Cultivating Creativity

May 22, 2009


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.

Namaste, Bruce

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

bambooforestfilms May 22, 2009 at 9:54 am

I’m not a parent but this is interesting insight for an aunt. My nieces and nephews like to show me their artwork. Thanks for sharing (and apologies for the incomplete post earlier; hit the submit button by mistake).


A. N. May 22, 2009 at 10:40 am

You words painted the meaning of my recent dream with 3 birds for me, thank you Bruce.
I cheer to that sacred place between us all that doesn’t explain, but “pulses” with life and love in celebration of mystery!


chris white October 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm

very beautifully said Bruce! I really like this article, particularly the word choices – “Perhaps then this very day, with all its joys and woes, will rise up to meet us as a piercing work of staggering beauty.”


KATE July 25, 2014 at 8:55 am

Hi there Bruce! This is really mind opening for me. My 5 year old daughter really loves to draw and she always draw things that makes her happy. I always appreciate every drawing that she makes and every star that she gets in school for a good art work. Now Ive realized that it is not just about the drawing, but it is about the art that she has in her heart. Recently, she has a drawing of us with a house. Im on the side of the tree and she is on the side of the big castle with my present partner. Shes a product of my teenage year. So what do you think this means?


Bruce July 25, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Hi Kate,

You can ask your kid more about the drawing and see what she says about it. Maybe invite her to tell you a story about what happens next, or what happened just before this moment in the picture. The love is in being interested more than in interpreting the “meaning.”

That said, maybe the castle represents the “big Self,” that can hold everybody. Tree could be a symbol of soul or spirit and she has you next to the tree, as you are the “tree” she didn’t fall very far from, the source of her and much loved.

The fact she puts your man and her acting father next to herself is just the way many 5 year olds put it. She is the princess and she has the love of the king and mom is over on the other side of the picture (where she probably feels, naturally, when she has to be the little girl and you and your man are the king and queen).

The art of this developmental stage is for her to try, in her imagination, to “win” the king, but then fail to get him to be anything other than loving dad. Then she “loses” this battle and eventually grows up, many many years from now (long after her teen years, thanks to the good teaching of her happy mom) to have a man of her own and become queen of her castle, not a big house but a happy heart.

All Best


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