Top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter (So Far)

Children bring a great amount of wisdom with them when they join us here in this world. I have known this for many years and have always loved being around children. But it was not until I became a father, a bit more than four years ago, that I discovered just how wise these little beings really are.

From the moment of my daughter’s birth (and even before that) fatherhood has been a truly transformative experience. It’s rare that a day goes by without learning something about life from my Ella. And in many ways I really do see her as one of my most effective teachers.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of the personal growth lessons I have learned from Ella over the past four years. If you have children you will most likely recognize many of these. If you do not have children, you may find some of these corny or silly. Trust me, they are not. Every one of these lessons has had a significant impact on my life.

So here, then, are the top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter so far!

1. Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a New Day.
When Ella was younger she would ask me, “Is tomorrow gonna be a new day?” I assured her that, yes, indeed, tomorrow would be a new day. Now that she’s reached the ripe old age of four, she gets it. And now she reminds me: “Don’t worry Dadda. Tomorrow’s gonna be a new day!” It’s good to remember that!

I the only one hearing a refrain from Little Orphan Annie in the background? “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” Sure it’s cheesy, but there is a lot of power in recognizing that, no matter how difficult today is, tomorrow’s gonna be a new day.

2. Sometimes it’s Better to Make Up Your Own Rules
I already wrote about this one in the post Life Lessons from Candyland. But it’s an important one so I included it in this list.

Bottom line: Sometimes it’s best to throw away the rule book and make up your own!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Enthusiasm.
Ella is not shy when it comes to showing her enthusiasm. If someone makes a suggestion that she likes she responds in a number of different ways depending upon her level of excitement. If she likes the idea, she’ll say something like, “That’s gonna be a great idea, Dada!” If she really likes the idea, she’ll nod her head vigorously and let out a loud, “Uh huh!” And if she really, really likes an idea, she starts jumping and galloping around, shouting, “Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.” over and over and over and over…

My favorite part is when we’re at the dinner table and we make a suggestion (like for instance on a hot summer night when we, very rarely, suggest walking down to the ice cream shop in town) Ella will get so excited that she actually has to climb down off her chair so that she can run back and forth yelling “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!” Sometimes her excitement is so powerful I’m afraid she’s going to fall off the chair!

Do you ever curb your enthusiasm? I know I do. Somewhere along the line most of us learned that stuff we really wanted or were really excited about could be taken away in an instant. Often the very things that were most exciting to us were used to get us to do or not do certain things: “Get dressed now or you can’t ride your bike today!” Or, “Stop saying that word or you’ll be grounded for a week.”

No wonder we’ve learned to hide our enthusiasm! We don’t want the good stuff taken away from us so we don’t let anyone know what we think is good! How messed up is that.

Well it sure is refreshing to watch Ella express her enthusiasm with no hesitation. Enthusiasm is contagious. People want a taste of enthusiasm. They want to know that it is safe to be happy about something.

So give it a try. The next time you discover something you really like, do a little happy dance and see what happens.

4. Feel your emotions fully.
Ella isn’t always happy. Like all kids she has moments of frustration and sadness. We’ve done our best to encourage her to fully feel those emotions and express them when they’re happening. It’s amazing to watch how Ella has learned to deal with these moments.

If something happens that causes Ella to feel frustrated or angry she’ll go into her room, close the door, lie down on the floor or on her bed and scream or cry for a minute or two. Then she opens the door, comes back out and says, “All better.” And usually she is. The frustration that was moving through her just needed to be let out.

How often have you held onto sadness, frustration, anger or grief? I know I’ve held onto stuff for a long time! And the longer I hold onto those emotions, the more powerful they become.

Much better to just let them out in the moment and let yourself be “all better!”

5. Walk On Walls Whenever Your Have The Chance
When was the last time you walked on a wall? Whenever I’m out walking with Ella and we pass a wall, whether it’s a curb or a retaining wall, Ella wants to walk on it. And now she gets me to walk on them with her: “Come on, Dada!” And I must say, if you haven’t walked on a wall in a while, give it a try. It’s a lot of fun!

The life lesson here is that we adult types tend to pass by opportunities for joy and exploration without even noticing them. These opportunities are all around us all the time. We just have to open our eyes and expand our perception. Hanging around kids (even if you don’t have your own) is a great way to do that.

