Creativity is Not Correct

I overheard an exchange at Starbucks the other day between a mother and daughter. Most would probably consider it innocuous, but it struck me as an example of a commonly missed opportunity to connect with a child:

“Do you know what ‘art’ starts with?” asked the mom.

“A!” the girl triumphantly announced after a moment.

“Right. And then what letter comes next in ‘a-r-r-r-t’”?

The girl immediately replied, “R!”

“And then what? A-r-t-t-t”


“Right”, the mom affirmed. “So…do you still think R is for ‘art’?”

“Uh-huh!” chirped the girl, nodding and still pleased with herself, though her mother’s annoyed expression showed she clearly wasn’t thrilled.

I understood (and don’t judge) this mom’s focus on “getting it right,” but couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t take just a moment to acknowledge her little girl’s clever way of thinking. “R is for Art” makes sense, doesn’t it?

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”  – Charles Brower

I was impressed by the little girl’s conviction in spite of her mother’s not so subtle disapproval. This would seem to bode well for her as a creative and original thinker, a budding writer, poet, graphic artist, designer.  After all, creativity is the ability to perceive and express things in interesting, unconventional ways.

I secretly wished this mom had been more encouraging, but I also identified with her.  Some of us are very hard on ourselves, which might lead us to project our self-dissatisfaction or perfectionism onto our kids.  We might feel the need for them to perform, to prove themselves to us — so that we can feel okay. The best antidote for this is trust.

I remembered how endearing I found many of the “wrong” answers my three kids came up with, especially in those first years of school with all the multiple choice vocabulary quizzes. I so appreciated my kids’ unique interpretations of language and always perceived these “flubs” as precious little windows into their minds — far more intriguing, enjoyable and educational for me than their right answers.

Most of us would not choose to be with people who regularly quizzed us or put us on the spot, even if it was just as a game. And yet how often do we do this to our children?

Where’s your nose? What color is this? What does the cow say? What’s two plus two?

But the good news is that it’s never too late to decide to release our copious doubts and worries, tune in and revel in discoveries about our kids.

“I keep trying to convey the pleasure every parent and teacher could feel while observing, appreciating and enjoying what the infant is doing. This attitude would change our educational climate from worry to joy. Can anybody argue about the benefits for a child who is appreciated and enjoyed for what she can do and does naturally? …I believe this issue is so basic, so important, that it cannot be overstated.” Magda Gerber


I share more about parenting with trust in Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting



Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. My 2 year old son is very verbal. We have conversations all day long. However, when we see family members who live far away (or talk to them on skype), they quiz him rather than talk to him. I know they are impressed by his talking skills, but no matter how often I (gently) remind them to just talk to him, they can’t. It’s as if most people don’t know what to say to a small child, but they still want to talk to them.

    1. Vicki, thanks so much for sharing. It is so challenging for the majority of our population to consider pre-verbal (or semi-verbal) children whole people capable of engaging with us in a “real” manner. Those of us who know differently are moving mountains!!! And it’s going to take quite a while before respecting young children becomes the norm.

      So, your family’s inability to see beyond the adorable little guy who can do some good tricks is understandable to me. Don’t give up on them, but don’t expect they’ll change either. And be thankful for what you know!

    2. Oh, how I relate to this. We communicate with my partner’s family through skype as we are in different countries. Ever since she is a few months old, they’ve been spending all their time trying to catch her attention, and now repeat words that they think she can say (she is 15 months old now and just about starting to talk in a trilingual environment). It really annoys me as I wish they would just watch her as she is obviously playing and sometimes even trying to show them things, or just listen to her talking in her own way, because she is really having conversations even they are still not made up of words in an “adult” way. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do, as I would cause offence if I criticised them.
      Now that she’s older she has a sense of what is going on through skype so it is getting better but when she was small and clearly could not relate to it (apart from the experience being odd I guess) it was really hard at times because they insisted on having her face the screen when she really wasn’t interested and it caused frustration on either side, sometimes I had to really refrain myself from not just turning the whole thing off. But that’s another question, that of how to handle family who do not share your parenting style yet not being able to get them to respect your own approach.

