The loss of creativity is not a result of aging nor of wearing, but rather of squelching. Over time, children are told in a thousand and one verbal and nonverbal ways that their creativity is not acceptable.
Several familiar comments come to mind: “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Translation: “It’s not okay to be yourself;” Can’t you color between the lines?” Translation: “Accuracy is more important than creativity;” “You certainly messed that project up.” Translation: “Why try. Others will only see my mistakes.” “Stick to arithmetic and spelling, that’s more important than wasting your time drawing.” Translation: “Technical skill is more important than creative skill;” “You’re such a dreamer. Get your feet back on the ground.” Translation: “It’s not okay to dream;” “Why can’t you be like everybody else?” Translation: “It’s not okay to be different;” “Sit down, shut up and listen.” Translation: “You’re inferior and I know what’s best.” “Just give the teacher what she wants.” Translation: “Don’t risk being imaginative.”
I’ll stop short of the thousand and one examples. All of these statements have a common theme. There is an undeniable message that it is not okay to be yourself. This message is enforced (sometimes physically, but always emotionally) with control. Control squelches, inhibits, destroys, wrecks, ruins and assassinates creativity.
Without a doubt, control is creativity’s worst enemy. Control tells the child again and again in no uncertain terms that it’s not okay to be yourself, that you are inadequate, that your judgement is poor, that you have no sense of your own.
Creativity is enhanced in an environment where the child feels the freedom to create without fear of criticism or ridicule. Creativity demands a genuine appreciation of the uniqueness and specialness of each child.
Creativity recognizes that each of us have gifts and talents to contribute. Creativity is enhanced by parents who provide whatever is necessary to assist the child in discovering and developing his particular talent.
Helping your child discover his own particular creative gifts has many, many rewards. By doing so, you enhance the self-esteem of the child as he expresses himself. With confidence, the child feels the freedom to develop his unique gifts.
Such a child has a much better chance of growing into adulthood knowing that his creative flair will not only serve to enhance his personal enjoyment of life, but also possibly provide significant and worthy contributions.
Regardless of what is contributed, creative children produce adults who have the courage to risk greater challenges in life. Unstopped by the watching eyes of those who are waiting to pounce with criticism, they make their unique contributions, thus enhancing the quality of life for all of us.