The ability to think creatively, to produce novel and appropriate responses and outcomes in given situations (Brown, 1989) will be paramount for an individual to succeed in a competitive, global environment. As we leave the information age and enter the innovation age (Hill, 2007), the importance of creativity beyond the classroom cannot be overstated. So, can we as parents help create a home environment that will foster this creativity in our children? The answer is a resounding yes. One important factor that has shown to influence creativity is that of the family and the family environment. Torrance (1965) stated that if children are to develop creatively than parents must value those personality characteristics that will ensure the development of their creative potential. Torrance pointed out that one may have all the internal resources to think creatively, but this creativity might never be displayed if the environmental support is lacking.
Over the last four decades, much research has been done on varying parenting styles (Baumrind 1967, Berk 2009, Crain 2000). Through this research four different parenting styles have emerged: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Indifferent. Authoritative parenting is characterized by parents who hold high expectations and set clear guidelines, but are responsive and nurturing to their children. Authoritarian parenting is characterized by strict rules, harsh punishments and little warmth. These parents have high expectations of their children, have very strict rules that they expect to be followed unconditionally and emphasize disciple over nurturing. Permissive parenting is sometimes known as indulgent parenting. Parents who exhibit this style make relatively few demands upon their children. Permissive parents are very accepting but exhibit less control over their children and rarely discipline them. Indifferent parenting is characterized by parents who have little interest or involvement in their child’s life.
Lim and Smith (2008) found that higher levels of acceptance, related to both authoritative and permissive parenting styles, from parents are associated with higher levels of creativity in children. The research points to this acceptance/responsiveness as the most important dimension for children’s creative expression. Generally, the literature has indicated that parenting style high in responsiveness (permissive and authoritative) has positive relationships with creativity, whereas the authoritarian and indifferent parenting style, which are both low in responsiveness, were usually negatively related to creativity (Parenting Style, Perfectionism, and Creativity in High-Ability and High-Achieving Young Adults, 2012).
So, what can we do to enhance our parenting style if we want to enhance our children’s creative ability? Here are a few important tips:
- Listen to your children, create a comfortable environment for questions and open discussions
- Encourage children to explore and discuss options and choices
- Express warmth and nurturance
- Allow children to express opinions
As parents, you play an important role in nurturing your child’s creativity. The more accepting you can be of your child’s wish to express themselves and explore their world, the better you are preparing them for the globally-competitive road ahead.