Top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter (So Far)

Children bring a great amount of wisdom with them when they join us here in this world. I have known this for many years and have always loved being around children. But it was not until I became a father, a bit more than four years ago, that I discovered just how wise these little beings really are.Father-Daughter Beach

From the moment of my daughter’s birth (and even before that) fatherhood has been a truly transformative experience. It’s rare that a day goes by without learning something about life from my Ella. And in many ways I really do see her as one of my most effective teachers.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of the personal growth lessons I have learned from Ella over the past four years. If you have children you will most likely recognize many of these. If you do not have children, you may find some of these corny or silly. Trust me, they are not. Every one of these lessons has had a significant impact on my life.

So here, then, are the top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter… so far!

1. Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a New Day.
When Ella was younger she would ask me, “Is tomorrow gonna be a new day?” I assured her that, yes, indeed, tomorrow would be a new day. Now that she’s reached the ripe old age of four, she gets it. And now she reminds me: “Don’t worry Dadda. Tomorrow’s gonna be a new day!” It’s good to remember that!

I the only one hearing a refrain from Little Orphan Annie in the background? “The sun’ll come out tomorrow…” Sure it’s cheesy, but there is a lot of power in recognizing that, no matter how difficult today is, tommorrow’s gonna be a new day.

2. Sometimes it’s Better to Make Up Your Own Rules
I already wrote about this one in the post Life Lessons from Candyland. But it’s an important one so I included it in this list.

Bottom line: Sometimes it’s best to throw away the rule book and make up your own!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Enthusiasm.
Ella is not shy when it comes to showing her enthusiasm. If someone makes a suggestion that she likes she responds in a number of different ways depending upon her level of excitement. If she likes the idea, she’ll say something like, “That’s gonna be a great idea, Dada!” If she really likes the idea, she’ll nod her head vigorously and let out a loud, “Uh huh!” And if she really, really likes an idea, she starts jumping and galloping around, shouting, “Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.” over and over and over and over…

My favorite part is when we’re at the dinner table and we make a suggestion (like for instance on a hot summer night when we, very rarely, suggest walking down to the ice cream shop in town) Ella will get so excited that she actually has to climb down off her chair so that she can run back and forth yelling “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!” Sometimes her excitement is so powerful I’m afraid she’s going to fall off the chair!

Do you ever curb your enthusiasm? I know I do. Somewhere along the line most of us learned that stuff we really wanted or were really excited about could be taken away in an instant. Often the very things that were most exciting to us were used to get us to do or not do certain things: “Get dressed now or you can’t ride your bike today!” Or, “Stop saying that word or you’ll be grounded for a week.”

No wonder we’ve learned to hide our enthusiasm! We don’t want the good stuff taken away from us so we don’t let anyone know what we think is good! How messed up is that.

Well it sure is refreshing to watch Ella express her enthusiasm with no hesitation. Enthusiasm is contagious. People want a taste of enthusiasm. They want to know that it is safe to be happy about something.

So give it a try. The next time you discover something you really like, do a little happy dance and see what happens.

4. Feel your emotions fully.
Ella isn’t always happy. Like all kids she has moments of frustration and sadness. We’ve done our best to encourage her to fully feel those emotions and express them when they’re happening. It’s amazing to watch how Ella has learned to deal with these moments.

If something happens that causes Ella to feel frustrated or angry she’ll go into her room, close the door, lie down on the floor or on her bed and scream or cry for a minute or two. Then she opens the door, comes back out and says, “All better.” And usually she is. The frustration that was moving through her just needed to be let out.

How often have you held onto sadness, frustration, anger or grief? I know I’ve held onto stuff for a long time! And the longer I hold onto those emotions, the more powerful they become.

Much better to just let them out in the moment and let yourself be “all better!”

5. Walk On Walls Whenever Your Have The Chance
wall walkWhen was the last time you walked on a wall? Whenever I’m out walking with Ella and we pass a wall, whether it’s a curb or a retaining wall, Ella wants to walk on it. And now she gets me to walk on them with her: “Come on, Dada!” And I must say, if you haven’t walked on a wall in a while, give it a try. It’s a lot of fun!

