December 15 2016

Secrets on How to Raise a Creative Child

Back in January, Adam Grant wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times Opinion section about how to raise a creative child. Interestingly, it was one of the NYT’s most engaging pieces on Facebook this year. I just read through the article and thought it had a lot of great points.

Sam and I raise Parker and Logan with a lot of rules. Don’t hit each other, no soda, iPad time only certain times of day. Yes, the kids break them but we try our best to enforce our rules. I never quite thought of teaching them “values” instead. Here’s what I mean.

“The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.

“Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart. By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves. They tended to ‘place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,’ the Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.

“Even then, though, parents didn’t shove their values down their children’s throats. When psychologists compared America’s most creative architects with a group of highly skilled but unoriginal peers, there was something unique about the parents of the creative architects: ‘Emphasis was placed on the development of one’s own ethical code.'”

Now, how do we teach our kids to be creative? That’s a question I often ponder. In this highly competitive world, how do you get your kids to succeed?

Heres’s the general answer:

“Yes, parents encouraged their children to pursue excellence and success — but they also encouraged them to find ‘joy in work.’ Their children had freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests. And that set them up to flourish as creative adults.

“When the psychologist Benjamin Bloom led a study of the early roots of world-class musicians, artists, athletes and scientists, he learned that their parents didn’t dream of raising superstar kids. They weren’t drill sergeants or slave drivers. They responded to the intrinsic motivation of their children. When their children showed interest and enthusiasm in a skill, the parents supported them.

Instead of pushing Parker and Logan into certain sports or interests, I need to follow their lead and then support them.

I love the last paragraph in the article:

“Hear that, Tiger Moms and Lombardi Dads? You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours.”

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