My husband and I have a daunting list of virtues and lessons we hope to impart to our one-year-old son and a decent number of personal weaknesses we pray he never inherits (or notices and eventually judges). 

One thing we’ve learned over the last year is that – for better or worse – our little guy is not just a blank slate waiting for our imprint. He’s his own person, complete with characteristics every adult should have. In fact, kids his age share some truly remarkable qualities that surely can’t be learned from such imperfect people as his parents.

Here’s what what a one year old can teach adults about being better humans:

1 | Enjoy the Simple Things

I really don’t know why we bother with toys – not when the boxes in which they arrive are so much fun. 

Don’t even get me started on how exciting it is to open and explore the refrigerator, peek into the microwave, turn on the vacuum, pop bubble wrap, shred fifty tissues, and hide from Daddy behind the curtains. 

Cabinet stress testing is surely done by toddlers who find endless amusement in opening, closing, opening, closing, and opening the doors. 

What about gazing at the wonders of the tress and the sky? There’s just nothing better.

2 | Be Persistent

Is there anyone out there who’s accomplished more in a single year than a one-year-old?  Twelve months ago, my kid was capable of minimal head support, amusingly terrible limb control, zero self-propulsion, and extremely limited communication. 

With unending determination, however, he’s made incredible physical progress while learning how to manipulate a variety of toys, understand facial expressions and vocal tone, comprehend a startling number of words, and even mimic our language. 

Despite facing an unknown and complex world, he remains undaunted and forges ahead learning new skills every day.

3 | Know When to Ask for Help

My little guy will plug away at something over and over until he masters it. However, sometimes – maybe because he’s too little or needs to see a toy manipulated at least once – he really does need help. 

Though he fully intends to tackle the subsequent steps by himself, he can recognize when in the process he needs assistance. Without hesitation then, he points to the object in question and looks at me expectantly, asking for my help. 

He has no shame in asking for aid in something beyond his capabilities, no fear of judgment, and no wasted time hemming and hawing over the situation.

4 | Commit to Doing Your Part

My husband and I have half-joked that our one-year-old believes that nesting plastic cubes and sorting shapes is his job. Our son approaches these tasks with determination and focus, narrowing his big eyes (so that they recede a bit into his chubby cheeks) and working delicately with his chunky fingers. 

To him, stacking and pushing buttons is serious work that we’ve entrusted to him. When Mommy and Daddy hand him a disorganized pile of cubes or a box of animals trapped once again behind their doors, he seems sure that we need his help – and he doesn’t let us down.

5 | Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Want

Little kids generally aren’t shy about speaking up when they want something. 

My son tells me emphatically that he wants to listen to music, trek outside to look in the mailbox, play with his kiddie basketball hoop, read a book , brush his teeth, take a bath, play with his blocks, have some milk . . . you name it. 

He’ll absolutely let us know that he disapproves of the hat we’ve placed on his head and throw in a withering look to boot.

6 | Trust Someone Completely

I can’t count the number of times I’ve offered my kid a new food. 

He’ll look dubiously at the mystery food, gaze questioningly at my encouraging face, and then gamely open his mouth for a bite.  Sometimes the payoff is incredible (pasta!) and sometimes he’ll wind up grabbing for a bottle to rinse away the salty taste of olives. 

In the same way, he’s giddy when Daddy heaves him into the air, never questioning that those same arms will always catch him.

7 | Be Generous

Hands down, my kid’s favorite food in the world is chocolate.

On occasion, we’ll place a handful of chocolate chips on his high chair tray and watch his little face light up. He has no power to increase the number of chips and no knowledge of when he’ll be offered chocolate again. 

Still, with loving excitement, his chubby fingers will inevitably grasp a piece of the coveted chocolate and hold it way up high – offering to place it in Mommy’s or Daddy’s mouth.  That’s love.