News Herald – Juliann Talkington
U.S. children are less creative than they were 30 years ago. Many people attribute this decline in inventiveness to over-scheduling of organized activities and emphasis on high-stakes testing and rote learning. These factors may be part of the reason children are unimaginative, but minimal exposure to “failure” and limited life experiences also keep U.S. kids from reaching their full creative potential.
To create, a person must be comfortable “failing” because “trial and error” is part of the innovative process. Many U.S. children are uncomfortable with “failure” because they have little exposure to it. In many cases, well-intentioned parents shield their kids from life’s tough lessons, because it is easier to solve problems for their children than to spend the time and energy necessary to help their children learn how to solve problems on their own.
Among other things, parents negotiate with coaches to get their children places on the best teams rather than encouraging their kids to work hard and talk with the coaches themselves. Parents talk with principals to negotiate grades rather than forcing their children to take responsibility for their performance. Too frequently, parents complain about “bullying” when another kid says something unkind on the playground rather than teaching their children how to overcome negativity.
As a result, the first thing parents need to do is set expectations and let their children learn by doing. This requires letting go and being available to coach as their children work to recover from life’s setbacks. Through this process children learn that there are consequences to actions, “failure” is a part of life, and success requires perseverance. Specifically, when things don’t work perfectly the first time, one can make adjustments until “failure” becomes “success”.
Another problem is parents are so worried about safety, that kids are isolated. This means children often lack the exposure required to come up with innovative solutions to a problem. Parents can easily address this issue by encouraging their children to take on activities outside of their peer group. Simple undertakings like participating in discussions with adults, welcoming a foreign exchange student, attending a history lecture, teaching a class, volunteering at the hospital, or working on a special project for a politician, all help broaden exposure.
Once children know how to recover from “failure” and have a broad understanding of how the world works, they should have the skills and the self-confidence to innovate.