    3. I can relate as well. As annoyed as everyone gets, we have greatly reduced our time on video chat. Its a different kind of interacting that I feel like leaves for only one way of communicating, which doesn’t work well with toddlers. Its hard to really engage over a screen. Can you try putting the phone or computer in a corner of the room, so your son can resume playing and maybe periodically chat with them? My daughter likes to show toys and explain things. And those family members could just observe his normal activities. Good luck!

  2. I’m intrigued about the idea of questioning how much we “quiz” young children. What about thinking questions? When we are reading with our 3.5 year old, we often ask something along the lines of “How do you think the boy would feel when that happened?” or “What do you think might happen next?” I thought that this was good critical thinking and reading skills to be working on. I would love to hear if you have a different opinon, though.

    1. Krista, that sounds fine to me if your boy enjoys it. How does it feel to you?

      1. Hi,
        I have the same inner struggle now after reading this article.
        When me and my 2yo read a book of colors or shapes, I ask him what color is this or what shape is this what animal etc. when for example we see the color red and he says orange I say,’ oh yes it is a bit orange to me it seems red’. And when we see a caviar and he will say Rabit I will say, yes I think this is very similar to rabit the name is cavia and it does look very much like rabit to me as well.
        I am trying to teach him stuff along the way.
        When we play a game which is designed to be a puzzle and he starts stacking it I will say oh you’d like to build a tower huh? And I will either let him do that or join the game..
        I hope I am not quizzing him too much or pushing him.
        Thank you for this interesting topic

    2. margarita says:

      I think the most important question is whether, when you are asking these questions, you are genuinely curious about his response. I worry with these kinds of questions that they can easily become less about understanding the child’s perspective on the book, and more about prepping the child to be “good at” school, not trusting that the ways they are thinking about the book now (which maybe aren’t about predicting or identifying with characters’ feelings) are what the child “should” be doing. I think that what is most important about conversations about books at this age is really noticing what the child is noticing and commenting on, and making the dialogue about that. So when I do ask my daughter questions (she’s about the same age), I try to make those questions contingent on a response I’m noticing she’s having. “You giggled! What’s so funny?” Or, if I ask her to predict what might happen next, it’s maybe because something in her body language suggests that she’s eager to find that out. In short, I try to make the conversation about understanding what’s important to her, not about getting her to understand what’s important as I understand it. And I’m doing it because I want to see more of the world (and therefore the book) as she sees it.

    3. Jenny Bartlett says:


      You could try modelling this sort of questioning to illustrate to your son how a book can be so very interesting on so many levels. In my practice I make use of “I wonder” questions all of the time to extend inquiry and curiosity while engaging with children. That is, rather than asking the child what he thinks you are vocalizing the things that you are curious about. I wonder what might happen next. I wonder how the boy felt when that happened to him. This promotes rich conversation but doesn’t demand any particular answer of the child. The more that we offer children open-ended questions and concepts to ponder on the stronger their critical thinking and analytical skills will become over time. That being said, the very fact that you read with your son on such a deep level and continue to question your current approaches signals to me that you are a thoughtful and caring mother who is open to change and growth. You are already doing amazing things for your son!

    4. Megan Edmunds says:

      This is a great point, my son has always loved numbers and so we would play games with him at breakfast like, if you have 2 stawberries and you eat one, how many are left?! he would gobble a strawberry then proudly announce, 1! he got such a kick out of this he would walk around the house asking to play “the number game”. Hes now in grade 1 and we play word problem games in the car to kill time like “if you had 4 cookies and your sister took one, how many cookies would you have and how many would she have?” he gets great joy out of adding up or subtracting all number of things in his life. I think it should be based on if the activity is something the child initiates or if it is something the parent is forcing on the child.

