Five Ways Kids Trick Us Into Being Better Humans

I’m a pretty stubborn person, so if you want to see me break out into hives and get huffy really fast, just tell me with no finesse that I’m doing something the wrong way. Much like Randy from A Christmas Story, if you want to get me to eat meatloaf, you have to crawl inside my brain and tell me that that it’ll taste good if I pretend to be a little piggy while I dig into it. I have to be tricked into doing things that are good for me. I am my own worst enemy.

Ever since I had Wee Cee, though, I have caught her on numerous occasions tricking me into being an all-around better person and eating the proverbial meatloaf of life (It IS proverbial, dangit!). She makes me be a better person just by virtue of the fact that she’s so unsullied herself and her guile is completely uncultivated. She, and kids in general, trick us into being better people every day, and we can’t help but thank them for it.

1. They make us eat healthier.


The first time ever a smile and broccoli have been spotted together in the wild

B and I were reminiscing on our pre-Cee days recently, and we recalled how when we first moved to Korea, we ate fried chicken at least a couple times a week. Just a bucket of chicken with nothing else constituted a daily meal. We didn’t even pretend to be healthy by ordering coleslaw. Once the kid arrived, though, nary a KFC wing or a drumstick has passed the barrier of my teeth. It turns out, when you have kids, you actually want them to eat kinda nutritious things. (I know!) And since no one wants to make double meals, we all started eating all the same, more healthy stuff. Damn it if my kid didn’t make me add broccoli to my regular diet. She loves that stuff. I can’t explain it, but I know better than to question it.

2. They make us play with toys.

Before Cee was born, the last time I played pretend was probably when I was dating and trying to convince myself that my inclination to read Beowulf and eat soup on the weekends made me a hot commodity. Once I actually found a man who humored me, I largely turned off that side of my brain that plays and pretends. But since Cee has come into my life, she has insisted I accompany her on the play mat. She is a child who thrives on interaction and would rather play with me than play independently, and that has been a blessing for me. Playtime ushers me into a make-believe world where anything goes and I don’t feel self-conscious. She can keep her singing kitchen, but I will stack blocks with her all day long.

3. They make us exercise. 

Playtime at the park

Playtime at the park

You know how I feel about the gym. Unless I can get a good blog post out of it, it’s dead to me. So physical fitness is not exactly high on my priority list. But kids? They don’t stop. Once they learn to walk, they move onto running. Once running is old news, they think they may as well climb. And once they’ve climbed to the top of the sofa, why not just jump off too? Kids are a lot to keep up with, and despite my couch potato tendencies, Wee Cee keeps me running. Even though she wasn’t born yet when we moved into our apartment, I sometimes believe that she telepathically ordained that we live on the third floor just so I could build up my biceps by schlepping her up the stairs at least twice a day. She’s a good workout.


4. They make us take better care of ourselves.

There’s a lot of truth to the adage, “If mama’s not happy, then no one is happy.” Not until my daughter was born did I realize that my everyday demeanor and health actually impacts the people around me. Kids take cues from their parents, and since I am around Cee pretty much 1000% of the time, it is important for me to go to the doctor or deal with my demons I’m not operating at least at 70%. She knows it when I’m not doing well; she’s crankier and needier because the environment I set the tone for is not secure. When our kids see us taking time to care for ourselves, they learn how to take care of themselves as well.

5. They make us appreciate our own parents.

Probably the biggest irony in the history of parenthood is that your own able-bodied parents will work tooth and nail to get a thank-you from you for all the sacrifices they made for you, but they will never receive it until your own mini-me is walking around on the Earth. It is going to take a tiny 25-pound person who would rather destroy your sofa than give you a kiss to make you realize how awesome your own parents were for putting up with you. That’s authority. There is virtue in respecting and loving our parents because of what we put them through, and often when my own child is going through the garbage can for the trillionth time after being told to stop, I adore my mom and dad for going through it twice and loving me in spite of it. The love our parents have for us becomes even more profound when we marvel that they never killed us.

What’s something that kids do that inspires you to be a better person? 


  1. I was in downtown Washington, DC just this weekend trying to cross a busy street. I was looking for a break in traffic to streak across against the light when two ladies walked up with about a 5-year old boy. They proceeded to tell him the RIGHT way to cross the street and explained waiting for the light to change. I just turned and smiled at them and said “well I guess that I can’t go now, huh?” And smiled. We all agreed that we had to be better people because of a tiny little 5-year old. And you know what? I still got to my car.

    1. I love that! And it’s so true that my daughter has taught me not to cut corners and do things the proper, safe way. I’ve become a much better pedestrian because of her.

  2. This is all so very true. We eat better, go to the doctor and do silly things we stopped doing years ago. Raising a child is a little bit like a re-birth ourselves. I don’t think it will take me long, once she walks out the door, to revert, though. It’s going to take more than 18 years for me to give up bad habits. She’ll be shocked when she comes home to visit at her slothful parents.

