Things I Learned Working With Six-Year-Olds

Right before the school year ended I was fortunate enough to get an amazing job at a summer camp. The camp deals with kids aged 6 to 14 and was both great exercise and an excuse to spend the whole day running around with kids and getting paid for it. Not only were my bosses and coworkers very pleasant, but so too were the kids I worked with…most of the time. But sometimes, when we had to go down on one knee to scold a six year-old and teach them a life lesson, I realized that somebody somewhere needed to do the same thing and teach a few adults the very same lessons. Below are a list of things we learned as kids but must have forgotten somewhere along the way.

Be Happy With What You Have, Not Unhappy With What You Don’t

The Story: Every lunch time, the kids go swimming. We have a nice pool the kids are all too eager to jump into for a quick cool off. We also have pool toys for them–floaties, water noodles, those sorts of things.

One day I was watching over the younger kids swim (kids aged 6 and 7 need their Councillor watching over them as well as a lifeguard) when one of the kids jumped in the pool with around three noodles.

There were five kids in the pool at this time: Three swimming around happily, one with a single pool noodle and one with three pool noodles. The three swimmers with no pool noodles were perfectly happy doing their doggie paddles in the water. But that one guy with one pool noodle wasn’t happy at all. Why? Because someone else had three pool noodles.

This kid wasn’t paying attention to the fact that everyone else was getting along just fine without any pool noodles. He was only paying attention to one person: The guy with all the pool noodles. Why should someone else get three noodles when he only got one? It didn’t matter to him that the extra two noodles were more of an inconvenience than anything else, hampering your ability to swim while you were dragging three foam spaghetti strings behind you. It didn’t matter to him that pool noodles were delivered on a first come, first serve basis. The guy just wanted to have the most noodles. And it upset him, because he couldn’t.

The Application: The fact that you are reading this on a computer or tablet or phone or what have you means you are comfortable cemented in the top 50% of rich people in the world at the very very least. You have more than billions could ever possibly imagine…and yet those billions could very well be happier than you. Often times, happiness is not about what you have, but what you do. What you do with what little you do have, what you choose to focus your attention on. Stop comparing yourself to others and start being thankful for the things you have. You’ll be a happier person that way.

The Moral: What you have is more important than what you don’t.

People Will Hurt You Out Of Inconsideration More Often Than Hatred

The Story: Dozens of times during my work with kids, some kid will hurt another one. Slap them, steal something of theirs, push them or what have you. The catch is this: They never do this intentionally.

The kids sometimes sway from the side to side with their hands flailing everywhere, and sometimes these hands fly into the face of unsuspecting children. Said children then assume that since they were so unlawfully hit in the face, Flaily McGee must have been plotting this all along, waiting just for the right moment to strike.

No. Flaily McGee was just flailing his arms, not really paying attention to his surroundings, and whacked you on the face. For some reason, this is difficult for both children and adults to understand: It’s not personal. 

That’s not to say it’s always not personal. Sometimes someone will try to get vengeance on Flaily, hit them back or shove them aside intentionally, and these are indeed acts of hatred…but they are based off of a misunderstanding.

The Application: People are, by their very nature, inconsiderate. Not evil, not malevolent or awful, but inconsiderate. They tend to do what will benefit themselves, first and foremost. Humans don’t like hurting others, but they will often do so. This isn’t intentional, but sometimes in striving for their own wants they will harm others in the process.

The Moral: To think people hate you is a very self-centered notion. Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to hate somebody? Think about the amount of people you currently hate. Whatever the number is, it’s probably a tiny, tiny percentage of the people you know. Now think of the amount of people you think hate you. Notice how that number is enormous compared to the amount of people you hate. That’s because, typically, people don’t hate you. They harm you, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident, but only due to misunderstandings and inconsideration, respectively.