There are advantages to expressing feelings directly when you're a kid. The main is one is that the adults who are your caretakers get information that will help them care for your needs.

    Children whose self-expression is thwarted learn not to tell adults if they're feeling bad-confused, anxious, hurt, frustrated or angry. Such children tend to act out feelings in indirect and inappropriate ways, such as withdrawing, whining, hitting or breaking things. Expressing feelings doesn't mean acting them out. Saying one is angry is different from hitting someone.

    Children who are taught to suppress certain feelings usually end up restricting their emotions across the board. Not only do they have trouble handling so-called negative feelings, but they also become numb to the positive ones, such as joy and elation.
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    Feeling free to express oneself-a quality that both nourishes and is nourished by the creative process-is a prerequisite for success in many areas. Children don't distinguish between themselves and their feelings. it's as if what they feel is who they are. Children's natural tendency is to manifest their feelings directly, without censoring or qualifying them, especially if they feel safe from criticism or punishment. Within a climate of safety, children can express their feelings and be themselves.
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    This confirmation process is the most fundamental message children  receive about the value of their basic nature. Parents don't usually go around telling their children things like "your basic nature is valuable and important." Instead, they provide creative resources, acknowledge self-expression, confirm children's right to play and support children's individuality-in proper balance, of course, with their need to adapt and conform to family and group norms. In other words, the way adults confirm the value of children's  basic natures is by supporting their tendency to act creatively.

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     On the other hand, when parents and others support self-expression by nurturing creativity, they confirm the child's personal growth.

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   The thwarting of a natural inclination always seems to place normal development in jeopardy. This is true throughout the living world. Studies show that without adequate maternal bonding, young primates demonstrates severe developmental distortions as they grow. Tragic reminders of this principle have come from countries in Eastern Europe where orphaned and institutionalized children have shown the terribles effects of deprivation on normal development.

    Because of their highly adaptable brains, humans are more likely than other animals to overcome the effects of early deprivation. But when human children are not allowed to develop in certain natural ways, it can take many years and significant resources to fix the resulting problems.

     Creativity is a natural response of children to their environment, a way of interacting with the world around them. When children's creativity is impeded, so is the development of their self-esteem.

     Since creativity requires self-expression, anything parents or others do to impede it affects a child's basic sense of self. The child doubts his value and place the world and begins to restrict further self-expression in order to avoid criticism, punishment and the feelings of shame resulting from having one's self denied.

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    Why not leave kids alone, letting creativity develop by itself? Will not children who are truly creative find a way to express their talents?

    There are number of reasons for parents to take an active interest in their children's creativity early on. Confidence in their creative abilities give children advantages in school and social relations. It is an important component of overall self-confidence.

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  As a young man I worked in a small New England hospital. I was in charge of maintenance and housekeeping. The manager of the hospital's laundry had been doing such work all his adult life and had an eight-grade education. He also had learned steam fitting and knew how to handle pipes, valves and all the other devices for moving high-pressure steam system of the hospital and engaged Roland to teach me what he knew. I learned more than I bargained for.


    Roland loved steam fitting. He taught me how to avoid being burned by escaping steam. He demonstrated over and over again the artistry of joining old pipes to prevent leaks. He showed me how to simplify and improve a piping system that had become obsolete and inadequate over the years. With care and patience, we gradually renewed the steam system, saving the hospital much money.


    I was impressed with how Roland laid out the tools as if the bench were an artist's palette, carefully assessing what would be required to fix a length of pipe or a joint, taking time to smoothly run the pipe dope over the threads, making sure any sweated joints were completely filled, insisting we buy the best materials for whatever we were doing. He taught me patience, care, even an aesthetic appreciation, so that the results looked well, trim and clean. Steam fitting was Roland's art form. He loved the work, gained much satisfaction from it and enjoyed it when others could appreciate what he had done.


     Excellence in just about any field is creative. Nurturing creativity in children is more than having them learn one art. It's about helping them discover what they love to do and helping them learn to do it satisfactorily.


