A friend of mine was visiting me with her three-year-old several years ago. We gave her little one a small puzzle to work on but she probably only put one or two pieces of the puzzle in herself because the whole time, her mom worked on the puzzle for her (even though it was supposed to be a distraction for the three-year-old), and she criticized the placement of the pieces, and said things like, “no, it goes here.” I was in shock a little bit while I observed this going on. Of course I couldn’t say anything, but I felt sorry for this toddler who wasn’t given a chance to work it out alone.
Jodie told me an experience that her mom would make her pack her own suitcase whenever they would go on vacation. It was a low-risk way for her to get experience doing something on her own. Jodie’s mom trusted her to figure it out, and discern what she would need to take on the trip. Helping our children develop independence and confidence is like this. Our kids need opportunity to do things on their own, including problem-solving, hard work, and creating thinking!
We live a world that people could not imagine fifty, or even twenty years ago. The jobs that exist today weren’t even a thing. We can’t begin now to image what the world will be like when our kids grown up and look for, or create, their livelihoods. Being problem-solvers, having confidence, and being innovative stem from the confidence and trust we show them as parents when they are are given opportunities to problem solve, create solutions, or innovate. Our children need to work out their place in this world, and the unique capabilities they have to produce results and solutions.
I recently learned about the “Ten Mental Roadblocks” that limit our creativity (from a course I’m taking about math education) that I thought were interesting. The instructor got these Roadblocks from Optimist International. We often set these limitations on ourselves and our children because we fear the unknown or we don’t want to have to put in the work to get creative.
The first roadblock is that you believe there is only one right answer. How boring is that?? Second, we believe that the problem is not logical so we give up before we even start. Third, we have to follow the rules in order to find the solution. Fourth, we believe our solution has to be practical, but actually most solutions are uncovered because we encounter something impractical! Fifth, we believe that play is frivolous! Actually, play or being a state of relaxation is a great way to come up with solutions! Sixth, we make the excuse that the problem to be solved isn’t our area of expertise, or it isn’t our strength, or it isn’t our problem. So, we give up the responsibility to find a solution! Seventh, it is natural to want to avoid ambiguity which is an inevitable part of a problem to be solved. Eighth, we naturally want to avoid looking like a fool. Ninth, we look bad if we make a mistake. And, tenth, we claim that we just aren’t creative.
Think if we thought the opposite when we are presented with a problem to be solved! First, we believe that there are many solutions to a problem and we want to see how many we can find. Second, we learn to explore illogical solutions to problems. Third, maybe we break some of the rules and figure out new angles for solving a problem. Fourth, we embrace the impractical and see what we discover. Fifth, make it fun! Sixth, take responsibility for our ability to find a solution. Seventh, embrace the unknown and see what can happen when you try something new. Eighth, be a little crazy or at least a little weird. Ninth, fail, and learn from it. Tenth, change your personal narrative about what you are capable of. Creativity just means having a unique perspective. All of us have that!
As our kids grow, they will need our trust to empower them to be creative and have confidence. We cannot constantly swoop in a try to rescue them in every detail. In fact, I think it is crucial that we all learn from our own experience, especially children. We cannot implant experience into our children’s brains. They need to acquire it themselves! We can hardly begin to see the potential they have inside of themselves if they are allowed to experience things in their own way, coming up with their own interpretations, solving their own problems, and trusting us to be there when they absolutely need us.
Jodie Cook is the co-author of Clever Tykes, a series of storybooks and parent/teacher resources which inspire confidence, positivity and resourcefulness in children ages 6-9. The books are read in every primary school in the United Kingdom and have just launched in the USA via Amazon. (Link – http://clevertykes.com/amazonUSA)Jodie was included in the Forbes 30 under 30 list of social entrepreneurs in 2017 and also delivered a TEDx talk with the title “creating useful people”.
Mentioned in this Episode
Carrie Green: Female Entrepreneur Association
“Why Schools Kill Creativity” by Sir Ken Robinson – TED Talk
Definition of “academic” is “theoretical or hypothetical; not practical, realistic, or directly useful” (see dictionary.com)
Oliver DeMille of A Thomas Jefferson Education
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Jodie’s Interview with Oona Collins on the Creating Useful People Podcast
The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran
Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
This post contains affiliate links. View disclosure here.
[1:56] Why Clever Tykes came about
[4:20] How parent entrepreneurs influence child entrepreneurs
[7:16] Entrepreneurs look for solutions, and learn from their parents
[9:15] How taking ownership of your perspective creates resilience
[11:50] Trust is a major factor in supporting our kids to take risks. Ask: what do you think? when problem-solving
[14:26] Asking, what do you think, in various situations to create solutions, or even discerning our place in the world
[17:07] How to navigate the educational conveyor belt and still become innovative and creative
[20:41] Education is a tool to take us toward a vision and purpose, not to simply do because it’s what you’re supposed to do
[22:48] Creativity and the purpose of education
[23:45] Why experience is so important to education
[27:58] Feeling a purpose in your work by having a vision of why you do what you do
[32:45] Success requires a growth mindset, and the ability to endure the struggle of working toward success
[35:20] Resources for cultivating a growth mindset
[41:17] Why it’s so important to avoid labels
[49:50] Jodie’s books and other resources