The life lesson here is that we adult types tend to pass by opportunities for joy and exploration without even noticing them. These opportunities are all around us all the time. We just have to open our eyes and expand our perception. Hanging around kids (even if you don’t have your own) is a great way to do that.

6. Sometimes you have to do it alone (even if there’s someone right there who could help you).
I often feel a strong temptation to reach out to help Ella put her shoes on or put a puzzle piece in the right place. Simple tasks that I take for granted are a challenge for Ella, as they are for any child. If I were to constantly jump in and say, “Let me do that for you,” it would take her a lot longer to figure out how to do it.

It’s especially tempting to help her when she reaches that frustration point. But I’ve learned that if I let her go a little bit longer, just past that moment of frustration is when she succeeds.

In those moments I sometimes think of the scene in the movie, Ray, after Ray Charles has gone blind and his mother pretends she’s not in the room as he’s calling out for her help. In that moment, he discovers that he’s not as helpless as he thought.

It’s been a powerful lesson for me as a father and in my own life.

7. Know When to Ask For Help.
Now, while this one seems to contradict the previous lesson, they really work hand in hand. Let’s face it; there are some things that a four year old just can’t do yet. Ella is pretty good about trying to do things. And she is also pretty good about asking for help when she has reached the end of her patience: “Please help me, Dada.” Or if she’s tired or frustrated she might say, “I can’t do it, Dada.”

Her willingness to ask for help is a powerful lesson for someone like me: a die-hard do it yourselfer. Countless hours have been spent figuring out something that I could have easily asked or paid someone else to do.

Knowing when, and how, to ask for help is an important life skill to master. And I am learning from a master.

8. Don’t be attached to what you painted yesterday (or 2-seconds ago).
Ella is a prolific artist. She cranks out paintings and drawings faster than the fastest graffiti artist. And the beautiful thing about her creativity is that once she’s done, she’s done. There is no attachment to the painting she just created. She puts her piles of artwork into the recycling bin as easily as the Tibetan monks sweep their intricate sand mandalas back into dust. http://www.artnetwork.com/Mandala/gallery.html

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time letting go of stuff I created 10-years ago! Ella’s willingness to let go of her creations leaves her open to the flow of creativity. She is not attached to what she painted yesterday. She does not compare what she is doing today with what came before. She is free to be open and just let it flow.

9. Singing Makes Everything Better.
No matter how traumatic a situation might be, whether it’s an overtired and cranky before bed tooth brushing meltdown or a big boo-boo, singing makes it better. Ella and I sing together on our way to preschool. We sing the silly tooth-brushing song we made up together. We sing the pee-pee song. We sing our favorite bedtime songs. Just about anything that you can say can be sung (hey, didn’t the Beatles write something about that?).

Singing is fun. Singing makes you smile. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s research showing that singing releases endorphins. And most of us adult types tend to sing far too little. The 7-Dwarves knew what they were talking about when they whistled while they worked! So try adding a bit more singing into your daily diet.

10. Dance like no one’s watching (even when you’ve made sure that everyone is!)
Team Kadena receives free toysLike most houses with young ones, the phrases, “Watch Dada. Watch Mama. Watch everybody!” are heard on a regular basis. Ella loves to dance. And when she does, she lets it all hang out. She makes up new dance moves on a regular basis: There’s the running back and forth dance, the sneaky dance, the jumping up and down dance, the spin around until you fall down dance, and of course Ella’s famous Jiggy-Jiggy dance!

Somewhere along the way, most of us lose that uninhibited ability to express ourselves. The voices of self-doubt come in and we become self-conscious of our performance. Watching Ella dance with all her heart, whether she’s alone or in front of a crowd, is a great reminder of the innocence and joy that we all have inside of us. Isn’t it time we start letting a little more of it out?

So there are the top 10 life lessons that Ella has helped me learn… so far. What lessons have your children taught you? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below and share your lessons and stories.

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    70 Responses to “Top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter (So Far)”

    1. Edward Mills on January 25th, 2008 2:19 pm

      Kim. I think your core assumption that “at my age personal development should be near complete” is the problem. Personal development is never complete. We are growing, learning and developing until the day we die. I know that for me, personal development is a core part of my life. I can’t imagine getting to a place where that would stop or be complete. And fortunately, now I have Ella to help me continue to move forward and grow.

