Are We Killing Our Children’s Creativity?
Do we kill our children’s creativity and self expression with rules and regulations? Is our insistence that our kids do what they are told teaching them to be automatons?
I’d offer a strong yes to those questions.
Consider this scenario;
Yesterday I’m sitting at home, writing, and my son says; “Mam can I have a Mr. Freeze?”
She mildly loses the plot with him. “No Cian, I told you 20 times already, you’re not getting a Mr. Freeze. It’s 10:30 in the morning, no way, don’t ask me again!”
I thought she was a bit over the top with her response.
However I’ve been in that place before so I understand after 20 something requests for a Mr. Freeze, the question was starting to pull at the threads of my wife’s patients.
We’ve all been there, stressed out from other things and pushed too close to the edge of our patients by our kids.
But what’s the real issue here?
Who has the problem and what is our reaction teaching our kids about how this society we’ve brought them into works?
The Parent’s Role In Children’s Development
There is nothing necessarily unusual about the example above, it happens it most homes between the child and their parents — myself included.
Sometimes we haven’t got the energy to argue, and under the weight of their persistence we give in. We allow them what they ask for just to get some peace.
Other times we just flat out lose it and then there is the predictable fallout; crying upset child and angry parent. Not a good environment to have at home at all.
Despite our blind insistence that we’re doing what’s best for them, the truth is that neither response is the correct one.
Neither response shows our kids how to properly regulate their emotions and behaviour. And in the process we damage their ability to express themselves in a healthy and creative way.
By reinforcing this pattern of behaviour over many years, we condition our children to stay boxed in.
“I won’t ask Man and Dad for that because I know they’ll get angry.”
Their brains are literally wired with this idea that they need to follow the rules or else. They take this idea into adulthood and it influences everything they do.
It’s normal, most parents engage with their child this way. However it doesn’t make it right or proper, nor does it encourage creative or divergent thinking.
Something has to change.
Dealing With The Fear Reaction
If I ask you to let go of the need to control the situation you’ll likely be gripped with a mild fear or anxiety. Cognitively we just cannot grasp the concept of allowing our children freedom to make decisions.
We have developed by our own childhood conditioning, a mild neurosis around the need to control them and their behaviour.
Our entire society is built this way, how could we not be affected by it?
We rationalise our own behaviour by stating;
That’s how we were reared and we didn’t turn out too bad. We got to give our children boundaries or they will have no sense or right and wrong!
A convenient response, one that reinforces our flawed ideas.
Our children are largely a product of their home environment, and absolutely everything we think, say and do influences their development either in a positive or negative way.
So it is our responsibility as parent to examine our own behaviours and ask ourselves if we are really doing the right thing.
How our parents did it, and how we now do it, is not necessarily good for our kids, with most of it merely reinforcing flawed principles of parenting.
The research available around childhood creativity speaks for itself, so give it a read.
I could produce volumes on this subject and will revisit it in the future, but I’ll leave it there for now.
Update: I did exactly the same today with my son. I wasn’t very measured and reacted kneejerk to a situation… some work to be done methinks.
Originally published at larrygmaguire.com on May 28, 2017.
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Howdy, I’m Larry, Writer & Artist. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. I write about art & creativity. When I’m not doing that I write short stories about the ordinary lives of people and the challenges they face. My stuff can be edgy, hard hitting, and sometimes controversial, but never contrived. If that’s your bag you can Sign-up To Sunday Letters Here.