Happiness and Fulfillment: How to be Childlike (not Childish)

Do you know the difference between childlike and childish? Stop and think about how this fits with your goals for personal growth. Take a minute and think about how these behaviors get in your way. I share in the rest of my post about my feelings/thoughts on the subject.I ran across an article recently that mentioned the difference between ‘childlike’ and ‘childish,’ and called someone to task for childish behavior. The gist of the article was that we want to be childlike, but not childish.


That got me thinking about what childlike is for me, and how it fits in with my goals for personal growth. I also gave some thought to how childishness gets in my way, and how I can keep that from happening.

I guess, actually, the first thing I want to talk about is what I mean by “childish” behavior. I’m not criticizing kids; they can’t help being kids, and they’re wonderful at it. In addition to being genuine and transparent, they sometimes whine, say rude things, and avoid responsibility. But we teach them how to behave “like adults,” and they take their places in our grown-up world (Where they see us acting like five-year-olds much of the time, if they’re paying attention).

The three things I think of as being very childish are whining, holding a grudge, and blaming. By whining, I mean complaining about something without making any effort to do anything about it. Just complaining for the sake of complaining. Holding a grudge is obviously staying mad at someone, long after a reasonable person would have let it go already, and blaming is refusing to take responsibility for your own part in a problem, and insisting that everything must be the other guy’s fault. Sometimes it is, but very rarely.

Those behaviors are childish, but they’re easy to fall into because they’re comfortable. They’re easier than recognizing and taking responsibility for our part in whatever’s happening. And I admit I can be very childish.

But I prefer myself when I’m being childlike. I define this as having fun, expressing wonder at the world, and taking every opportunity to experience something new.

When I think of childlike wonder, I think about all the things that happen in my life every day, that I don’t think about or take time to appreciate. The fact that I get to do something I love for a living. The fact that I was able to create the life I wanted to live, and I get to live it. The fact that I have children who think I’m a great dad, and a wife who thinks I’m a fairly good husband most of the time.

I have a great life. But instead of expressing wonder at this life, too often I focus on what I don’t have. I want to recapture my childlike wonder at life. All of life.

And I want to have fun. I want everything possible to be fun. I want to enjoy going to the gas station. I want to find a way to enjoy having to keep my books, if that’s possible. I want to laugh. I want life to be fun, not boring. Don’t you?

And one way I can do all of that is by working on the childlike character trait of taking every opportunity to experience something as though coming in contact with it for the first time, as in: WOW! I’ve never seen anything like that before!

How can you practice being childlike?


  • Notice when you behave childishly, and stop yourself, or go back and think about how you wish you had handled it.
  • Find a way, this week, to experience something new.
  • Spend a few minutes each day thinking of the wonder in your life.
  • Find ways to rediscover what I call the 3 As: Be Alive, Awake, Aware, and in Awe of the world around you.

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