  3. Dayamonay says:

    As a teacher, this blog post touched my heart. The little girl’s answer was so well thought out. The child had put time and effort into postulating this answer and was evidently not easily dissuaded from this truth. If we want children to think, we do have to respect their thoughts and listen to their reasoning and engage them in dialogue.

    I truly believe that everyone has something to share and teach. If we take the time to listen to even the smallest child, we may just learn something.

    Thank you for posting this. I am so going to share this with friends.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree… “If we want children to think, we do have to respect their thoughts and listen to their reasoning and engage them in dialogue. I truly believe that everyone has something to share and teach. If we take the time to listen to even the smallest child, we may just learn something.”

      Thank you, Dayamonay!

      1. Hi Janet,
        This made me laugh as it made me think of a wonderful conversation with my about-to-be 4 year old just a week ago. She had been watching Peter Pan and she asked me “Mummy, you know Captain Hook is called that because the crocodile bit his hand off?”. “Yes, Isla, why?” (thinking this is a worry about hands gettting chopped off etc and regretting letting her watch it). “Mummy, what was Captain Hook called before his hand was bitten off?” Stunned silence from me. Couldn’t believe that in 45 years that never crossed my mind and she got to it in 3!

        1. So brilliant. I love it…thank you for sharing!

  4. I love this post! Just today I was thinking about how once in a while, my 2-year-old son says something with conviction that is factually wrong. My gut instinct has always been simply to say “oh!” rather than correct him. Fortunately, I go with that instinct most of the time. Thanks for confirming this feeling, that it’s okay to let him be “wrong.” Because he’s talking a blue streak, and enjoying sharing his observatiosn with me. How lucky I am!

    What a crushing weight if I were to keep “fixing” what he says…

    1. Jenny Bartlett says:

      Exactly Dawn! If we keep “fixing” their mistakes it devalues their attempts and ideas. Our culture often communicates that mistakes are something to be avoided but I would argue that without mistakes we would never make progress. Keep encouraging the playful way that your son engages with language and communication and you will be the proud mother of someone who is willing to take risks for what he believes in.

  5. Tamara Krinsky says:

    I would love to hear more specific suggestions about HOW to talk to toddlers. Not all of us are blessed with a natural sense of how to do it. I love my kid to pieces, and she’s very verbal and likes to engage with us that way; that said, sometimes I”ll find myself falling into “quiz” type conversation almost by default. What language can I replace this with instead?

    1. Oh my gosh, Tamara. You so badly want to talk with your daughter in a supportive way! I’ve devoted my life to teaching parents just that. I call it the Language of Listening. What you do instead of quizzing is a perfect fit with RIE in that you observe first and simply describe what the child is doing, saying, feeling and thinking based on what you see. The details are in a short how-to book, SAY WHAT YOU SEE, that I wrote and posted on my website to share with the world and that Janet has invited me to share here before:

      In every blog post, Janet makes a great case for observing and listening to children from a place of confidence and trust, and then following the child’s lead within clearly set boundaries. Having raised two children that way, I can’t say enough about how valuable that has been.

      Janet is so right about the value of finding your children’s unconventional views endearing instead of wrong. I particularly remember my younger daughter’s spelling of the word garage: GROJ. Hard to beat that for efficient use of letters! Recently, at age 24, she was on a parenting conference call with me and brought tears to my eyes when she shared this example: “When I would ask why a word was spelled ‘that way’, my mom would always respond, ‘Because you weren’t there when they decided how to spell it. You would have spelled it differently.’ No accident that her college minor was linguistics!

      As Janet said, keeping creativity open is best done with acknowledgment first. Teaching can come later. Keep following Janet, and you will learn everything you need to know!

    2. Hey Tamara,
      I grew up in such a competitive house that we always had to have the right answer. I have tried to take the opposite approach which may help with you as well.

