Lessons our children can teach us – if we pay attention.
In Part 1 I suggested that young children of five or less, most of whom are in the Innocent archetype – can teach us important lessons about love, forgiveness and being fully present. They certainly can teach us other things, too, especially about creativity. For example, give a child of five some crayons and paper and you know what will happen. The child will draw and scribble happily until the crayons are removed from her fingers. Better still is that the child will be pleased with whatever it is she has drawn and will not doubt that the picture is good. By the age of seven, though, many children are trying to do what they think is ‘good’ by copying photographs, and worse still, some are convinced they’re no good at drawing, and they stop. This sort of self-consciousness is partly the result of being with other children, partly the result of being in school where comparisons are inevitable. Of course, it’s a necessary part of socialization, yet it also reflects the shift away from the spontaneous creativity of the Innocent who has now become much more conscious of what is ‘proper’ and is therefore acting like the Orphan archetype, wishing to fit in with expectations.
The important thing here is balance. We all have to be socialized, and our children have to learn certain basic rules about what is acceptable; but the challenge is to make sure during this transition that the child does not lose the creative spontaneity she once possessed in abundance. How can this be managed? One way, I’d suggest, is to take the time to draw and play alongside the child, following what she does. If she wants to scribble, then try scribbling too. Detach from the idea of a ‘product’ that is supposed to be something or look like something. The child will get more than enough of that sort of thing at school. Your job, as a parent, is to encourage the child to be creative in the safety of her own space. That way she’ll retain that exuberant sense of the Innocent and yet she won’t be uncontrolled in her entire life. It’s not an either/or situation, after all. The interesting part of this is that the child will get the idea that school is great but that it has some limitations, and that home, the private sphere of imagination, is safe and that it’s perfectly alright for creativity to exist in this more private realm. For creativity is rarely a public event. It happens inside the mind, in a quiet, accepting space. As an adult, by drawing with your child, by messing up what you draw and even throwing away your pictures if you don’t like them, you are signaling some important things to your child. The first is that it’s OK to make a mess in exploring. The second is that not every attempt is successful right away. The third is that the adult is not necessarily better at this than the child. And the fourth is that there will always be more creativity that will flow from the child’s brain. It’s not rationed. So feel free to throw away that picture, because creativity does not attach to results but to process.
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