Parents sitting next to a child, playing on their phones

Childlike vs. Childish Thinking: What Are the Pros and Cons of Thinking “Like a Child?”

Becoming more mindful is a lifelong adventure. There are always more profound ways to connect with yourself, like understanding your inner child. Learning the difference between being childlike and being childish is crucial to finding peace in childlike thinking. Once you can tell those two things apart, you’ll experience the benefits of thinking like a child as part of your mindfulness practices.

What Is Childish Thinking?

Young kids don’t have the maturity to think like a grownup. They act based on automatic emotional reactions and physical needs like hunger cues. It might mean they find intense joy in tiny things, such as finding a caterpillar in the backyard. Childish thinking also fosters emotional explosions, impulsivity, blaming and a need for constant attention.

Retaining childish thinking throughout your life may also keep your emotional maturity from developing. It doesn’t create room for emotional complexities like another person’s perspectives, feelings or needs. However, adults need improved emotional maturity to foster their psychological well-being.

What Is Childlike Thinking?

Childlike thinking is taking the positive aspects of a young person’s perspective to increase your daily joy. It might mean trying not to overthink things, not being afraid to ask for help or looking for ways to have more fun wherever you go.

The benefits of thinking like a child complement anyone trying to live more mindfully. It requires being in touch with your needs and emphasizing strategies that boost your happiness. Adults easily get overwhelmed with responsibilities. Childlike thinking engages your senses, monitors your emotions and creates more joy by embracing each moment’s full potential.

Pros and Cons of Thinking Like a Child

If you’re interested in thinking like a child to improve your mindfulness journey, read about the pros and cons of this fascinating perspective. You’ll understand how it could help your quality of life and which pitfalls to avoid as your inner child becomes more prominent.

Pro: You’ll Create New Definitions of Joy

Kids look for fun in everything. They imagine grocery carts as race cars and create imaginary friends when they feel lonely. One of the many benefits of thinking like a child is opening your mind to finding new ways of having fun.

Instead of limiting yourself to adult activities like going out with friends, you might explore playful activities like recreational sports or group hobbies. Trying different versions of playtime in adulthood improves your socialization, which decreases your risk of psychological conditions like depression.

You might also find an undiscovered passion for specific hobbies. Maybe you want to follow the spark of joy you feel when seeing birds, which turns you into a birdwatcher. You’ll enrich your life by finding happiness anywhere with the perspective of childlike wonder.

Con: Childlike and Childish Thinking Seem Similar to Many People

People might not understand what you’re trying to do when you explain your purposeful childlike thinking process. They may even judge you for it. Trying something new is much more challenging if the people in your life don’t understand your commitment. Give them time to see how this approach to mindful daily experience improves your quality of life.

Pro: You’ll Embrace Living in the Moment

Young kids don’t have a reason to plan very far into the future. They might imagine what they’ll do after school, but otherwise, childhood is all about living in the moment. Mindfulness works the same way. Merging the two perspectives may revolutionize your mindful approach to your daily life.

Think about what it means for a child to feel happy. They can feel happy almost anywhere, given the right conditions. If they’re on the school playground and their kickball pops, young kids might imagine their arms as airplane wings and race each other around the field. 

Adults lose this ability when they feel driven to always achieve things, gain more wealth or purchase the latest clothes. Childlike thinking means being content in each moment, as much as you possibly can. It might begin with letting yourself relax so your creativity can take over. Practicing contentment daily will make it feel more instinctive with time.

Con: It Might Accidentally Start Unhealthy Habits

Your sense of childlike awe at a box of mac and cheese doesn’t mean you should eat that mac and cheese for every meal. There’s a difference between indulging your inner child and taking your childlike thinking too far. 

Use your adult skills to find the best balance for yourself. Instead of living your kindergarten dream of watching TV all day, you might give yourself an extra hour of TV time before bed. Your ten-year-old self might have wanted to spend all your money on toys, but now you’re old enough to stay within your spending limits while occasionally making more fun purchases.

The difference between being childlike and being childish is remaining responsible in situations like these. Indulging in the occasional childhood dream can be healthy if you also take care of yourself and maintain your responsibilities.

Pro: You’ll Foster More Empathy

Kids are curious about almost everything. They have so much to learn, which is partially what fuels their sense of awe. If you’re becoming more curious in your pursuit of childlike thinking, you won’t just become more mindful of the wonders around you.

Curiosity also increases a person’s empathy by putting them into another person’s perspective. Empathy helps people make better social connections and deeper relationships. Experts estimate that 20% of the global population is highly sensitive, so they naturally have more empathy without trying. Childlike thinking helps people with less sensitive nervous systems foster the same empathic abilities.

Con: It Might Feel Uncomfortable at First

If you’ve spent adulthood outrunning your childhood or feel embarrassed by your younger self, childlike thought patterns might feel uncomfortable. Letting your inner child inspire some of your adult decisions or experiences is the opposite of trying to grow up as fast as possible. Talk with a therapist if your discomfort feels unmanageable. They can help you work through potential things blocking you from enjoying a childlike approach to your mindful lifestyle.

Add Childlike Wonder to Your Life

Once people learn the difference between being childlike and being childish, childlike thinking becomes much more appealing. See if you experience these benefits by practicing things like curiosity, empathy, a sense of awe and contentment. They make it easier to embrace every moment, leading to more fulfilling mindful lifestyles.

This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.

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