Celebrating Creativity!

Other Side of the Mountain ~ Celebrating Creativity

A Master who lived as a hermit on a mountain was asked by a monk, "What is the Way?"
"What a fine mountain this is," the master said in reply.
"I am not asking you about the mountain, but about the Way."
"So long as you cannot go beyond the mountain, my son, you cannot
reach the Way," replied the master.

For many children, from a very early age, the gold star and the ‘good job’ is the mountain that prevents them from finding the Way. Once they enter the school systems, as most children do, the stars get bigger and brighter and the Way seems even cloudier. When giving praise or “positive reinforcement”, there is certainly a fine line between encouragement and evaluation. Children should be able to think, wonder, learn and explore without having to worry about if or how good they are at any given skill. So celebrating creativity is not about giving reward based on achievement, which in the long run is damaging. Nor is it about bribery or incentives for kids to express their creativity. Celebrating creativity is about truly exulting what gives joy to each individual child.

Celebrating Creativity
The Dalai Lama said, “Find what gives you joy and do more of it.” Celebrating the things your children have shown interest in, not just been successful in, is not just a way to say "I'm proud of you!" or to add a gold star to a chart. It extends far beyond that. It is also about spending quality time with children and experiencing the things s/he loves just because it is fun. Without evaluating performance, this is turn encourages children in their present and future pursuits and gives them confidence in themselves and courage to try to new things, vital ingredients in building the creative spirit.

Ways to Celebrate Together
Celebrating creativity is an exploration into a child’s passions. When children move away from needing praise in order to do something or for something they have learned, celebrations start to look a bit different and are less concerned with external motivation, if at all. The ways in which you celebrate will be as varied and unique as the children in your lives. The options are certainly wide reaching and more than the positive reinforcement, as it has come to be known.

Host an Opening
Host a gallery opening and display your child's artwork, lego creations, sculpture, sewing, or knitting. The celebrant can give a 'lecture' about her style and what she has learned.

Have a Ball
Host a game of soccer (or whatever sport your child plays). Invite family and friends and play a game together in your celebrant's honor.

If your child's has been reading books of a certain genre, time period, or author, hold a book party and dress up like characters or stage a reenactment. Serve refreshments.

Be Jammin’
Hold recitals or jam sessions for any child learning to dance or play an instrument or for one who just like to explore in music making. Even if your child is only taking a bow and has yet to learn any particular piece, a small recital or get-together with other aspiring musicians can be wonder-filled on many levels!

Hit the Road
Host a hike in your child's honor to celebrate interest in nature or to learn more about your local forestry service.

Read All About It
Hold a book fair. Get together with your friends and share the books, poems or songs you have written. Wear sunglasses and snap your fingers !

Eat Your Heart Out
Go out to breakfast. This can be a particular treat if you or your children are often involved in morning activities that prevent you from spending that special pre-day times together. Take a midweek jaunt to your child's favorite restaurant or let your child choose dinner and 'go with the flow' even if that means you are eating pancakes with watermelon and french fries.

Yes Days
Hold a 'yes day'. Do whatever your child wants to all day long. Go on his schedule and leave when he is ready.

Honor each other.
Hold a family 'Honoring Day'. Have each family member prepare something special, share appreciations and favorite moments with each other.

Write a poem or letters back and forth with each other. Even your pre and early readers will love communicating about things they learn and what is exciting about their lives.

Whether your child wants to have a special one on one dinner or surrounded with by friends and family, let her child choose how and with whom she would like to celebrate something she loves doing. As the focus turns away from the “good job” and more towards the exploration and celebration of joy, you will be well on your way to the other side of the mountain.

Tips for Offering Praise

• Make it specific. When giving verbal praise to your children, make sure you offer as specific praise as possible.
• Make statements instead of evaluations.
• Use questions. See previous article, The Art of Questioning for more about asking good questions.
• Smile. Offering a little look and a smile is all that need be “said” in some situations. Try to say nothing more often.