      Once we get away from the competition, we can see and value our children for who they are and I have found that it actually makes me curious- who are you? So instead of “quizzing,” try interviewing or just plain conversing. The simple phrase, “tell me more about that” is invaluable. My boys have the most refreshing point of view and they always manage to get me out of my head. And every time you see the world from their perspective, you learn something new about them as people. And they are such interesting people.

      Of course, you always come up against competition. I remember Oscar as a young toddler being quizzed by a party goer “where’s your nose? Where are your eyes?” I was gripped with fear because we had never played this “game” and I thought, oh god, he’s going to think my child is stupid! He doesn’t know where his nose is!!

      These are the things we breathe through. I sat, white knuckled and yet, ever curious about what he would do. I swear, Oscar looked at him like he was some strange bird he had never seen before. The Dad walked away. I was mortified that I had so poorly prepared my 18 month old for the rigours of society. Later, the same Dad was sitting on the couch and exclaimed aloud, “now where are my glasses?” Oscar toddled over, climbed up on the man, pulled his glasses down from his head and said “right here! On your head!”

      And then I realized that Oscar had thought the man had been asking him, literally, where is your nose? and Oscar couldn’t imagine that the man couldn’t see his nose. It showed me that Oscar, at 18 months, while a very literal child (which holds true today), also possessed compassion and insight. He helped the poor dim man find the glasses on his head. Such a nice boy 🙂

  6. I’m a teacher too, in England, and we teach reading through phonics (which while not entirely ideal) would consider that girl to be entirely correct. Together the letters /ar/ make the sound of the letter name R. She’s listening to language and hearing and thinking about the sounds which make up the words she hears. Something to be so pleased about!

    Also, I agree about the quizzing of children – I see it so much with people interacting with my daughter and I have to remind my husband not too, especially in front of others. He’s very proud of her and wants to ‘show off’ a bit, but fortunately she has other ideas and refuses to answer his questions – I think she knows he knows she knows the answer and isn’t interested! You get so much more by chatting. I think questions are fine, but there’s a difference between ‘open’ questions where there could be several right answers and ‘closed’ ones where there’s only one correct response.

    Thanks for your posts, I find them so useful in both my private and professional lives.

  7. Jenny Bartlett says:

    It would really benefit us all if we would just engage with young children in authentic and meaningful ways by having real conversations with them. I have often wondered why so many of the interactions adults have with children involves having them perform some “skill” for our entertainment. What drives this need? Is it the pride we have in the young people that we care about or is it perhaps simply that many of us do not yet really know/understand how to enter the world of a child. Although think that is is likely a combination of factors, I honestly do not know why we put children on the spot like this all of the time. My biggest concern is that I do not see this changing for the better in many parts of my life. It seems that every time I am on social media I see a photo of a baby dressed in a strange ensemble and placed in an even stranger place (sort of like Anne Geddes “art”) for the sake of a “cute” photo. To me this is another example of forcing young people to entertain us and I believe that doing this, because it is almost always without the child’s consent, is unethical on many levels.

  8. Is it ok to teach our toddlers things? For instance shapes, numbers,, colors, letters, things, etc…

    When looking through a book, my toddler wants to know what everything is. For instance a tractor. He wants to know what it is and what it does. He loves looking through certain books over and over again until he has memorized what every photo is.

    I have shown him books since he was two weeks old. Have I done something wrong here? Or not… It would be strange to look through a book with my toddler without letting him know what he’s looking at.

    Maybe I’m confused!? Is it just the quizing that isn’t healthy? And are you suggesting no quizing at all?

    1. In my opinion, if your toddler is asking then I can’t see anything wrong with answering. He’s quizzing you – that’s an authentic interaction: he knows you have some information he wants. Humans are naturally pattern-seeking, that’s how we learn language without ever being formally taught it. The problem is when adults start asking questions to which they know the answer, the adult knows very well it’s a circle, but asks the child what the shape is anyway – if you start asking him what everything is then it’s quizzing. If you chat to him about the pictures then he’ll share his knowledge with you, and can ask questions to fill his gaps. You could think of it as an ‘interact-observe’ cycle rather than ‘teach-test’.

