How Grownups Can Solve Problems by Thinking Like Kids

Hand-drawn illustration of a sign saying "Welcome To Any Person Wanting To Be a Better Grownup"

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

That’s what storyteller and illustrator Brad Montague says. Montague is an artist, director, New York Times bestselling author, creator of the hit web series Kid President, and sharer of art and stories that inspire kids and grownups alike.

"Be who you needed when you were younger."
Brad Montague on stage in front of his quote, Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger
Brad Montague on stage in front of his quote, Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger

We asked Montague for four ways grownups can tap into their inner child to do good for the world and the people in it.

Here’s what he had to say:

Activities For Adults To Connect With Their Inner Child:

1. Don’t forget to play.

Play can be a way for us to work out difficult ideas and emotions. Play doesn’t mean you have to sit down on the carpet with action figures or building blocks (although that sounds fun!). It just means embracing silliness, creativity, and fun in problem-solving.

“Playing is an essential thing that, for some reason, we grow out of,” Montague said. “Kids do it naturally. They can go back and forth between being incredibly silly to really poignant and thoughtful. Like Fred Rogers said, ‘Play is the work of the child.’ It sparks creativity within you to approach things with a new spirit or new energy. That's where you land on a way to do something with a freshness that the world needs.”

Good Good Good Action Step:

Montague says, “Next time you’re facing a problem, try to think of the most ridiculous, absurd ways you could tackle it.”

You might be surprised that by working your creative juices, you come up with an unexpected solution.


2. Look at things from a new angle.

Try seeing a problem from a new perspective. Working together is especially valuable when you have people all looking at the same problem from a different angle.

“That's what kids do already,” Montague said. “An example of that is you have a table, and a grown up walks in the room and says, ‘What a great table! Look at the table setting!’ But a kid walks in and says, ‘Ew! Look at all the gum under the table. Look what's on the floor!’ They see those things because their perspective is different — because their height is lower, of course, but also because they're going to mess around with the table and crawl under it. They see the things we don't see.”


Good Good Good Action Step: 

Try viewing a problem from the exact opposite of your point of view. What’s one perspective you might have overlooked? Think of all the ways you are set in your perspective, and see if you can open your mind to seeing things another way.

“When kids and grownups work together, you have one person seeing the top and one seeing the bottom,” Montague said. “If you have both working together, we see the table as it really is. And then if we do it right, we also see the table as it could be.”


3. Don’t be embarrassed to not know everything.

Kids are comfortable with being curious. When was the last time you admitted you didn’t know something? It takes humility to be able to say, “I actually don’t know enough about that.” And it’s OK to not be an expert in everything — no one is.

“Get comfortable asking questions instead of fast-forwarding to a solution or fast-forwarding to what we think we know,” Montague said. “Remain compassionate, curious, and relentlessly creative.”


Good Good Good Action Step:

One thing you can do to stay more curious is to keep an action list of things you should know more about, Montague says. It could be anything from refreshing yourself on cloud formations to knowing how your local government works. Remember it’s OK to ask questions — not just about facts, but about people. You have an infinite number of things to discover.


4. Give yourself permission to be excited.

Grownups don't always give themselves permission to be enthusiastic or excited about things. But guess what — it’s really cool to care about things!

“There's something beautiful about how kids can allow themselves to be enthusiastic about bubble wrap or bubbles or clouds that are shaped in interesting ways or cool rocks,” Montague said. “They’re not afraid to speak that excitement in an audible way.”


Good Good Good Action Step:

Enthusiasm and joy are like love: The more you share, the more there is. It doesn't run out. Share your joy and excitement with others, and be open to delighting in their joy, too.

A version of this story originally ran in The Youth Edition of the Goodnewspaper.

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Article Details

July 25, 2022 9:02 AM
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