Parenting

How We’re Killing Our Children’s Creativity

What will come of the future dreamers? Where will the artists draw their inspiration, and how will the free-thinkers function? I wonder if the young minds full of hope will be able to spring forth despite the chains that bind them, and if those who dare to push the envelope will even be heard. Will the next generation be able to climb out of the box, or will they be subdued back into the status quo? It makes one ask if innovation can be wrung from a dry towel? Or if creative, yet dry bones can be resurrected? Again, I say, what will come of the future dreamers? Are we killing our children’s creativity?

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I was recently watching my middle child bing-bong back and forth with a happy giggle. It brought back memories of the old Atari game, Pong, and much like the game she bounced to and fro through our living room. At times her intensity and energy were exasperating, and I joked with my husband about it.

“You know,” I mentioned, “if she was in public school they’d probably tell us to medicate her.”

And he agreed, with a laugh. I was only joking, but a part of me imagined there was probably some truth to my statement. I felt bad for public educators. You see, they were forced to take a room full of young children and fit them all into the same mold. So, although each child was an individual with unique learning styles, the constraints of the setting required them to all learn the same.

Let’s say you had a child like my own. High-spirited yet shy. A huge imagination, but not always eager to share it in a large group. She was a tactile learner, meaning she enjoyed hands-on education, and carrying out a task rather than listening to lengthy instructions. She could focus on instruction for short periods, but absorbed them more by doing. She was sensitive, easy to cry, yet also just as easy to laugh.

My daughter liked to move around, hop, dance, and fidget. This wasn’t a bad thing, but in some settings, it might be considered that way. The thing was, she was five, and she was high energy. A lot of children that age are, but they are often treated older than they are. I’m of the opinion that much more is expected out of young children than [20] to [30] years ago. I recall kindergarten as a place where I napped, learned to share, tie my shoes, and go back home by noon. Nowadays, according to public school friends, the hours of instruction are longer, sitting still at a desk, without a nap, and with more focus on an advancing curriculum. If they can’t fit into this mold, they might fall behind in class.

The thing about my girl is that although one moment she might be bouncing off the walls, the next she can be sitting still and transfixed on something that interests her and sparks her imagination. She will sit on the floor for hours at a time drawing, coloring, and creating her “art.” She’s told us for some time that she desires to be an artist when she grows up. So we cultivate her interests, and we often structure her school around her creative appeal, while ensuring she also spends time on her A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s. It works well for her, but I see stories in Mommy groups I’m a part of that make me wonder if it also goes as well for other adventurous and unique young ones out there.

When I see the way the education system is shifting, I wonder if we push too hard in just one direction. The system creates markers that children must hit, with little wiggle room for trying a different approach to hit that mark. Standardized testing, increased homework requirements, and a plentitude of projects that are well above the child’s level of understanding. School years that go year round, and if your child rides a bus, then you may have a 5-year-old with almost as long of a day as I have as a bedside nurse. I see cute little pictures of tiny children asleep in the car after school, or crashed out at the kitchen table. Adorable, yet a little sad to me as we push young boys and girls beyond what their little bodies can handle. We have less recess time, but more work that must be completed at home, when children should be spending quality time with their families. This isn’t the educators’ fault, but rather the powers that be who create the overloaded curriculum requirements. I don’t claim to be an expert on such things, but rather share how it appears from the outside looking in. It looks like kids are overwhelmed and exhausted.

And what of the ones who don’t perform well in this environment? Not everyone has the opportunity or circumstances that can afford them the ability to homeschool or send their children to private school. These poor parents are told to take their unique child and put them in a standardized education box. It’s a place where children who like to move must be still, a place where children who learn well with their hands are told to hit the books harder, to prove themselves with improved test scores. It’s a place where suddenly the diagnosis of ADHD or ADD is heard more often than not, and medicating behavior is the standard treatment. It may be a place where the study of arts is pushed out in favor of increased comprehension of Common Core Math.

We now live in a society where everything is seen. Social media is the worst enemy of raising children. It’s become a place to compare behavior, and parents might feel more forced to make their children fit a certain mold. Free thinking is discouraged, and we worry far too much how others parents raise their own children. What will people think?! Social media serves like a herd mentality, where we are made to believe all our children should act the same, have the same interests, or hit milestones at the same time. People judge their parenting compared to the parenting of their peers, forgetting that each child is different, and as such they force their children to follow a certain status quo.