    When we look at the root of creativity we see it as capable of being manifested in anything children can do with their voices, hands or bodies. A part in a play is a product of children's selves if they are encouraged to do more than just say the lines. Many professional comedians honed their talents in their parent's living rooms, learning the art of expressing the self through humor at an early age before an admiring audience. Scientists often began their careers in childhood through passionate collecting of bones, bugs or butterflies. The best mechanics I have met started playing with automobile engines when they were teenagers; as adults they have learned to bring cars to the high level of performance that great musicians expect from their instruments.


    Creativity is in the process, not the medium! The more you can understand this principle, the more likely you are to see creative expression in what your children are doing. The more readily you see its early, tender manifestations, the more capable you are of nurturing it appropriately.
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    So-called gifted children tend to demonstrate their particular talent early in life and to stick with it, focusing much time and energy on it. This concentration enables them to master the necessary skills. Such children need less help than most in identifying the sources of their creativity They define their own area of excellence, and the parent need only provide support.

    Other children are highly creative without focusing their creativity on one area. They move from one activity to another, rarely exploring a medium to its limits before becoming bored. They may build model railroads for a while, then switch to making bottle-cork sculptures with the same degree of passion. In such cases, the child may not focus on one pursuit longs enough to impress his parents with his achievements.

    The important thing for parents to remember is that  creativity manifests itself in many different ways, some less obvious than others. Look for them.
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    Recall our definition of creativity from the preceding chapter: Parents need to focus on the degree of satisfaction children derive from expressing themselves in creative and imaginative ways. Children are labeled as gifted because of the special value that adult attribute to their talents. When the children themselves also experience a good deal of satisfaction from using their talents, they are more likely to employ them at a higher level.

    Your children must be able to express themselves creatively if they are to develop self-esteem. They do not have to be labeled as gifted in order for you to help them do so. In fact, you and your children might be better off if they aren't identified as gifted, because they will not feel obliged to meet rigid standards of performance.
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    Though parental support is no guarantee that a child will excel in a creative field, certainly it is a key factor in developing the child's creativity- whether we label the child as gifted or not. I am sure that many more kids would demonstrate special ability if they had help in developing their talents-in fact, that is one basic assumption of this book.

    Some special abilities have more to do with biology than nurturing, at least in early childhood. Genetics affects size, for example, as well as hand-eyed coordination, peripheral vision and physical vigor. Learning to use one's natural gifts, however, results from training and practice. The way in which a child is nurtured influences the development of such qualities as persistence, patience and a desire to excel, all which affect creativity.
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    I do not mean to overlook those children who are exceptionally creative in ways that adult value. Children who demonstrate extraordinary intellectual or artistic abilities need special opportunities and encouragement if their gifts are to be developed. Some of these children will make great contributions to the world.

    Gifted children present parents with a special challenge. It's almost unheard of for a child who is gifted in some field-whether its music, theater or athletics-to become a sustained success in that field without significant parental support. Parents of young tennis prodigies, for example, often invest many thousands of dollars in their development.

    Of course, parental support does not guarantee that a gifted child will become a gifted adult. There are many factors beyond parent's control. For one, the special talents of some children seem to run out before they reach adulthood. Some children simply choose to pursue other interests. Others demonstrate less ability relative to their peers as they grow older and the competition becomes keener. (I'm sure there are many close-to-world-class young gymnasts who far surpass other athletes in local competitions but will achieve their full potential before reaching the upper echelons of their sport.) And whether child prodigies in the art become adult stars depend not only raw talent but also on good promotion and on the response of critics and the public.
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    People tend to think of creativity as the special gift of a small percentage of children and adults. Fortunately, however, this conception of creativity has begun to change, and elitist attitudes are being dispelled. Educators are viewing creativity as the sum of a vast array of attributes.

