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Who will show me how to be?

Parents, teachers… most adults in fact, are the shapers of attention in a child’s life. Kids crave adult attention and will gladly participate in activities that bring more attention their way. Add praise to the mix and it’s a golden shower of Lucky Charms followed by a chaser of bbq chips.

Oh well… maybe that’s just my house.

Praise, Encouragement & Labels

Adult attention, praise and encouragement has more impact on the activity choices of children than any other factor until they hit puberty and become someone else entirely (haha). No, seriously though. It is and does impact their choices.

Genuine praise for a job well done and encouragement to continue is a signal to a child that they’re safe and doing the right thing. As already discussed, the type of artistic expression most likely to be genuinely praised and encouraged is representational art. Very few adults will authentically praise that wild crazy scrabble of paint applied with joyful abandon. Draw a cowboy on a horse that looks like a cowboy and a horse and most authorities in a child’s life will light up with praise.

I’ve taught art to kids for years. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. And kids know the difference between a “that’s nice” head pat and an eyebrow-raised “holy crap that’s unexpectedly good” adult double-take.

Then we label them. “You’re very talented. Maybe you’ll be an artist when you grow up.”



Add to this the heady status as the one who ‘draws really well’ amongst their peers. The one who gets their pictures up on the wall, or regularly scores the glitter stamp or the strawberry scratch n sniff sticker. The one who gets out of regular class to make the sign, banner, backdrop for the school play/function/event. Oooh the celebrity, the glory, the renown – all for drawing realistically. If you’re not this kid, you assume you have no talent.

Woe betide the painter of expressionistic inner joy, you will get no love.

Who do you think is going to be more motivated to continue? Which one has more talent? Is talent the same as affinity?

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