I’ve always loved working with kids, whether it was tutoring them in a summer program, being an English TA at my high school or teaching violin lessons through my studio’s mentorship program. Even aside from formal mentoring, I just think the way a child’s brain works is fascinating, and I adore being their friend and their role model — there is truly no greater compliment than when a kid thinks you’re cool because you know their opinion is completely unfiltered. I was recently reflecting on both my work with kids in the past and the children I’m close family friends with to this day, and it sparked a few lessons that these wonderful people have taught me.
Patience is key
Honestly, I could just end my article here. Patience is quite literally the most important virtue when it comes to kids, no matter what the situation is. If you’re teaching them something, such as a subject in school or a specialized skill, you need to have patience and understand that concepts that may seem like second nature to you are completely foreign to them — and that they will most likely not understand something the first time it’s explained to them. Outside of formal teaching, patience is necessary because frankly, kids can be exhausting sometimes. However, no matter how annoying they can get, it’s important to show them the same grace and compassion that older, important figures modeled to you when you were younger.
They’re smarter than you think
This might seem counterintuitive to the last one, but it makes sense if you just think about it. While it’s valuable to demonstrate patience, it’s equally vital that you treat them like the intelligent young person that they are. No one likes to feel patronized or babied, and this idea applies to kids as well. Treating children like equals goes a long way in making them feel comfortable with you and will have a positive impact on their self-confidence as well. Feeling respected by people they admire is one of the greatest feelings a child can have.
It’s way too easy to make them laugh
No, seriously. They love to have fun and are usually looking for any excuse to burst into giggles. It’s also so nice for them to see older people let loose a little because it shows that lightheartedness doesn’t have to end with growing up. A lot of the time, kids remind me that not everything is as serious as it may seem, and that it’s okay to do things that make you feel like a kid again. As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine!
They will never sugarcoat the truth
Not even a little bit! While this does mean that they can sometimes say the most shocking or out-of-pocket things, it’s also so refreshing to hear at times. Their unabashed honesty is genuine and unfiltered, and occasionally reminds me how important honesty is to practice, even when it may be difficult to swallow.
Usually, they just want someone to listen to them
Really listen to them — not just pretend to be interested to humor them. They can sense when you truly care about the story they are telling or when you just keep saying “Mhmm” to reach the ending more quickly. Lending an ear to children is one of the kindest things you can do to become a trusted friend to them because, at the end of the day, they have so much that they just want to share!
Upon reflection, all of the things listed above that I’ve learned from children apply to many of my relationships with peers and older adults. Being patient with those around you, and listening deeply to them is crucial — and is not limited just to younger human beings. In the same way, treating others with respect and as an equal is how you build trust and develop a healthy relationship, as it is really the starting ground for any foundation to form.
At the same time, seriousness can often be overrated, and it’s healing to let loose a little bit, just like you would if you were hanging out with a kid. Along the same vein, don’t let adulthood take away your honesty, even when you’re met with difficult circumstances. I think one of the reasons I love kids is because they remind me of some of the most fundamental aspects of being an empathetic, honest and fun-loving person — and also because they’re so silly and full of unique, wondrous ideas about themselves and the world around them. Just look around and you’ll see — we could all learn a thing or two from the kids in our lives!