Shorts: How to be more forgiving, to children.

It would be fair to say that at some point, we have all been frustrated by a crying child. Perhaps it is a baby, who is uncomfortable because their ears are popping on a busy plane returning home from some holiday destination. Perhaps it is a toddler, who will not be getting an extra toy today, during their visit to the supermarket. Or maybe it is any other plethora of potentials, that is driving someone somewhere wild, and boiling their blood.

It can be irritating, and we may even feel like shouting and letting it all out, you may think the child or the parent is to blame. But simply; if you have found yourself in this situation, of being red faced and ready to erupt, it is you who is at fault. Because you are distinctly choosing not to be so kind and considerate.

Consider this; we have all been heartbroken one time or another. Perhaps a loved one passed away, or someone very dear to us moved on. And at the time, it is horrific. We feel empty. Lost. As though no amount of good remains in the world. As though this stabbing, heart-wrenching pain, is the new pinnacle of our existence. Of all the things that have happened to us at that point, this is the worst. People come and go, they stop for a moment and tell you, “Everything will be okay.” but you ignore them, because in the moment you genuinely do believe that it won’t be okay, or that you can’t bear the pain. At the time, it is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.

Well… What age were you when you remember that? Say you were in your teens or your twenties, perhaps you were the fortunate few who lasted until later in life to experience such heartache. Regardless, you will have already experienced an extensive line of events to make you strong, to build you up into who you are and ensure you can endure more and more that life throws at you.

But to a child; not getting a toy – might be the worst thing that has ever happened¬†to them. To you it’s nothing – you’ve not been given toys before, or maybe you know that your ears will pop on a long journey… but they haven’t experienced that yet. It’s easy for you because you are strong, and you have forgotten that. It’s easy because you have much more difficult memories you have faced, and you have overcome those, so by comparison losing out on a toy doesn’t seem so bad. It seems trivial.

But you must be more kind, because it is the worst thing they can compare anything else to. Imagine you thought you could have the world, and for free – and then one day someone told you “No.”? You would think, “Why? What have I done to deserve this? It isn’t fair.”

In fact, if you ever had a tantrum, even once, you did think this. It’s not because you were bad, or that this random child repeating the feat is bad; it’s because they’re new.

They have not learned. They’re new to the world, the good that she brings, and the bad she delivers.

So rather than losing your temper, and letting trivial inconveniences irk you more than they should – let it go. They are learning, so that they can be better. Be an adult; and do the same.

There are no stupid questions.

There are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.

To be a good teacher – and not just a successful educator – it is important to remember that the idea of being stupid (a horrible thing to think of someone, or to address someone as) could only be reserved for someone who lacks intelligence. And you know the only way to gain more knowledge, and to be more intellectual as person? Asking, questions.

Fundamentally, the sentence “They were asking stupid questions” or “that was a stupid question” is flawed – you’ll most likely either have said this in a moment of fury, or have overheard a disgruntled friend or colleague complaining. While it’s easy to understand why someone might say this, as they’re just frustrated, its equally not a helpful phrase for anyone.

Let’s suppose that you have never learned how to wash your clothes. You are a teenager, and have just moved out for the first time in your life. There is no washing machine in your apartment, so you head to the nearest laundromat with a couple of bags of dirty clothes, that you’ve no doubt put off washing. Nervous, you stumble your way towards a stranger, and in a moment of courage, you tap them on the shoulder and explain to them your predicament. “I’ve just never learned how to wash my clothes” You’ll say, “So… How DO you wash your clothes? Is there a system for putting it in the washing machine, or do you put anything in with it or… ?”

They laugh in your face. They sputter their words, and they repeat it, “You don’t know how to wash your clothes!? Are you stupid!?” They continue their merriment, maybe chuckle to themselves or turn to a friend. And you sit there wondering… “Am I stupid?”

What’s happened in that scenario, and in every other scenario where a variant of this has happened, is that someone asked for help to improve their own understanding, and was made to feel small in return. As though because they did not know something, that they know nothing. Which, ironically, is a stupid thing for someone to think. By acting that way, or by saying these things, you’re only conditioning someone not to ask questions, because when they do, they’re reprimanded. So they may stop asking questions. And without questions they don’t know answers. Now you’re hurtful comments have sustenance to them, but only because of what you did. And by doing that, you are far more stupid, and worst yet ignorant, than they could ever be.

You may not consider yourself a stupid person, and yet – do you know anything about botany? Or rocket science? Or fishing? Maybe even geology, sociology, psychology, phrenology? If you are not an expert in all these fields, it would be expected that at some point if you wanted to know more about the subject you would have to ask a question, no? So, does this make you stupid?

Fundamentally, we are all uneducated in some aspects of life. To call someone stupid, or make them feel small in any way, because you excel in an area they do not; is arrogant. It’s unkind, it’s unfair, and you are objectively helping to numb society to the pursuit of intelligence.

Curiosity IS intelligence. To wonder what lies beyond. To wonder about that which you do not know, and pursue it relentlessly. Do not stifle someone, and trip them up at the first hurdle of understanding. You are hurting someone’s potential more than you know.

Next time someone asks a question you feel they should know; that you feel is a stupid question – be patient. Take your time to think of the appropriate answer. For it is you who is on the ropes. Because there are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.