You Can Learn A Lot From Children

I love children. They’re just too cool. They know what we “Grown Up People" have forgotten. They know what’s important and we can learn a lot from them – if we so choose.

There’s nothing quite like watching the wheels turning in an intelligent young mind that is curious and soaking up a load of new information. I love seeing those bright eyes so focused – just like lasers as they watch and learn.

I love the way children bubble over with enthusiasm. Some are like a pot of homemade soup that’s a little too full, boiling and rolling with big, bloopy, bubbles of chunky vegetables and fresh herbs that spill over and sizzle on the hob. Others are bright, quick and sparkling, fizzing over the top like the finest champagne.

Quite naturally, children love to play and we spend a good deal of time teaching them not to do it. Sit down. Be quiet. Do your chores. Do your homework. Make your bed. Mow the lawn. Don’t be silly. Mind your manners. Settle down. Shhhhhhh!

We teach them to work hard. To be ambitious. To get ahead. To “make something of themselves”, as if they are nothing in the first place. In fact, they are pure and perfect at the start, but we knock it out of them (with some help from Life) and turn them into joyless, responsible adults who’ve forgotten how to dream, how to share, how to remember that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

I remember watching “Junior Masterchef Australia” and being astonished by children, aged 8-12, cooking things I can’t pronounce, using ingredients that were completely foreign to me, and plating up dishes that looked like they were served in a 5-star restaurant.

As if all of that was not enough of a treat, it was extra wonderful to see some very important differences between the children and the adults who I’d seen on previous seasons of the adult version of the same show.

On the grown-up version, a contestant wins a challenge and becomes a team captain. He (or she) gets to choose the opposing team captain, and the choice is always based on who will be a poor captain in hopes of that team losing the challenge - because one of its members will be eliminated.

And they choose their own teams based on who they believe are the best contestants because they want to stay in the competition, win the title, the $100,000 and the cookbook deal.

But on Junior Masterchef, it’s another story. They choose their friends.  

When the adults are doing team challenges, members from one team look nervously over at everyone on the other one, to see who’s in the lead. They’re panicking, stressing, freaking out, worried, constantly blathering on about how they cannot lose this challenge because they really wanna win! They sure as heck don’t look like they’re having any fun at all.

But the kids' team challenges have usually involved the teams rooting for each other, and at times even assisting one another if one team was falling behind because they didn't want their 'customers' to be disappointed.

And the kids were having an awful lot of fun.

When the judges praised the adults’ dishes, quite often the other contestants looked jealous or worried. They’d plaster fake smiles on their faces, gritting their teeth while clapping with all the enthusiasm of a bunch of writhing fish hanging from hooks in their faces.

Yet when the judges praised the children’s dishes, the other kids lit up. They were beaming. They were so excited, hugging each other and saying, “You did a great job!” and obviously meaning every little bit of their excitement and pure affection.

When the adults got eliminated, most of them were very upset. Some were even quite obviously angry.

This was especially evident in those who were eliminated very near the end of the competition. They tried to choke down what they were feeling, but it was clearly written on their pained faces. And when they were back just days later to watch the two finalists compete, you could still see the disappointment, the anger, the jealousy. All they had to give the finalists were fake smiles and false encouragement.

When the children were eliminated, sure, some of them cried, but some of them said, “Out of 5,500 kids who applied, I can’t believe I got this far! I’m really proud/happy/excited about that!” They were still beaming, radiant, thrilled when they got their trophies and they didn’t care that they just lost out on several thousand dollars in a trust fund and the title of Junior Masterchef Australia. They were just genuinely happy for getting as far as they did. And they were genuinely happy for the contestants who were still ‘in’.

The adults were all about the fame, the title, the money, the winning, going on about this being ‘their only chance’ to open their own restaurant etc. 

Well, how did all the other restaurants in the world happen?? Did everyone have to win a competition that would give them some start-up money? Ummm, I don’t think so.

The kids were happy to see the others succeed and it was not about whether you win or lose, it was about how you play the game. They knew it was supposed to be about fun, about having a really cool experience, about learning, about supporting each other. It was about enjoying the ride and not worrying about the destination.

Yup.  You can learn a lot from children.

If you would like to share your inspiring story of hope online via audio interview, click here to apply.

To sign up for my weekly inspirational newsletter, "Giving Hope," click here.