Five More Suggestions For Raising Creative Kids
I recently wrote the first five suggestions for raising creative kids.
1. FIX THINGS YOURSELF
According to Clay Christensen, who has done some research on the topic, a common factor he found in creative children in America is that they inevitably had parents who fixed things themselves. When faced with a leaking pipe, they did not immediately call the plumber. Rather, they attempted to fix the pipe themselves. Christensen believes that this action empowers children to feel that they can solve problems themselves which, in turn, creates a creative mind-set.
He also points out, rightly, that when you try to fix something yourself, especially as a non-expert, the repair often does not work the first time. So, you have to try again. He likened this to business innovation where creative ideas also often fail the first time around. Rather than giving up, you need to learn from your mistakes and try again.
Clearly then, as a parent, you need to adopt this habit too. Fortunately, in this day and age, you can find all kinds of information on the web about how to repair broken household items. But do be careful. Electricity, for instance, can be very dangerous. Be sure you know what you are doing and follow safety precautions when attempting any work that involves electricity! Frying yourself on the household mains will do neither you nor your children any good!
2. DON’T CORRECT. ASK WHY
When your children make a mistake, such as using a word incorrectly or use bad manners at the table. Do not immediately correct them. Rather talk about what they have done and ask “why did you do that?” or “Why do you think that?”
For instance, if your daughter picks up a soup bowl and starts noisily slurping her soup (and assuming you are not from an Asian culture where this is considered polite behavior), do not scold her and tell her how to eat soup properly. Rather ask her if she thinks that is an appropriate way to eat soup. If she says “yes”, ask her why. If she says “no”, ask her why she is eating her soup like a monkey.
Very likely she will say that she is in a hurry or very hungry or her friends eat their soup that way at school. Now you have opened yourself up to have a conversation about table manners, enjoying food, respecting others and more.
Moreover, in the case where your daughter tells you this is what her friends are doing at school, you have empowered her to have a similar conversation with her friends.
But most importantly, you have taught your daughter to question things. And this is important for the creative mind.
3. REWARD EFFORT MORE THAN RESULTS
When your daughter comes home from school with an excellent score on her biology test, you will be tempted to reward that score. A far better approach is not to say, “You got 100% on your biology test! That’s wonderful! You are so clever!!” Rather, say “Wow. You worked so hard studying last night and look at the results! That’s magnificent. I am really proud of the effort you made. And see, it paid off!”
The next day when she comes home with a poor mark on her French test, say. “I am not so concerned about that score. I know that yesterday you worked long and hard studying for that test. That is far more important to me than your score on the test. But tell me, why do you think you did poorly? How do you think you can do better next time?”
Creativity and knowledge come from learning, making an effort to understand things and trying various solutions to solve problems. By motivating children to make the effort to learn, to study and to solve problems, you give them valuable skills for life and encourage them to use their minds.
The irony is that when you reward for results, exceptionally bright children suffer. When they are young, they are rewarded for doing very little. But as they grow older and school becomes more challenging, they are not motivated to make the effort to study and learn the material.
4. OPEN-USE TOYS
Many popular toys in recent years seem to offer a very controlled experience to the child. For instance, a LEGO® kit to make a ship basically allows kids to make a ship with it. Most electronic games give kids a precise task to perform. Such toys are not bad, but they are limited.
So be sure also to buy for your children open-use toys, such as LEGO kits with lots of pieces so kids can use their imaginations more. Toys like building blocks, dolls and trucks require imagination to build towers, create realities for the dolls and imagine highways and building sites for trucks. This regular exercise for the imagination keeps it strong!
Better still, you need not limit toys to things you boy in the toyshop. A large cardboard box can provide kids with hours of fun. Long sticks are great—when my boys were younger, I’d encourage them to join me for walks in the woods by reminding them there would be lots of sticks. Paper, pens, crayons and other items around the house can readily become toys to inspire the imagination.
In fairness, I should point out that recent research seems to indicate that electronic games are good for creativity. Most such games involve performing a series of feats in exchange for rewards. Working out how to perform those feats requires trial and error and a bit of creativity. So, if your kids are spending a lot of time on electronic games, don’t worry that they are hampering their creativity. But do worry that they are not getting enough fresh air and exercise!
5. SOLVING RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS
Every marriage goes though rough patches. Most couples argue from time to time and have disagreements. When you and your spouse have an argument near the children, your natural reaction is either to move away from the children or to send the children away. You rightfully worry that your arguments will upset the children.
However, when you do this, you present children with a conflict or a problem and then hide from your children your solving of the problem. Creativity, of course, is about solving problems.
If you start an argument in front of your children it is indeed a good idea to move away from them. But once you have resolved the problem, it is important to talk to the children. “I think you heard mummy and I having an argument about household chores. We went upstairs to talk about it and our feelings. We have tried to understand each other’s feelings and will try to share the household chores more fairly in the future. Most important, we have kissed each other and promised to try and understand the family’s needs better. Because although we argue with each other, we are usually angry about what the other person has said or done and not about the other person.”
You do not need to go into detail of course. The important thing you need to communicate to your children is that when you and your spouse have problems, you collaborate to solve those problems.