6. Sometimes you have to do it alone (even if there’s someone right there who could help you).
I often feel a strong temptation to reach out to help Ella put her shoes on or put a puzzle piece in the right place. Simple tasks that I take for granted are a challenge for Ella, as they are for any child. If I were to constantly jump in and say, “Let me do that for you,” it would take her a lot longer to figure out how to do it.

It’s especially tempting to help her when she reaches that frustration point. But I’ve learned that if I let her go a little bit longer, just past that moment of frustration is when she succeeds.

In those moments I sometimes think of the scene in the movie, Ray, after Ray Charles has gone blind and his mother pretends she’s not in the room as he’s calling out for her help. In that moment, he discovers that he’s not as helpless as he thought.

It’s been a powerful lesson for me as a father and in my own life.

7. Know When to Ask For Help.
Now, while this one seems to contradict the previous lesson, they really work hand in hand. Let’s face it; there are some things that a four year old just can’t do yet. Ella is pretty good about trying to do things. And she is also pretty good about asking for help when she has reached the end of her patience: “Please help me, Dada.” Or if she’s tired or frustrated she might say, “I can’t do it, Dada.”

Her willingness to ask for help is a powerful lesson for someone like me: a die-hard do it yourself-er. Countless hours have been spent figuring out something that I could have easily asked or paid someone else to do.

Knowing when, and how, to ask for help is an important life skill to master. And I am learning from a master.

8. Don’t be attached to what you painted yesterday (or 2-seconds ago).
Ella is a prolific artist. She cranks out paintings and drawings faster than the fastest graffiti artist. And the beautiful thing about her creativity is that once she’s done, she’s done. There is no attachment to the painting she just created. She puts her piles of artwork into the recycling bin as easily as the Tibetan monks sweep their intricate sand mandalas back into dust.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time letting go of stuff I created 10-years ago! Ella’s willingness to let go of her creations leaves her open to the flow of creativity. She is not attached to what she painted yesterday. She does not compare what she is doing today with what came before. She is free to be open and just let it flow.

9. Singing Makes Everything Better.
No matter how traumatic a situation might be, whether it’s an overtired and cranky before bed tooth brushing meltdown or a big boo-boo, singing makes it better. Ella and I sing together on our way to preschool. We sing the silly tooth-brushing song we made up together. We sing the pee-pee song. We sing our favorite bedtime songs. Just about anything that you can say can be sung (hey, didn’t the Beatles write something about that?).

Singing is fun. Singing makes you smile. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s research showing that singing releases endorphins. And most of us adult types tend to sing far too little. The 7-Dwarfs knew what they were talking about when they whistled while they worked! So try adding a bit more singing into your daily diet.

10. Dance like no one’s watching (even when you’ve made sure that everyone is!)
Like most houses with young ones, the phrases, “Watch Dada. Watch Mama. Watch everybody!” are heard on a regular basis. Ella loves to dance. And when she does, she lets it all hang out. She makes up new dance moves on a regular basis: There’s the running back and forth dance, the sneaky dance, the jumping up and down dance, the spin around until you fall down dance, and of course Ella’s famous Jiggy-Jiggy dance!

Somewhere along the way, most of us lose that uninhibited ability to express ourselves. The voices of self-doubt come in and we become self-conscious of our performance. Watching Ella dance with all her heart, whether she’s alone or in front of a crowd, is a great reminder of the innocence and joy that we all have inside of us. Isn’t it time we start letting a little more of it out?

So there are the top 10 life lessons that Ella has helped me learn so far. What lessons have your children taught you? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below and share your lessons and stories.

70 responses to “Top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter (So Far)”

  1. Ed,

    These are all great reminders, and being a father myself, I’ve seen instances of most of the things that you discuss.

