PHOTO Cathy Yeulet
Clara Tan, founder of Molly Manners Singapore
Joe Lee, life coach
1 BE HONEST
The truth hurts, so adults sometimes lie in order to spare someone’s feelings. Kids, however, haven’t fully grasped the concept of cause and effect.
“Kids speak their minds and seldom have hidden agendas. To really be honest like them, you need to overcome your fear of the consequences of telling the truth, be less selfish and remove your ‘need to win’ mentality,” says Clara Tan, founder of Molly Manners Singapore.
2 SAY IT LIKE IT IS
Kids hardly have any emotional baggage or past experiences to skew their view of the world, Clara points out. “Children are more upfront because they do not over- analyse issues – they see things as they are and say so. They don’t feel a need to hide anything as they embody a simple view of the world,” she adds. “Adults can learn how to speak plainly and simply from them, by trusting that doing so will help build more authentic relationships.”
3 ACCEPT THE WAY YOU LOOK
Young kids have no body issues – they don’t care if they’re too pudgy, or not tall enough, or don’t have double eyelids, and so on. And they don’t judge others by how they look, either. Your little ones value a person for who he is on the inside and how he makes them feel when they’re around them.
“Kids are unaffected by societal values and are less exposed to the media, so inner beauty matters more to them than physical beauty. We should adopt the same attitude and also learn to accept ourselves the way we are. Our sense of self-worth shouldn’t be pegged to our outward appearance,” says Clara.
4 BE OPEN TO MAKING FRIENDS
Adults tend to put up a defensive wall when meeting new people for fear of being rejected, says life coach Joe Lee. Kids, on the other hand, have no expectations when it comes to making friends. He says: “They genuinely seek companionship and, knowing that they won’t be rejected, aren’t afraid to approach new people to strike up a friendship.”
Clara adds: “Kids accept one another regardless of language, religion and the colour of their skin. They make friends while bonding over activities and sharing things about their life. Adults too, should have the same courage to be real with others. We can take risks to open ourselves up to other people.”
5 BE HAPPY 24/7
The key is to live in the moment, as children do. “Kids live only in the present. When they play, they really play. When they cry, they really cry. They don’t hold on to the past and they don’t project a future,” says Joe. So stop fretting about what’s yet to happen – you can’t control what you don’t know. Embrace life in the present, like kids do, and you’ll probably feel happier.
Clara agrees: “Children are generally optimistic – they forgive and forget easily. So live in the moment and let go of your grudges – you’ll be merrier that way.”
Joe also suggests adopting the 80/20 rule. “Make sure that you enjoy life 20 per cent of the time, even if 80 per cent of the time you’re working or being serious. You’ll eventually realise that your worries are unnecessary.”
6 DON’T GET HUNG UP ON THINGS
It constantly surprises adults how children can move from fighting over a toy one moment to being friends again the next. Once the issue is settled, they don’t dwell on it. “Children don’t put too much meaning into events. A spade is a spade to them,” explains Clara. “On the other hand, adults tend to develop biased viewpoints due to painful experiences. We need to accept life the way it is and not get too emotionally or mentally attached to a life event.” So, see the big picture in everything you do.
7 SAY NO WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY
Little ones believe they have a right to say no and have no qualms about turning a request down. As adults, we need to stay true to what we want, too, says Clara. “We must value our time and speak up. Saying no will be easier this way.”
Joe feels that the key to saying no without guilt is to stop caring about how the other person may take your rejection. “When you don’t feel like agreeing to a request or if you feel that helping someone may drag you down, just say no – no explanations needed.”
If it’s really difficult for you to deny someone, Joe suggests you practise saying no three times a day, in front of a mirror, to get used to saying it. “Very soon, you’ll be comfortable doing it,” he adds.
8 BE MORE ADVENTUROUS
Children are always eager to explore and learn new things. Adults, however, prefer to stay within their comfort zones. Clara says this needs to change if we want to live life to the fullest.
“Kids have a sense of wonder and an urge to discover for themselves what the world has to offer. But we adults give up our spirit of adventure and risk-taking in exchange for a predictable routine because of our ‘jadedness’ and need to keep safe. We should consider our many experiences as a barometer for a life well lived,” she says.
9 DON’T HOLD BACK YOUR LOVE
Kisses, hugs, screams of affection – kids don’t shy away from showing how much they love and adore someone. But as they grow older, those emotions are held back, and sometimes are not expressed at all.
How can adults be more open to showing those feelings, instead of keeping a poker face or building a wall around themselves?
Joe suggests removing “any expectation of an outcome”.
He says: “Children don’t hold grudges – they don’t remember what you’ve done to them. Scold them now but 10 minutes later, they’ll still hug and kiss you, because they’re not concerned about the outcome of what just happened. All they want to do is to express their feelings towards you. So adults should be like them. Be open to showing your feelings to others regardless of whether they reciprocate.”
This article was originally published in Simply Her May 2014.