    Children are naturally inclined to express themselves in imaginative and symbolic ways. Play is the vehicle for this self-expression. One purpose of this book is to help parents see in their children creative potentials that can be nurtured quite readily. All parents can enhance their children's creativity, whether the children are identified as gifted or not.
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    I believe that everyone has an innate ability to be creative  in a wide variety of ways, indeed, some form of creativity is expressed by most people throughout their lives. It is especially evident in children, although the level of creativity seems to rise and fall throughout childhood.

     My definition of creativity goes like this: Creativity is a process by which an individual expresses his basic nature through a form or a medium in such a way concerning produce a feeling of satisfaction in himself; it results in a product that communicates something about that person to others. Obviously, this goes for adults as well as children.

     Let's break the definition down to see what it means.
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   Our definition bypasses the academic debate over whether creativity  is more process or product. It is both. When a child thinks creatively, the process is going to manifest itself in some manner. The product may be anything from unintelligible babble to a painting that would rival a Van Gogh.

     It is important, however, for parents to focus on the inner process, rather than on its outward results. Parents must pay attention to their children's feelings and nurture their imaginations, providing toys and other materials so that child have many ways to express themselves. Otherwise, creativity will cut off at its roots.
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   Not everything children do is creative. Some of their behavior mimics what they observe in others. Learning itself is not creative. The enormous number of skills and procedures that child must learn-developing language, tying shoelaces, adding columns of numbers-are not in the creative realm. When children are following orders, as they must do so much of the time, they are not exercising creativity. All this is to the good. No one, neither a child nor the world's greatest living artist (whoever that might be), can be creative all the time.

    Creativity is very personal. It's about being oneself and expressing oneself. Let's say you have several children. They have strong familial similarities, both physical and psychological, yet you do not have any trouble telling them apart. Each is an unique individual, represented by clear differences in temperament, style, manner, emotional makeup and a host of other qualities more important to you than their physical differences. The basic nature, or essential self , of each one makes him special and unique.

    Creativity is the process by which children's basic nature is revealed through their imaginative products, demonstrating something about whom they are. This demonstration of the self can takes almost any form, but it is an absolute requirement of creativity.

    For example, suppose that two children are coloring the same page in two copies of the same coloring book. The first child asks repeatedly what color to put here or there and seems at great pains to get it "right"-that is, to make the final product look as much like reality (brown things should be brown!) as possible. There is tension in the child as he seeks approval each step of the way, trying to please others as he tries to please himself.

    The second child does not ask anything, but seems to go inward. Instead of looking around to see what color things really are, he selects crayons in colors he likes. The various elements on the page of the coloring book look strange indeed if reality is the reference point: A green dog is licking the hand of a purple girl, who is eating a black apple! There is little tension in this artist, who goes about his work without seeking approval, until, finished, he shows off his picture with delight. He seems to know that he has done something unusual, but he likes it and hopes that you do too.

    According to our working definition, the second child is showing more creativity than the first, since the source of his product is inside himself. His picture is not an imitation of reality or a reflection of other people's opinions.
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   Even though creativity begins as an inner process-a feeling or an idea- it must also produce an observable result, according to our definition. Daydreaming is not an end in itself with respect to creativity, although it is very important to the entire process. Just being oneself is not being creative. Children's  though and feelings may be interesting and important, but thoughts and feelings are not creative per se. There must be a product that expresses those thoughts and feelings.

    The product can be anything that child can creates with their hands or bodies. Writing, drawing, painting, acting, dancing, talking, building and playing are all ways in which creativity is manifested.

    It is important for children to have a ready supply of raw materials, or what I call "stuff"-paper, string, paint, "dress ups" and so on. But materials themselves are not creative, no matter what manufacturers or toy sellers say when marketing them. It is how children use these materials that determine creativity.

     Later I will discuss the need for stuff at greater length, showing what kinds of materials are most useful in developing a child's creativity. Expensive toys are not necessary. Many notable creative people came from families of limited means; part of creativity is learning to make do with what the environment provides.
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    Many creative people go to the trouble of creating  simply because it makes them feel good. That seems to be all the motivation they need.

