The other day I was walking with my five-year-old. I noticed that we walked past a radio but I didn’t pay much attention to what was coming out of the speakers. He did. Not only did he notice but also he latched on to it with enthusiasm. As if a huge chocolate chip cookie fell out of the sky and landed in his lap he shouted, “Did you hear that Dad!?” I turned to see a huge, seemingly uncontrollable smile widening on his face.
“Hear what?” I inquired.
“Great news!” He insisted, “You can settle your tax debt!” I couldn’t help but smile back (and I think that a bit of a chuckle even found it’s was to the surface). This kid just repeated a commercial verbatim as if the service being sold was the discovery of his lifetime. The guy selling it sure made it sound pretty good. He told us that it was “great news.” You can’t argue with that.
Just to close the loop I said, “Sound’s great buddy, thanks for sharing.”
We walked on. As we did I realized how impactful our words and actions are to these little fellas. Moreover, words and actions that come from “official” sources like important sounding voices on the radio are extremely impactful. I’m quite confident that this kid could not care less about tax debt. I’m supremely confident that he doesn’t even know what it is. I happen to not have any. Not only does he not know that but also it’s beside the point. The point is, he was excited about something that was presented as exciting to him.
Kids are extremely excitable people. They love big deals. A big truck, a squirrel on the fence, a shiny rock, a penny…a penny! To an adult a penny is almost less than meaningless. Adults don’t want pennies. They bother us. It’s annoying to an adult that a penny even exists. When we get them as change we cast them aside. They make little basins that sit on store counters in which we’re literally supposed to leave our pennies. It’s a service to us.
To a kid a penny is shiny, and neat, and round, and fun, and exciting! A kid could get excited about starting a penny collection. I can easily envision one of my kids asking, “Hey day, can I start a penny collection?” with joy and enthusiasm in his voice. I would gladly donate all of my pennies to that collection, both because I want my kids to be happy and because I want to get rid of my pennies.
The fact is, when we show excitement about something our kids consider being excited about that thing too. When we present something as “great news” their ears perk up. In my experience, this rule plays out in similar ways well into the teenage years, and if done well (and with authenticity) even into adulthood. At forty-one-years-old when a mentor of mine, or any adult who I trust and/or admire gets excited it peaks my curiosity. Enthusiasm is contagious. People want to feel excited about things. Kids certainly do. Feeling excited is fun! It’s exciting!
I believe that the ability to genuinely identify the exciting fun in any learning opportunity is an essential life skill that’s actually not terribly difficult to foster in the children that we serve. Getting excited about learning and having fun doing it is great first step. It shows them the “how” and invites them to feel the “why.” At the end of the day, and for long-term outcomes, each learner has to find the switch that trips his or her learning capacity. However, I think that when adults share their fun-with-learning switches it sets the stage in a way that enhances the journey. So have fun learning…and show it off!
Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.