How often do you smash your kid´s creativity?

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The other day I went to a friend´s house that has a kid the same age as Luísa. As we were sitting in the living room, they found some liquid paint and went into the other room. My friend told them not to use it. They disappeared and were too silent for a while. If you ever took care of kids, you know the felling, it´s this peaceful moment followed by a concern about what they can be damaging in silence. So I went there to check.

They were painting a helmet with the paint. The paint was all over the floor and their hands and clothes. What did I do? I immediately took them to the bathroom to make them clean the helmet and their selves and told them in an angry tone that the other mom said they were no supposed to use that and that they have o obey the moms at all times.

As we were washing he helmet, Vitor (Luísa´s friend) said: “We were just making the helmet look beautiful”. And that just hit me and I said: “You are right, forget about what the moms said. Painting the helmet  was a great idea!

Hey, come on, wouldn´t you do the same if you were a kid and had paint and a helmet or anything else at hand to color? Would you want your kid not to do these things, not even to consider these things? Well, be aware, if you are a little bit like me, if you get tired of being with your child, constantly cleaning the mess or teaching him to clean, or making sure the house and your stuff don´t get too damaged by their games, than you might be too strict with them on too many occasions. Strict in a way that might lead you to have a beautiful neat house and an obedient kid that doesn´t mass around so much (or at all).

Ok, I guess it´s just impossible to make a kid not mess around ever, but it´s definitely possible to make that kid do it less and less with time. And as though it may look nice to have the most obedient kid, if you think further, you´ll see that for that kid´s development, this is not of much help. In fact, I believe the more we make them fit into the neat environment we have around us, the more we are killing their freedom to create (to create a mess, to create fun games, to create their own world so necessary to their growth).

How many things do you have available in your house that your kid can´t get close to? (But that he can reach). How many times do you have to fight with your kid not to mess with those things? Wouldn´t it be just more simple to put those things away and sit in peace?

In my house, since I had Luísa, I simply took everything breakable out of sight. My living room is as minimalist as it can get. Besides a couch, a table, some chairs, magazines, toys and instruments, there are not much else to mention here. I put all the books and stuff in the closets in the rooms.

I heard many moms saying that their kids never touched their porcelain over the central table in the living room. And they say it proudly as in how well their kid´s were taught not to touch what they are no supposed to. But I think that what they did was not positive at all. Having a toddler learn so early not to touch what in their view seems like a new toy, might be teaching him not only not to touch those things, but not to be curious enough, not to question their mom at all, not to try what looks amazing (like throwing that little statue you brought from a trip 10 years ago as far as he can).

Just think about the message that is getting to that child besides the “don´t touch the art crafts in the house” (which for them means nothing at all). I don´t mean that everyone has to do like me, have a minimalist home, but definitely realize that teaching them to behave so early might be teaching negative concepts too. Like obey your mom and thus authority no matter how insane it sounds, repress your willing to play when not in the addressed environment (impossible, but hey, what if it´s not impossible to teach this, then it´s really sad), ask for permission to do what looks super normal to you. Just think about an adult feeling like this. It doesn´t  look very nice, right?

When my kids (mine and my friend´s) had the floor, their clothes and bodies all dirty with paint, what good was it to stop them and make them clean before letting them finish their task (make the helmet look much cooler)? Thinking about it after my interruption, I can only get to the conclusion that it would have been much better for them to keep painting for another 20 minutes or so and then clean everything, don´t you agree?

But even if you have a minimalist home like I do, you still get many times when you are repressing your kid too much, when you are making them avoid great fun in order to have a neat home or the walls still white. It´s too hard to be rational and do what´s best for them all the time. What I think we must do is put ourselves in their shoes as much as we can, this way we can let go of so many frustrations and angry moments around them .

After cleaning, fixing and telling the same things over and over again we often feel that we have the right to get tired of everything and simply make them do what we think it´s necessary in order to make us sit and relax for a while. Well, you know what? We don´t have this right. We can´t just sit and forget about the messages we are giving. Just like this. We have to be on top of what we are teaching constantly. We have to be watching not only what they are up to, but especially what we are provoking with our responses to their childish behavior. We can´t expect that they stop acting like children so that we can rest, because they simply won´t.

I know it´s easy to say this and it´s easy to agree with this all. The hard part it´s keeping a diligent work on their education. I know I´ll fail many times and you will too. But the more we are conscious about the importance of our work as educators, the less times we will fall in mistakes.

Life and educating our kids it´s not about perfectionism. Everyone makes mistakes over and over again. But the attitude is to learn from them. So next time I catch my kids playing with what looks amazing from their point of view (and dirty or disgusting in mine), I should breathe deeply and concentrate on what´s really the best thing to do.

Photo Credit

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on August 30, 2010. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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