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Nurturing The 'C' Student - What It Means, And Why It Matters For Your Child (Part 3)

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

- By Rong Xin & Wei Xuan

In the last article, we talked about slowing down to drive creativity through observation, and leverage boredom as a creativity fertilizer. Today, we'll be talking about the last tip we have - for now – on grooming your children into the Creative they can become. Today, we'll be talking about making mistakes.

Let Your Child Make Mistakes Without Fear

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This quote from Thomas Edison pretty much sums up the point we're trying to make today.

In our work, we often observe children’s role models (parents or educators) rushing to provide them with the "correct" way of doing things, pointing out mistakes and deviations without hesitation.

Solving problem sums, especially in Singapore, is a good example of this: shelves after shelves of guidebooks line our Popular bookstores, each author with a different name of the same method on how best to solve a problem sum.

At the heart of it, we spend all the money on guidebooks and tuition classes because we want our children to succeed; because we don't want them to fail. Yet, this fear of failure is stopping children (and often adults) from exploring alternative solutions and artistic expressions, which heavily stunts the growth and opportunity for creativity. When even small mistakes are deemed as failures, shunned and punished time and again, it carves a deep-rooted fear into the way children feel about them. At the end of the day, children choose to stick to the conventional, proven paths of "success".

It’s simple, really: Creativity cannot thrive where failure is feared.

At EJ, we tackle this fear of failure head-on, allowing time for children in our classes to explore and make mistakes after all our activities. Of course, it's not all about encouraging failure. Rather, it's about encouraging exploration and acknowledging failure.

Taking deliberate steps to allow multiple solutions for each challenge set for our children, we teach them to face and analyse their mistake, learn from it, and use the newfound experience to move towards their intended goal. When something doesn’t work, we try again to make it work. We still want that problem sum solved, after all.

As a start, the next time your child makes a mistake, rather than pointing it out, walk with them through the reason their solution isn't working and remind them of the goal they wanted to work towards. Instead of saying "That's wrong, here's the right answer", we want to say "That's interesting, I wonder why it doesn't work?" It may sound simple, but this encourages an inquisitive mind and provides a pathway for exploration, turning every mistake made as an opportunity for new creative ideas to bloom.

When planning learning activities with your children, set aside some time for exploration. For example, if you're building a toy plane together, put the manual guide aside and take some time to play around with alternative ways of building that plane. Ask questions like "I wonder what'll happen if we do this instead?" or "Let's see if we can find another way to do this!"

Allowing time for children to fail can sound ridiculous, especially when children barely have enough breathing time between different classes. However, with the constantly evolving demands of society and the workforce, we need to prepare our children to be able to adapt to whatever comes at them in the future. As an example, look at what ABC just shared on China’s digital dictatorship and social credit plans – pretty much Black Mirror in real life!

As role models, we cannot teach our children how to live in a world we are unable to imagine, but we can prepare them with core skills to thrive in whatever environment they will live in. That preparation begins with a holistic education that focuses on moulding mental models, habits, competencies and character that last beyond school ages.

Ultimately, creativity is a seed that requires a safe environment, consistent nurturing and a healthy source of nutrients to bloom, and the rewards to be sowed go far beyond good academic grades. We hope that you found the three tips that we've shared over the past month useful, and that you'll be applying some of these tips in daily interactions with your children.

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