When Should We Learn Major Life Lessons?

Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.
- Virginia Satir

We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and writer (1906-1945)

Putting these two quotations together I'm tempted to believe that how we cope with the bad things in life is to suffer them. Sure enough, that's what most of us do. If we don't die in the midst of our suffering, conditions change and life gets better. Sometimes it takes longer than others and some don't live long enough to enjoy the coming good times, but it's safe saying its a rule that life always gets better a some time after the worst of its bad times.

Why do we suffer? Because we don't have the skills and knowledge about how to cope more effectively. If we had the skills and knowledge, we could busy ourselves working our way out of the messes we find ourselves in.

Simply knowing that life always gets better eventually after a bad period is a good beginning toward giving people the motivation to endure the hardships of the bad times in order to eventually reach the good ones. That's an extremely important life skill. Most of us were never taught that as children or adolescents. If we learned that lesson, it was the hard way for most.

Knowing that every life has downturns is another very important fact about life. Everyone has them. Everyone has bad times several times a year. How bad they are, how long they last and how our life changes as a result of them may be determined by coincidence. Some might call it fate or bad luck, but it's more often coincidence of conditions that results in downturns.

Sure, many of them may be attributed to ourselves. We make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. Yet it's not as simple as that. Seldom is a bad decision all bad. We learn from our mistakes. The more we learn, the wiser we become. Therefore the more bad decisions we make the more we have to learn with a personal experience base. That's the most common way we learn about life. Not the best way, but the most common.

Of course we all shouldn't go about making mistakes just so we can learn from them. We could be taught, as children, about how to avoid making many major life mistakes.

When do we teach our children about life mistakes they may face? Usually when they are in their teen years, when they no longer want advice from us and aren't likely to accept it. That's too late.

Children form their major concepts of life during their first ten years. After that it's hard to break into that core of being to tinker with the fundamentals and make changes. In general, every major lesson about life should be taught to children before they reach their tenth birthday.

When each one gets taught may be a matter for debate, but by age eleven they have almost passed the stage of being able to internalize life lessons and reformulate their life concepts other than through the ones they experience themselves. In other words, by their tenth birthday they are ready to ignore all advice and make their own mistakes, whether they realize it or not.

Most adults seem to think that children younger than ten years are too young to learn about the grisly facts of life. Those adults are wrong and their children pay a great penalty for the ignorance of their parents. The kids, inevitably, make more mistakes in life than they need to make. And they suffer more, needlessly. Because their parents just plain didn't know.

Strangely, the most important job in life is parenting, yet we hand it over to those least knowledgeable and skilled to handle it. By the time most young adults have learned about the developmental stages of the lives of their children, the kids are beyond age ten and it's too late for the parents to do anything to make major differences. The kids have already learned by the examples set (as role models) of their parents. The very same parents who had no idea that their kids were learning so much from them when they were so very young.

Children learn the most important life lessons through teaching in their first decade of life. After that it's just fine tuning. And learning from their own mistakes.

Hard to believe those little guys are forming such grand concepts of life when they can barely write and they don't know much math or geography or science, isn't it? That's the way life works. It's the way it works for every species of mammal on earth. Every other animal learns those life lessons early or they become lunch for a predator. If we don't learn them in time, we suffer for many decades afterward. We usually don't die, we just suffer.

As the 1960s song by Crosby, Stills and Nash said, "Teach your children well." And teach them young. Don't keep then "innocent." An innocent child becomes and ignorant adult. Look around you to see the results of so many families who kept their children "innocent."

Life eats the innocent for lunch.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems
, a book about what, how and when to teach young children the important lessons of life that schools don't teach and many parents miss.
Learn more at
http://billallin.com Contact Bill Allin directly at http://www.contactify.com/d012d
It's an excellent gift for your grown children who have young children or will soon. Pretty good for older parents to learn what they missed too.