We adults tend to regard ourselves as the teachers of toddlers, but how often do we reflect on the lessons our toddlers might be teaching us?
1. Their great capacity for learning:
Toddlers want to know how things work, why things happen, and to practice cause and effect. They want to see up close every corner of their little world and all the things in it for themselves. They are curious and inquisitive scientists and explorers who take great pleasure in learning about the world around them and in sharing their newfound knowledge with others.
2. Their ability to say no:
Anyone who knows a toddler knows they know their own mind and generally will not compromise their own desires for the sake of pleasing others. Whilst in the adult world it might be unreasonable, and at times selfish to hold firm in our demands, there are situations in which we sacrifice a little bit of ourselves when we fail to say no. No is an important word we should each aim to familiarise ourselves with and become comfortable saying – especially in situations in which it is necessary to promote and maintain our sense of physical and emotional safety and to define and guard our own personal boundaries.
3. Their determination to achieve their goals:
If a toddler wants something, they can be pretty darn hell-bent on getting it. Whilst I’m not suggesting we should go after what we want at all costs, Ebenezer Scrooge-style and stepping on other people in the way; I do think we could take a tip out of a determined, tenacious toddler’s book and make it our business to pursue the things that matter to us most.
4. Their ability to see a world full of excitement and possibilities:
Toddlers often seem high on life. They haven’t had the chance to become hurt, bitter and resentful or to experience the pain of disappointment. Toddlers seem to see the world for all that it could be rather than all that it is. Remember back to when you were young and all the promise the world held for your future? That promise is still there, and it’s never too late to go reaching for it.
5. Their unselfconsciousness:
I really admire a toddler’s ability to be exactly who they are at all times, in all situations, and in all company, without regard for the opinions of others. Whilst social mores and customs exist for a reason, I do think there’s place for each of us to be a little less apologetically ourselves.
6. Venting their feelings in the moment:
If a toddler is angry they will make that very clear in the moment, venting their difficult feelings before getting on with their day. How often do we as adults express and address our difficult feelings in the moment instead of suppressing them as they eat away at us inside before eventually spilling out in anger or resentment later? How much would it benefit our mental health to air what is bothering us in the moment, and feel those feelings or cry those tears then move on?
7. Forgiving and forgetting:
I’ve never met a toddler who holds a grudge. You could be up to your ears in tantrums one minute and up to your neck in cuddles the next; everything forgotten, blown over and good between you again. I admire and think we could learn a lot from a toddler’s natural capacity to extend grace and move on from conflict quickly.
8. Their ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime:
On the train, in the car, in the pram, in the cot, in a cuddle on the couch… I greatly admire a toddler’s ability to put the world on hold for a short while and enjoy a nice, restorative nap. As adults we’re often too busy trying to cram a million tasks into our day to put into practice this simple act of self-care.
9. Their great capacity for joy and laughter:
Is anything more joyful or contagious than the deep, unselfconscious belly laugh of a toddler? Toddlers seem to find joy everywhere, and are just as adept at creating their own. When was the last time you laughed until your eyes watered? How often in our day do we smile with real feeling? How I envy a toddler’s capacity for fun, laughter and giggles and their unashamed seizing of joy.
10. Their creativity:
From their ability to role-play or play pretend to their ability to create messy, dramatic paintings full of colour and flair or to turn an inanimate object into something that holds life and meaning – toddlers are natural, extraordinary creators who seem to see potential and possibility in all things; and when given the freedom they will express themselves through many different creative mediums without the limits and self consciousness that might hold us back from doing the same.
11. Their belief in magic:
It’s hard not to look back with great fondness on the brief time in our lives that we thought our toys might come to life the moment our back was turned or that the gifts left out on Christmas morning really did come from Father Christmas himself. When evil never prospered, and the world and all the people in it seemed inherently good and safe. The barely contained excitement that came hand in hand with our belief in magical possibilities. For the Enid Blyton’s and Roald Dahl’s among us this might still be the case, but for most of us as adults the magic has probably lost its shine – fortunately we at least get another chance to live vicariously through our toddler’s appreciation of these things.
12. Their endless capacity for love:
Toddlers feel deeply and love without measure, and anyone who’s found themselves on the receiving end of that love knows how wonderful it feels. They love without judgment, and with complete acceptance of who you are. Imagine a world in which we all applied such principles to our love and regard for others! That would be a wonderful world indeed.
What particular qualities do you admire in your toddler?