      1. Thanks Sophie, good to hear. I am guilty of every once in a while quizzing sessions! I also noticed that while quizzing I felt an uncomfortable pressure…it didn’t feel right to me to do it. Yet I thought it was something I ‘had’ to do. Its so great to read these articles and to see how others experience the same feelings. I have stopped quizzing completely. I’ve also become more responsive during story time rather than initiating always. Its amazing to see how quickly my son is flourishing. Its like he feels so much more room\freedom to express himself. Its beautiful to see him as he is. The natural creativity is contagious.

      2. It is your job to teach them! Of course you should be talking about and describing the tractor. Then quiz them back as game, my toddler LOVES this. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with “quizzing” toddlers, that is how they learn. Randomly quizzing your kid all day long when they’re clearly not into it, however, is pretty lame. And only quizzing and not explaining is also lame. You should be both telling your child things and describing things as well as asking them about them.

    2. I think the distinction is that he is asking the questions, and its coming from his natural curiousity. It would be different if you were elaborating on a topic that he has shown no interest in.
      I think what we’re addressing here is the “flash card” tendency; quizzing your child on information that you think he should know, rather than just having a conversation with him.
      Also, the creativity issue would look like if your son was determined that he wanted to drive a tractor to school, you let him believe that that is possible, and possibly engage in his fantasy by asking him to elaborate, rather than “correcting” him.

      1. Thanks Jennifer. Again so thankful to receive this information.

    3. Yes, Malissa! You are responding to your child’s questions and encouraging his own interests. That’s wonderful.

  9. Dear Janet and everyone else around,

    I very, very much agree with your approach on creativity as well as with RIE in general (it works wonderfully with my 11-month-old, gives us so much happiness!). I’ve tried to respond in a non-evaluative but caring way to my four year old daughter’s drawings and other creative products.
    I’ve been doing this for more than two years now and she seemed to benefit a lot from it in the beginning, but more and more (as not to say constantly now), she demands my opinion in the sense of “good”/”beautiful” or not. I’ve tried describing (“oh, what a beaming sun. it makes me feel like summer”), acknowledging her effort, asking her for her own opinion and several other things but it very often ends with her asking “Yes, but do YOU like it?” or “is it beautiful?”. I’ve been wondering a lot about this, trying to figure out what need she is expressing (my approval? honest feed-back? reassurance? more directiveness?).
    She also seems to want to find out, how similar/different the two of us are and asks me, if I like a certain dress/story/CD etc. I try to be honest and sometimes say “No, I don’t like it very much, but I can see how much you like it.” and if this seems to be tough on her, I say (“we like different things. You wish, I would like the same things as you do.”).

    I would greatly appreciate any ideas about the reasons for her demanding evaluation so often and also suggestions how to react.



    1. Jenny Bartlett says:


      What you are experiencing, I think, is the result of your daughter’s interactions with others who do offer evaluative statements on her work. It is very natural for her to be seeking this “approval” from you as well now that she knows how it feels to be praised in such a way. That praise and attention can feel really good to a 4 year old so it is only natural that she would seek it from one of the people she cares most about in her life. I think that all you need to do is keep being honest with your daughter. Tell her if you like it and also tell her WHY you like it. Feedback that contains real information is one of the keys to maintaing intrinsic motivation and will encourage your daughter to continue working, learning and creating. Don’t forget to tell her if you don’t like something as well though because she is likely also trying to learn about your likes and dislikes. Preschool aged children are in the midst of developing theory of mind which means that they are beginning to understand that everyone else has a perspective on the world that is unique and not the same as theirs. Foster this in your daughter by telling her about your perspective and she will develop the skills necessary for empathy, understanding and working well with others.

