Saying “no”, and five other lessons you can learn from a three-year-old

By Melody Thomas

Featured in Capital #31
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From sleep training to time out, the art of sharing to potty training, we spend a lot of time talking about the things we need to teach our children. But, have you stopped to consider what the little ones can teach us?

Around her daughter’s third birthday, Melody Thomas saw a whole host of new skills and behaviours emerge that, on closer inspection, are revealed to be valuable lessons for the adults. Here are a few of the best.

1. Saying “no”
No-one says no better than a three-year-old, and no-one needs a lesson in saying no more than a Mum. Next time you’re asked if you wouldn’t mind taking on an extra role at creche/having the MIL to stay/baking a cake for the birthday party, try out this magic little two-letter combo. It’s even more fun when you yell it!

2. Act first think later
Is it a good idea to finish that bottle of wine? Is it wrong to push out your tummy and feign pregnancy for a seat on the bus? Will your boss enjoy the hilarious one-liner about your vagina? Well, how will you know till you’ve tried? There’s no end to anecdotes and inspirational quotes printed on canvas about the merits of being a “doer”, and if things don’t go as well as you’d hoped then, as kick-ass US naval officer and computer scientist Grace Hopper put it, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

3. Most dark moods can be brightened with a snack, aka “hanger” is real
You know the drill – something seemingly insignificant sets off a monster tantrum and just as you’re about to launch into lecture mode you realise that (despite being an exceptional, super-onto-it parent 99% of the time) you’ve forgotten to feed your child. No-one acts rationally when they’re hangry (hungry-angry) – and you are no exception. Next time you start to feel a blind rage or a spot of uncontrollable sobbing coming on, get a handful of almonds or some peanut butter toast in you, then see how you feel. If the urge is still there, chances are the feelings behind it are legitimate.

4. Wear whatever you want
Don’t want to get out of your PJs today? Why would you!? Sick of the pinch of that bra? Ditch it! With their three-hats-on-top-of-each-other, underwear-outside-of-their-pants and princess-dress-with-Ninja-Turtle-shoe combos, our preschoolers know that getting dressed is just another opportunity for creativity. If you need inspiration or reassurance that “dressing your age” is totally overrated, check out 87-year-old Instagram celebrity and bad-ass Grandma Baddie Winkle.

5. Wonder-filled is wonderful
One of the coolest things about having kids is how they crack open the pockets of wonder that responsibility and experience fuse tightly shut. It’s usually worth taking time to get down on their level and really see what it is they’re trying to show you – because that spider feasting on the trembling fly really is pretty awesome, as is the light on those distant hills and the funny way that little dog digs on the beach.

6. Fun is number one
When much of your life is dedicated to making sure other people are fed, rested and content, having fun can seem pretty low on the priority list. But there’s a reason our little one wakes us up every morning with the words “Let’s play!” Go out dancing if someone offers to babysit, bake something delicious you’ve never made before, cover the floor in newspaper and paint pictures using your limbs. Adventure, excitement and exploration are the stuff good, satisfied lives are made up of. I won’t go as far as suggesting you follow Jezebel writer Kathryn Jezer-Morton in her article, “It’s a Lot More Fun to Play Make-Believe With Your Kids If You’re Slightly High on Weed” but… you know… that’s the “vibe”. (NB: that author lives in a place where recreational marijuana use is legal and there were responsible, sober adults present at the time).


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