all, if the child said, “Nay, sir, I do not agree with what you are doing. You need to please stop,” do you think the other child would get it? No. Probably not.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach them how to properly handle a conflict. But maybe we should cut them a little slack and allow them to stand up for themselves more often without putting them in time out. Teach them how to have properly handled the situation. Don’t punish them for it, because in their minds, by being punished, they have been told that it’s not okay to stand up for themselves.

By the time they get to elementary, it’s instilled in their brains not to stand up for themselves. Bullies run rampant in the hallways of our schools, and we have taught our children to enable these bullies by not standing up to them. Now, I know not all parents teach their children this. But I’ve seen it more often than I’d like to.

It’s okay to stand up for ourselves. There are bullies in this world. Our children teach us it’s okay to express ourselves when others are being mean, rude, nasty, or violent. There is never a completely safe way to do this, ultimately. But it’s something that is necessary to maintain the safety of society as a whole.

Learn from Failure

This is one of the primary things we can learn from children to be happy and successful. Children fail at things all the time. Failure is their default setting when it comes to learning. They fail at something. Try again. And over and over, until they eventually grow and develop the skills necessary to make it in the world. If children never failed, they would remain babies forever.

So think about that. If you had never failed, you would still be a baby. Isn’t that an amazing way to look at failure? So the next time you fail at something, remember that. Remember that you have failed at hundreds of things throughout your life – and you overcame them. You learned from them. You can do the same when it comes to building your success and reaching your goals.

Accept Yourself the Way You Are

One of the primary things that gets in the way of our happiness is not accepting ourselves for who we are. We let society decide for us what we should wear, how we should feel about ourselves and our bodies, what we should eat, what we should do with our lives.

Children accept themselves for the way they are – until they’re taught otherwise. We need to learn from them that accepting ourselves for who we are will contribute immensely to our own happiness. We will remove that huge roadblock that is keeping us from reaching fulfillment and success in our lives.

These are the primary things that Children have taught me about being a happy and successful adult. If you enjoyed this, please share with your friends!

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2 Replies to “What Children Can Teach Us About Being a Happy and Successful Adult”

  1. Thank you for this post!
    I really think that saying No (and Yes!) and just want what you want, are The Lost Skills Of Civilization.
    I m currently investigating power dynamics, and my first conclusion is that there is not enough emphasis on the importance of boundaries AND to defend them!
    Like you said, we immediately jump on the opportunity to tell children how to not defend their boundaries, when in reality we should first say to adult or child:
    “That was SUCH a good thing you stood up for yourself! Bravo!”
    And then say: “Now let’s look if there are ways to do that, that are less painful.”

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