Setting children up for success

Setting children up for success

Setting children up for - creative success

Image via CC by philipgielen.deviantart.com

3 Ways to Make Space for a Creative Mind

New York Times author Adam Grant wrote last week about the best way for parents to guide a child to a more creative life. He posed that “Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society… What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.”

Image via CC by philipgielen.deviantart.com

Image via CC by philipgielen.deviantart.com

So if your mindful parenting goals center around raising children who become world-changers and you value the creative life, how do you intentionally create space for this element to flourish in your home?   Mind Body Health Associates therapist, Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW, chimes in with a few ideas.

  1. Help children develop a moral code. Grant notes in his article: “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.”
    Parents have the unique role of guiding children toward moral and ethical decisions, and that development will become more meaningful and lasting when it’s not based upon “because this is the rule, that’s why.”
  2. Value discovery. Grant says: “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.”
    Giving children the freedom to explore their own interests, even when it’s outside of your own experiences or knowledge, establishes a sense of autonomy that will endure longer than people-pleasing.
  3. Don’t fear failure. Of course, parents don’t enjoy watching their children lose out, miss out or fall down. Obvious safety precautions excluded, approaching a new challenge with your child with a sense of fear will undermine their confidence. Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, with his wife Mila, in their book Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, “…a steady diet of fearful warnings, such as “Dun’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself!” whenever the child is exploring something can undermine a child’s confidence and instill our fears in her.”  An alternative might be quietly to position ourselves to assist or remove the child if necessary while allowing her to adventure without injecting our own fear into her bold explorations.”

Nurturing the creative mind goes beyond offering a buffet of crayons and clay, but rather by considering the ways in which all of our decisions as parents contribute to a life and home that honors the child’s unique sense of self. When a child grows up in this kind of a conscious environment they are more likely to learn to trust themselves because they have an inner moral code they can rely on to navigate through the fun and challenges of life.


The Mindful Parenting course has been closed. Check back for updates on the next offering of the 6-week exploration led by Holly at Mind Body Health Associates. 

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