8 Gifts Your Creative Child Needs
- 2010 9 Feb
George MacDonald, a 19th-century minister and author, wrote, "There can be no higher calling than to be an instrument of God's continual redemptive engagements with the imagination, and through it the world." God sent your children into your house because He believes you can guide them into maturity. That includes your child's creative, intellectual, and spiritual development, and not one of these dare be neglected. This article presents ways you can foster a creative environment in your home.
Eight Gifts Your Child Needs
Through the years of dealing with creative individuals, I have come to the conclusion that there are eight gifts every child needs—regardless of where he or she may be on the continuum of creative ability—in order to develop the creative potential God has given them. Don't be surprised if your creative child needs more of each than other children.
Gift #1: Confidence
If you believe he can, it will give him greater incentive to try. Help him discover his own limitations. Don't set them for him, and don't demand more than he is able to give. Don't expect more from him than God does.
Gift #2: Opportunities
One of the critical issues in life is determining where you fit and what you can do. For most people, it takes several tries to discover what works best. Your child needs the opportunity to try a variety of things, to make choices. Ability to make good choices comes through experience. Give him a safe environment and the opportunity for mistakes as well as successes.
Gift #3: A Parachute
Failure is never final, even when it seems that way. Disappointments build character. How they are handled will determine whether that character is good or bad. Your unconditional love is the greatest and safest parachute you can provide.
Gift #4: Acceptance
Dandelions may not have the fragrance or beauty of a rose, but they have a beauty all their own. If you reject the gift, you are apt to lose the giver. During my research, a child said to me, "I like blank sheets of paper."
I was intrigued. "Why is that?" I asked.
"Well, a blank sheet of paper will take whatever you give it. Teachers won't do that."
Gift #5: Time
Don't assume, when nothing is happening, that nothing is happening. Remember that neither the preparation stage nor the incubation stage may produce visible results. I recall when a sixth grader asked, "Could we put some time in the schedule to just do nothing?" We are an over-scheduled society. Give him time to ponder, to dream.
Gift #6: Trust
Trust has to be earned. Can he trust you with his most private thoughts? Too often people tell you what they think you want to hear. Children will write what you expect until they can trust you with their thoughts and their ideas. Don't break their trust by unwise and unnecessary disclosures of their personal comments.
Gift #7: Undivided Attention
Multitasking is a parent's basic skill, and it's easy to treat conversing with your child as just one more task. When my daughter was about 2 years old, I was carrying her when we entered the supermarket. As we walked down an aisle, she said, "Daddy, talk to me." This took me by surprise, for we had been chatting ever since we left home. With some irritation in my voice, while continuing to scan the items on the shelf, I replied, "I've been talking with you all the time."
She firmly took my face in her hands and turned it until she could see my eyes. "Now you're talking to me." I quickly recalled God's promise, "I will guide you with my eye."
Gift #8: Praise
The product may not always merit praise, but effort does. Be honest. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Evaluate Yourself to Help Your Child Achieve Creative Potential
As you have discovered, your child, who is more creative than most children, is decidedly different. That's how God made him, and God has given you the opportunity to foster that uniqueness. It's a matter of creating an environment where your child's differentness may be molded so that he will maintain an acceptable balance between conformity and nonconformity.
As you decide what is needed to develop your child's creative potential, you should probably begin with a self-examination or self-evaluation. Assessing your attitude toward creativity will enable you to better understand your creative child. This task may be easier if you substitute the word "change" for "creativity":
Do you initiate change, accept it, or avoid it whenever possible?
Your child may adopt your attitude toward creativity, just as he has adopted your attitudes in many other areas of his life.
How different does it need to be before you will consider it creative?
We tend to think in terms of the large and forget the small. The elephant gets attention because it occupies more space, but the mosquito cannot be ignored when it bites your neck. God created them both, and I doubt He would say one is better than the other. Each has a place in God's kingdom. Blessed is the person who finds his place and fulfills his potential.
Sometimes it's the little changes that annoy us. If the water pipe breaks, we know we need a plumber, but how long will we tolerate a dripping faucet?
Creative people like to think big; they are certain they are the next (fill-in-the-blank)! Big is not always better. Recognition, appreciation, and encouragement of small changes may calm the clamor for the impossible.
In what areas are you most comfortable dealing with change, and how much change can you handle?
Society is not looking for creative automobile drivers. Safety means more than creativity in that context. The question confronting parents of a creative child is, "What limits will you set for his creative interests?" Does your comfort zone include chemistry, animal husbandry, or woodworking as well as writing and the fine arts?
Creativity is often viewed in a very limited manner. When asked to name the most creative people of the 20th century, most adults indicate they have never given it a thought. It is easy to take creativity for granted. After the awkward pause, people will name a very short list, beginning with scientists, artists, musicians, and sometimes authors. When you consider the changes of the last 100 years, that group of creative people seems pretty narrow.
What really bugs you about your child's creativity?
