“The thing that makes a creative person is to be creative and that is all there is to it.” —Edward Albee
Most children are identified as gifted primarily because of their traditional intellectual abilities. However, the business-as-usual system for identifying and developing giftedness according to academic performance can stunt the creativity of these children.
Because of their traditional intellectual abilities, gifted children start off with an edge. Parents can help them maintain it by encouraging them to develop a creative attitude toward life. For gifted children, being creative is largely a decision. Here are five things you can do right away:
- Encourage your child to question rather than merely accept assumptions. Why should children go to school? Why do we say “hello” when we answer the phone? Why does the United States have an electoral college? Why does the public pay so much attention to the lives of actors and athletes and so little to those of distinguished scientists and classical musicians? Should any of these practices be changed? Why? How? By encouraging your child to ask questions, you encourage him or her to be creative.
- Encourage sensible intellectual risk taking. Schools often discourage this habit, so children may become fixated on pleasing their teachers. But creative individuals commonly produce ideas that defy norms or that others find strange. Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Van Gogh, Monet, Beethoven, Dostoyevsky, and other highly creative people were willing to take intellectual risks. Your child needs to learn to do so, too.
- Encourage perseverance. Creative individuals often face opposition from people who are comfortable with the status quo. Creative people not only generate novel ideas; they often have to fight for them. Teach your child to stand up for his or her ideas and not to expect others just to accept them.
- Emphasize that developing creativity is a lifelong endeavor. Children and adults must be encouraged constantly to think creatively so they don’t become complacent and stop growing. Help your child realize that deciding to be creative means setting off on an endless journey.
- Model and reward creativity. Sometimes parents and teachers encourage creativity in children but fail to reward it. Bear in mind that rewards provide incentive.
- Don’t wait for next week, or even for tomorrow, to start developing your child’s creativity. You can start at the best of all possible times—right now.
—Robert J. Sternberg, Ph.D.
Robert J. Sternberg is professor at the Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise at Yale University.
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