Raising Curious, Creative, Confident Kids

There’s a lot of advice out there. Everyone out there knows exactly what you should do to raise curious, confident, creative kids.

Trouble is – none of these people know your child like you do. What if your child really needs something different altogether? And you can’t try everything either. It’s parenting, not an experiment!

So, instead of coming up with yet another long list to add to your confusion, I’ve done some reading and thinking on your behalf… and I’ve found some patterns that go beyond specific activities or advice.

Here are some guiding principles I’ve discovered through my research. Hopefully, once you’ve read this, you’ll have a framework within which to understand and adapt everything else out there to.

Prologue: What The Science Is Saying

Dr. Sugata Mitra has emphatically shown that kids seem to be able to teach themselves almost anything – as long as we encourage, support and facilitate that learning. His ideas are very similar to early childhood education theories as well – including the very influential social constructivist theory by Vygotsky. (TED, 2007) (Petten, 2010)

What this means is that the pressure has been lifted. You can focus on creating an encouraging, safe space, and let the kids take care of the rest. So what does that safe space look like? What can a parent do to inculcate creativity, curiosity and confidence? Here are the five cornerstones I’ve discovered.

1. Everyone Loves Rewards – Except Kids

Whether it is an activity for curiosity, creativity or confidence, literature says you must make the reward intrinsic to the activity. For example, say you’re fostering creativity through painting. Then let the painting itself be the reward. Extrinsic rewards have been shown to wane motivation, and let’s face it – life doesn’t always pop a candy when we do something creative. (Ph.D., 2012) (Healy, 2009) Any activity you design for your child – ensure that the pay off is included within the activity, so that the process itself is the most rewarding of all.
(Live, 2014) (Graves, 2002) (10 Ways to Raise a Competent, Confident Child, 2014)

2. The Power of Being a Good Example

In a nutshell – everything that applies to your kids applies to you too. No running away from it – your kids are eventually going to take their cue from you. This is especially hard because, like it or not, we all have bad habits. All I can say is – raising kids was always going to be a big challenge, and you might as well use this chance to improve yourself too.

3. Sow a Habit, Reap a Character

If I had a penny for every time I saw the words “every day/week”. Repetition really is the key. Without it, your kids will probably not retain the activity, the learning or the excitement. This obvious little nugget is worth noting here precisely because old habits are so hard to un-learn, and new habits are so hard to develop. If you’ve got a solid program going, make sure you let your child move through it with regularity until it becomes second nature.

4. Kids are Adults Too

And just like you would with other people, you need to hold your kids accountable for their actions. Psychologists call it the discovery of “self”, anthropologists call it “self-sufficiency”, lay people call it responsibility. They all have the same, resoundingly clear message: the child needs to know they themselves are responsible for running their lives. As Elizabeth Colbert quotes author Sally Koslow – “The best way for a lot of us to show our love would be to learn to un-mother and un-father.” (Colbert, 2012)

5. Adaptation

The last word here: if you’re smart and scientific about your parenting, you’ll know that there are no hard and fast rules. So, as you undertake this journey, prepare to learn and adapt according to your circumstances, your child and yourself.

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