  10. The other day, a friend of mine was telling me her son once asked her the word for knee, and said ” you know, the elbow of the leg?”. She just said, no that’s not what it is, it’s called a knee. I thought (and told her) well, that’s Exactly what it is, and is a really clever way of explaining it!
    Now every time my son does or tries to explain something (he doesn’t speak much yet), I try to see his point, and don’t correct him. He amazes me all the time. It changes my way of looking at things too, and makes everything really interesting!
    obviously art starts with R. Duh. 😉

  11. I agree with part of your post, but not all. You frame asking children “where is your nose” like we’re quizzing them, but I strongly believe that a lot depends on the context. My extremely verbal 18-month-old son and I have conversations all of the time. I follow his lead during play, and from birth, I told him what I was about to do and narrated when I was doing it (e.g., “I’m going to pick you up now”, bending down and waiting for him to lift his arms to be picked up; explaining the diaper change), also giving him opportunities for options as it seemed best.

    But we do read books, and so sometimes, it’s a really fun game for us to have me point out something and for him to say what it is. Or we’ll play the body game and I say “where’s my nose” and he points to it, etcetera. Or I’ll point to something and say, “I wonder if that’s a [wrong answer],” and he’ll say, amused, “Noooo.”

    Is that “quizzing”? Maybe, because I occasionally ask him questions that I know he knows. But if he says something surprising or technically “wrong”, we talk about it (i.e., he also made the connection between elbow and knee, and we talked about that for a while). So I believe that we need to be careful about how we talk about questioning our kids: the distinction between frustrating quizzing and playful games may not always be clear.

    1. Michelle, I appreciate your comment. I agree that “the distinction between frustrating quizzing and playful games may not always be clear.” And this can be especially unclear for our children. It’s not that it’s overtly frustrating for them to play these learning games, but I believe they get the subtle or not so subtle message that our enjoyment of them is somewhat based on performance. Of course they accept this, because it is what they know. And they enjoy us enjoying these games, but I believe this can get in the way of us forming the kind of relationship with our kids that most of us really want… This is why I prefer staying in a more responsive mode while reading books, exploring together, etc. (@Sandy and @Jenny have expressed this beautifully in their comments above.) It’s about following the child’s educational interests rather than having an agenda of our own.

  12. Hi, Janet – I always love reading your blog. These posts always help me remember to trust my child and keep me centered. We miss you!

    1. I miss you and Olive, too! Please pop by for a visit sometime!

  13. My 6, 8, 9 and 10 year olds loved to “quiz” my 2-3 year old and he seemed to love the game, too. Now that he is getting closer to 4, it is not as fun for him and he is more capable of playing with them in ways he couldn’t before.

    1. Laura, I think the quizzing feels entirely different to a child when it comes from a sibling.

  14. Just to point out another angle on the correct/incorrect thing: Sometimes I do correct my daughter when I think she can learn something, and especially if I would feel silly reinforcing a “wrong” idea.

    Currently my daughter (22 months) is very interested in garbage, garbage cans, throwing things in the garbage, and garbage trucks. She will often declare any old truck on the road to be a garbage truck. I know she’s capable of distinguishing different kinds of vehicles already (she can spot a mail truck a mile away!), and so I feel it’s appropriate for me to point out when it’s just a regular truck and not a garbage truck, and point out the differences. (Garbage trucks are round at the back, and regular trucks are square, for one.) Anything else would feel silly and patronizing to me.

    I do try to acknowledge her creativity, or the reasons she may draw surprising conclusions about the world. I like understanding her line of thinking. But sometimes it feels silly and disrespectful to me to let some misinformation stand as truth when I know she’s just trying to learn about the world around her and she would probably be interested to know the proper answer. Once my daughter masters the proper identification of garbage trucks, she’s going to be so pleased with herself, the way she’s pleased about the mail trucks!

  15. Robyn Swift says:

    I work at a child care center. I would love your permission to print this out and share with my fellow teachers and parents.