    Being able to express oneself without being punished or criticized always feels good. Children quite naturally express themselves without reserve until they learn that they may be punished in some way for doing so. After that happens, often in early childhood, their creativity is stunted. Although they may find indirect and often surreptitious ways to express themselves as they grow older, they will live with a sense of loss and long to be to be accepted as they are, without judgment. This can present many problems as the child becomes an adolescent.

    The path to creative satisfaction is lined with frustration, false starts, self criticism and temporary obstacles. But creative children and adults stick with it, because they know that the payoff will be a good feeling.

    It is because this feeling of satisfaction that there is a close relationship between creativity and self-esteem. Succeeding chapters will explore this relationship.

    This is an overview of the definition of creativity we will use throughout the site. Each element of the definition has implications for your parental behavior, and these will explored.
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    People who are identified as highly creative in an artistic or scientific field, who have gained notoriety or unusual success, are special. But they may be special not only because they translated their creative abilities into useful or significant products, but also because what they had to contribute was timely and the public was supportive. They found a way to express their creativity  that was salable or otherwise appealed to a large segment of the public. Such people often have qualities that-thought not creative in themselves-make creativity practical. They have mastered the technical skills of their calling as a result of training and practice. They are persistent and ambitious. They have the perseverance. They often have mentors or models from whom they learned important lessons. There are many factors influencing whether someone who is creative  will be successful.

    Nurturing your children's creativity, when combined with good parenting in other aspects of their development, will not insure that your children become prodigies like Michael Jackson, Rudolph Nureyev, Mozart or Meryl Streep, but it will help them gain satisfaction from whatever they do in life.
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    What did I learn from San Francisco sculptor Bennie Bufano? A few important things:


    * Creativity has more to do with play than work.


    * Having a childhood so satisfying that one does not wish to let go of it is not a bad thing.


    * Once the creative process is unleashed, there is no telling where it might lead.


    * Believing animals are inside rock is not crazy if it leads to something beautiful.


    * Learning to love what you do is in part a result of being loved while you do it.


    * Creativity is a little crazy because it's not rational; it arises from deep feelings, not conscious thought.


    * Nurturing creativity is one of the best and most important thing parents can do for children. One's own    creativity is a well from which one can always draw something satisfying and comforting.
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        Years ago, I went with a group of high school students on a field trip to the studio of Bennie Bufano, one of the San Francisco Bay area's most beloved sculptors. Bufano's statues of St. Francis and "cuddly" stone animals can be seen throughout the Bay Area. Many of his large animal sculptures were designed so that children could easily climb on them without hurting themselves.

     During the field trip, Bufano talked about art in a thick Sicilian accent. When asked how he decided what to carve from the stone, he answered, "I just keep chipping away it until I find what animal is locked up inside."

     I remember thinking to myself at the time that although bufano's statement wasn't literally true, it was a nice metaphor. Years later, however, I realized that the sculptor believed their really was an animal locked within the stone. It was his inner vision that allowed him to picture the potential beauty within what most people would see as a simple lump of granite.

    The basis of creativity remains largely a mystery within the scientific community.  Although it has been studied for many years, and highly creative people have been observed and interviewed extensively, scientists are unable to draw any definite conclusions as to why one person is more creative than another. Highly creative people do not follow any set pattern, nor share any particular quality or characteristic. They represent all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Their creativity may first manifest itself in early childhood or not until adulthood.

    Scientists are also divided on the origins of creativity. Some believe it stems from hereditary traits; others believe it is a combination of hereditary and environment.

    Scientists also disagree on how to define creativity. Is it better to focus on the process-the thoughts and feelings that lead to a creative end result-or the product, the end result itself? Or it is best to consider both as one and the same?

    Despite all the books that have been written on creativity (one major university has more than two thousand works listed under the heading "creative ability"), there is very little material about what the childhoods of highly creative adults were like. Fortunately, a few patterns emerge from the existing literature, and in my own work with families and children, I've discovered certain principles that parents can use to help their children develop their creativity. These principles are the subject of this site.result
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