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Life Lessons from my Three Year Old

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When my firecracker of a daughter, Annabella (AKA Bella), turned three, I marveled at her newfound expression of how she feels, what she wants, and who she is. Much like when Bella turned two (see my article Life Lessons from my Two Year Old), the terrific threes has been a profound teacher for me. I am learning so much about life by witnessing Bella in all her THREE year old glory. Here are some of my favorite

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3 Year Old Annabella

3 Year Old Annabella


·         The Universe Truly is a Friendly Place: I watch in amazement as Annabella introduces herself and engages in enthusiastic conversation with everyone from the Trader Joe’s cashier to her cousin, Sammy, to the waitress at the coffee shop. I am formally ditching the “Don’t talk to strangers” fear mongering and instead instilling the “Listen to your Inner Wisdom about who to talk to” guidance.  Why would I want to dampen her spirit when she does things like run up to a bunch of ducks and squeal, “Hi ducks! It’s me; Annabella!”?  I think we can all take a cue from her assumption that people are good, the Universe is friendly and we are all wanted.

·        Try New Things with Zest, Glee, and Mindfulness: Watching Annabella learn how to swing on the monkey bars or write a new letter of the alphabet or make a new friend is nothing short of inspiring. She approaches a new skill with the perfect blend of gusto and healthy care. Mindfulness is a really new thing…it used to be that she’d be ready to take a dive off the play structure because she didn’t have any fear at all…not so good for her physical (or spiritual) safety. So I’m relishing the dance of her enthusiasm for new things with her awareness of taking care of herself. How do you approach new things? Do you need to ramp up your zest and glee? Or maybe look a bit more before you leap? Do the dance and risk and learn and grow!

·         When you Fall, Pause, Tell the Truth and Get Back Up: When Bella takes a spill or fails in any way, she takes a moment to just feel. She talks about where she feels wounded and checks out her skinned knee or her hurt feelings. In other words, she tells the truth. After her pause and processing, she then gets right back to life with renewed energy. She’ll dive back into playing, climbing or whatever she feels inspired to engage in next. The recovery time is usually really, really fast because there is a no resistance or harsh self-criticism (which is what my new book slated for release in the fall, Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves; Ditch your Inner Critic and Wake-Up Your Inner Superstar is all about.) As adults, I see how much longer we take to recover because we try to breeze right by the hurt, lie about or try to diminish how we feel and just get on with it. We need to tell the truth like a 3-year old and take a pause to process it. We need to stop resisting and instead ask for what we want and need so we can truly recover. Maybe we could use a hug or a band-aid after all and then we’ll truly be really ready to dive right back in

·         Be Kind to Your Friends & Play Well with Others: Preschool’s main goal at 3 years old is to help children learn social skills so they can play well with others and experience friendship. And I see how much Bella wants to get in there and interact with her classmates and have fun. She’s learning how to take others opinions, desires and feelings into consideration and notice her impact in the world. I mean really what happens when she decides to grab that pair of sparkly red dress up shoes off the other girls’ feet (literally)? She is learning to ask others what they want to do and if they even want to play with her. And, most importantly, she is not taking things so gosh darn personally. So where can you lighten up, be kind, and stop taking things so personally?

·         Squeal with Delight and Dance as Often as Possible: Uh huh. Yes. That’s right. Now go dance, baby!

·         Play is Super, Duper Important: Bella spends at least 75% of her days engaged in some sort of play. Even when she is learning letters and numbers it is done in a playful way. I don’t know when we got the silly idea that play should be last on the list. Or that crayons and paints and play dough are luxuries? Really people we gotta bring play back! Seriously. I know that we are all super busy working and iPhoning and tweeting and making important phone calls and all, but when did we decide to all but eliminate play? What do you do for play these days? When was the last time you swung on a swing or brought out the finger paints? How about a good, ole fashioned coloring book session? Or a game of hide and seek? Get out there and PLAY 15 minutes per day this week and see what happens. Give yourself a recess so you can get your groove back. I double dog dare you!