    1. Yes, Robyn, you would we welcome to do that. Thanks for asking!

  16. after reading your article I feel that all of us may face this every day. I have 3 years old daughter and she is very talkative. Sometimes I make quiz with her about many things. What I learn is that we are commonly hard to accept the nature of children development skill. We can not expect they can develop so fast. Just let them be creative and try to guide them about the right one without pushing them down. Thanks for sharing

  17. What a beautiful reminder of how to approach children- to celebrate their way of thinking instead of constantly trying to shape it. Can’t wait to share this with our community!

  18. I don’t know why, but this reminds me of a spelling test in elementary school where I spelled “theatre” the British way (knowing it wasn’t the conventional American way, but I had seen that it could be written the other way and thought I was clever). The teacher marked it wrong!!! I’m still baffled by that one.

    1. I’m baffled, too, Wendy! Hope that didn’t discourage you.

  19. I remember reading somewhere advice that you shouldn’t ask children questions you already know the answer to. E.g. Not “Where’s your nose?”, “Where’s the cat?” (when looking at a picture book of a cat), but “Are you hungry?”, “Which one do you want to wear?” are fine. I suppose if you really want them to touch their nose or point to a cat you could say “Can you touch your nose” or “Please point to the cat”.

    My daughter recently spelt Earth “rf”. They use letter sounds at school, not letter names, and she still says f instead of th. I’m sure one day she’ll learn it starts with “E” not “r”.

  20. I completely understand what Janet is saying here, but we struggle a bit in our house with this type of interaction because we are always truthful. As I type this, I realize that we get ourselves into trouble by asking our son what things are (quizzing), and then if he says something that isn’t accurate, we feel like we have to correct it. Note to self: don’t “quiz” your son! Just like I don’t ask my husband how my rear looks in some outfit, because he will tell me the absolute truth. 🙂 This has been an “aha!” moment — Thank you!

    1. I love “aha” moments! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  21. When I was in kindergarden, the teacher had us all coloring. I don’t remember exactly what I was drawing, but I do remember the sky. It was orange. The teacher pointed out that my sky was the wrong color, skies are blue. I looked outside and basically said “well that sky is grey”. the teacher said, no it’s not, it’s blue. the clouds are grey. I replied with “well what about sunset and sunrise?” I was put in the corner on “time out” for talking back. I didn’t take it personally, somehow I knew that the teacher was just…dumb…and didn’t like getting called out on her dumbness by a 5 year old.

    1. Wow! I love the healthy way you perceived this unfortunate experience, Nova!

  22. I’m struggling with the idea of not asking your child questions, and why that’s being referred to as “quizzing”. I don’t make my son perform for others, but when we’re together, I love to ask him questions, and he seems to love having an opportunity to talk. For example, I realized that if I pause when reading to him, he’ll often fill in the word or phrase. He always smiles and looks happy to shout something out from a familiar book.

    I don’t consider asking him questions like “what colour is the mouse?” In a story to be testing him, it’s more like an opportunity to explore the book further. He finds a lot of it funny, and gets very into books and all their little details. I guess I’m just having a hard time understanding what’s wrong with asking some questions, especially when I think of all the laughs my son and I get out of it.

  23. This is a good lesson in listening, too. Because the child is actually correct. Art does start with “R” — or rather, “Ar” as in “Ar-t”. It doesn’t start with the LETTER “R”, but that’s not what the parent asked :-).

  24. carol neal says:

    Re: Title of article. Perhaps the title could have been “Creativity — Beyond Right and Wrong” because creativity is all most always “correct”.

    Thanks for the fine article.

  25. Gari Stein says:

    I hear this so often, even with babies. It spikes my blood pressure and makes me sad for these children….Thank you for sharing Janet….

