In a fast paced world; one that offers us new technologies to keep up with every few months and tons of new information, variables and problems to deal with every single day, creativity is not an extra skill to embed in our little ones, it is a necessity, a must have!

And as part of our daily parenting challenges, some of us fall into some mistakes, mostly without meaning to, which can kill the creativity of our kids. There are four common things most of us parents unknowingly do that block the way for our little ones and prevent them from exploring their potential. You will be surprised at how these simple everyday actions that we do tie our kids to the ground and dim their light.

1. Unlimited TV time

Kids love TV! And sometimes we as parents love it too, because it seems to be the only thing that works when we want to get things done around the house. We all know what research says about too much screen time, and that includes time spent on tablets and smartphones. But, to avoid the nagging, crying and the endless  “I’m bored mama I wanna watch more!”, most of the time we find it easier to leave our kids with these devices for as long as they want.

As parenting experts, we suggest one hour of daily screen time and, as challenging as it might sound, we recommend that you explain to your child why you are limiting it. You can explain what happens when their brains are receptive and not active for a long time by breaking it down to a language that they would understand. For example, you can tell them that our brain cells become really lazy when we are watching for a long time which makes them not work properly when we want to do anything else.

Another idea is to involve our children in some activities at home. We can brainstorm some ideas on a big chart with them for things that we can do when we are not watching TV. We can then direct them to choose what they feel like doing from the activities on the chart. In fact, you will be amazed at all the fun we miss out on by spending too much time in front of the TV. It’s not an easy task, but it is worth the challenge.

2. “Do it the way I asked you to!”

Before we become parents we promise ourselves that there are some words and commands that we will never do when we have our own kids, and to our surprise we DO THEM ALL! For me, one of those was “Don’t do it like this. Do it just the way I told you”.

Kids are born with no limits or fears. They learn about them as they grow. Overprotective parents happen to scare kids away from taking any different routes other than those approved by the parents (which in this case are extremely limited) and this never helps the child explore or try new things which is a key factor for being creative. At the other extreme are parents who are not clear with their kids about boundaries and are open and free in an extreme manner. Kids of such parents tend to lack social skills which causes them to lose many relationships and channels which in turn leads them to discover less in life.

The best thing to do is to allow our little ones healthy levels of fear and boundaries and allow them to do things the way they would like to as long as the results are close to what needs to be done. Saying the word “sorry” is a simple example of this. When we tell our 2 or 3 year old to say “sorry” to his brother for losing his toy, but he hugs him instead, we should encourage that rather than say “I didn’t ask you to hug him. I said say sorry.” The last sentence only tells the child you don’t need to ever think for yourself and be creative when expressing your feelings, you just need to do it the way you were told.

3. Giving orders rather than asking questions

Although we as adults don’t like to be ordered around, we do that with our little ones and expect them to like it. Change your clothes!  Wash your hands! Pick up the toys! Get your homework done! Brush your teeth and Go to bed! are some of the endless commands we give our children everyday. Aren’t they just overwhelming even to read?!

Okay then, so how do we get them to do what they should without giving them orders? The magic lies in asking questions! By asking questions like “What should we do before eating or going to bed? “ or “How will you solve this problem with your brother?” or “ When will you start working on your homework?”,  we don’t only avoid the resistance that involuntary happens in our children’s minds when they hear a command, but we invite them to be future problem solvers and decision makers. And by doing this we create a great thread of thoughts in their brains that mostly lead them to think and be creative. The more questions we ask, the more we invite our kids to use their brain power, and  the more creative they become.

4. Praising rather than encouraging

Just because we love our children so much we tend to shower them with praise either on how they look, how they behave or how smart they are when doing something. We can always praise our children, but we need to be careful not to overdo it. Because when receiving praise is the main motive for how kids act, they are liable to start doing things for the wrong reasons and will grow up to be approval junkies.

So once again, what do we as parents need to do when we don’t want to praise much? Well, we encourage by focusing on the effort rather than the result. For example, when our child has shared something with his friend or sibling, we should focus on the attribute of kindness rather than the fact that our kid listened to our order and shared with his friend. We need to use “You worked really hard, and you should be proud you got an A” rather than “Oh you are amazing, you got an A! I’m so proud of you sweetie.” A slight change in language has a huge effect on the result.

At the end of the day, whoever said parenting was easy, is terribly wrong! But with the right tools, and by learning about ourselves and our kids, we grow into more educated, aware and mature parents who can raise the well-rounded, sound creative adults of the future.

Mariam Medhat

Mariam Medhat has dedicated her life to improving other parents’ and families’ lives. With a master’s degree in business administration, she moved on to study family counseling at Southwest College in the US and holds both a bachelor's and master’s degree from there.

She is also a certified Parent and Teacher Educator from Positive Discipline in the US. Mariam is counselor, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner, and also happens to be a certified life coach. The culmination of these experiences is Parenting Formula, which has been actively reaching out to and training parents, schools, orphanages, teachers, as well as counselors in Egypt since 2015.