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When my son was born, I imagined how I would teach him about life. Little did I know that he would be the teacher. He taught me:

  1. To use positive words
    One evening at the dinner table my son said, “Dad this food is disgusting.” I thought – where did that word come from? Another time while I was explaining the rules to a game he said, “Now that’s just ridiculous.” A minute later he said, “this is stupid, I give up.” At that moment it dawned on me… He’s getting this stuff from me. From now on I better choose my words carefully.
  2. To look for opportunity everywhere
    My son views the entire world and every new person, new object, or new event as an opportunity to learn something. When a new person walks in the room he wants to know who they are and if they would like to play. If I drop a new object into a cluttered room, he will spot it, touch it, pick it up, ask questions about it. Nothing new goes unnoticed.
  3. A new synonym for persistence
    Santa Claus brought my son a white board and a set of dry erase makers for Christmas (can you tell I’m in IT). My son learned to write very early. He spent months obsessed with writing letters on the white board. One day I looked at the board while he was writing and I saw this combination of capital letters – SHHANDSHOWBO. He also knows how to sound out words, so I asked him what it was. He said, “It’s a word I made up – Sha-hand-show-bo.” I asked, “What does it mean?” He said, “To keep trying even when it’s hard.” Now when I get frustrated I think – Sha-hand-show-bo.
  4. To ask big questions
    A few weeks ago our cat was dying. So I explained death to my son and told him our cat was going to heaven. I was amazed that he grasped the permanence of death. Like the other members of my family he was very sad for several days. Then he asked, “Dad, how do you get to heaven?” I said,”Well everyone goes there when they die.” He said, “No I mean, how do you get there? Do go out the door and get in the car? Do you take a rocket?” I had to admit to him that I didn’t know how you get to heaven, I just believe in it. A few days latter he asked, “If God made me, who made God?” Good question. I haven’t thought about that one in years.
  5. To accept mistakes
    Watching my son grow and learn, it became clear that all learning is based on trying something new, making a mistake, adjusting your actions, trying again, repeating until you get the results you desire. That is how he learned to walk, speak, read, write, build lego walls, set up train tracks, jump, run, and pedal. I can’t think of one thing he did right the first time. It is a good thing he has an abundance of sha-hand-show-bo.
  6. To pay attention to little details
    When my son was 2, he was pointing in a box and saying, “ate, ate, ate, ate.” I said no you don’t want to eat the box. He said, “no, ate, ate, ate.” I looked in the box and it was empty. I looked at him puzzled. He stuck his face in the box and said, “ate, ate.” I looked again closely. On the bottom of the box, in the corner, printed in a small font was the number 8. He sees things I don’t see, because he pays attention to little things everywhere, like the tiny red dot on the white sheetrock wall he called an “owie.”
  7. To stop complaining
    Recently my son went through a phase where he complained about everything. His food was too hot, playtime was too short, he didn’t want to go to pre-school, everything was “too hard.” This experience forced me to think and come up with a plan to help my son through this phase. I developed some techniques to help him stop complaining. His phase taught me how irritating it is to listen to complaints without solutions. His complaining taught me to listen to myself when I start to gripe and realize complaining isn’t going to get me the results I desire. It is one thing to identify something
    uncomfortable or painful you wish to change, and another to sit and complain about it and do nothing. Solutions provide value – gripes sap energy. Besides, how can I expect my son to stop complaining, if I complain – see #8.
  8. To strive for consistency
    If I am inconsistent with my expectations and actions my son won’t understand what I expect. For example, if I tell him I won’t allow him to jump on the furniture and then let him do it occasionally; he becomes confused and jumps on the furniture trying to understand his limits. The consequences for jumping on the couch are random and he never understands my expectations. If I let his little brother jump on the couch, rest assured, he will say “you let him jump on the couch. Why can’t I jump on the couch?” and I won’t have a meaningful answer. Since I have seen inconsistency lead to chaos with my 4-year-old, I now believe it will lead to chaos in every area of my life.
  9. How to build a maze with random items in the garage
    Garage MazeGarage Maze
    Garage Maze
  10. To experiment
    My son learns everything by experimenting. He learn the rules of the house by experimenting. He must ask questions in his mind at some level – like what will happen if I flick this spoonful of mash potatoes at my little brother? or how will mom react if I eat this bug? Now I’m not recommending that you or anyone else start flicking food at each other or start eating insects just to find out what happens. What I am suggesting is that my son illustrates how we learn. We learn by experimenting. Never stop experimenting.

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