  26. In the article you said: “I remembered how endearing I found many of the “wrong” answers my three kids came up with, especially in those first years of school with all the multiple choice vocabulary quizzes. I so appreciated my kids’ unique interpretations of language and always perceived these “flubs” as precious little windows into their minds — far more intriguing, enjoyable and educational for me than their right answers.” I’m so glad you saw that. But I am sad that the majority of children who go to school soon learn how to give the “right” answers. Have you seen Sir Kenneth Robinson’s talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” )it’s all over the internet!) I urge any parent to hear that talk, and read John Holt’s books – especially “How Children Learn”. xx

    1. I love this perspective, and this is such an interesting topic. At 18 months my daughter was diagnosed with a delay in expressive language. We put her in speech therapy; overall it has been a positive experience for us. She is now a little over 2, and at this point both the speech therapist and I have very little concerns with her language development. Right now we are mainly working on minor articulation issues. My daughter still has another 4 months before she will be re-evaluated. My concern is that there is now an intern working with my daughter (since mid-January until May) along with her regular speech therapist in the room, and me. My daughter does not have a rapport with the intern and has been shutting down a little bit, and I can imagine that it’s stressful for my daughter to be this little person in a room with 3 adults and having to answer questions and then being corrected on the way she is responding! I don’t know if I am being overly critical/sensitive, but I also feel that the intern isn’t very positive with my daughter. It’s hard to explain with a specific example as it’s more about the tone that she uses in the sessions. I am curious about your thoughts on this!

  27. Janet – can you give me an example of how you would have handled such a situation? I have changed my parenting style thanks to your book but I am not clear on what do in this situation. I usually use those times as teaching moments and never realized that I could be dampening creativity so I would love to know what is appropriate.

    1. Thanks for asking, Courtney. I wouldn’t have given her the spelling test (unless she had asked for my help), and if she offered her view that “R” is for art, I might say something like, “Wow, what an interesting way of looking at it!” Or, “That’s an interesting opinion.” Or, “Hmm.. R is for art, R is for art… Oh, yes, I think I get what you’re saying!”

      1. Thank you so much! Do you reccommend any specific resources for helping children learn things at home while maintaining the rie method?

        1. Children are natural self-learners and I would trust them to direct their own learning in the early years… What is it that you want to teach your child?

  28. Nicola D-L says:

    Hitting the nail on the head!!’ As always! Love the quote from Magda 🙂

  29. Cynthia Cunningham Shigo says:

    I am a grandmother very involved in my grandson’s care, as well as about to have a new granddaughter any moment. Several things strike me. We often play “learning games” that my grandson enjoys. He is a phenomenal child, already reading at age 3, about second grade level now. I play these games because he likes them, not to quiz him. We play rhyming games and counting games and alphabet games, often when we are driving in the car. We both find these games very amusing. Yesterday we played an alphabet game that went like this: I am an Anteater from Austria selling Artichokes. I am a Baboon from Bolivia selling Bananas. He found it so funny, and it was a game adapted to his personal interest in all things alphabetic and in geography. He then said, “Grandma, I can count by 2s,” and did so. Then by 5s, then by 11s. I do not know where he learns this stuff! Then he said, “I can count by 100s” to 1000. And I answered “You could count by 1000s to 10,000.” And he said, “I could count by any number to a billion! But it would take a very long time.” Then we laughed uproariously at his joke. So my point is, when learning games are fun, they are not quizzing. But I only introduce games I know he will enjoy.

  30. Maryna Fouche says:

    My son is very creative and a true artist. He regularly comes up with weird and wacky ideas. Some a bit more outrageous than others. My husband and I are very careful not to shoot down everything… I want him to share everything with me. I realise that he has to learn to sift through a lot of ideas to eventually end up with the great ones. It has taken me a while to understand that not everyone understands him like we do. And I have learnt to throw a blind eye to judgemental people

  31. I’m curious as to what your advice would be to homeschooling families?
    We homeschool our children, and so as part of their learning I do have to ask them questions to gauge their understanding and inform my future teaching. I am passionate about child-led, play based learning and so don’t tend to ask things in a ‘high pressure’ way, we do most learning through games etc but do often question them none the less!
    What would be your advice for this situation?

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