“Why do you work with children? I couldn’t do that, they’re such hard work.”
This is something people say to me when I tell them I’m a childminder. My simple answer is that they make me happy. They do. There is nothing more innocent or honest than a young child. Luckily all of my mindees have good lives and seem to be genuinely happy little people. Their happiness rubs off on me. So why are children so happy and can we adults learn from them? Here are a few things I’ve observed that I believe help children stay happy .
- THEY’RE MORE SELFISH
Most young children want what’s best for them. They believe that getting what they want is far more important than anything else. Empathy generally doesn’t kick in with children until they’re around 4 or 5, and older children still have difficulty in being empathetic. Empathy is obviously important for relationships throughout life, but there is a lot to admire in a young child who sees what they want and just goes for it. I’m certain many movers and shakers in business have this very attitude!
Some people are so empathetic that they’ve got to the stage where their own needs come last. If you’re feeling downtrodden and taken for granted and it’s sapping your happiness, then you’re a candidate for acting more selfish. You always do a certain thing and it’s getting to the stage that it’s expected without much of a thanks – be selfish! You’re forever spending your money on everyone else in the family but not yourself, be selfish and treat yourself! Friends who ask for help (but never reciprocate when you need them) be selfish! Go on, start putting yourself first. You might get used to making yourself happy for a change. I tried this recently and had a selfish summer. I bought a hot tub and had 3 holidays when I should have been spending money on mundane household things. I don’t regret it, these things enriched my summer. I was selfish for a change and it felt good.
2. THEY REJUVINATE
Are you feeling tired and lethargic after working/studying/caring for family for hours? You just want to flop on the sofa and chill out, right? So that’s what you should do? Nope. At least, not all the time. Sometimes you should just take a leaf out of a childs’ book. So often I have a group of tired little children after school who are a grumpy and just want to watch tv. There are times when they get what I call ‘the second wind’. It starts with some running in the hallway, which quickly progresses to chasing, jumping, climbing in the garden and swinging. Are they still tired and grumpy? No! After a few minutes they are full of beans again and ready to take on the world. Well, at least until they go home to their parents at dinner time. Sorry parents!
I’m often lethargic and just want to sit around when I know I should be out walking or jogging. Those times where I push myself to do just that, I feel brighter, more energetic and healthier. My mind is focussed and my body has more of those happy endorphins. I have more ZING! Go on, push yourself, be more childlike!
3. THEY TALK IT OUT
Today I picked up 2 children from school who weren’t talking to each other and planned to never EVER to talk again (children are dramatic). By the time we walked the 10 minutes to my home, those children were talking and laughing like best friends. I had listened to them talking. It was along the lines one telling the other she was rude; then denial; fibs; very cross words; short huffs by both; some sort of acknowledgement of wrongness; a (very) grudged vague apology; acceptance and then an invitation to a birthday party. You see, young children can’t really do the cold shoulder thing very well. They aren’t good at hiding their feelings or avoiding confrontation with peers. In fact, they usually welcome confrontation!
I can see great value in this. There is no pent up emotion, internal anger or grudges for very long. Every now and then there needs to be some urgent counselling (from me) but it’s quickly rectified. The air is cleared, everyone gets to say their piece and they can move on. It’s refreshing. Are you brave enough to talk it out? Do you think it could help you in your aim for happiness? Sometimes just having your say on matters makes you feel better, even if the other party isn’t in agreement.
4. THEY SEE THE WONDER IN SIMPLE THINGS
“Those hailstones are heavy, you’ll get hurt. Come inside.” Of course they didn’t come in. It was their first ever hailstorm and they wanted to feel them on their faces – even if they did hurt. When I saw how happy they were, I’m glad I let them. Changes in weather seems to bring about more exciting opportunities for children. The snow might annoy us, but for children it’s a chance to make footsteps in the snow, dig and to build a new friend! Raining? Perfect time to jump puddles. Those depressing Autumn leaves, how crunchy they sound when you step on them. Bugs, animals, flowers and changing seasons – things we may ignore; but to children they are everything. Try to slow down and look at the world as a child. I guarantee you’ll feel happier appreciating the wondrous beauty of nature. I know I do.
5. IF IT ALL GETS TOO MUCH – THEY SCREAM AND CRY
All of the children I care for let it all out sometimes. Today a younger child accidently hurt an older boy. Both of these children were hurt – one physically and the other emotionally. Neither held back their sadness. They had a good old cry and 10 minutes later everyone was happy again. Crying is such an instinctive emotion and yet most adults hide this for fear of judgement or embarrassment. Where do those uncried tears go? I think they go to our mind and without letting go of those tears we’re flooding our brains and emotions. I seem to have a twice yearly blow out of tears and I’m sure those are the tears I’ve saved up. How nice it would be to just get over the issue and clear the air with a 10 minute cry.
6. THEY DANCE LIKE NOBODY IS WATCHING
Music, dancing and party lights – parties can be so much fun, why have them only on special occasions? We have parties in my home as often as we can. Music and dancing make the children happy. The happy faces when they listen to a favourite song, the companionship shown when they dance together, the confidence they display… this is why we love parties! As adults, we often lose confidence and perhaps even need alcohol to enjoy ourselves at parties. Watch young children dancing at parties. Most don’t have any confidence issues – they’re too busy having fun. Try to let your hair down, be less adult and dance like nobody is watching!
7. THEY PLAY
Children are experts in playing. Sadly, adults seem to grow and think that playing is just for kids. Why then, do small babies instinctively play? It’s because humans are meant to play. We have a chance to use our imagination; to go places we otherwise wouldn’t be able to or be someone else for a little while. We get to play with others and be sociable. We can laugh and chat and just generally have fun when we’re playing. It’s been scientifically proven that children learn through play. Isn’t it so much easier to learn something when you’re having fun? Most adults I know play Board Games at Christmas. If games are so much fun, don’t save them up for Christmas. Do it now – just play! I am lucky in that I get to play every day. I play with arts and crafts, with dolls, I paddle in the water and chase children around at tig. Playing shouldn’t be limited to childcarers though. Just do it, play more. You know why you should.
So the next time someone asks me why I work with children, I’ll say this:
- They are honest, I know where I am with them.
- They tell you like it is, I know what they really want and how they feel.
- I admire their boundless energy and try to replicate it.
- I care for them and admire their willingness to show vulnerability. I want to reassure and cuddle when they are sad.
- I can appreciate the simple things in life when I’m with them.
- I can party every week – no alcohol required!
Then I’ll ask those people, “why do you work with adults? It must be hard work.”
(this post is light hearted and is not meant to trivialise mental health or serious issues people may be facing).