    In addition to all of that, however, it sounds like Ella herself is very special. You’re in for a fun ride! 🙂

  2. Hi Ed, GREAT Lessons. My daughter is 4 as well and I have an 8 year old son. It is wonderful and the lesson I struggle with is not helping Christina. She’s so independent but knowing she’s my last –she will always seem like my baby to me in ways. But you’re absolutely right and I will hear your words as well as her voice next time I am going to help and she says ‘I can do it myself mommy”. ; -) A great post and Christina and I do #10 “have a dance party” almost every day in our living room and it does cure all! Gratefully, Jenny

  3. Jenny. It’s one of the hardest things for me to do, or not do, with Ella as well. I’m learning to breathe through the impulse to jump in. Enjoy your dance parties!

  4. I just wanted to underline the bit about singing. We all sing in our house (difficult to escape as husband and I are semi-pro musicians!), and I’ve found it the most incredibly powerful channel for changing mood, particularly.

    Sometimes I feel so sad, yet there’s nothing really wrong, so I’ll sing a song that I know will make me cry and suddenly I feel better! The same with frustration – five minutes of Alice Cooper cures me of anger and energises me to carry on with the next task in the day…

    And can I just suggest that singing *quietly* doesn’t actually help as much. Turn it up! Belt it out! Feel those endorphins pumping!

    At the moment my husband is doing his much-detested tax return and singing along to “Old Crow Medicine Show” and miraculously *smiling* whilst he files! The power of music…

  5. yes,
    Aren’t daughters just about the most magical thing on Earth?
    Sons, too! but my son is grown, my stepson is almost grown
    but I’m blessed to still be in the magic stage with my daughters..
    just as you are with Ella!
    Don’t blink….
    and savor every moment!

  6. Annie. Alice Cooper?!? 😉 Now there’s one I hadn’t thought of! But you’re definitely right about belting it out. Really gets the juices flowing. Much more than that soft singing.

    Karen. Magical is the best word to describe it. I’m savoring!

  7. This is great, I stumbled upon your web page through stumble and it really hits home. I just tucked the girls to bed and It made me think about all the things in my life that relate. Girls are truely awsome, thanks for the kind words

  8. Everyone’s writing articles about kids this week (including me!).

    Completely agree with the spirit of this article Edward. My son has taught me so many life lessons since he was born 11 months ago, and I’m sure there will be many many more…..

  9. Mike. I just put Ella to bed. I love that time when she’s drifting off to sleep, talking to herself, or maybe to me though I can’t really hear her. And then, she’s out. It’s a wonderful time for just being present, if I don’t fall asleep too!

    Peter. Congratulations. I remember those first months. As Karen said above: Don’t blink! And enjoy every moment.

    Craig. Right on! Enough of this parenting crap. We just need to get out of the way. The kids will do great if we can keep from messing them up!

  10. I love this list. And I can relate to each and every one.

    One of the best parts of parenting is that I get to watch, learn and grow each moment with what my children show me. Both in the wisdom of their innocence and in the mirror of what they’ve learned from me. What an amazing journey being a parent.

  11. This list is great, even with being a 21 year old single university student, these lessons still have alot to be taken from. List like this are always a great read and inspiration for anybody that reads them. Thank you.

  12. What a great article…I have a little girl named Ella of my own, and all of what you say is spot on. Thanks for the entertaining and thought provoking read.

  13. My first time here. Great stuff! As an artist (actor/director) I have to believe in the Law of Attraction. Not yet a father, but I can relate to the list, especially number 1.

    It was only after I really realized that each day was a new day that I started doing well at my day job. I was stressed out and not performing well, but after I realized that I had to take each day as a brand new day (wipe the slate clean), I started performing very well.

    I’m excited about this new phase of my life lasting.


  14. How beautiful, to learn from a child. Something we all forget as we get older is, we were once that child. Seeing life through such innocent eyes can be the best lesson for all of us.

  15. Yes!!! I can add a couple:
    If you don’t like it, try again later – My girlfriend’s daughter, when she was 4, was put on skiis and she cried the whole time. The next time we tried, a year later, she loved it.

    Don’t go by the experts – Same daughter, when she was 5, I got her the game of Monopoly, which says age 8 and up, the first time she played, I had to be banker and make all the change, but the next time we played, you could have put a green eyeshade on that girl, she was asking “how do you want change for the hundred – fiftys, twenties tens or fives.” She’s 27 and a bank manager now ;7)

  16. Great comments everyone!

    Dawud. I hadn’t considered that what I’m learning from her could be a mirror of what she’s learning from me. Good point!