    1. My best friend’s mom actually just wrote a post on my best friend’s blog about their role reversals, and how it is now her daughter who tends to be the more responsible one when they get together. It just goes to show that if you raise them right, you’ll be able to relax a bit once they’re grown!

  3. My children inspire me to take care of myself, as well. If I’m not at my best then I can’t take care of them to the best of my ability. I get this 100%.

    1. It’s awesome how in the process of caring for them, they reorient us to take care of ourselves. It’s a win-win all around.

      1. It is. You can’t be the best for them if you’re not at your best. It’s quite motivational.

  4. Another wise post, grasshopper! Our moral compasses have the consistency of a boneless chicken breast… until we have children. Who knew it could feel so darned good to spend the day pretending, coloring, and focusing on small but important things like saying please and thank you?

    1. You mean “peeee” and “hee-hoo”? ;D We’re working on those.

  5. As my oldest is currently racking up the required hours of driving before he can get his license, he has forced me to take stock in my own driving, so that I don’t set a bad example. Like when I want to speed up to catch that light. And I’m not too happy about it, either… ;)

    1. That is a bummer. I am dreading the days when C goes to school and needs help on her math homework. I have blocked the Pythagorean theorem for a reason.

  6. I drink at home a lot more rather than in taverns now that I have kids to fetch me beers. Well that and of course I don’t want to miss out on any of their growing up crap and stuff either.

    1. Bwaahahahahaha! I need to work on my own child’s retrieval skills.

  7. Lol, Don of all trades….
    I drink at home more too.
    I think think the biggest thing that has changed my view is appreciating our own parents. I was a HORRIBLE kid. My poor parents.

    1. I was a sneaky kid too. The upside is that I know what she’s eventually going to be capable of. Thus the liquor.

    2. Also, random: do you have a blog, Julie? I’ve loved to check it out if you do!

  8. So true, love this article.

  9. The smile and broccoli–are we sure Cee isn’t my child?

    I’m looking forward to pregnancy in the future because I plan on becoming a gestapo about my diet. …I’m hoping sustaining another person will be a better motivator than keeping my thighs from getting too thunderous.

    1. The horrible thing about my pregnancy was that my will to eat nutritious foods was only matched in its fervency by my cravings for cheese, milk, and cookies.I’d eat an apple thinking I was good and then chase it with a whole block of cheddar.

  10. Loved this, Em. I look back at the times where I don’t how my Mom didn’t keep from just clocking me. Just being around that joy, exuberance and wonder that little ones, like your sweet Cee experience on a moment by moment basis, reminds us of how great life really is. They are little teachers. Now when they start that crying thing…

    1. Thanks, Brig! That crying thing is horrible. I was kind of able to tune it out when she was really little, but now that she’s a toddler, it’s harder to ignore her wails. Toddlers are funsies.

  11. hee hee – good perspective…and then they turn 10 and it’s all back to weekly buckets of chicken. No just kidding – it’s Panda Express. I miss having a little meatloaf that just falls asleep in the middle of the hallway whilst playing with trains. Wee Cee is a fortunate kid to have parents that contemplate her worth in their lives.

    1. Mmmmmmm….moo goo gai pan. Eggrolls. Om nom. I see no problem here.

  12. So VERY accurate!!
    Love that the gym is dead to you unless a story comes out of it. I would have to say I have felt that for years but didn’t have words for it. Thanks for that.
    I would say another thing kids do is show you how you actually sound to the world. I bristle when MY words come out of HER mouth.

    1. Cee is saying more and more these days, and while she’s firmly in toddler speak, she points to things that I tell her to stay away from and shakes her head no *constantly*. It scares me that I say no so much. I need to loosen up and just let her dive in the garbage can so she can see how gross it is.

  13. The biggest change for me is bedtime. Whether I’m trying to set an example or just deal with the inevitable exhaustion, I’m *much* better about getting a decent night’s sleep. Or trying to, anyway.

    1. I am not functional unless I am rested, so I completely get this.

  14. you and your blog here constantly make me think being a parent might just be as great as everyone says . . . most days ;)

    1. It’s a mixed bag. They’ll surprise you and give you a big kiss, and then you’ll notice that they pooped in the corner.

      1. hahaha oh my gosh i love that comparison.

  15. I LOVE broccoli.

    I am more social because I have kids. I am inclined to be a hermit, but I don’t want that for my kids, so we go hang with other people more.

    1. I am liking it a lot more too! Know what else is really good but I would have never known it had it not been for C? Cottage cheese. It was one of her first foods, and when I tried it, I was pleasantly surprised by how not gross it is. In fact, it’s delicious!

  16. What a sneaky little booger she is. That whole “be a model for your kids” is really a drag sometimes. However, my kids have also inspired me to start hiding and hoarding food that I eat in secret corners of my house. So there’s that, too.

    1. I have done that for years with my husband. I may or may not have a stash of Cadbury cream eggs under my side of the bed. It’s wrong.

  17. I love this post! My kids make me kinder. I pay a lot more attention to how I speak to and about people, even if they’re not with me. I especially love #5. It has been a gift to watch my parents be grandparents.

