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Woster: There's a lot to learn from our children's behavior

It occurred to me that many of us grownups would benefit from watching how our kids behave. Learning can go both ways.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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At lunch the other day, Nancy looked over and saw our two-year-old granddaughter take a small piece of food, place it on the tip of her finger and start to put it into her right eye.

“Cedar, what are you doing,’’ Nancy asked.

“Putting in my contacts,’’ Cedar said with a wide-eyed, innocent grin.

Sometimes we need to be reminded how closely children watch the actions of the adults around them. Starting at a much earlier age than I’d have thought possible, the little ones really to pay attention to what the grownups around them do.

The incident about contacts is a good example. Earlier that day, after Cedar had arrived at our place, she followed me to the bedroom where I swapped my eyeglasses for the contact lenses I wear once I’m up and going for the day.


She stood near the sink and watched as I slipped a lens into each eye. When she quietly asked what I was doing, I thought nothing of it. “Putting in my contacts,’’ I said. That seemed to satisfy her curiosity.

I didn’t give the moment a second thought, not until lunch, when I realized how closely the child had been watching me. In my defense, who would think a kid would make- believe with a bit of food and a jab in the eye? Strike that.

There’s no defense for not thinking ahead when a young one is around. Little kids have been compared to sponges, and it’s certainly an apt comparison for two-year-olds. They soak in everything people around them say and do.

Cedar has a cousin, Lennon, who lives in Sioux Falls. Lennon is two weeks older, so the two girls are soaking in information at pretty close to the same rate. Each time they’re together, I’m astonished at how much more they’ve learned, how much they’ve developed and how much of what they say and do is based in part on what they must have seen and heard from adults around them.

Lennon is a gentle child, somewhat reserved, and I haven’t been around her enough times to really get a relationship going. Early on, I could see she wondered about me, but not enough to risk getting close. I gave her a small smile and a wave. She ducked her head. The next time we were in the same room, though, she gave me the same soft smile and the exact same wave. That’s how quickly these young ones learn from what we demonstrate in our lives.

I’ve been thinking about that for quite a spell now, as I watch these girls grow so quickly. I have to be on my best behavior when they’re around.

But it works both ways, I think. The other day on some social-media platform, I saw a heart-warming thing during a kids’ baseball game. These kids were 12, and the pitcher for one team had just hit a batter for the other team in the helmet with a wild pitch. The batter moved to first, as the rules provide.

Then, seeing that the pitcher was agonizing over having hit him, the batter dropped his helmet, walked to the mound, hugged the pitcher and offered some words of comfort. What a nice moment in a competitive situation.


I’d like to think the batter who showed such concern for his opponent learned that kind of behavior from adults he’d watched. That would be a lovely thing to pass on to a child, knowingly or not.

I should have quit there. Instead, later in the day, I returned to my phone and checked a couple of online comment sites. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, by a few comments that suggested the whole incident about the hit batter and the hug at the mound was a sign of “softness,’’ whatever that means in this instance. Apparently, there are adults out there who think a kid won’t grow up to be competitive enough, tough enough, or mean enough, if he cares that an opponent is struggling.

It occurred to me that many of us grownups would benefit from watching how our kids behave. Learning can go both ways.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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