10 Important Life Lessons Kids Teach Us


After I graduated college, I was a nanny for two years because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to become a teacher. What I didn’t expect was that the kids I watched taught me important things about life just as I was trying to teach them how to tie their shoes and read a book.

1. You can’t bullshit your way out of situations.

Kids are great lie detectors. They’re smarter than they seem, and because their grasp of the world is usually relative to their parents and their neighborhoods and their playmates, their ability to search for any possible flaw in logic is impressive. If something happens that is atypical of their routine, they know it, and they will ask you.

2. … But everything is always better with magic.

It’s why Santa Claus and the tooth fairy exist. Sometimes the world is just a better place in the realm of “could be”s and “maybes” and “might be”s.

3. Dessert isn’t the devil.

In fact, some days are just plain improved when dessert is involved. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Do you know how kids react when they get a second cookie? They’re ecstatic. They think it’s the best day ever. And they should! You just got 100% more cookie than you had before!

4. Never measure your worth in what you don’t have.

Focus on what you do have instead. Children, and little kids in particular, have a very limited concept of monetary value, so the dollar bill they receive from the Tooth Fairy is just as awesome as Mommy’s magic credit card. That’s a whole dollar more than they had before they lost the tooth! What’s the downside to being a whole dollar richer? There is none when you’re a kid. And while growing older and accruing debt and paying bills are grown-up issues that kids shouldn’t have to deal with, they still have the right idea to focus on the possibilities within that dollar and how much better that dollar can make their life right here and right now, rather than how much better life could be with the millions of dollars they don’t have.

5. It’s okay to cry.

Babies physically can’t help crying because they don’t have the ability to express themselves any other way, but little kids are great at letting out those waterworks, too. In fact, they’re usually really good at expressing their emotions, or if they’re confused and scared and don’t know what they’re feeling, they have pretty great ways of telling the adults around them when their emotional compass is a big old ??? Children don’t know that emotions are bad, or that some are worse than others. They just feel what they feel without inhibitions. And the best way to sort through any emotion is to acknowledge it and feel it, and let it happen before you try to shove it away into the realm of Issues With Which You Refuse to Deal.

6. Your body is really, really great at playing.

Not cranking out the fastest mile ever, not sweating out last night’s poor life choices, not flexing and bulging and stair-stepping its way to a “perfect body.” Kids think the perfect body is the one that lets them play their favorite games. They play tag and climb up the jungle gym and celebrate when they got to kick the soccer ball, let alone score a goal. They just move because they want to move and because they want to be active. Chase those endorphins, and not the total calorie burn.

7. Story time is any time.

There’s nothing more powerful than an imagination because it refuses to acknowledge what we can’t do. And while we might look on with jaded bemusement while kids play house or immerse themselves in other make-believe worlds, that doesn’t mean those worlds don’t exist to the person dreaming them up. Sometimes, those games of playing pretend can manifest themselves into something more. Those dreams can turn into what you want to be when you grow up, and there’s nothing more powerful than a dream turned into a goal.

8. You need your sleep.

Ever see a child who skipped his nap or whose parents took him with them on a night out and is now hitting 3 am without any sleep? Yeah, that’s you pulling an all nighter. That wound up, uncontrollable second wind isn’t so much energy as it is your body throwing a tantrum, and you’ll never be as productive when you’re tired as you are when you’re alert. Take a nap when you need it. Naps are the best.

9. Wear your favorite clothes often, and even all at once.

Even, and maybe especially, if they don’t match.

10. And no day should be too plain to dress up.

Wear your sparkly ball gown or your superhero costume (or at the very least, a suit or a pretty dress) if you want to. People don’t know where you’re going. It could be totally appropriate for the occasion, and feeling your best is always an appropriate occasion.