    2. helen on January 26th, 2008 2:16 am

      Had to say thankyou for this truly beautiful article. it made me cry a bit. A sure sign of a deeper level of truth.

    3. Deb Estep on January 28th, 2008 3:50 am

      HI Ed,

      I’ve just surfed over to your site, from Phil – MAKE IT GREAT – Gerbyshak

      This is the very first post I clicked on to read and I loved it.

      I’m Mom to 3 and a Step Mom to 1. Ages… 29, 25, 23 and 11.
      The 11 years old was a choice and he’s been my biggest parental challenge AND teacher . I’ve always felt that my children have taught me as much as I’ve taught them.

      Just yesterday when the 11 year old, Kevin had pushed my
      very last patience button, mentally to myself I started humming the words to a song I have taught all my children..

      ‘Be patient, be patient, don’t be in such a hurry, when you are
      impatient, you only start to worry’.

      Singing that tune to myself thankfully snubbed out the wick right before the patience bomb exploded all over the place. And whatever it was that nearly caused me to go into melt down was not anything great big huge, it most often never is, but the song caused me to take a big breath, and regroup myself.

      IF there would be one book I would love to get into the hands
      of every parent, it would be this one ( see below)

      NOW…. no one book is going to make you a great parent, but
      this one has lots of suggestions that seem so simple, yet are so effective. There will come a time when children go into what I call shut down mode. WALLS go up, and they just don’t want to hear it. It was this book that assisted me in keeping those walls at the step over level as opposed to the height you can’t even see your child over.
      Hmmmmm maybe I need to go find my copy and re-read it. LOL

      How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
      by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

      http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/0380811960

      I’ll be surfing around your site, and I hope you won’t mind IF I comment on past posts.

      Wishing you, and Ella and her Mommy… all the best
      XO XO
      Deb

    4. Edward Mills on January 29th, 2008 8:12 pm

      Helen. I’m glad this touched you deeply. There is truth here as there is truth in all of our little ones. We just need to be quiet long enough to hear it!

    5. Edward Mills on January 29th, 2008 8:18 pm

      Deb. That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing it. And thanks for sharing the book recommendation. Sounds wonderful.

    6. Alex Liu on February 1st, 2008 5:08 pm

      This is a great post. Thanks for bringing up that little children can actually teach us things.

      Children are little human beings who have a pure heart and someone who will not lose their enthusiasm. I realize as long as we grow up, we accumulate a lot of sad or bad past that slowly destroy enthusiasm. Things start to be impossible when we slowly grow up.

      For a kid, anything is possible and they can create happiness for themselves and they are one of the most important source of happiness to people!

      Alex Liu
      How To Become A Millionaire
      http://secretsofunlimitedwealth.com

    7. charlotte scott on February 2nd, 2008 9:28 am

      I read your post about your daughter Ella and I had to sit and laugh for such a long time. My daughter (the last of my four children) crept into my mind. The one thing I always say about Roxy, now 19, is that she was my greatest teacher. I agree with the lessons you have presented and can relate to them all. May I add a couple now that I am way past the 4 year old and looking into the eyes of a woman?

      1. Know your boundaries. For she will test them and reshape them and continuously help you redifine them. If you don’t know where they are to start with….look out!

      2. Practice love. I mean really practice love. For having a daughter, at least for me, was like having my heart ripped out of my chest, tossed on the floor and finding that each and every time I needed to pick it up, put it back and love deeper. I’ve never regreted these actions.

      3. Learn to accept the male species. Even though you want to ban them from the planet. Sorry, males…but as the mother of a teenage daughter I would just as soon there were none. None are bright enough, kind enough or special enough to be in my daughters life. Of course, I knew MY boys (3 of them) were all wonderful, but the rest of the species wasn’t. What I learned, I must accept them and appreciate how unique and special each of them that came through my door were…..for Roxy did and when I disapproved she sided with THEM! How rude! But as much as I thought I should come first, little did I know the reality of that one.

