Children are amazingly creative. Every day they wave a magic hand and transform the world into a wondrous place full of beauty, excitement and adventure. To a child creativity and imagination come as naturally as breathing.
As adults, our challenge is to nurture a child’s creative impulses so that they endure into the teen and adult years.
This is not hard to accomplish. It’s mostly a question of what you validate. By validate I merely mean “give attention to.”
If you validate certain attitudes and behavior in children, those attitudes and behavior patterns grow stronger and manifest themselves more frequently. Conversely, attitudes and behavior that are ignored (not validated) tend to disappear or diminish.
The trick, of course, is to recognize and validate positive, survival behavior and not to validate negative, non-survival behavior.
On the subject of creativity, this is easily done. “Wow! Just look at that picture! You’re such a good artist! Would you please draw me another?” is a fine example of validating a child’s natural creativity. It breeds enthusiasm to do more and to improve.
Parents who take a few moments to encourage creativity in such a fashion almost always wind up with children that grow into creative teens and adults.
On the other hand, parents who can’t be bothered, who find fault with a child’s efforts or who offer lots of criticism (constructive or not) often stifle a child’s creative impulses. “Oh, is this a house? I couldn’t tell. Now I see. Nice. But, you know, the chimney is in the wrong place. If you would put it over here you would have a much better picture,” is a sure way to dampen enthusiasm.
If you will recall your own childhood, I think you’ll realize that you responded most to the adults in your environment who validated the things you were trying to do and be. Quite possibly there was one person in particular (a parent, teacher, friend of the family, etc.) who had a profound influence on the direction your life took simply because they recognized and validated your talents or efforts in some direction.
You may also recall that the adults with whom you had the most difficulty were the ones who were seemingly blind to your positive qualities or, worse yet, only gave attention to your negative ones. You were probably most badly behaved around adults who regarded you as a “bad” or “unruly” child–another example of validation at work.
Now, as an adult, you have an opportunity to shape and influence the lives of many children. That influence will be positive to the degree that you recognize and validate survival behavior and creativity. A little effort now will pay huge dividends in the future.