“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires” – Paulo Coelho.
There are most definitely more than three skills our children can teach us, which we lose or become unfamiliar with as we enter adulthood. I can think of six main life and business skills where children excel.
1. Social Networking
Generally, children have an amazing ability to make friends anywhere they can interact with others. These days, most parents would agree that their children’s social calendar is much more populated than that of most adults. Kids’ birthday parties are overtaking most of the weekends. In addition, there are play dates, sporting and other developmental activities, which all parents throw themselves into in the attempt to make their off-springs smarter, sportier and “well-adjusted”.
We need to replicate kids’ ability to make friends and to interact with people to utilise our social networks to their full capacity and to our benefit.
2. Negotiation Skills and Compromise
These vital skills in life present themselves early in every child’s life. The negotiation and the bargaining process starts with the demands for presents, sweets, more time for play, television, later sleep time and any other things desired by our bundles of joy. It continues and flows into the playground with negotiating their way around usage of play equipment or exchanging footy cards or other paraphernalia.
Children quickly understand that to be successful in any negotiations, they must be able to compromise in some respects and ‘pick their battles’. Most adults forget that negotiation is not about winning 100% or getting all that you want. The lesson about negotiation and compromise includes understanding the desired end result, the parameters you are prepared to forgo and presenting your view-point in a way which is likely to achieve it.
3. Always be prepared
Children teach us to be prepared and to avoid, as much as possible, the start of World War III and a possibility of having a sleepless night filled with tears and arguments. Most parents have multiple replicas of their children’s favourite soft toys which accompany them to bed every night, to cover off the situations when the original toy is lost or needs to be washed or some other disaster strikes it. Parents often carry their kids’ favourite snacks and treats so that no tears and tantrums can resurface.
This invaluable skill, equally applicable to parents and business people, is similar to playing a chess game – think at least two or three moves ahead and it is unlikely that you will be unpleasantly surprised.
4. Do not overspend
The lesson is simple – do not spend what you do not have! Kids will be careless and demanding with your money, but not with what they consider as ‘their’ money, as they have limited funds from presents, pocket-money and other means. A child will think long and hard before parting with their cash and spending it on a particular item or a toy.
Hence, treat your finances like you are a child. Understand what constitutes the essential payments which cannot be avoided, such as mortgage, bills for utilities and school and childcare related expenses. The rest of expenses, including home help, groceries, clothes, outings and others should be reconsidered and rationalised to understand the break down of items into the categories of the ‘needs’ and the ‘wants’. After purchasing all items in the ‘needs’ category, consider which of the ones from the ‘wants’ category are important and can be afforded. By doing so you will also be leading by example and teaching your children a valuable lesson about using credit responsibly.
5. Get up after falling and move on
Children fall down, hurt and bruise themselves on daily basis. They cry for a short period of time, then get up and carry on with their daily activities. However, when adults encounter stumbling blocks in life, they often find it almost impossible to simply get up and move on. We need to learn to allow ourselves that moment of self-pity and then to be able to turn the page and to move on.
6. Be happy and have fun
Children are able to be happy and content with what they have without the need for self validation, financial backing or gain, acceptance by society or any other things. They do not hold grudges, are able to show their feelings and emotions, are uninhibited, and generally know how to have fun and laugh for no apparent reason.
Take their lead and have fun. We only live once, you might as well enjoy it.