If you want to facilitate creativity in your child, focus more on being interested in what they create rather than on praising it.
In a study on creativity in children, kids were asked to do artwork and then professional artists blindly judged the work. The top rated works were then rewarded with prizes. A few months later the teachers asked the kids to do artwork again, and a new panel of judges evaluated the results. What the researchers discovered was that the kids who had been singled out and rewarded for their creativity in round one, now made work judged conventional, rather than creative, in round two.
The implication is that once we are rewarded for our originality, we are at risk for trying to repeat what others liked. At that point we are no longer making art from our soul, but rather trying to guess what others want and please them—the antithesis of true art.
Ask kids about their poems, drawings and inventions. Be curious, draw them out and let yourself feel the beauty and poetry of their unselfconscious process. We can learn much from child-mind, and artists like Picasso and Matisse spent lifetimes working their way back to it.
Parenting itself is an art, a creative endeavor and a process. If we engage in the process of parenting, loving and living, then magic happens. If we try to create “successful” kids like products, we end up with conventional, and often unhappy, results (i.e. grown-ups trapped in jobs they don’t really like, much less love, perhaps feeling like slaves to their expenses).
Art, like parenting, is ultimately about speaking to God, Truth or the great mystery of what just is, across the transoms of our souls. Consider being an artist-as-parent today, an artist who doesn’t write or paint, but rather one who stands back and lets our kids just be. Our poetic interest in them creates a charged space between us, hard to explain, yet pulsing with love, intensity and transcendence. To be great as an artist you must risk being terrible, and as parents we all have our dark moments and dark places.
But as the Germans say, “Keine angst, keine kunst,” (no pain, no art). So in art, and in parenting, we strive to make our suffering productive suffering. One way to do this is by dedicating today, in all its pain and beauty, to our children. Perhaps then this very day, with all its joys and woes, will rise up to meet us as a piercing work of staggering beauty.