Men are anxious for change if it doesn't affect their own plans.

Let people go hungry; let them fight or even die.

Just don't bother my job or my lands.

(Does Anyone Really Want Peace?)

Creativity bothers us and forces us out of our routines. A lot of other things do too, but creativity is unpredictable, uncertain, and frequently undesired. Change is threatening, and no one likes to be threatened. Each one perceives the change he proposes as a positive improvement and therefore as nonthreatening, but the changes of others are considered disruptive. If change proposed by an adult is scary, when you add a child's inexperience and his creativity, prospects can seem almost life-threatening.

Identifying the Creative Child

Parents have told me, "My ‘different' child concerns me. His unusual approach to routine assignments disturbs my comfort zone, and I spend time trying to understand why that bothers me. Then someone labels him creative, and I wonder what that means. What is creativity?"

Officially, creativity is the process of assimilating previous learning and experiences into a product which differs significantly in form, content, or method of presentation from any previous product. Now that is stuffy! Definitions usually are, because they try to cover the exceptions.

It would not be surprising if sometime you asked, "Who is this child who is disrupting my world, and why is it happening?" To put it simply, he's not behaving like you expected. Because he is acting differently than other kids his age, you wonder if he's normal. So you ask your spouse and circle of friends, "Will he be okay? Is he really learning what he needs to know?"

Of this we can be certain: creative kids have a strong desire to know. And the desire to know is accompanied with an equally strong urge to do—now. Creativity always seems to have a sense of urgency. That's why creative kids often start something without waiting to ask permission. The child's self-confidence and self-directedness, which in some situations would be welcomed, in this circumstance contributes to parental frustration.

Consider this scenario: Directions have been given for completing a specific task. Your creative child may honestly have no desire to disobey, but it's hard to follow directions precisely. He just has a different interpretation of the assignment, and he tries to discern the intent of the lesson. He may sincerely believe he is pursuing the goal you set, yet he is absolutely certain he knows a better way to accomplish it than the way you presented.

How do you cope with his failure to follow the directions—especially when he may have chosen a better way and achieved a greater result? Do you scold him for his stubborn disobedience or applaud him for his creativity?

There is one fairly reliable way to determine if a creative child is being stubborn or creative. Examine the outcome. Creativity always seeks a product, or to produce a change. Stubbornness is energy expended on maintaining the status quo. The creative child will attempt to persuade you that the new or different is acceptable. The stubborn child will resist change and will offer no supporting reasons except, "I don't want to."

At what point do we begin to identify and refer to a child as creative? Individual differences are quickly recognized, but to be considered creative, a child must create a product which differs significantly in form, content, or method of presentation. The difficulty in identifying creative products and creative individuals hinges on the word "significantly." Significantly different is a personal judgment.