Examining your attitudes toward creativity, the size of the project, and your toleration for change may leave you with unanswered questions. Are you concerned about the mess, the unfinished projects, the space demands, or the expense? Answering these will help in setting boundaries for the family.
Individual differences are easily apparent if you have more than one child. If every child is creative, do you have enough energy to go around? Every child has equal value, but different time demands are not uncommon. It is natural to like people who agree with you and like the same things you do, but you dare not favor the compliant child over the creative child or vice versa. Parental creativity and the wisdom of Solomon will be in great demand as you deal with individual differences.
Understanding your creative interests and limitations will enable you to do a better job of creating an environment where your child's creativity can flourish.
Be on the Lookout!
Your creative child may need you in special ways at different times. Be on the lookout for:
- The time to demonstrate a genuine interest in his creative project. When he wants to talk about it, lay your pencil down and listen. Realistically, you may have to schedule a time when you can give him the kind of attention he needs.
- The time when he really wants your opinion. The creative process is rarely instantaneous, in spite of the Eureka moment. Don't be shocked by the many false starts and restarts. Don't judge the results at every stopping point unless he is a dependent learner who needs reassurance that he is making progress.
- The time when he really is open to or needs suggestions for handling his energy level, his resources, and his timetable. As much as he would like to think the world revolves around his creative project, it does not.
- The time when sibling conflicts demand intervention. The creative child has to cope with peers and they with him. It will foster creativity and improve family relations if family members discover how to offer artful criticism instead of faultfinding. A healthy self-concept is important for everyone.
- The moment when peer evaluation would be helpful. Proverbs 27:17 helps with creativity: "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." It will be refreshing for him to discover that siblings do actually understand what he is trying to do.
- Those rare instances when your creative child asks, "What can I do?" Suggest a realistic and appropriate problem for his energy and talent.
- The times when he needs to grieve over his losses, his failures. Don't ridicule his disappointment or tell him to "grow up." Elijah wasn't the only man in history to have a Juniper tree experience.
- The moment when he is teetering between giving up or fighting on. Be generous with encouragement, but never praise mediocrity or laziness. He knows whether it's good or not and if he has done his best.
- The period of uncertainty about being different. Give him emotional permission to be different and the privilege of trying new things.
Realizing that the ability to create is God's gift, commit to fostering the creative ability of your children. The next task is to create an environment for optimum opportunities.
Develop a Pattern for Creative Activities
Research indicates that many creative individuals in all walks of life have found it helpful to establish a pattern, a mindset for creation. One 18th-century composer wanted rotten apples in the room when he felt the urge to compose. Most idiosyncrasies are not that extreme. Find what works for your budding creator.
A routine or pattern for most creative activity will evolve over a span of months, maybe years. Parents can observe their child's approach to projects. If you can identify his productive periods, the daily schedule should reflect a positive response to them. It is important, whenever possible, to arrange to do creative work during those hours. (Unfortunately, for some that may be impossible. I know individuals who would like to create between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. That doesn't fit into family life very well.)
A warm-up period may be helpful. Just as an athlete may do some warm-up exercises before the game, creators may develop a routine that gets the creative juices flowing more quickly. One writer spent time arranging or rearranging all of the items on his desk before he started writing.
Observe what motivates that start-up moment in your child. Your young designer may not be aware of it. Quietly and without comment, you can help create an environment that encourages him to begin.
It is critical to remember that creating is not an assembly-line process. Ideas don't engage your mind at the same pace every day. Remaining calm when the process is slow will increase productivity. Proverbial writing blocks do eventually get broken.
One gift you can give your creative child is help with organization. Because the flow of ideas is not steady, it would be wise to have an idea notebook. There are times when ideas come rapidly, without any apparent relationship. It may be difficult even to get them written down. Capture as many of them as you can. When your child has the urge to do but can't decide on what, his notebook will be a good source of ideas.
Notes about the circumstances in which an idea strikes can be helpful for recalling easily-forgotten aspects of the concept. If an idea occurs when reading, it might be helpful to mark the passage being read.
"In conclusion" are dangerous words, for there is always more to be said, more to be written. Every day is another opportunity to live, and to live is to be creative. Unfortunately, creativity does not conveniently follow the clock or the calendar. Someone suggested that writers never finish a project. They just have deadlines that require an ending.
Creativity requires introspection, self-examination, and a willingness to take risks. It is always expansive, reaching outward. Enjoy creating an environment where your children—wherever they are on the continuum of creativity—will eagerly strive to maximize their creative efforts. Our world does need some changes!
Dr. Marvin G. Baker did pioneer research in creativity and received his EdD from Ball State University. His doctoral dissertation, Motivation for the Release of Creativity through Creative Writing, was based on 2400 writing samples of sixth grade students.
This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb '10 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Now, get a FREE subscription to the HSE Digital Edition! Visit www.HSEmagazine.com/digital today to get immediate access to the latest edition!