    Jeff. I’m glad, and maybe just a bit surprised, that this list is inspirational to a 21 year old college student. You must be far more evolved than I was at 21! 😉

    Brian. Those Ellas!!

    Jnizzle and Joy. Thanks!

  17. Cory. Congratulations on the shift. That’s awesome. I’ll look forward to seeing you the stage/screen!

    Vaughn. You said it perfectly. If we can just learn to look at the world with the perception of the child and the wisdom of our age, we would all be a lot happier.

    Greg. I love those two additions! And you’re right on when it comes to what the “experts” say!

  18. Hi Ed,

    Every time I read about Ella, I’m reminded of my children at that age. (Son 8, Daughter 11). Ahhh, the fond memories. I’m reminded so much of the magic of that age.

    They are so much closer to Source and remembering pure Joy, that it infects me with happiness.

    As I read this post, it dawned on me “Hey, we use to be 4 years old. These lessons aren’t lessons to learn…they are reminders of what we “should” be doing in the first place. Having fun, being filled with Joy, no attachments, etc.”

    Well, back to remembering what’s it’s like to be a kid.

  19. Hello, Ed.

    I just came across your article, and believe me, its shown me new light.

    I just realised children do so much more than us, but we just need to perceive and learn from it, rather than ignore.

    Thank you for taking the pain to explore and writing this, I now have a new view on my actions and life.

    Much appreciated!


  20. Dean. You’re so right. Lessons to be learned is not quite right. It’s more about remembering!

    Vat. I’m glad that this article helped you see children from a new perspective. Writing it helped me appreciate Ella, and all children, even more!

  21. Hello.

    My couple had a baby last year at last.
    We are glad , glad , glad !
    I was waiting for our angle.

    of course , we’ve learned from her as you.
    But she can’t speak even one word.

    I will learn many things. so , many , many , many things.
    We’re looking forward them.

  22. Edward,

    this is great.

    We can learn so much from our children. They already know everything: live in the present, detachment, enjoy life, etc.

    My wife and I are waiting for our twins to be born in June, I really can’t await making these fatherhood experiences :).


  23. That was simply awesome.

    Its crazy to think that such a small person with all the hope of the world in their eyes, and all the love in the universe in their soul is there everyday to remind us of these little things you wrote about.

    Becoming a parent has definitly brought me back home and guided me to that perfect balance that people are so desperate to find. My son has brought me to a whole new world that I never knew existed.

    He is my universe.

    Thanks for writting such an awesome blog!

  24. I love this post.
    But you for got something… BUBBLES! My 2 kids love them. Bubbles make all things better in our house. Plus the deep breathing you have to do relaxes you.
    Love the post, thanks for the reminder to slow down and play with your kids.

  25. This was a fantastic article, Edward. My little girl is almost three, and I’m always impressed with how easy it is for her to express what she wants (preferably right now!) and what she definitely does not want. She also has a talent for asking for the unreasonable. She has the complete conviction that she will receive exactly what she asks for – she is fully in alignment with Divine Abundance in that respect.

    Thanks for this great reminder of what our little angels add to our lives!


  26. Never stop singing & dancing with your kids. I did it all the time my son was growing up and at 17 he’ll start dancing in the grocery store and I join in. It helps to keep us close and makes me a “cool” mom who doesn’t mind acting crazy.

  27. I’ve learned a lot from my 3 year old son and it’s interesting how many parallels there are with your daughter. He’s always telling us about how great an idea is and he certainly dances with no inhibition. Great list. I can’t wait to find out what my daughter will teach me when she is born next month.

  28. Like many others on the list I too have a little Ella. I adored your list!

    It sounds like our Ellas are pretty similar. We’re lucky huh?

  29. Ed,

    I stumbled accross your post from the Blog LUXIST, and I am thrilled that I did.

    I am a new father. Isabella (Bella) is 7 months old and growing fast, meanwhile, I am working harder and trying to be a part of her day. A few of the items above I have been trying to do, but the others have really opened my eyes.

