Creativity is key in helping kids flourish

     This is the sixth in a series of articles from the Center for Creative Solutions, which is celebrating innovation and creativity by featuring “thought leaders” from throughout time.
     The article below was written by Keri Marrs Barrón, a creativity facilitator and trainer, director of the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County and volunteer with the American Cancer Society and Habitat for Humanity.

Keri Marrs Barron

     A day. What a difference it can make.
     In 2011, I attended the Fall Innovation Forum, sponsored annually by the Center for Creative Solutions. The speaker, Dr. Roger Firestien, an international creativity expert and Buffalo State College (BSC) professor, spoke about creativity and children. He said research shows children’s creativity dramatically decreases at the fourth and seventh grade levels as they start to conform to society’s ‘norms.’
     This fact stunned me. It changed my life – and how I parented my son and daughter. Up to that point, my parenting style mirrored my parents’. They firmly believed in rules, order and the consequences of one’s actions.
     My parent’s logic went like this: “If you don’t get an A in every subject, you won’t be smart. If you don’t do your homework, you won’t go to college. If you don’t learn to do chores, you won’t learn to work. If you don’t know how to work, you won’t be able to get a job. And, God forbid, you are not living with me as an adult!”
     While this viewpoint has merit, in and of itself, it no longer prepares today’s children to become tomorrow’s successful adults. Allow me to explain.
     After Dr. Firestien’s talk, I went on to earn a master’s degree at the International Center for Studies in Creativity where he taught. While there, I learned that business and other world leaders agree that future workers like my children must be able to solve complex problems – ones we cannot imagine today. In other words, if I wanted my children to succeed, I needed to help them think creatively.
     Here are several tips I discovered – ones that have changed my parenting, my children and me:
     • Try something new. For example, I always said I was a horrible painter. One day I was encouraged to paint so I grabbed a brush and painted a small corner on the wall. You know what? It looked great. Why did I always think I hated painting? Maybe my creativity was stifled at an earlier age by a teacher or a parent who despised painting. So you see, when I learned to try new things, I changed. Now, whether I fail or succeed doing something different, I laugh, learn and continue making progress. And guess what? My children have started doing the same.
     • Teach your children that it is okay to make ‘mistakes.’ When you error, you learn what does not work. Then, you keep trying until you solve the problem.
America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison, spoke often of his ‘failures.’ On his way to discovering the light bulb, he once remarked: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

     Today, I encourage my children to learn and do their best rather than strive for a grade. Creativity taught me to embrace my failings as well.

• Learn and encourage your children to learn. Take advantage of youtube, your online library. I recently learned how to change a part on my dishwasher without being a plumber. It boosted my confidence and motivated me to learn other things. Finally, encourage your children to sharpen their skills by doing things they love – whether it be building robots, making videos, playing a guitar, coding, swimming and much more.

     There are so many other ways you can encourage your children’s creativity. Remember, if you do not, you are killing their creativity, drive, motivation and ability to succeed in this 21st Century creative economy.

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