3 Life Lessons As Taught By a Toddler

Two-year olds have an enthusiasm for living and a zest for Life that causes them to sometimes bubble over in giddiness and laughter. There is a lesson to learn in this, too.
10/23/2014 11:15 am ET Updated Dec 23, 2014

Toddlers are those among us who are just beginning this journey we call Life. Toddlers are little ones who are learning to walk, talk, run, use a spoon and make choices about what they like and don't like. Two-year olds are right in the middle of their toddlerhood years. And besides their often deserved reputation as being the "terrible twos," they are also very wise.

Have you ever really considered that two years of age isn't very old? That to have been in the air with us for only two years just isn't that long of a time? And, yet, a 2-year-old human being is already complicated, interesting and immensely wise.

Most of us, as we grow older, retain the complicated part; we could increase... or decrease ...the interesting part; but the wise part? Some of us lose it for a time and then regain it some 60 to 70 years later; and some never at all.

Wisdom, by definition, embodies those traits of experience, knowledge and good judgement that come with living our lives. So you ask, how can a toddler exhibit wisdom? Exactly how much life experience can a person really rack up in a mere two years? What kind of knowledge can they get by sheer osmosis? As for good judgement, on what would someone that young base their decisions? How can they possibly judge one thing against another?

It takes observation and being around 2-year-olds to see that wisdom doesn't require 75 years of living to achieve. Although, having said that, it is totally possible to end up at age 75 having lost the wisdom we held at age two.

Can you learn something from the wisdom of a toddler? Absolutely.

The first lesson has to do with making, and accepting our choices. Did you know that a toddler can make fashion choices? Seems a trivial thing, doesn't it? Fashion. However, there are those whose very livelihood depends upon the choices made of what is worn from one day to the next. Watch a 2-year-old and you learn that fashion is personal choice, not something taught.

The little princess I observe comes by her fashionista sense all by herself. After all, from the time she was born, she was surrounded by color and fabric. Her caregivers chose her outfits at first. Dresses for going to church, tiny jeans for crawling around on the floor and an endless supply of bibs with cute pictures on them and funny phrases. As people we learn by watching and imitating. The surprise comes, however, at how early we as people begin to make our own choices.

By age 2, this little person loved to have me notice what she was wearing in the mornings when her mom dropped her off. Didn't matter that the pants were either too long or too short, and the color of them didn't match the color of her shirt. She would point out her shirt and her pants and smile so that I could "ooh" and "aah" in appreciation. She chose them herself. It's not that she's vain, how could she be? She's only 2. I think, rather, that it is she reveled in making her own choices and enjoyed showing them off.

Of course, within an hour she had apple juice spilled down the front of her shirt and she'd wiped her hands on her pants after eating her granola bar. Didn't bother her, though. The lesson? If you are going to make your own choices, enjoy both the process and the result. Also, accept that your happiness is not dependent upon whether someone else approves of your choice. Rather happiness should be a result of shared joy. This princess loved showing off her fashion choices -- not for approval -- but rather so that I could share in her joy.

A second lesson is the "Me do it!" Toddlers are at the developmental stage of human life where we learn independence and how to do things by ourselves. Yes, it is a stage, but it is also something we forget as we grow older. There are people who, as they grow into their adult years, seem to become less independent and more dependent. Some of us seem to forget the "Me do it!"

Toddlers revel in their growing independence. And, it doesn't bother them at all that they don't do a thing perfectly. The joy is in the doing. By age two, this princess had learned to put her pants on by herself. There was the day she put her tiny jeans on by herself [backwards of course] and ran into the kitchen to show me. She was very proud of her accomplishment and wanted me to see what she had done. In this task she had no need of perfection in order to celebrate the joy of accomplishment. This is a lesson those of us in our adulthood could do to relearn.

The third lesson is this: Knowing what is important comes very early in our lives. Two-year old people teach us that:

  • Hugs are so much more important than you could ever imagine
  • Toddlers don't care if you are skinny, fat, fashionable, trendy, rich, poor...whatever; what they do care about is that you are there. Period.

Two-year olds have an enthusiasm for living and a zest for Life that causes them to sometimes bubble over in giddiness and laughter. There is a lesson to learn in this, too.