    I have to say that the “tomorrow is a new day” hit me particularly hard. Your right, for me, hanging onto negativity not only drags me down, it affects my time with my daughter. It is something I have been strugling with these days what with my carreer being tied so tightly with he economy (financial markets), the stress really makes me less reactive to my home life and less open to the beauty and knowledge that comes form my baby girl and my family as a whole.

    My wife and I tried for 7 years to have a child and Bella is truly a blessing. Thank you for slapping me in the face today. I really needed it.


  30. Hi Ed,

    I am actaully writing a paper for me psychology paper realting to personal development during our life span. I googled “personal development of children”, and came across your post. As i was reading through your post, and all the reponses, I began to really think. At my age, personal development is, ans should be near complete. I realized that my children are making me develop more personally. I agree the things you once did, and loved, you let go to avoid embarassment from your peers.

  31. Haruaki. Congratulations.

    And Eddie. Congratulations… I think! 😉 Can’t imagine twins, though there seems to be a lot of that going around. Enjoy!

    Sunny. There’s another great lesson… Balance! Glad you’ve found that one with the help of your son.

    Shannon. How could I have forgotten BUBBLES? Ella loves them also. And speaking of bubbles we can’t forget jumping onto bubble wrap!

  32. Andi. It’s pretty amazing learning about the Law of Attraction from these little ones. When they’re very little they haven’t quite figured out that it sometimes takes a little time to get what you want. They’re used to being in a place where you think it and there it is. It’s got to be a bit of a shock for them!

    Nancy. That’s amazing. You’re 17 year old son still thinks you’re cool Rock on!

    Scott. I’m sure you’ll have a whole new set of lessons coming with the interactions between the two kids! Congratulations.

  33. Lisa. There’s definitely something about Ellas!

    Scott. I’m so glad that I was able to give you a good slap! No, really, I know what it’s like to be distracted from the family because of work. And I know that when I look back on these years, it’s the time with my daughter that I’ll remember far more vividly than anything about work. Tomorrow’s gonna be a new day and today is already a great day!

  34. Kim. I think your core assumption that “at my age personal development should be near complete” is the problem. Personal development is never complete. We are growing, learning and developing until the day we die. I know that for me, personal development is a core part of my life. I can’t imagine getting to a place where that would stop or be complete. And fortunately, now I have Ella to help me continue to move forward and grow.

  35. HI Ed,

    I’ve just surfed over to your site, from Phil – MAKE IT GREAT – Gerbyshak

    This is the very first post I clicked on to read and I loved it.

    I’m Mom to 3 and a Step Mom to 1. Ages… 29, 25, 23 and 11.
    The 11 years old was a choice and he’s been my biggest parental challenge AND teacher . I’ve always felt that my children have taught me as much as I’ve taught them.

    Just yesterday when the 11 year old, Kevin had pushed my
    very last patience button, mentally to myself I started humming the words to a song I have taught all my children..

    ‘Be patient, be patient, don’t be in such a hurry, when you are
    impatient, you only start to worry’.

    Singing that tune to myself thankfully snubbed out the wick right before the patience bomb exploded all over the place. And whatever it was that nearly caused me to go into melt down was not anything great big huge, it most often never is, but the song caused me to take a big breath, and regroup myself.

    IF there would be one book I would love to get into the hands
    of every parent, it would be this one ( see below)

    NOW…. no one book is going to make you a great parent, but
    this one has lots of suggestions that seem so simple, yet are so effective. There will come a time when children go into what I call shut down mode. WALLS go up, and they just don’t want to hear it. It was this book that assisted me in keeping those walls at the step over level as opposed to the height you can’t even see your child over.
    Hmmmmm maybe I need to go find my copy and re-read it. LOL

    How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
    by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

    I’ll be surfing around your site, and I hope you won’t mind IF I comment on past posts.

    Wishing you, and Ella and her Mommy… all the best
    XO XO

  36. This is a great post. Thanks for bringing up that little children can actually teach us things.

    Children are little human beings who have a pure heart and someone who will not lose their enthusiasm. I realize as long as we grow up, we accumulate a lot of sad or bad past that slowly destroy enthusiasm. Things start to be impossible when we slowly grow up.

    For a kid, anything is possible and they can create happiness for themselves and they are one of the most important source of happiness to people!

