Creative Parenting

by Sheila Somerlock Ruth

“The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, which belongs also
to the child, and as such it appears to be inconsistent with
the principle of serious work. But without this playing with
fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt
we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” -Carl Gustav Jung

Parenting requires creativity. It’s easy to get caught up in
the mundane, day-to-day routine and forget how creative we must
be as parents. Every day presents new challenges, and every day
we must think of new solutions to those challenges. While there
are many resources to help us–parenting books, magazines, web
sites, and discussion groups–in the end it all comes down to
resourcefulness and creativity. Every child is different, and
every parent is different, so every solution must be different.
Advice from experts and other parents can give us ideas and
help us in the right direction, but we must adapt those ideas
to our own situations. And every now and then, we come up with
a flash of inspiration, a creative idea that is uniquely ours.

I had just such an inspiration recently. My 4-1/2 year old son
refused to go to bed, insisting that there were monsters in his
room. This is a kid who has loved spooky things for quite some
time, and who “knows” monsters aren’t real. But for some
reason, suddenly the monsters became real, and they were scary!
All my reassurances didn’t help at all. Then I remembered
reading that you should acknowledge a child’s fears, instead of
making light of them. So, I started trying to see it from his
perspective. If the monsters are real, what could we do about
them? The answer that popped into my head was, “Well of course,
we have to scare them away.”

I asked him where the monsters were, and he said, “Under the
bed.” I said, “Shhh, lets sneak up on them.” I tiptoed to the
bed and bent down to look under it. My son followed nervously,
but he burst out laughing when I yelled at the monster at the
top of my lungs: “Waaaaaaaah”. After we had a good laugh
together, we scared the monsters out of his closet and a few
other places together. He enjoyed yelling and then laughing,
and with the monsters banished, he went to sleep with no

We all have the power to be creative. But it can be tough to be
creative when the baby is crying, the kids are fighting, and
our brains are fogged with lack of sleep. Here are a few tips
to help you.

First of all, take a step back. Unless you are dealing with a
situation which requires an immediate response, such as a child
in a dangerous situation or hurting another child, take a
minute to calm yourself. Tell your children you need to think.
Then walk away for a minute, take some deep breaths, try to
relax and clear your mind. Even better, put in a video tape for
the kids and go take a bubble bath. I’m not advocating using
the TV as a babysitter, but it won’t hurt now and then, and the
result will be a happier, more relaxed parent. It’s much easier
to think creatively when we are relaxed.

Once you are (somewhat) relaxed, you can start fermenting
ideas. In order to do think creatively, you need to break out
of standard modes of thinking. One way to do that is to look at
the problem from a different perspective. Looking at an issue
from your child’s perspective can give you a lot of insight. To
do this, you need to really try to see the world how they see
it. Try to remember how you felt when you were a child, and try
to think like a child. Thinking like a child with the
experience of an adult can be a powerful combination. You can
also play with other perspectives. How would Oprah Winfrey
solve the problem? What would Big Bird do? Be as silly as you
want; humor is another good tool for enhancing creativity.

All this sounds like it takes time, and it can. But it doesn’t
have to. You can spend days or hours coming up with new ideas,
or one can pop out in a second. It all depends on the scope and
urgency of the problem, and on your state of mind. The more you
practice thinking creatively, the better you will get at it.
And sometimes a crisis may force an innovative solution.
Creative thinking guru Roger von Oech says that sometimes we
need a “whack on the head” to jolt us out of our routine
patterns of thinking. So the next time you find your child
jumping on the sofa or refusing to go to bed, it might just be
the whack on the head that you need.

No one can be creative all the time. Some days, the best
response I can manage is, “Because I said so.” But it is those
creative moments, those flashes of inspiration, that define us
as parents.

To learn more about developing your creativity, try “A Whack on
the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative”, by Roger
Von Oech

“Creative Parenting” is Copyright 2000 MyCinnamonToast
All Rights Reserved

Sheila Somerlock Ruth is the founder of, a
web site devoted to strengthening family connections through
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