If Einstein had been born today, would he have been thought of as a great thinker? Or would he have been seen as a distracted, illiterate troublemaker? I would like to believe that he would still be thought of as a genius, but I truly believe he would not. It seems that in our attempts at providing an equal education for all, we have actually made things worse for our modern-day Einsteins. This is why as parents, we need to work hard to stop educating the creativity out our children.
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The standardized testing that was intended to ensure education equality has actually made the divide deeper. For students who can hear a lecture, read a book and ace the test, school is a wonderful place. Sadly, this is not always true for our kids who see the world differently. These students, the ones that use their bodies, seek creative outlets, are loud and ask endless questions, may actually find school to be an unsafe place.
How do we ensure that our children don’t lose their individuality and creativity? We find ways to foster it instead.
Provide Better Praise
As parents, we find such pride when our children succeed, and praise just comes naturally in these moments. But, what about the moments when our children struggle? Are we as good at finding praise in these moments? Maybe not, but we should be. Its in these moments, our kids need praise the most. Luckily, it is also in these moments that there is even more to praise.
Rather than waiting until the successes happen to tell our kids how proud we are, we can praise the efforts they are making as they try. We can say things like, “I can see the thought you put into that,” or “I am proud of how hard you are practicing.” These actually come off as much more genuine than simply saying, “Good job.”
When we identify what we are actually proud of, it shows our kids we are paying attention. General or vague praise can appear superficial and lose its intended meaning. Being specific with our praise shows that it is not just the finished product we are proud of. We are also proud of our child, and the time and energy he or she put into being successful. By changing up how we give our children praise, our children become more motivated, and in turn more successful.
Ask Better Questions
Have you ever watched as your child was drawing a picture and asked, “What are you drawing?” I am pretty sure we have all made this mistake at one point or another. Some of you might even be asking yourself why that question is a mistake. Well, it is a mistake, because that one very simple question brutally squashes creativity. Why? Because it suddenly makes our children believe that what they are creating actually has to be something.
What did Jackson Pollock actually create? Art. Just plain and simple – he created art. And by the way, have you ever seen another human being as Picasso created them in his artwork? Of course you haven’t. What if while Pollock was drizzling paint across his canvas his mom or dad walked in and asked him what he was creating? I am not sure he could have answered that question, and he was an adult when he began creating is masterpieces. How much more difficult is it for our children to answer this question?
A better question to ask would be, “Can you tell me about your drawing?” First off, this question allows the child to tell you “no.” They may not even know what they are creating, and that is perfectly okay. Second, it allows the child to talk about what he or she is making without the constraints of it being something in the natural.
A wise person once said, “Art doesn’t have to be anything.” When we define what our kids are creating, we put limits on their creative abilities. Believe me, there are enough limits and standards put on our kids at school, we don’t need to limit their creativity at home. Give them the freedom at home to be creative without limits.
Failure Is An Option
I have some big news for you. Your child is going to fail and fail again! Yep, you knew that already, but sometimes we need a reminder. As parents, we can get so caught up in the day-to-day stresses, that we forget that our kids are still learning. They are actually learning a whole lot, like all the time. What comes with learning? Failure!
If we plan for these failures, we are inevitably going to be better parents. Parents who are prepared for mistakes are calmer, and this translates into more peaceful parenting. Children feed off of our reactions, and so we have to be very careful when our kids make mistakes. If we react poorly, our kids can begin to fear failure, or worse believe they are incapable, stupid, and not valued. If we treat mistakes as a part of the learning process, and teach our children how to handle their mistakes, they will begin to see that failure is not a green-eyed monster. In fact, failure has its place just like success.
Failure is necessary…
I would argue that to be truly successful, we need failure. Have you ever watched a toddler that really wants to get at a particular toy that is just out of reach? They will try an endless combination of objects to help them access the toy. They don’t get worried if the first several attempts fail, because they know that they will eventually get their goal. Toddlers seem to instinctively know that failure is a good thing. It teaches us, and provides us with the necessary information to eventually be successful.
Unfortunately, our friendship with failure seems to be educated out of us as we grow up. We are a society that measures and quantifies everything. In fact, from our earliest moments people are measuring us, counting our toes and comparing us to other family members. It is only natural for us to develop an avoidance for failure. As parents, we need to provide safe havens for failure, because the world is already working against us. We need to teach our kids that failure doesn’t equal failure, it equals learning.
As I mentioned, from birth we are being compared by some metric or another. Every single well-child visit we are told what percentile our child is in for height and weight. And we wonder why parents begin to compare their children to others. We begin this ritual at birth, and we continue it at play-dates and mommy and me groups. We hear statements that begin with “my child is,” and we begin to worry because our child isn’t Suddenly we are panicked and sitting in a pediatrician’s office.
Now I am not suggesting that you ignore your child’s needs, but do we have to stress over every milestone that our child is supposed to hit? If we do this, we can forget to enjoy our children for who and where they are. And, remember, they feed off of us. If we are constantly comparing them to others, they will inevitably pick up on this and begin the comparisons too.
They measure themselves enough…
This is when we have eight year old kiddos who are too afraid to raise their hands in class for fear they won’t measure up to their peers. They start to wonder if their thinking will be accepted, and they may even shut down their creative thinking to fit into the social norms.
Our kids will meet with standards and limits their whole lives, so let’s make sure that when they are at home, they can just be themselves with zero comparisons. If we value our children for who they are, and not where they fall on an arbitrary grading scale, they will begin to value themselves too.
Give Your Child Some Room
If your child has the confidence to discover who he or she is, give him the space to do just that. I realize that Rosanne has been under scrutiny lately, but there is one thing that this show has done well. It has shown what it looks like when parents step back and let their kids be who they are and express themselves the way they feel most comfortable. When Darlene’s son wants to dress more feminine, it is fully accepted as it should be.
All of my boys wanted to wear make up like mom when they were little, so we put make up on them. Guess what! Not one of them wears it now. They discovered that wasn’t who they are. What is the harm in letting our kids explore and learn and be creative? Maybe Darlene’s son will become a great fashion designer and wow Paris with his unique line. I can guarantee that if this is squashed out of him by family or society, we will never know.
Discover who they really are…
Jay Leno spaaks about what a “trouble-maker” he was as a child. He also likes to talk about a teacher that looked at him for what he was – creative. She told him to write down his jokes and stories, and that is what he did. I wonder were Leno would be today if this teacher had only seen his dyslexia, and had overlooked the creativity that went with it. So often the disability comes with other unique abilities. If we work to foster these abilities and focus on them, the disabilities become smaller.
Quite often our kids see these abilities early on and spend time developing them naturally. If we give our kids some room to develop their abilities in a safe space, we just might be surprised by what they can do.
As parents, it can be easy to compare our kids so much that we actually stunt their creativity. We need to stop educating the creativity out our children and let them become who they were always meant to be.