    Alex Liu
    How To Become A Millionaire

  37. I read your post about your daughter Ella and I had to sit and laugh for such a long time. My daughter (the last of my four children) crept into my mind. The one thing I always say about Roxy, now 19, is that she was my greatest teacher. I agree with the lessons you have presented and can relate to them all. May I add a couple now that I am way past the 4 year old and looking into the eyes of a woman?

    1. Know your boundaries. For she will test them and reshape them and continuously help you redifine them. If you don’t know where they are to start with….look out!

    2. Practice love. I mean really practice love. For having a daughter, at least for me, was like having my heart ripped out of my chest, tossed on the floor and finding that each and every time I needed to pick it up, put it back and love deeper. I’ve never regreted these actions.

    3. Learn to accept the male species. Even though you want to ban them from the planet. Sorry, males…but as the mother of a teenage daughter I would just as soon there were none. None are bright enough, kind enough or special enough to be in my daughters life. Of course, I knew MY boys (3 of them) were all wonderful, but the rest of the species wasn’t. What I learned, I must accept them and appreciate how unique and special each of them that came through my door were…..for Roxy did and when I disapproved she sided with THEM! How rude! But as much as I thought I should come first, little did I know the reality of that one.

    Anyway…..thanks for sharing your beautiful 4 year old. I wish you well upon your journey.

  38. Charlotte. Thanks for sharing those additional lessons. Boundaries: Yes! Practice love: Can’t help it! And boys… I’ve already decided that Ella won’t be dating until she’s 21… if she’s lucky!

    Just kidding! 🙂 I like guys, after all I am one.

  39. ah, I have to smile to myself and someday you will understand….If only….when it came to boys you had a choice. Little girls start looking for Mr. Right somewhere around kindergarten….but, perhaps Ella will be different……one can only hope…..

  40. fantastic lessons which I wish i could put down in words so beautifully. My son Henry is 15 mths and i stumbled on this site by accident. im going to print a few off and share with a parent support group.
    I was totally alone after my son was born and we got thru it with some really weird songs like ” mummy loves henry .. we dance in the bathroom and look in the mirror … we dance in the bedroom and look out the window ” as I wasnt able to go out and carry him back up the stairs to my flat.
    Now I’m enjoying letting the child in me out more ( i did walk on walls til mid twenties!) and henry has just learnt to make a red indian call even tho he doesnt say words yet. we express ourselves a lot in sounds and gestures with each other.
    I remember before I was a parent hearing a little girl ( who must have just had a birthday) come out of school one day and ask her mother ” mum, what happens after 5 ? do you go on being 5? ” I thought how beautiful yet poignantly sad that question was because we do remain very similar but only in an ugly way . We lose all the beauty and enthusiasm as you say and concentrate on the paintings which are discarded in our work and relationships.
    I’d love to read more of your stuff but its time for my bed – keep up your heartening blogs – the most intelligent, meaningful stuff i’ve come across yet. thank you

  41. Edward,

    Thank you for putting together some of the best lessons to live by. It s so interesting to see young children. They are not affected by all the politics of life, and all the walls we all eventually build up over time. bottom line: Who Cares what everyone else thinks?

    Kid’s don’t…So sad when they start to build up that awareness and self consiousness. My nephew is at that stage, and I can see that innocense leaving.

    I long for the days, or I need to get back to the purity of youth~!

  42. Edward,
    As always your post are right on the mark…I especially like the item about dancing. I have a 3 and a half year old and he loves to dance. Every time he does, I can’t stop laughing.
    I think you highlighted an important fact…kids allow you to view life through a different lens…which makes life so much more enjoyable.

  43. This is an excellent post. I think there are a lot of lessons that we can learn simply by observing and listening to children. Too often we dismiss the things that make childhood innocence great. It is great to be reminded to sit back and learn something from even the little ones on this earth. 🙂 Great post – thanks for sharing.

  44. thank you for being an observant father some are not and do not even have time with their children. this is inspiring i have a 4 year old daughter Praise she challenges me. she full of hope and is always saying mama tommorrow we will get it. its amazing how childeren see and believe in the future, the tommorrow more than we do. As parents if we obser ve we have angels in our children yet we do not see it, we have great motivaters and teachers in them.

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