Between recently embarking on a journey in Montessori certification, recently completing a book called NurtureShock and subsequently becoming obsessed with the Tools of the Mind curriculum, my mind is buzzing with little things my husband and I can bring into our home EVERY DAY to help our children develop creative thinking, self control and self esteem.
To be fair, I am an ordinary parent, I just happen to read a lot. So what I have to offer YOU are tidbits that you can apply every day that I have pulled from my readings. The below list is what I have taken from my experiences.Â I am not a scientist or a psychologist, just a lifelong learner and parent always looking for simple and easy ways to help develop my children into strong, good and productive individuals. So, that is my disclaimer.
Specifically, a few topics of great interest to me are 1) CREATIVITY (not in the arts and crafts sense but in the process of critical thinking and problem solving), 2) SELF CONTROL (raising two boys I am particularly intrigued) and 3) SELF ESTEEM.
On the topic of CREATIVITY, I am fascinated by the “Creativity Crisis” addressed by the authors Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson. When they speak about “Creativity” they are specifically referring to divergent and convergent thinking. In other words, “to be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”
So what can WE parents and educators do to help avoid this CRISIS? Here are a few simple tips:
- “Buddy Reading” – Read a book to your child. Then hand the book to your child (even if they can’t yet read by definition) and have him read it to you. Part memory, part reading the pictures and part imagination. Beautiful.
- Practice and Choosing the Optimal – Have your child practice drawing letters, numbers or simply lines and shapes. Then ask your child which one she thinks is the best. This approach will help develop critical thinking and optimal decision-making skills.
- What do YOU think? – When your child asks you a question, don’t be too quick to answer. Ask him, “Well, what do you think? Then further, which do you think is the most reasonable or best answer?”
- Talk a lot about objects with similar shapes, textures, etc – Similar to “I Spy Something that Begins with the Letter…”, play a similar game with shapes, numbers, textures. So, for example, talk about “round” and ask what is round? The child might surprise you by saying “A ball. A globe. A wheel…” or “What feels rough?” or “What is spiky?”. This allows the child to exercise divergent thinking.
- Simply Ask Why and Be Present in conversation with your child.
On the topic of self-control, I wonder, can self-control be taught? The answer, based on science, is YES. Not only will children learn to self regulate through key activities, they will be more motivated going forward because they are given the opportunity to chose what they are doing, have control what they are doing, all leading to learning.
Now for a few things we can do in our home to foster Self-Control:
- Play the freeze game – play music and have your child dance or draw while the music is playing and stop when the music stops playing
- Implement a Clean Up Song – When this song is played in your home, your child will know to stop the activity and begin clean up time
- Pretend Play – Lots and lots of pretend play encourages and helps develop self regulation skills. My son is still quite young so I encourage him to think about his path and what he wants to do in his “doctor’s office” or “restaurant”.
On the topic of self-esteem as it relates to praise, I would rather have my children fail at a very difficult task than succeed at an easier chosen path again and again. Furthermore, I’d rather have their self esteem developed and grow strongly and solidly with ‘doing’ rather than simply ‘being’. Kids develop self-esteem through achievement not by being told they are smart. They can control their effort but not necessarily their “smarts” if that makes sense.
For our home, Self-Esteem, is nurtured in a few ways:
- Participate in what our children are doing by letting them take the lead. So if my child is building a tower with blocks, I will begin to do the same reinforcing his actions.
- Speak to the effort of the activity, work or play. So, we’ll say “Wow, that is a great tower. You must have worked really hard to build a tower so high,” instead of, “Wow, you are a great builder!” Instead of praising with a “you’re so smart” we try to praise with a “you must have worked really hard. that was really tough to do.”
- “Celebrate” and accept failure. I use that word loosely, but you know what I mean. Failure is okay in our home, accepted as a way to learn from the process and gain knowledge to do things differently or better next time.
- Encourage challenge. We invite it into our home. Without pushing our boys beyond their developmental limits we want them to be okay with being uncomfortable and having to stop and think about the activity or work. We believe stepping outside comfort zones leads to character and developmental growth (both for children and adults!).
I have so much more to write on this topic so expect another post soon. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thank you for visiting!
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