Can the Young Teach the Old?

Lately, I hear so much talk about generations and how they are different. How they are frustrated with each other. How they think differently. How they act differently.


Rather than thinking of the negatives or frustrations that come with trying to understand and work with people who think differently than us, maybe we should embrace the idea that they have something to teach us.


To be clear, that means the younger can learn from the older, and the older can learn from the younger. It is a two way street. It always is. Regardless of age, life experiences, gender, religion, and ethnic differences, every single person has something they can teach us. We just have to be open to receiving it.


A Lesson From Elementary Students

A few days ago, I was watching a group of elementary school age children talk about what they loved. As I watched the boy with the spikey hair talk about how much he loved Ironman, the girl in the pink dress talk about how she loved the movie Frozen, the boy in the striped shirt mention cookies, and another boy mention his bike, it reminded me that children have no judgment of what they like.


I don’t mean they don’t judge other people’s likes. I’ve seen a child tell another child they think unicorns are stupid, knowing the other child loves them. When I say no judgment, I mean no self-judgment. You don’t see children stop to consider if what they love will be well received by their peers or authority figures.


They don’t second-guess it. They don’t feel bad because of it. They don’t explain what they love and immediately follow it up with an explanation of knowing it’s weird and apologizing for it.


They just share what they love, with an “It’s who I am and it’s awesome,” sort of vigor. And the energy that comes from being around a group of people who are all good with who they are and talking about what makes them happy is an awesome experience.


So when I ask, “Can the young teach the old,” I am not talking about you and me teaching our parents, teachers, or managers. I’m not asking if gen Y or gen X can impart wisdom on baby boomers or the love children of the 60’s. I already know all of those groups have something worthy to teach each other.


My question really is more about how we can all learn from the lessons being taught by those who are not teaching. What are the important lessons we can glean from children – those who are not intentionally setting those examples for us?


Here are a few things I’ve learned from kids


Be yourself.

Don’t judge it. Don’t stress over fitting in. Be authentic. Because authenticity has an energy and happiness to it that just isn’t there when you are trying to be someone you are not.


Have fun.


Laughing and smiling have been proven scientifically to be good for your mental and physical being. Being in a positive mood increases beneficial brain functions like memory, creativity, and critical thinking.


Do things that make you happy even if they aren’t things that make you money. If you love to draw, but someone told you it was a waste of time, draw anyway. If you love to analyze data and it’s not part of your job or an assignment, conduct your analysis for yourself. If you love to take photos but you aren’t paid for it or trained in it, take your camera out and take some pictures. It doesn’t have to be the ONLY thing you do, but it needs to be an additional thing you do solely for the happiness benefits.


Limitless thinking.


Dream big. When your first thought is something you might want to do, don’t let your second thought be WHY you can’t do it. Be aware of any internal dialogue that is holding you back from creating the awesome experiences you want for yourself.


When you hear it creeping in… saying you don’t have the skills necessary, the money, the connections, the discipline, the motivation, or some other thing that would help you achieve it, push it out of your mind and tell yourself you can develop the skills, connections, discipline, or motivation to make it happen. You can find a way to get the funding needed. Anything is possible.


What have you learned from someone under 10 years old? I’d love for you to share it in the comments below.


If you liked this post, click on your favorite social media icon below and share it with others. Maybe someone will remind you of what you taught them when you were your awesome child self.

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