      Anyway…..thanks for sharing your beautiful 4 year old. I wish you well upon your journey.

    8. Edward Mills on February 2nd, 2008 5:31 pm

      Charlotte. Thanks for sharing those additional lessons. Boundaries: Yes! Practice love: Can’t help it! And boys… I’ve already decided that Ella won’t be dating until she’s 21… if she’s lucky!

      Just kidding! 🙂 I like guys, after all I am one.

    9. Charlotte Scott on February 4th, 2008 4:25 am

      ah, I have to smile to myself and someday you will understand….If only….when it came to boys you had a choice. Little girls start looking for Mr. Right somewhere around kindergarten….but, perhaps Ella will be different……one can only hope…..

    10. Edward Mills on February 8th, 2008 11:53 am

      Charlotte. I am all too aware of that!

    11. ivonne on February 19th, 2008 4:38 pm

      fantastic lessons which I wish i could put down in words so beautifully. My son Henry is 15 mths and i stumbled on this site by accident. im going to print a few off and share with a parent support group.
      I was totally alone after my son was born and we got thru it with some really weird songs like ” mummy loves henry .. we dance in the bathroom and look in the mirror … we dance in the bedroom and look out the window ” as I wasnt able to go out and carry him back up the stairs to my flat.
      Now I’m enjoying letting the child in me out more ( i did walk on walls til mid twenties!) and henry has just learnt to make a red indian call even tho he doesnt say words yet. we express ourselves a lot in sounds and gestures with each other.
      I remember before I was a parent hearing a little girl ( who must have just had a birthday) come out of school one day and ask her mother ” mum, what happens after 5 ? do you go on being 5? ” I thought how beautiful yet poignantly sad that question was because we do remain very similar but only in an ugly way . We lose all the beauty and enthusiasm as you say and concentrate on the paintings which are discarded in our work and relationships.
      I’d love to read more of your stuff but its time for my bed – keep up your heartening blogs – the most intelligent, meaningful stuff i’ve come across yet. thank you

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    13. Bryan on May 26th, 2008 4:58 pm

      As a father to my young girl, I can relate all your points easily and it is great to be a parent. 🙂

    14. Mike @ cheap digital camera shop on June 28th, 2008 4:01 pm

      Edward,

      Thank you for putting together some of the best lessons to live by. It s so interesting to see young children. They are not affected by all the politics of life, and all the walls we all eventually build up over time. bottom line: Who Cares what everyone else thinks?

      Kid’s don’t…So sad when they start to build up that awareness and self consiousness. My nephew is at that stage, and I can see that innocense leaving.

      I long for the days, or I need to get back to the purity of youth~!

    15. Tom @ Beverly Hills Rhinoplasty on July 1st, 2008 8:29 pm

      Edward,
      As always your post are right on the mark…I especially like the item about dancing. I have a 3 and a half year old and he loves to dance. Every time he does, I can’t stop laughing.
      I think you highlighted an important fact…kids allow you to view life through a different lens…which makes life so much more enjoyable.

    16. 942 Comments on the Mind Movies Blog!?!? on September 4th, 2008 8:09 pm

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    17. Sales Training Coach on December 4th, 2008 8:52 am

      Say –
      I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?

      That shows my daughter, I make mistakes too.

      It also teaches her to forgive and be healed from hurt.

    18. Grasping Life on December 23rd, 2008 1:29 pm

      This is an excellent post. I think there are a lot of lessons that we can learn simply by observing and listening to children. Too often we dismiss the things that make childhood innocence great. It is great to be reminded to sit back and learn something from even the little ones on this earth. 🙂 Great post – thanks for sharing.

    19. Perfect Lessons « A Perfect Life Now on March 30th, 2009 12:13 pm

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    20. Lety on July 16th, 2010 12:21 am

      thank you for being an observant father some are not and do not even have time with their children. this is inspiring i have a 4 year old daughter Praise she challenges me. she full of hope and is always saying mama tommorrow we will get it. its amazing how childeren see and believe in the future, the tommorrow more than we do. As parents if we obser ve we have angels in our children yet we do not see it, we have great motivaters and teachers in them.

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