The Wisdom of Children

When I was a child, I wanted to be an adult so I can do all the things grown-ups do. But when I achieved adulthood I looked back at my childhood and wished I could have it back. We often use the word “childish” to describe behavior we consider silly or obnoxious, but not all traits of children are bad. I think there are some good “childish” qualities we lose as adults, and we should consider re-appropriating them when we become adults.

1) Children take things less seriously

As adults, we take our duties and responsibilities very seriously. We treat them as our raison d’etre, and feel an extraordinary sense of guilt if we do not fulfill them. However, how many of our responsibilities are truly important in our overall scheme of life? Is it really worth it staying up late to finish writing a report that need to be deliver to our bosses? Sometimes we take our responsibilities too seriously, which leads to a lot of unnecessary stress.

Children, on the other hand, rarely take anything very seriously. They can treat their entire life as though it were some sort of game. Children can turn everything into a game. Sometimes we adults wish that we could treat our lives as a game. We could, but what prevents us is our sense of responsibility and duty. If only we could examine our lives and determine which part actually deserve to be taken seriously, maybe we can enjoy life the same way children do.

2) Children are able to see the world from a completely new perspective

When we were children, everything we see in the world is exciting, even the most mundane things. We were constantly amazed by everything we see around us, even a used paper cup can be seen as a toy we can play with for hours. But when we grow up even the most amazing things can seem boring. As a child I loved playing with a tape measure; I loved how so much tape can fit inside such a small package, as well as the sound the tape makes as it snapped back. Even today I still enjoy playing with a tape measure, even though other people think I’m being silly. But seeing everything through the eyes of a child can remind us how amazing the world around us is.

Because children haven’t been exposed to all the ideas from their society, they often lack prejudice. They are born ignorant of racism and sexism, and are more accepting of the idea that everybody is capable of doing anything. More importantly, they have not yet been taught that certain things are impossible. That is one of the reasons why people tend to do their best work when they are young, they believe they can achieve things older people think is impossible.

3) Children understand that they don’t know very much about the world

One of the great frustrations of being a child is that we don’t know how to do everything for ourselves. We constantly have to rely on other people who are not only physically stronger but know more about the world. But we did have at least one advantage, we knew how little we knew.

Socrates once said “I know that I know nothing.” We all start off as Socrates, and become less wise as time goes on. As we learn more it is easier for us to ignore our ignorance. This leads to a certain arrogance of being an adult, but from time to time we must be reminded of our deep lack of knowledge.

4) Children are more honest about their emotions

It is difficult for children to hide their emotions. When a child is angry they act angry, when they are happy they act happy. This can be annoying sometimes, but at least they always make their feelings transparent. With adults, it is difficult to tell whether they are showing their genuine emotions or not. That is because most of us have, to one degree or another, learned how not show our emotions. The ability to do this allow adults to better psychologically manipulate other people.

All this is not to say that there are no downsides to being a child. Children can be very unruly, impulsive and have difficulties getting along with other people. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be arrogant and look at children as though they are immature minds that need to be disciplined by adults. We gained much by becoming adults, but have sacrificed important characteristics along the way. Looking back at our childhood and rediscovering who we were can help us be who we want to be.

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