5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me

Children can teach us many things if we will stop to listen

Written by Justine Uhlenbrock on March 11th, 2014

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Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me

1. Choose happiness.

In a child’s life, there are disappointments: you didn’t get picked first to play; your sister hurt your feelings; your water bottle leaked all over the back of your shorts. Kids will pause to experience these emotions, learn from their mistakes, and quickly go back to smiling. They make a conscious decision to be happy. As a result, I’m trying harder to do the same.

5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me

2. Delight in small things.

Children are the most easily amused creatures I know. They enjoy moments we might consider mundane, stopping along the way to smell roses, climb trees, and catch beetles. After having kids, I now see free time in a new way. Whether by necessity or by choice, I derive satisfaction in small adventures close to home: a walk in the park, a trip to the library, baking a pie. I no longer need the whole world now that I’ve created my own world at home.

I love you

3. Listen.

Alfie Kohn once famously pointed out the inverse power of mindless praise. I admit to over-using the phrase “Good job,” especially when I am trying to squeeze in some extra positive feedback. I often resort to those words to reinforce good behavior, even though I know empirically it doesn’t work.

I’m not one to claim that saying “Good job!” could harm your child; however, I do agree that it’s as good or worse than saying nothing at all. Dionna of Code Name: Mama and Natural Parents Network provides some helpful ideas for what to say instead. I’ve already noticed that prompting the kids with an alternative response, or just listening instead of talking, will get them telling me something I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Kohn advises us to “Talk less, ask more” and encourages probing questions. I would suggest “Talk less, listen more” is also important.

5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me

4. Let go.

As a person who tries in vain to control my environment, I am in a life-long process of learning this lesson. I’m a follower of Al-Anon literature—e.g. “Let go and let God”; although I started my journey in letting go prior to having kids, they’ve helped me let go more than the serenity prayer ever did.

Whenever I have the urge to shout the similarly mindless phrase “Be careful!,” I pause and consider what I’m trying to communicate. Am I telling them information they need to know? Will it help them consider their safety if I shout “Be careful!,” or am I only verbally acknowledging my fear with little regard for their need to build self-confidence? Kim of Raising Babies, Naturally offers a refreshing take on why she never says, “Be careful.”

Offering forgiveness is another way to let go. My kids routinely give me more grace to make mistakes than I allow them in return; I am humbled by how freely they offer forgiveness. Frequently I find myself bending down to explain or apologize, only to have them spin around with a quick “It’s okay, Mommy!” and go back to playing. Without having learned to judge the decisions of others, my kids aren’t weighed down by the reluctance to forgive that comes with such a development. I strive to be as easy to please and hard to disappoint as my children are.

5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me

5. Simplify.

It never fails to amaze and delight me how simple my kids’ greatest pleasures are. Recently my three-year-old demonstrated this truth again when she chose to play most with the birthday gift that cost $1 (see also: NPN’s Wordless Wednesday pictures of kids playing with sticks!). Whether I fill the room with five toys or a hundred, they still choose to play with five toys, so I simplify all our lives and remove the clutter. Megan offers fantastic simple tips to help you achieve a peaceful, minimalist home.

