Five Things That A Playground Can Teach Us About Relationships

This weekend, I took Katie and Leah to one of the many local parks here in Austin. The brilliant thing about our city parks are the really neat playgrounds…and on weekends, there are always a gaggle of kids enjoying the freedom of playing. As I watched, it occurred to me (with a little help from Jason) that there is a lot we can learn about relationships – and in many cases relearn – from observing how kids interact with each other.

1. Lack of judgment
Watch kids play and first thing you notice is that there is a lack of personal judgment taking place. When a new boy or girl enters the scene, they don’t fret and wonder how this fellow player is going to add to their social circle. They don’t worry if hanging around with them is going to build or kill their cred as someone cool or hip. They don’t get hung up in a bunch of the social tangles that we create everyday. The only question they have is whether they want to have fun and play.

2. Sometimes you need a buddy
While kids can go off and play by themselves, they know that the teeter-totter doesn’t work very well with just one rider. And the merry-go-round works way better when someone else helps push. Listen for the laughter on a playground and you’ll likely see a group of kids enjoying the heck out of themselves – together

3. Free to begin, free to leave
There’s no planning, no exchange of business cards, no tearful goodbyes (well, only when you have to actually leave the playground). Kids live In the moment. They’re single-mindedly focused on swinging higher, sliding faster, climbing farther. When a friend leaves, another friend may enter.

4. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Notice that there’s never one person ordering others to go push them on the swings or spin them on the merry-go-round. There’s just a mutual sense of helping. And if someone’s hogging all the fun, they get left behind pretty quickly. That built-in sense of fairness means that there’s always a fluid agreement of leadership and followership.

5. It’s all about sharing the experience
For kids, it’s the fun of being together and enjoying the companionship and fellowship of others. There’s an acknowledgement that discovery is better when you can share it with someone else.

If all of this is true, what happened? Unfortunately, we went through that crazy mixed up time called adolescence. We were bombarded by all sorts of messages about what’s cool and hip and dorky and childish. Most of us figured out that some pretty good defensive armor was necessary to survive the hallways of middle and high school. Then, as adults we never stopped to check whether these things we learned during these tough times still work. If we did, we’d recognize that they don’t.

No worries. The cool thing is that as adults, we now have the maturity and insight to come back around to the lessons we intuitively knew on the playground. So, next time you find a playground inhabited by some fun-loving kids, sit down and just observe. And think about how you can bring some of these lessons that may be locked inside of you back out into your work and life.

Any other playground lessons to share?

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  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Your Work Happiness Matters

    I don’t have any children, but as a kid I remember just being in the moment of swinging, sliding, or running around. I wasn’t worried about what might happen next. I think it plays into your Free to Begin, and Free to Leave rule. It shouldn’t matter whether people are going because new friends and co-workers will always be entering the scene. We can’t stop it so we may as well enjoy it.

    Insightful post!

  • http://everydotconnects.com Mike Chapman

    This is great, Chris. Thanks for giving us the heads up on Twitter. Please keep writing and I, for one, will certainly try to join in.

  • http://www.diaryofareluctantblogger.com Maddie Grant

    Love it. I learn a lot from my kids!

  • http://www.twitter.com/grizzarkhov Grizzarkhov

    My kid isn't playground ready yet. (At least not in the sense that you write about above.) But I remember what it was like to play and make friends so easy. Thanks for the reminder, Chris! Nice post.

  • http://www.kaboom.org Annie

    What a great post!

    I’ve just linked to it from the KaBOOM! news feed and Forums. I agree – kids who are able to engage in creative, unstructured play as children will become better, more socially conscious adults.

  • http://www.baileyworkplay.com Chris Bailey

    Wow! Thanks everyone for sharing your fond memories. And welcome…I really appreciate that everyone here so far is a new commenter. Hope you’ll keep coming back!

    Kids have a wonderful way of reconnecting us to some deeper truths we might have lost along the path to adulthood. Definitely more to come on this topic…

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