·         When You’re Scared of the Monsters Under Your Bed, Get Support & Find Your Courage: Bella went through a phase a few months ago where she was terrified to go to sleep in her own bed. After nearly a year of easy bedtime, she got an image of a monster stuck in her imagination and it festered and ballooned out of control. Each night she would sob, her imagination running wild, sure that the monster was going to get her. It was truly heartbreaking for my husband, Rob, and I. We wanted desperately to help her and support her and leaning into her fear was only making matters worse. So we gathered up support tools (sound familiar?) and got to work helping her find her courage and strength within. I did some EFT (Emotion Freedom Technique) with her and it worked wonders. After I tapped with her for the first time and had her tune into her Inner Wisdom, she went to sleep with no tears. It is now part of our nightly ritual to tap out whatever she needs to process from her day. From fights with friends to nighttime fears to tantrums, we tap it all out. She now goes to sleep with a smile on her face.  What are the monsters you’re letting fester right now? A tax bill? Challenge with a co-worker? Weight loss goals that you’re not reaching? What tools can you use to find your inner wisdom, courage and strength? Try my Wake-Up Call 3-step process, EFT or meditation for starters! Maybe you have a tool that you know works wonders and you’re not using it on a daily basis. Sweetie, take that tool out of your back pocket and incorporate it into your daily practice so you stay on track! You deserve it.

·         Hug, Cuddle and say “I Love You” as Often as Possible: This lesson hasn’t changed… thank goodness! Bella still loves a big hug and snuggling up to her loved ones and saying “I love you.” In fact, she often will come up to me and say, “Mama, you are always in my heart.” She’s mirroring back what I’ve been saying to her since she was a little baby and I swoon every time. Who do you hold in your heart at all times? Where can you offer a hug? Go on out there and give it!

Your assignment, if you so choose to accept it, is to chose one of the lessons above that you’ll take on as inspiration for the week and incorporate it in your life.

Leave your comments below and go public on what has inspired you!

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  1. I just love, love, love this article. You really captured the spirit of your precious Annabella, but you also captured what we all have inside of us — that ability to be open, playful, full of joy, and mindful. Thank you so much for writing this, Amy! Hooray!

  2. Amira says:

    Thank you for sharing what we forget to remember. Truly, a happy child is a wise child.

  3. As a writer who has had children’s stories published as my syndicated business column, non-fiction books, and poetry, I see Amy writing a What to Do When… book with some help from her mom. First page, intro–Do you ever think there are monsters in your room and cry and cry instead of going to sleep? She shares what made her scared and what her parents did to help her make the fears go away. Just an idea.

    • Amy Ahlers says:


      Thanks so much…what a huge compliment! I am in the midst of rewrites and edits on my book due out this Fall and can’t imagine another book right now. Whew! 🙂

      Will put this in my “Brilliant Ideas” file for future fodder!

      with love,

  4. Jadaharie says:

    I enjoyed the idea of greeting the world with confidence and caution – listening to inner wisdom. Great.

    I have appreciated the awareness I have gleaned from your generously free offerings on The Inner Mean Girl. I am able to recognize that dismissive, cruel, undercutting voice, and change it to one of reasoned evaluation plus encouragement to continue. I use this helpful tool often. thankyou.

  5. Mj Cabanel says:


    Great article, fabulous noticing and brilliant way to connect us all back to who we really are as opposed to who we are “supposed” to be. The just go out and play bit really got me. Think there must some finger paints around here somewhere. And btw, your Bella is precious and your parenting inspiring.

    Keep up the great writing!

    Warm regards,

  6. Prem says:


    Really enjoyed your article and so appreciated your wisdom in teaching Bella to listen to her inner guidance. My son is 30 now and that is one of the things I knew it was very important to teach him. So many times over his life as he grew, he would tell me how listening to that inner voice really helped him. Just this morning I was speaking to a friend and we both committed to play more and laugh more. So your article was in perfect sychronicity to my asking!
    Many blessings,

  7. Carol says:

    Annabella is SOOOOOOOO lucky to have such a wonderful mommy. I LOVED this piece, and can’t wait to read it YEARLY. Wow – what will she be doing at four? Leading us all to world peace, no doubt! Keep up the great writing and great parenting – the world is a better place because of BOTH.

  8. Linda Stewart says:

    Hi There Amy – You definitely got it, and I have to agree that life lessons from the young ones are sooooo powerful. Such an inspiration for me, and can’t wait to be with my 2 brilliant toddler granddaughters. Will be flying back to Ontario in 3 wks from Costa Rica. I will have an engaging and wonderful play time awaiting me, yipee….thankx for your insights.
    Love and Laughter,
    PS…sending lots of love and light for a successful book launch.

  9. isabella says:

    HI Amy,
    just loved the life lessons above! It struck several cords in my heart.
    I will take recesses with play time, and I will work on finding my inner courage (openend your 3-step process in another window:))
    thank you!

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