The best teachers learn from their students. The wisest parents teach and learn from their kids. Wisdom comes from knowing what to teach, and sifting through what we learn to find truth.
There is a great deal we can learn from our children, if we approach them with open hearts and a receptive spirit. In some ways, kids are the greatest teachers, because they teach by simply being who they are. And who are they?
Well, when children are young, they are completely trusting. It is only when they have had their trust betrayed many times that they learn to doubt and fear. Young children love justice and scrupulously respect the rules. They are also fearless. As far as anyone can tell, we come into the world with a startle reflex when we hear a loud noise. All the other fears are learned.
This is something that has been known, sometimes intuitively, and more recently with research proof. Our beliefs, habits and attitudes have all been learned. We weren’t born with them; they had to be taught to us either with words or experience. With a nod to Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics for “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” from 1949’s “South Pacific” –
“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
Young children are naturally joyful and full of life. Everything is new and inviting to explore. They seem to have a natural inclination toward love but need to be taught to hate or feel contempt. They play happily together regardless of race, religion, sex, or ethnic background. They are honest and confident, secure, and venturesome.
When we realize that all of us started out that open and generous of spirit, we also realize that if we will only let our children teach us to remember our essential nature, there is great reason to hope for a world that celebrates diversity, equality and inclusion.