The Influence of Parents and Families on Talent
The first and foremost social group that exerts an influence on children’s creative growth and artistic expression is the family. In Greenspan, Solomon, and Gardner’s (2004) review of research on talent development, they found that parents shaped children’s talent in several significant ways, including modeling perseverance and industriousness, offering advice or giving explicit instruction, instilling a desire or expectation in children to participate in an activity, setting high standards and encouraging self-evaluation, offering moral support and keeping children motivated, proposing new challenges, and reorganizing their lives to permit their children’s abilities to flourish. “When the child’s abilities are truly prodigious, parental and social investments need to be prodigious as well” (Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalent, 1993, p. 26). The table below describes what parents and families can do to support children's talent, growth, and development in creativity and the arts.
Table 1: How Parents and Families Can Nurture Creativity in Children
Note: Based on Baldwin (2001) and Piirto (1992)
Tolerance. Accept that a child's creative ideas do not always work out to adults' satisfaction or even to the child's personal satisfaction. Children should not be punished and humilated when ideas fail. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of geniuses is the ability to generate many different ideas and to know which ones are worth pursuing.
Space. Provide children with a private, relatively undisturbed, space in which their creative work can be doen. Lois Ehlert, the well-known children's book author and illustrator who is famous for her collages, attributes her growth as an artist to the fact that her parents allowed her to have a large, old table of her own in the basement where she could collect bits and scraps ans objects and use them to invent. She was not required to clean it up or put it away and it was always available for her use.
Materials. Children need at least some tools that will support and inspire creative exploration - scissors, crayons, paste, simple musical instruments, picture books. The chief architect of the arts and crafts movement, Frank Lloyd Wright, attributed his interest in architecture to a set of wooden blocks he received as a child.
Support. Children need adults who recognize and support their efforts. A passion for creative problem solving and the arts begins with enjoyment as children enter into these pursuits with curiosity and interest. When hockey great Mario Lemieux was a child, his parents created an indoor place for him and his brother to practice skating by putting water in the foyer and allowing it to freeze.
Role Models. Children need to see adults enjoying and participating in the arts and creative thinking. Something as imple as thinking out loud to demostrate how you arrive at a creative solution can reap surprising benefits. The parent who repairs a household item and shares the problem-solving strategy with the child is teaching him or her to imagine different possibilities and persist until a satisfactory solution is found. It is also important for parents and families to make children aware of the true stores behind the great contributors of their era and previous eras so children can see that the path is not clear and easy.
Another reason for parents and families to support children's creative endeavors and arts-based learning is that such activities often occur outside the school setting, often at home or in other out-of-school contexts. Children practice musical instruments at home. They may collaborate with neighborhood children to perform a puppet play; start a club to pursue a particular interest, such as creative writingl or they may work with other family and community members to master a craft. Interestingly, a large survey found that most elementary students reported engaging in art-making at home (80 percent), to relax (60 percent) or to express their ideas (56 percent). Their criteria for evaluating artwork made at home were (1) use of the artistic elements, (2) skill with art materials, (3) details in their work, (4) neatness of the product, and (5) personal satisfaction with the outcomes of their efforts (Dorn, Madeja, & Sabol, 2004, p.30). Whether it is creative writing, making an invention, learning to play a musical instrument, learning to dance, or participating in drama, much of the training, practice, support, and performance occurs at home and therefore depends on parents and families.
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