5 Ways Grown-Ups Squelch Kids' Creativity

Managing Homework & Expectations

Squelcher #2: Allow Excess Homework

No, you shouldn't flat-out refuse to let your child complete his take-home assignments, but when your evenings are being eaten up by hours of worksheets and studying -- and when your child's frustration level is skyrocketing nightly -- it's okay to put your foot down.

That's what Reider did. "I finally had to say to my son's teacher, 'We value our time as a family.'" The mother of three says that it's necessary to convey to teachers what's reasonable for kids: Not only does it alleviate unnecessary academic stressors (and resulting emotional and physical anguish) for your child, but it also opens up time that your family can spend time learning and creating and playing together.

Squelcher #3: Expect Perfection

It's like the whole color-in-the-lines debate: Do kids need to be taught that art only exists within the boundaries of coloring books? Should they be penalized if their arts and crafts get a little, well, crafty?

"I'd rather look at an auditorium full of first-grade paper turkeys than a room full of beautiful ones done by parents," Reider says. When it comes down to it, grown-ups need to resist the urge to channel kids' interests for them, and make peace with letting them explore. That may mean less-than-stellar paper turkeys, failed basement rock bands, or dashed attempts at learning to knit -- and that's okay. Because even if his passion doesn't pan out as a strong skill, you've shown your child it's crucial to try.

How to discourage "blah" ideas:

  • Let kids make a mess -- a huge one. Curb your instincts to tell them to keep it clean, and give them a confined space they can trash, but later clean up. Talk about what they make or, better yet, throw on some play clothes yourself and join in.
  • Give them tools to get creative with. "Construction paper, crayons, glue sticks, markers, blocks, LEGO bricks," writes Reider and co-author Mary Goulet. "If kids have the right tools they can create all kinds of imaginative sculptures and artwork."

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