If your child can’t read at a second-grade level by the end of kindergarten, they’re behind. In fact, a second-grade level is the new kindergarten level. And the fact that there are even levels? Don’t get me started. Who set the bar of achievement? And who in the world is it that keeps raising it year after year? Over the past few years, I’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of worried posts on Facebook from moms concerned about their [6]-year-old not being able to read like the exceptional scholar that’s expected. It hurts my heart. These babies don’t have learning disabilities, nine times out of [10], but rather an inability to bend into the box and achieve this standard set by society today.

It almost seems like we’re rushing our babies along. At 2-months-old we’re putting rice in babies’ bottles so they’ll sleep longer, as all our friends keep asking, “are they sleeping through the night yet?!” We’ll potty train by 18 months, have the ABCs mastered by 24 months, and rush them off to preschool as soon as the diapers come off. They’ll be reading by four and I suppose that’s so they can master an Instagram and YouTube account by seven. Get them out of your bed and out into the world! And as we mourn our empty nest we wonder where the time went, even though we were part of the evil slave master pointing to the clock.

Hurry, hurry. Rush, rush. There’s time for extracurricular activities, but only if they look good on a transcript (or Facebook). Gotta get into the right college. No room for trade school, for sure. In fact, we’ve placed such a high importance on educational excellence that we miss out on even the simplest of things, like being a decent human being.

I just wonder, in all the educational changes over the past [20] years, and with the push to learn faster, where do the dreamers fit in? Where do the free-thinkers or the intuitive, out-of-the-box children fit? Our future artists and creative geniuses, I wonder how they thrive being pushed and pounded into a certain mold? I would imagine the creative juices are siphoned right out, and after being medicated into submission, being told they’re bad, slow, or too hyper, they just submit to the chain-gang. I remember hearing Einstein didn’t perform well in elementary school. I wonder where our world would be had he or Mark Twain been placed on *Adderall?

Now, I know this is a tender subject, and I know it likely won’t be received well, but let’s just think about it for a minute. Why have we become a world that would rather seek a quick fix of medicating our kids over finding out what environment will help them excel in their own way? And I’m not saying that every child with their head in the clouds not listening to the teacher is the next great genius. But who are we to say they’re not? We’re not even giving them a chance before we put a muzzle on them and push them back into the box that this decade has labeled “normal.”

If we’re not rushing children to hurry to the next milestone, appointment, or extracurricular activity, we’re telling them to slow down, pay attention, and focus on the things we deem worthy of time. We’re telling them to learn a certain way, sit still, and get involved, even if they don’t want to. We praise them for good grades, but don’t notice when they pick up the friend who fell.

“Run faster,” we say. “Don’t slow down for anyone!” And when they find themselves unhappy, years down the road, with the race that is called life, they can always find a new medicine to make them feel better for the dreams they were never able to fulfill. I know, I know. It sounds melodramatic. But isn’t it peculiar that the faster we go, and the more we place on ourselves, the more depressed we become? So, why do we keep up the tradition with our offspring?

Well, you ask, what’s the solution? I guess, maybe, we as parents need to think outside the box. We need to see our children as unique gifts from God, and not expect them to fit a certain mold. We need to relax, stop placing unrealistic expectations on our littles, and put our foot down when the world tells us we must. We have to stop comparing our parenting skills and our kids to others. We have to celebrate their special personalities. We can slow down on searching so desperately for a diagnosis and just love them. We can slow down and savor their childhood, and stop the rat race before it begins. We can look for alternative options for education when our kids won’t fit the new mold, and relax already. We can stand firm, stand up for our kids, and be proud of them. We can focus on what’s really important in life, and stop drinking the kool-aid that says there’s anything more important than loving your children and teaching them to love others.

Is this to say there aren’t children with special needs or children who need medication and diagnoses? Not at all! I just find it interesting how these things have recently become such an epidemic. And it makes me wonder if perhaps we (society) are not the epidemic. It’s worth considering, right?!

What will come of the future dreamers?

I guess you could say if we’re not careful, we might just snuff them out.

Addendum

*You may wonder if I’ve had experience with this medicine? Yes, for many years, I’ve seen firsthand how it affects a child. No, I’m not a fan.

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Brie Gowen
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Brie Gowen is a 30-something (sliding ever closer to 40-something) wife and mother. When she’s not loving on her hubby, chasing after the toddler or playing princess with her four-year-old, she enjoys cooking, reading and writing down her thoughts to share with others. Brie is also a huge lover of Jesus. She finds immense joy in the peace a relationship with her Savior provides, and she might just tell you about it sometime. She’d love for you to check out her blog at BrieGowen.com.

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