If you’ve studied any parenting guides over the past decade, you’ve undoubtedly encountered expert assertions that a child’s personality is shaped by age 5 or 6.

That notwithstanding, there also are routine studies and debates about whether nature or nurture determines when a child will thrive or face challenges.

Regardless of where you land on the spectrum of speculation (or assertion), what is clear is that when we adults are open to finding value in and understanding the children we love, they not only thrive but also can teach us a thing or two about living well.

As you embrace 2018 and strive for a focused and abundant year, consider taking cues from the young children you love, so that as you watch them grow, you also continue to grow.

Your role modeling as a parent, grandparent or caregiver will light the way for them to practice being their best selves in each moment and to never stop living a meaningful life.

From the children closest to you:

● Learn from their sense of wonder. Appreciate their “firsts” as well as their “manys” — the many times they want you to read the same book to them or sing the same song or play the same game.

● Learn from their sense of trust. Their eyes, their smiles, their hugs tell you they believe in you and feel safe with you, and for most of us, this makes us want to live up to their estimation. Can we adults inspire the same confidence and sense of integrity in other adults by giving them the benefit of the doubt or new chances to show they’re vested in nurturing your relationship?

● Learn from their boundless energy. Don’t you wish you could bottle it, to dispense or consume as needed? While that may not be possible, the enthusiasm that often accompanies their inability to sit still or calm their excitement can be contagious and can help you move forward with life, at your own pace.

● Learn from their joy. Occasional tantrums and age-appropriate dislike of the word “no” certainly cause angst for the youngest among us, but when they are happy, don’t we all know? Watch that joy; inhale it and seek to embrace your own version of happiness, which can only improve your well being in ways that positively impact them.

● Learn from their curiosity. At the youngest of ages (unless they are taught not to do so), children are OK with admitting that they don’t know what they don’t know. It helps them learn so much! What if we had the courage to do the same? How much deeper would our understanding be as parents and as people?

● Learn from their open hearts. Despite a preschool-age squabble or two, our youngest souls tend to see all people as the same or view their physical differences as something to celebrate. Why can’t we follow suit?

In the coming days and weeks that unfold before you, remember that stretching yourself sometimes requires simply seeing what’s right before you. Look into the eyes and listen to the heart of a child.

Stacy Hawkins Adams is the mom of a son and daughter ages 16 and 19. She is also a Chesterfield County-based novelist, communications professional and volunteer child advocate. Contact her at Stacy@StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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