5 Social Norms I Learned from My Kids


Social norms are the rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society.

People who do not follow these norms may be shunned or suffer some kind of grave consequence.



Meet the Crew


Name: Rivers Ruth Shirley

Age: 4

Favorite Color: Pink

Description: Ambassador of Fun


Name: Quinlynn Grace Shirley

Age: 11 months

Favorite Color: Drool

Description: Wrecker of All Things Organized


1.   Make Play a Priority

From the time my oldest daughter wakes (she’s 4 years old), to when she falls asleep, her sole aim is to turn each moment into a game of make-believe.

In her world, ANYTHING can be a song.

Curtains over couches become campouts. Drapes become capes.

Tea parties are held in the bathroom…you know, where there’s a toilet. Dolls get dressed up in marker tattoos. It’s good stuff.

Why watch Netflix when you can watch your children play? Or better yet, play along with them?

She’s terribly creative and naturally good at it.  

She invites me to play in her world often. The shared experience makes for even more fun.

The figments of her imagination aren’t bound to any limitations. The rules aren’t even a consideration. She doesn’t even know what they are.

Imagine if we all lived life this way?

And so, albeit sometimes super weird, like her (imaginary) friend Bianca who I accidentally sat on last week, she’s a tiny factory of fun moments, wonderful ideas, and inviting encounters.


2.   Over-Communicating is an Acceptable Practice

“Daddy? Can you make it ‘softly-er’ ?”

“Softlyer” is a term my daughter uses to communicate how her shoes feel when they fit just right.

If the “softlyer-ness” (< that just happened) of her shoes is an unacceptable softly, then she makes it a point to ask you to adjust them until she has it right.

Admittedly, hearing this word makes my head want to pop off because it could mean readjusting her shoes too many times to count so as to avoid toddler meltdown.

Let’s just wrap your feet in duct tape. There, you’re ready.

When kids need something they don’t care what you’re doing. They’re unafraid to ask for what they need the very moment they need it. And most of the time they want it “just so”.

There’s no taboo in over-asking or pressing to make sure the details are done correctly. In their minds, right is right.

Curiosity is also key. And the average 4 year old has this concept crafted to a science; about 437 questions worth a day, actually.

If you have the genuine desire to know or to be helped, by all means, ask away.


3.   Don’t be Afraid to Tell it Like You See It

Just recently, my family went out to eat. We’re were at a Mexican restaurant and saw some friends of ours in the parking lot.

It had been a while since we had all seen each other, and they had yet to meet our youngest daughter, Quinlynn. One of them walked over to the car to say hi.

“Oh,” she said, “I haven’t even seen your newest child. He looks so cute.”

“She’s a girl!” interjected my daughter, Rivers, declaring with great certainty, a fact, which had to be known at that very moment.

Kids give no quarter to the elephant in the room. They speak the obvious because what’s the sense is waiting when its…well, obvious.


Let people feel the weight of what you mean and let them deal with it.


4.   Don’t be Afraid to Feel All of the Feels

I was holding my 11-month-old daughter. She was doing great, until I sat her on the floor. Suddenly, her world came undone. She cried buckets for 30 seconds, then was distracted by her sister’s attempt to play the guitar.

Off she went to celebrate the sound of tiny fingers aimlessly plucking in arbitrary rhythm.

My oldest daughter loves to hang out. So, the moment you mention bedtime, she’s polarized to bitter weeping or rage queen.

A few moments on her pillow, a good bedtime story, and she’s ready to unwind.

Her emotional breakdown is really unattractive, but she isn’t scared to let people see how she really feels about the matter.

What she’s genuinely concerned for is missing out on life with those around her.

You know what? So, am I.


5.   Being Present is Most Important

“Daddy? Daddy?”

My daughter was attempting to ask me a question, while I was consumed with answering a question I had received via text from a friend.

I didn’t answer, as I was too busy feverishly pressing buttons to respond.

“Daddy?” she said again. This time, her little hand turning my face towards hers to acknowledge her presence, as if to say, “That can wait. I need you now.”

“Can you help me?”

Kids are so funny, but if you’re too absorbed in the “otherness” of life, you’re going to miss all of the fun.

More importantly, you’re going to miss all of the love.

These social norms are embraced by children everywhere without having to learn a thing. It’s just who they are.


If you have kids I know you would agree, they teach us how to be more human everyday.

And when we just don’t feel like adulting anymore, we know exactly where to go. 


Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!


Other Recent Articles & Good Reads