For those who've clicked this article thinking it's a top ten list about how to make your child creative, you will be sorely disappointed.  But before you click away - there is hope.  It's probably not the quick fix you were looking for, but there is definitely a road map.  See, there is a difference between being a prodigy and being extra-ordinary, according to Adam Grant, author of the new book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

More often than not violin classes, supplemental language classes, tutors, $50k prep schools may create a successful adult but not a leader.  In short, these high achieving children are not the ones who change the world.  Their discipline may mean they lack the tools to be truly creative adults.  "Practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make new,"  Grant writes in a New York Times Op-Ed. The article goes on to site psychologist Benjamin Bloom, who studied the top musicians, artists and scientists and found that their parents didn't force them into their craft, it was the child's interest that was nurtured and supported.

Recently, the Library of Congress acquired the archives of my father, composer and jazz percussionist, Max Roach. The newspapers focused on his middle school report card where he received a "D" in music. Despite his grades, my grandparents always nurtured his desire to play the drums - even buying him a car and renting a studio in Williamsburg when neighbors complained about the noise. By 18, he was performing with Duke Ellington.

On several levels I can relate to Grant's theories.  My sister, Maxine Roach, is a world-class violist who was nominated for a grammy in jazz composition.  Despite this accolade, she always remarked how hard-earned that grammy nomination was because she struggled with improvisation due to her rigid classical music training. Ironically, her nomination was for a string quartet arrangement of one of our father's drum solos.  A very difficult task, indeed, and totally worth a listen.  (Below, learn more about USQ and hear, Extensions [54:63])

Don't get me wrong, discipline and education are honorable endeavors. However, as Grant points out, one study "compared families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative.  The parent of the ordinary children had an average of six rules...parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule."

So, here's the list (fooled ya!):

  1. Respond to your child's interests
  2. Focus on values rather than rules
  3. Encourage discovery
  4. Value joy
  5. Support passion

Sound a bit vague? That's the point says Grant, "creativity may be hard to nurture, but it's easy to thwart."

That said, I can't help wondering what Bebop and modern drumming would look like if my Dad had received an "A" in music.



How to Raise a Creative Child