Parents are overloaded with all sorts of information from the get-go. How to foster good eating habits in their children, how to develop consistent bedtime routines, how to deal with tantrums, how to teach children empathy and respect. But I've discovered that parenting isn't just about teaching our children about life - it is also about the lessons we can learn from them.
As a mum of a 3, 5 and 7-year-old, I've learned invaluable lessons that have helped me to not only grow as a mother, but as a person as well.
Here are the 10 things my daughters have taught me.
1. You can't always change how someone feels, but you should always acknowledge how they're feeling
Like other young children, my daughters get upset when they don't get what they want. They cry, shout, and stomp their feet.
Although I know it's my job to help them regulate their emotions, it's not my job to change how they feel. I know they feel sad because they really want that chocolate in the supermarket. I know they're acting up at the doctors because the waiting has left them feeling bored.
By saying, “I know you feel sad ...” rather than brushing their feelings off, my children learn their feelings matter.
Adults are the same. We don't want someone to simply say, “Stop being sad! Get over it!” We want someone to acknowledge that we are upset. We want others to show us empathy.
2. The importance of forgiveness
I love the way children forgive each other even after rude words are spoken, shoulders are pushed, toys have been taken away. I love how children don't often bear grudges and how quickly they forget what bothers them.
One of my children once burst into tears because her friend intentionally ruined her work. She was inconsolable that night because she'd wanted to show her Daddy. Despite being terribly upset at her friend, they still joked the next day and played like nothing had happened.
Children don't let the small things get them down. They don't let a bad moment lead to a bad day. They fall down and get back up again.
3. It's okay to ask questions
Young children are always asking questions. They always want to know more. My children's inquisitiveness reminds me that adults sometimes need further explanation too. Even we need to expand our knowledge.
I've attended hundreds of specialist appointments for my children. And if I'm ever confused about a diagnosis or comment, I ask for clarification.
Seeing my children ask “why?”, “what?” and “how?” frequently remind me that I, too, am always in a position to learn more.
4. Learning can be fun
My second daughter has never been much of a book reader. And no matter how hard I'd tried, she would't warm to it.
So she started choosing her own books at the library. I let her flip the pages however she wanted. I let her take in the pictures and the text at her own pace. I let her just have fun. And she absolutely loves reading now.
I think sometimes, we as adults, get so caught up in the end result, we forget to enjoy the process along the way. We are so focused on our work and study, that we sacrifice everything else in our lives.
But I have discovered that learning and fun don't have to be mutually exclusive.
5. It's okay to dream big
My 7-year-old has, at some stage or another, told me that she wants to be a teacher. A singer. A ballet dancer. A doctor. And as fleeting as these career dreams probably are, I see an excitement in her eyes that remind me never to let the stress of life dull the sparkle of it. Never be so scared of change that you forever stay in the same spot. Never let yourself be bound by limits. Don't give up on your dreams.
6. You don't have to be like everyone else
Each of my daughters is different in their own way. They like eating different types of food, partake in different hobbies, even dress differently. But they are their own individuals. They are proud of who they are and aren't afraid to show it.
My children's confidence in their individuality has helped me to assert my own. It's helped me to realise that it's okay to be different. That each of us can make our own unique contribution to society.
7. You don't have to buy gifts to make someone feel important
My 7-year-old often writes me notes with messages like, “I love you, Mummy. Thank you for doing everything for me.” Those notes remind me that my role as a mother is making a difference. That I am loved.
Whenever I shower my daughters with hugs and kisses, I see the way their eyes light up. I see their delight when we engage in pretend play together.
You don't need to spend lots of money on someone to make them feel important. You just need to give them your undivided time and attention.
8. You can make a big difference to one person's life
As a mother, I've seen how my sacrifices have benefited my children. How giving up on sleep, on my sanity, on putting myself first - has made a big difference to my children's lives.
And this has taught me that you can really make a big impact on another person's life. How you make someone feel, how you respond to their cries for help, how much time you spend with someone - can really change their life.
9. That laughter really is the best medicine
I see the way my daughters laugh carelessly, the way they giggle so loud that it makes me smile, the way they tell jokes and laugh like there's no tomorrow.
Their laughter reminds me that as stressful as life can be sometimes, it's important to be silly, to be immature, to have the ability to laugh at ourselves.
10. To cherish the moment.
As I rush around through the day - waking the kids up in the morning, getting them ready for school, doing the housework, taking care of my youngest at home, working - I remind myself that this isn't my whole life.
My life is holding my husband and children and knowing that I have people who love me.
My life is about appreciating that life is short. That sometimes the housework really can wait. That sometimes I need to take a breath just to enjoy and cherish the moment.
My life shouldn't be just about routines, schedules, and getting this and that done. It's about living a life with meaning and remembering to enjoy life with those who matter most.
And I know this because my three children have brought out the beauty of life. They have taught me all kinds of lessons about life, about myself, about what's important.
I'm proud to be teaching my children about life, and I'm proud that I'm learning along the way too.
Thuy Yau is a freelance writer and mother of three. She is incredibly passionate about personal development. You can follow Thuy on Twitter, join her on Facebook, or read her blog at Inside a Mother's Mind.