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Monday, February 27, 2006

Mind Molding 101: The Death of Creativity

Don’t color outside the lines…the grass is green…the sky is blue…the round peg goes in the round hole. These are the things we teach our children, just as we were taught as children, in an effort to comply with our truth, in adherence to our civilized society teachings. I almost fell for it myself. Thank GOD, I’m a rebel.

That seems a strange statement really, as someone who was always crying about “not fitting in”. I am ALMOST to the point where I can truly embrace my inner-rebel and rejoice that I am not a cookie-cutter mold of a woman. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the cookie-cutter mold of a woman, it just isn’t what God has for me or what I believe he has for ANYONE.

I am so NOT going to define cookie-cutter mold of woman because having no first-hand experience it would all be observation and that lacks true experience, so I’ll leave it where it is; you have your own ideas about it anyway. It’s one of those things that could just get me into trouble for generalizing anyway.

Okay, so back to the subject at hand; creativity and its death. Why is it we feel so compelled to teach children the RIGHT way to color and to play? Is it just ‘spillover’ from teaching them the RIGHT way to act? Are we so concerned, as adults, that our children might be labeled non-conformists that we would rather break that independent, creative streak long before it asserts itself in adult circles.

I taught various levels of preschool while I was finishing college and let me tell you there is a marked difference in the creative outlet from the age of 2, to the age of 7. The 2 year olds are free to explore and invent their universe (within the confines of a space and time continuum of course). They can see, hear, and smell things most adults can’t. I believe they truly have spiritual senses, untainted by the expectations and reality of others. This quality is embraced by teachers and parents…until the child matures.

As the children mature, especially in a preschool environment, constrictions are placed on them with regards to the creative outlet. They are no longer so free to see, hear, and smell things in newness. They are EXPECTED to play “right” to color “right”, to behave “right”. The problem I’ve always had with this is; “who defines right?” Who first decided that the only RIGHT way to color, was in the lines? Who first decided the sky should always be blue, because that is a GOOD day? Who first decided that the round peg must enter the toy from the round hole? I can assure you, these round pegs can sometimes go in through the triangular holes too, not to mention the square holes.

By the time the children were older, and coming to preschool only after elementary school, they were becoming more and more alike in behavior and while it was predictable and ‘safe’ for us as teachers, it also lacked uniqueness and the creative edge we are each born with. The children went from becoming lost in their creative process, to desiring positive feedback for the “RIGHT” way to do things. Thus begins the judgment which sets the tone for our future in education and career experiences.

I am not an early childhood education specialist. I have spent some time reading and studying the subject due to my own self-awareness and my interest in Art Therapy. I do not claim to know the answers for every child. I DO know, however, that each child is truly unique. Each child is created by God, with a unique fingerprint fashioned to glorify the Father in the way He decides. I pray that parents would embrace the unique spirit God places within each of us and help to nurture this creative spirit so that a child learns at an early age: “God didn’t make you to fit in, He made you to stand out.”

This week, as we encounter children, maybe our own, maybe others, try to stop and see their unique fingerprint as God formed. Let them color outside the lines, and sit with them and color outside the lines alongside them. Then work that round peg into a new hole, just because you can!


Karen said...

Love this. Love it love it love it. As a parent of two children who could be considered "testers" rather than "parent pleasers" I am constantly seeking the balance between directing their behavior and not breaking their creative, lively spirits. It's really hard when every mother has a different standard of what is appropriate or acceptable behavior. Parenting is an act of faith, I tell you.

I often try to remind myself of a few phrases from the whimsical song by Steven Curtis Chapman that he wrote for his daughter, "What He's been creating since the first beat of your heart is a living, breathing, priceless work of art . . . I can see the fingerprints of God when I look at you". He's made them these lively, passionate creatures on purpose. Who am I to try to recreate them? Man, it's just hard hard work being a mother.

tam said...

I meant to comment on this here I am now.

This was good. Really good. And I am afraid too true. Even for those of us who try not to do it. We do it. Sometimes we know not when to draw the so called line and make them stay within it. And then we no longer have creativity but beyond chaos. Sometimes we make those lines so tight and close together they cannot possibly adhere and then there's guilt for both and anger for both. Not necessarily in that order.

To tag on to what Karen said, every mother does have a different standard and that can be hard but, in my opinion it can be good too. Our children will see those differences and either (depending on where their mommy is on the scale) have some freedom to do what they normally don't or have some tighter boundaries that they normally don't. Yep, yep, hard, hard work it is. Praise God we have Him. Praise God He uses others to remind us of things we need to remember.