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Nurturing Creativity


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I recently read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua which stirred a few long buried memories of my own experience of nurturing creative talent in my son. When my son was five years old, I caught him humming a popular Bollywood song–he did not know the lyrics but had caught the tune while watching and listening to the promos on TV and his rendition was quite good considering his age. I dismissed it as a fluke but was forced to recognize that there was some talent here that needed to be nurtured when it happened several times over the next few months. My husband and I spoke to him and introduced him to the concept of music classes and he was excited and appeared eager to start. While we realized that his interest could be short lived and a transitory phase which could wane after the novelty wore off, we nonetheless decided to give it a try.

Some of the teachers I approached were not ready to accept such a young child as a pupil. But I finally found a middle aged gentleman who though reluctant agreed to try him out for a couple of days. The teacher was impressed with his ability to sing in sync with the ‘shruti’ and agreed to teach him. Thus started a three-year period of music lessons and practice sessions supervised by yours truly. At first everything went fine—he enjoyed the classes and loved handling the various musical instruments at the music school and would come home and practice without having to be pushed. However, after the first couple of years, I realized that though my son learnt the songs effortlessly and even played them on the harmonium, he was losing interest and becoming resentful of the practice sessions. His unwillingness to attend music classes was evident but I coaxed and cajoled him to stick with it and hoped he would not quit. To spark his enthusiasm, the music teacher even made him sing and play the harmonium at the annual concert of his students where the other participants were much older. But all to no avail. He slowly and steadily lost interest and his reluctance to practice led to a few arguments at home, so much so that music, which was once a shared interest and a source of great pleasure and enjoyment for both of us, became a contentious topic. In the interest of his happiness, and peace at home, I gave him the choice of discontinuing his lessons and the alacrity with which he accepted the offer convinced me that it was the right way to go. (May be I should write a book called ‘Peace Hymn of the Mouse Mother’!!)

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7 thoughts on “Nurturing Creativity

  1. Ramya Srinivasan

    Excellently written, Sudha. Your words would probably resonate with 99% of the parents out there. I had a similar experience with my son’s tennis class, and after one year of alternately fighting with and cajoling him every weekend morning, I decided to respect his wishes and stop it altogether. In fact, just yesterday his coach asked us “Why did Rohan stop? He was so good at it!” Well, as you right said, there has to be a good bit of intersection between talent and interest for such hobbies to develop into something bigger.

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  2. Kritika Srinivasan

    But how do you decide whether your child is really disinclined and unhappy about something or simply ready to give up something because it has lost its novelty value? I think all children go through this phase (we did as well!) where they are eager to try something new, then lose interest once they pick up a little bit of skill in it. Sometimes the solution, just as Amy Chua says, is to keep them at it (actually force them) till they become competent enough at that skill to actually enjoy this competence. There is a point between novelty and competence which is when children get bored and frustrated; and once they cross this stage, they can actually enjoy what they learn.

    And the irony is if you let them stop too soon, they will probably regret that they did when they are older and realise the value of that skill they don’t have the time to pursue now!

    In the endeavour to keep our kids happy, we shouldn’t forget that we also need to teach them grit and perseverance.

    Of course, I am not saying Sudha that what you did is wrong, just that parents need to consider so may things before taking a decision. And then, to each her own!

    Reply
    1. Sudha Arun

      Forcing them leads to full scale rebellion and ultimately the child will stop doing it—there is no way parents can win in that situation as Ami Chua herself acknowledges later in the book. But at least when we, as Ramya says, respect their wishes and allow them to give up the activity without creating bitterness, there is a chance that they will take it up in the future. In fact, much to my surprise, my son started guitar classes of his own accord three years ago! That said, its a tight rope walk and any decision, as you have rightly pointed out, has to be taken after considering several factors.

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  3. Sudha Arun

    Yes, Ramya, I too went through this phase of alternatively coaxing and fighting with him. And I know how difficult it is to drive a reluctant child when s/he is not driven from within…

    Reply
  4. Sudha Kumar

    Sudha, I also tend to agree with Kritika here. Most children hate practice and that is one of the main reasons they rebel. The only place where this does not manifest too much is in school because they are probably bound by the discipline.

    One way to quell rebellion is to find a good teacher who can motivate the kid. I have found this to be very useful in my daughter’s case.

    When they are young I don’t think children understand the power of choice and how to use it wisely. The other way is to participate in the activity, if there is a way.

    There are no easy answers though and each case has to be evaluated on its own merit.

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