Got a creative kid? Here’s my advice. Back the fuck off.

People often ask when I’m going to run a Gunnas Writing Masterclass for teenagers because their special snowflake is a really keen writer and would ‘love something like this’.

I say, ‘I ran a couple of Gunnas for teenagers. I am not running another. Almost all the kids said they were only at the workshop because ‘my mum made me come’.

When people approach me gushing how ‘creative’ their child is and how they are a brilliant writer/reader/painter/musician asking what suggestions I have to encourage and support them I say ‘Ignore what they are doing and don’t mention it. If you must applaud then applaud the effort not the outcome.’

When the parents (and lets face it, it’s almost only mothers) tell me about their young writer, actor, dancer, painter it seems they are almost expecting me to be impressed or say ‘congratulations’.  The conversation is so much about the parent and  how the child’s behaviour reflect and brands them.

Want my advice? If there is a young person in your life who is ‘very creative’ I suggest you simply nod at their creative output say something like ‘look at you’ or ‘well done’ ask them how they feel about it and move onto something else. Ask them what computer games they are playing. I see so many adults getting a huge part of their identity through creative young people they are connected to and it’s really really destructive. It’s weird and creepy and a bit ego confusy sick really.

Get a life you ‘I’m not in a band but my friends are in a band’ parents.

These young artists start creating because they love it. It’s their own intimate world. Stay the fuck out. When their parents or other well meaning adults start gushing and making a fuss the young people stop listening to their own voice and start playing to the crowd. For the applause. For the stroking. And they lose their own voice. The only thing that kills creativity more than parents sticky nosing, branding themselves with their kids ‘creativity’ or bragging about it is schools, universities and institutions.

Young people’s creativity is as private and personal as their sex life. Answer questions and suggest resources by all means but leave as much distance as a responsible progressive adult would from the ins and outs and the minutiae. Don’t ask don’t tell. Have it set on ‘need to know’.

‘What do I think of your picture/story/performance/dance young person? Who cares? What do YOU think?’

For fuck sake stop fetishising creativity. Creativity is a normal, healthy thing. Creativity is also is a huge part of a bunch of other teenage pursuits parents don’t seem to brag about as much, like video gaming.  Creativity is also a very private journey. Particularly for kids and teenagers. Let them develop at their own rate and you do some fucking work on yourself. Learn guitar, do some life drawing classes, join an improv troupe or the local theatre group and go on your own creative journey. Stop being the backseat driver of someone else’s adventure. Stop judging, pushing, advising and applauding someone else. Do it yourself.

Stop with the ‘My kid is so arty/creative/gifted’ *basking in reflected glory here*. GET A LIFE.

Just say ‘my kids like mucking around in their room a lot.’  If your kid really wants to do a creative workshop, masterclass or tuition and they find it themselves get them to pay for it in whole or in part or put it on their birthday/Christmas present wish list. Where possible get have your child to organise their transport to and from.

Then you’ll see who’d really ‘love something like this’.

The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents. – C.G. Jung.


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