Shady Oak believes in preparing children for adulthood by building on “6 Pillars”: Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and [Capable] Problem Solving. From late February through March this year, our blog is exploring each Pillar in practical detail.
A generation ago, it was common to meet parents with the attitude, “I don’t want to rein in my child: it might stifle his creativity.” Which, more often than not, produced children who were all too good at creating chaos—partly through desperate searches for some sort of boundary. Only people who understand the old rules, and the reasons behind them, are equipped to bring in constructive new ideas.
Here are some hints for finding creativity’s golden mean between dictatorially keeping your children in line, and abandoning them to a make-your-own-rules-from-scratch setting.
Let Them Talk and Ask Questions
Impatience, pride, and preoccupation tempt parents to answer children with,
- “Will you quit interrupting me?”
- “It’s the way we’ve always done it, and it’s the way you’re going to do it.”
- “Stop asking such ridiculous questions.”
In any phrasing, it gets across the idea that authority should never be questioned, and new ideas are a nuisance. It may keep things efficient, but it does little for creativity.
Fill Their Days With Choice Opportunities
Start them early on decision-making with simple A-or-B questions: “Would you like your egg scrambled or poached? Would you rather go to the park or the library?” Whenever possible, allow them some input—and the accompanying privilege of thinking for themselves, even of implementing “crazy” ideas. Seriously, how much harm can mismatched socks or a cottage-cheese-and-peanut-butter sandwich do anyone?
Nothing stifles creativity—or courage or self-confidence—like a parent who is terrified of every possible bruise. And constantly screaming, “You’ll get hurt!” is an invitation to self-fulfilling prophecy. Give your kids permission to run and play hard, and remember that young bones are flexible and childhood tumbles are almost never ICU cases.
Give Them a Chance to Experience Boredom
Trying to solve your kids’ “nothing to do” problems only guarantees they’ll develop the habit of expecting you to furnish constant entertainment. Give them space and permission to invent their own fun (if faced with a stubborn whiner, excuse yourself and let them exercise their brains in private). And definitely don’t overload kids with organized activities until they barely have room to breathe.
Watch Those Perfectionism Tendencies
Where any score under 100 is considered shameful, creativity is crushed under the fear of falling short. If your child is proud of an achievement, you be proud of it. If a best effort doesn’t produce hoped-for results, congratulate them for getting as far as they did—and for having the courage to try.
Promote Good Health
Teach your kids (by instruction and example) that staying healthy is all-around rewarding. Taking care of the body is an essential step toward generating the energy that powers brain and imagination!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!