Tuesday, July 13, 2010
“Be strong and courageous…” –Joshua 1:9
Kids like to dream. Before the logic of the teenage years contaminates their thinking, children live in a wonderful, creative fantasy world of made up friends and animals. I remember my kids wanting to be a different character every day with the costumes and outfits.
More and more, research is confirming that intelligence is closely related to creativity. In many of the tests that measure IQ, the creativity quotient is an important score. Helping foster creativity in kids is an important aspect of parenting. We need to be willing to let our kids and teenagers try crazy things.
I have such great memories of summer time. Growing up in Fort Worth, the summers were hot and dry. But my projects and plans were fresh and new. I had fun building forts in the woods with my buddies and setting up lemonade stands on the street corner to make a few dollars. One summer, I even decided to go to Camp Carter with my buddies. It was a YMCA camp a few miles away, but for me, it felt like I was venturing off into the jungles of the Amazon basin. Looking back, I appreciate that my parents let me attempt all these fun ventures.
Perhaps my greatest summer achievement involved a baby pool and a bunch of rocks. I had read stories about scientist bringing animals into captivity and I was determined to help in the research project. I filled the plastic pool with water, put in rocks and sand and began to fill it with animals from the creek down by the woods. I transported crawdads, minnows, tadpoles, frogs, and fish. You know me, Mr. organized, so I even had a journal listing all the animals and how many of each was in the pool. My parents helped me take care of the miniature water zoo. But as summer came to an end and my interest died, most of the animals died too. I still remember my parents supporting me along the way.
The helicopter parent of today would never allow such experiments to take place. The forts would be pre-made at Lowe’s. The lemonade stand would require a permit and the pool project would be too messy with possible germs and diseases. Kids schedules these days tend to be prepared for them by well-meaning, super-organized parents. But it’s important that we let our kids and teenagers build their own forts and foster their own interests.
Let your child be creative. Yield to the signals your child is sending you to be given space to be creative. Someone asked me the other day, “Joey, should we just take away the cell phones and electronic games from our kids so they will go outside and play?” We parent best when we teach our kids how to live in the world, not take their world away. The key is moderation. We live in an electronic world. Forcing teenagers to be creative stifles creativity. But setting boundaries allows the teen to relax in their world but also nudges them to spend time reading or shooting baskets outside.
Teenagers need to be dreamers and take risks. John Eldredge reminds us in “Wild at Heart” that kids, especially boys, need to be risk takers. It’s all a part of moving from dependence to independence. Often, the best thing we can do as parents is back off. Most parents are too involved in the life of their teenagers (and adults too).
Let your kids dream and play. It may make no sense to you, but you’re giving your child permission to risk and grow. You're letting them cultivate their God-given abilities to create.
Yep, they may get dirty, but the smile on their face will be priceless.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©