5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • I Am A Super Hero — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she learned the hard way exactly what it means to be a real super hero and not a burned out shell of a human simply pretending to be one.
  • Quiet Heroics — Heroism doesn’t have to be big and bold. Read how Jorje of Momma Jorje is a quiet hero…and how you probably are, too.
  • Not a Bang, but a Whisper {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about the different types of “superheroes,” ones that come in with a bang and ones that come in with a whisper.
  • Silent courage of motherhood in rural Cambodia — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings marvels at how rural Khmer women defy the odds in childbirth.
  • Super PappyMother Goutte‘s little boy met a superhero in checked slippers and Volkswagen Polo, his grand dad: Super Pappy!
  • An Open Letter to Batman — Kati at The Best Things challenges Batman to hold up his end of the deal, in the name of social justice, civic duty, and a little boy named Babe-O!
  • My Village — Kellie at Our Mindful Life reflects on the people who helped her to become her best self.
  • 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me — Children are amazing teachers, when we only stop to listen. They remind us to choose happiness, to delight in the small things, to let go and forgive. There is so much we can learn from our children. Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a few of the lessons she’s learned.
  • Could you use some superpowers? — Tat at Mum in search shares a fun activity to help you connect with your own superpowers.
  • Like Fire Engines — Tam at tinsenpup tells the story of the day she saw a surprising superhero lurking in the guise of her not entirely mild-mannered four-year-old daughter.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her list of Walker Warburg Syndrome Superheroes that have touched her life forever.
  • My Superhero of the Week: Nancy GallagherTribal Mama muses about the transcendent things her superhero mom has done.
  • My choice in natural birth does not make me a super hero — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, discusses her thoughts on her experience with the perception of natural birth and putting those mamas on a different level. Does giving birth naturally give cause for an extra pat on the back? No! All mamas, no matter how they birth, are superheroes.
  • Someone’s Hero — Sometimes being a parent means pretending to be a grown-up, but it always means you are someone’s hero. Read Mandy’s lament at Living Peacefully with Children.
  • Growing into a Super Hero — Casey at Joyful Courage shares how owning our behavior and choosing to be a better parent, a better person, is an act of courage.
  • A Math Superhero — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes that her 7-year-old daughter’s superhero is an MIT-trained mathematician.
  • It Starts With Truffula Trees And Tulips — Luschka of Diary of a First Child takes a hard look at the realities of her relationship with her mother, and through this post goes on a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise realisation for her.
  • We Don’t Need an Excuse — Maria Kang (aka “Hot Mom”) asks women #WhatsYourExcuse for not being in shape? Dionna at Code Name: Mama asks Hot Mom what her excuse is for not devoting her life to charity work, or fostering dozens of stray dogs each year, or advocating for the needs of others. Better yet, Code Name: Mama says, how about we realize that every woman has her own priorities. Focus on your own, and stop judging others for theirs.
  • It’s not heroic when you’re living it — Lauren at Hobo Mama knows from the inside that homeschooling does not take a hero, and that much of what we choose as parents is simply what works best for us.
  • Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers — Garry at Postilius discusses why his preschool-age son is not ready for comic book superheroes.
  • The Loving Parents of Children with Special Needs – Everyday Superheroes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares posts with resources for parents of children with special needs along with posts to help others know how to support parents of children with special needs.
  • Everyday Empathy — Mommy Giraffe of Little Green Giraffe shares why her secret superpower is everyday empathy.
  • The Simplicity of Being a Superhero — Ana at Panda & Ananaso explains what superheroes mean to her wise three-year-old.
  • My Father, The Hero — Fathers are pretty amazing; find out why Christine at The Erudite Mom thinks hers is the bees knees.

Photo Credits


About The Author: Justine Uhlenbrock

lonehomeranger My NPN Posts

Justine Uhlenbrock, MPH, CD(DONA) is a writer, epidemiologist, doula, and mother living in Massachusetts. She writes at Heirloom Mothering.

7 Responses to 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me

  1. Dionna  

    I’ve been making a conscious effort to delight in the small things lately – to make sure that my kids have time to dig in the mud, dance in the rain, and all of those other childhood activities that make parents roll their eyes at the clean-up 🙂

  2. Lauren Wayne  

    I agree so much with this list. My kids are constantly teaching me about the small things, and the simplifying. They find the joy in so much.

  3. Tat  

    Yes! The one I’ve been struggling most with is letting go.. we’re born with this skill, where does it disappear over time and why is it so hard to re-learn?

  4. Kati @ The Best Things

    So true! The joys of simple things and the power of listening. I sometimes forget how much listening my kids are doing (because they can be really good at making it seem otherwise). They really do hear everything! What a great re-frame for me… listen as much as they do.
    Also, thanks for great links/resources.

  5. Kellie

    These are all great tips! I try to remember them all, but it can certainly be difficult.

  6. Justine Uhlenbrock  

    Tat, I am not sure why it is so hard to let go, but if my personal interactions are any indication, it seems to be a universal human struggle. If we consider it a life-long learning process instead of something we are supposed to know intuitively, perhaps we can be kinder to ourselves when we slip up.

    Kellie, I agree that it’s difficult to remember everything, so I don’t even try. My goal is to give myself grace to make mistakes and hope that my kids see that I’m trying. I parent from a place of love instead of fear.

  7. Tam  

    This is beautifully written and I could strongly relate to each one of these lessons. Number 2 is the one I’ve learned most recently. Years ago, I felt guilty if I wasn’t filling my eldest daughter’s life with fabulously exciting adventures. My younger children still have fabulously exciting adventures, but from my perspective, they’re on a much smaller, more sustainable scale.