Lessons learned from observing my children

I have two children, the oldest is five - a girl, and the youngest a boy of 2. Here's some things I've learned by observing them...

1. Nobody has followed your exact path of learning

This requires a little background info. My daughter was born after a difficult pregnancy, and she was born both premature (at 31 weeks) and dysmature (having the weight of an average 26 week old). She came into this world a tiny thing 33cm long and weighing just shy of a carton of milk; 940 grams. She was real strong though, so apart from being way smaller than average, she did great and is still doing great as a five-year-old. Driving us nuts.

Anyways, because she is small, she was able the stand, walk and eventually run easily under our dining room table. This went very well - until one day she ran into the table head-first. She had a nice straight line along her forehead.

My son on the other hand, is average height. I never forgot the table incident, so I was waiting for him to grow into the same "problem area" (I'm a bit of a sadistic parent... kids are the best gadgets I've ever had!). But he never got there. When he was able to stand up, he was already gently bumping into the table. This gave him a very different perspective, and he grew cautious of that solid surface above his head. Because of a difference in background, they followed a completely separate path in learning about the table's ability to inflict pain.

My lesson is:
Everyone you will ever meet has followed a different path of learning. Respect that difference, as someone who might seem less experienced than you might know a little something about a table right above your head!

2. Always point out wrongs as a matter-of-fact

When children learn to speak, they make many mistakes. Crappy pronunciation, incorrect conjugation, weird usage of grammatical tense... this is absolutely normal to us, we think nothing of it (in fact, with your own children, you're usually ecstatic that new words are being used, even though their usage is utterly wrong). We correct those mistakes immediately and without judgement, because we want children to learn how to speak properly.

I started noticing that when adults made similar mistakes, I had that same parental urge to correct them. But because of some social boundary, it felt inappropriate. I don't think it's a common thing to correct other people's language mistakes like we do a child's. Perhaps we assume that once you're passed a certain age, language is a possessed skill and no improvement can be made. We also might assume something about the education level of the other person.

I no longer let a shortcoming in my own personality stand in the way of correcting someone else's mistake. And I've only ever received positive feedback on any corrections, because in the end I think people prefer not to make those mistakes (although: people might think I'm an ass for correcting them, but find it inappropriate to tell me).

My lesson is:
You should always correct someone else's mistake. As long as you do it as-a-matter-of-fact, and without judgement. You might be surprised how many people like the fact that you find them important enough to help them get better at something.

3. Make education of others your own priority

Before I had children, I had the notion that you "live at home" and "learn in school". I'm not sure why, but it never occurred to me that a great deal of who I am came from what I learned at home, or with my friends, or just from participating in the world. Education is what happens when you sit down in that seat in the classroom, right?

With our kids, we make it a point teach the stuff all the time. We play word games at dinner, read bedtime stories, count fingers or name colors... any time a question comes along that needs some background info, we try to fill in the blanks just a little bit more. Like an enormous coloring book that we're filling in dot-by-dot.

Now, there's stuff we cannot teach at home. Like how to interact in a group, or how to resolve conflict with a peer who has no power over you (or the other way around). And there's stuff we probably won't like to teach like countries and capitals. So schools are certainly a place for learning. But the bottom line is: your child's education is your responsibility.

My lesson is:
Other people's education can fall within your circle of influence. For example if you're a company owner like me and you have people committed to spending their time in your office; make it your priority to provide ways for them to learn more, improve their skill and become better dev-humans in general.

In the end

There's lots to learn, and lots of places to learn from. My lessons in this article are things I feel I would not have learned if I did not have children, but obviously lessons are to be found anywhere you care to look. Take the time to reflect on things, and question your own reasons for anything.

You might just find some room for improvement ;-)


Company owner, Developer, User group organizer and family man (not necessarily in that order)

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