Creativity is the art of making something new and original. We can expose our kids to making things from a very early stage and that will boost their self-confidence and their flexibility. The good thing about being creative is that it helps when you need to solve problems. Creative people are better problem solvers, because they are able to take a solution from one area of life and apply it in another area.
Children are in “learning mode” during most of their childhood. They try things, fail and learn and this grows their confidence. We all want to have creative children, so when they are not, before we start with the Genetics mantra (“He’s not a creative child. Some people are born with it and some aren’t”), we should examine our parenting style and how it locks or unlocks this creativity. Yes, there are people who are born with high creative potential, but I tend to think they need to be stimulated enough to actually reach a high level of creativity.
I think parents hold the keys to their children’s creativity. No matter how genetically creative your child is, you can help them be more creative. Your attitude will determine if your children keep trying or label themselves as “not good with those things”, which is worse than not being able to create.
Over the last 25 years, I have worked with thousands of children that talk about their ability to create in a bad way. You might think, “Well, maybe they discovered they were just not very creative”, and I say”
You cannot discover you are just not good at creating. You can only be blocked from discovering that you are.
There are some parenting attitudes that do that to children, lock or unlock their creativity. Children get beliefs about their ability to create from their social agents – mainly parents, family members and teachers. As parents hold most of the influence and spend most of the time with the children in the early years, it is likely that they hold the key to kids’ creativity.
When children draw, paint or sculpt, as their fine motor skills are not very sophisticated and their desire is to make things colorful and fun, there is a 100% chance their creation will not be “realistic”.
Parents who point out that a creation is not realistic block their children’s creativity. If you say things like, “Where have you seen a man with green skin?”, “This doesn’t look like a rabbit” or “Does it make sense to you that the child is bigger than the house?”, you might think you are teaching your kids something about life, but in fact, you are sending them a message that art and creation are only good if they look like real life.
If the great artists thought like you, they would never have created the most wonderful creations of all times. If the great inventors thought like you, we would still be in the Dark Ages with no technology or medicine.
To be creative, you have to come up with something new, something that has never been done or seen.
By being realistic, making everything look like real life, being logical and making sense, we block creativity.
The right way to create
Creativity has no right or wrong way. When my son, Tsoof started playing percussion, he was about 4 years old and played for hours every day. When he was 7, he had a teacher who was so focused on playing “right” that Tsoof stopped playing totally.
It took us a while to realize that playing at home stopped totally. Tsoof is a very creative child. He is 16 years old and dedicates his life to playing and writing music and I still remember the fear I had that his amazing talent would be gone because he hated that teacher and stopped playing for a while.
Children need freedom to experiment, experience and create. When they are under pressure, they cannot think clearly and cannot create at all. It is the same as other areas of life. If they read for fun, they will read a lot, but if they read under pressure “to read the right way”, they will hate reading and stop.
If your child is creating something and you are too focused on the right way of doing it or on the right order of things, you miss the whole point of learning creativity. When your child plays a musical instrument and you tell them they played wrong, you block their creativity.
By thinking there is a right way and correcting your children when they cook, when they sing, when they build, when they play a musical instrument or when they draw, we block creativity.
Talent is genetic
Some parents believe that creativity is genetic and that you are either born with it or you are not. I think this is an invention by people who underestimate their creativity to help them feel better about their inability to be creative.
If you ask any highly creative person, they will tell you their talents would mean nothing if you did not pursue them, if you did not try, struggle, learn and practice.
Some parents think they help their child deal with disappointment when they say, “You can’t expect yourself to be like Dave. He was born with this talent” or “You’re not good at drawing. So what?” It is our role as parents to expose our kids’ creative expressions, in hope that they find what they like and what they are good at. If we keep telling them they must be born with it, they will give up on looking for their creativity at a very early age. When things are hard, they will just say, “I’m not good at these things”, and stop trying.
By talking about creativity as a genetic quality that cannot be developed, we blocks children from trying.
No mistakes allowed
The essence of creativity is the ability to try again and again and to borrow ideas from one area of life for use in another area. To reach success, we need to make lots and lots of mistakes before we come up with something that works.
Think of Thomas Edison. He was very creative and very determined and he could try again and again and again to perfect the light bulb, because he did not think that mistakes were bad things. He thought they were opportunities to learn.
Some parents are very rigid in their parenting style. They make a big fuss out of every “mistake” their children make and create painful associations with mistakes that make their children afraid to try.
If you examine those parents childhood, you will find that they have a painful association with making mistakes themselves and they think they are helping their children avoid this pain by not making mistakes. This is a very vicious cycle that must be stopped.
By associating original creation with the fear of making mistakes, we block creativity.
This is silly
Some parents think that every creation must be serious, practical and useful. But children create for the fun of creating. They do not expect their creations to be displayed in a museum and their inventions are not meant to save the world.
The way you treat their creations will determine your children’s attitude towards being creative. If you think their silly, useless or there is nothing special about them, you are taking the fun out of creating them.
I remember 3-year-old kids at my childcare center not wanting to take their carton car creations home, saying, “Mommy will throw it away and I want to keep it”. Give your children’s creations the respect they deserve if you want them to respect themselves in life as they grow up.
I used to teach the 3-year-olds to sign their names on their creations “just like the greatest artists of all time” to help them respect themselves. If you have creative children and with lots of creations, you can come to an agreement that you take a photo or make a video clip of it before you throw it away “to make room for new creations”.
By talking to kids as if their creations are silly or not serious enough, we block their creativity.
I bet Einstein’s mother never told him his ideas were silly…
Every child can be creative if we help them unlock their creativity. You hold the key, so use it wisely.