    1. I try to do the same thing with my daughter. I speak to people more patiently when we’re out and about, and I say hello when we pass others on the street. And I’ve noticed that she is very friendly to others. It’s a beautiful thing to see a child with an open heart.

  18. Perfection. My kids definitely make me a better person. A little crazier maybe, but definitely better overall.

    1. My kid has made me doubt my sanity too, but then again so has everything I’ve ever done that was worth it ;D

  19. Do you think it’s just kids or anyone we care about? I know when I have a special lady in my life I tend to take a lot better care of myself, which I guess is the opposite of a lot of people.

    Great accurate list. I may not have kids but it’s very clear that these are truths. Although, you could have simply said they help use our imaginations/become more creative than play with toys. I’m sure there are plenty of times you had to get creative with a solution because C caused a problem.

    1. I think it can be anyone we care about. I guess I wrote this because I get tired of hearing people complain about how their kids ruined their lives and made them permanently sleep-deprived and insane. I mean, they do do those things, but they do awesome things to make us better people too.

  20. This is precisely why I chose to become a child therapist. There’s untold wisdom in the wee ones. It pays to play in the sand box all day. Well, maybe not monetarily, but….

    1. As C starts talking more, I am endlessly fascinated with the workings of her mind. Just seeing her progress from the lump of flesh she was a year and a half ago to where she is now is absolutely incredible.

      1. It truly is. I was blessed to re-study Piaget’s theories of development a couple years ago. Although his primary source of research was his own daughter, his work was legendary in our understanding of how they go from lump to jump.

  21. My kids have taught me levels of patience I never knew existed before I was a mom. Although it’s possible that I only feel more patient because time seems to pass at warp speed since they were born.

    1. Patience is a big one for me too. Today I told her not to touch the computer no fewer than 300 times and I never lost my composure. This is nothing short of miraculous for me.

  22. It’s amazing how something that starts out as a slobbery, crying ball can change every aspect of your life so entirely. People tell you your life will change, but you just don’t know that your life will CHANGE. And thank goodness for play. If it weren’t for throwing the football with my son, I’d never get exercise.

    1. Amen to that. I sometimes think of myself before I had my daughter and I kind of can’t believe that I got away with calling myself an adult. My crying ball of goodness has made me grow up right along with her.

  23. Kids make us more aware of what we saw and how we say it. Especially (for me) with raising girls and recalling our childhoods… Middle and high school weren’t always the easiest of times. I’m constantly aware of ensuring that my kids take notice of the positive in everything; the way they speak to people and the words that are actually said. Perception and intention make all the difference.
    Children are a reflection of their upbringing — look at the things that irk you (as a parent regarding your child) — it’s amazing to see how much how kids mirror their parents and siblings. *That ‘thing’ that annoys the hell out of me that my kids does… yeah I’m guilty of that too. Guess who she got it from?*

    1. As my daughter acquires language and grows out of her babyhood and more into her childhood, I am really noticing too how she copies what I do. It’s funny but also really scary too. It really reminds me to watch my words and to be a good model of behavior.

      Thank you for commenting, Senayda!

  24. I especially love how my kids remind me to stop and smell the roses. They stop and notice the way the ants march toward the ant hill with the huge crumbs on their backs… and the way a cloud looks like a hippo playing in the water… and the way the moon seems to follow us in the car. They still have a sense of wonderment and awe for the little details that make life worth living, and I love that it makes me stop and do the same thing. Great post : )

    1. So true! We spent a solid fifteen minutes today just trying to find little items in our home that fit inside a bucket. She was so excited by the activity that by the end I was more interested in it than she was!

  25. The list is long…eat better, play more, watch less TV, drink less, enjoy the little things, dance like crazy, sing out loud (only when it’s just my kids and I…there are limits), walk everywhere (many times its just easier than packing up the stroller), drive slower, curse less, play outside, and on and on….
    :) thanks for making me think about how they make me better in so many ways!

    1. My pleasure! The dancing one is big here too. I had forgotten how much I love to groove before my gal came along.

  26. nannypology · · Reply

    So true! Being a nanny I get these awesome benefits by proxy… pretty nifty benefit!

  27. Kids inspire me to tell the truth and to break through this icky film of adultness that just builds up over time. Kids also inspire me to use my imagination and really notice the small things. “Really? That crunchy leaf looks like a dinosaur?? COOL!”

  28. My grown children have inspired something unexpected in me: grace – undeserved, unrelenting love. Having spent so many years working my ass off to teach them right from wrong, watching them spit all of that back in my face through stupid and life-threatening choices has been beyond difficult. But the experience has served to remind me of how much of that we all do to our Father. His grace has impacted my life for many years … now it’s my turn to dish it to someone else. And if I manage even a modicum of success, I’ll amaze myself. ;) (That’s your cue to pray for my kids…)

    A song that has become a sort of mantra in my life of late:

    I’ve really said it all. Now it’s just about LOVE.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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