Surely it has happened to you many times that your son after a good time painting tells you … “Mom (Dad), look!” and he shows you his drawing. And you, faced with that explosion of color or lines, you are left wondering what to say.
When you start to read or move around this sector they call “respectful parenting”, “conscious parenting”, and so on. One of the things that you hear a lot is that you should not tell a child that his drawing is very beautiful or that it is very well done, to avoid that the little one ends up painting just to please us or to obtain our praise.
I understand the background of this and I even share it, but the truth is that if that “prohibition” comes to you in isolation (“never say very well or how nice”) you can be quite short of resources, as it is something that comes out of us innate, almost spontaneous, after so many years after they have told us and then we repeat it to our little ones.
And then … what to say?
One of the Live Pedagogy training sessions that I follow at the CRAEV gave me a lot of light, which is summarized in that there is nothing suitable or inappropriate, each moment may require a different reaction , even a “very good” may be perfect.
As I was saying, before that “mom, dad, look!” inertia or habit leads us to say, almost certainly, 2 things:
– “How beautiful!”
– “What is it?”
And maybe some of you wonder what problem it has to say any of the options. The truth is that there may be none, which is the perfect answer. The problem arises when we systematically answer either of the two.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM OF SAYING “WHAT A BEAUTIFUL”?
I asked myself this question back in the day. He was clearly behavioral, I saw, but little else. And I clarify that it is not behaviorist to say that something is beautiful when it is or when we observe what the child needs to hear. It is behavioral when we say it systematically, because in the end they will draw and paint to hear our praise and we can make their self-esteem depend on our praise.
It has much more value to them when they paint for internal motivation and for the sheer pleasure of drawing than to gain our approval, right?
But on other occasions it is possible that our little one needs to hear a “how beautiful” or that it really comes out for us to say it because the drawing is especially precious.
AND WHAT IS THE PROBLEM IN ASKING “WHAT IS DRAWN?”
Well, as in the previous case, it is possible that nothing. Sometimes in a certain situation it is the best option. For example, if we see that our child wants us to understand the value of the drawing, to understand what it is, etc.
But what happens if we use that question-answer per system?
- That we are suggesting that art always aims to represent something, to describe reality in colors and shapes. When art and, above all, in early childhood is pure pleasure. Children enjoy painting and often do not draw at all. It is not strange to see a child painting the paper and suddenly the brush spreads through his arms, making strokes from here to there.
Children simply enjoy the artistic experience.
- When we ask “what is it” we not only suggest that art is intended to illustrate reality, but we also show the child that he has failed in his attempt. Because… if we knew that you have drawn a tree… we wouldn’t ask you, would we?
OTHER COMMON REACTIONS
In the sector of alternative pedagogies there are other responses to the child’s inquiry. They are the ones that I myself have used on many occasions to reflect on the subject.
– One is to describe what we see. ” Aháaa, I see that you have painted a lot of green, with a very cool black line …”. This is something that happened to me, I did not want to say how beautiful and sometimes I lost myself describing his drawing in a more or less technical way, hehe. ” I see you’ve drawn a line here, a lot of color there …” and Terrícola nodded, although I think deep down he was thinking “What does my mother say ?”
– Or return a question. Do you like it ? In itself there is nothing wrong with this question, but it is not clear to me that it is the child who needs to know whether he likes the drawing or not. He had only said “look!”
AND WHAT DO I SAY THEN?
I’m sorry to tell you that this post doesn’t end with magic answers. It is just a post-reflection on something that helped me a lot, it made me rethink the value of children’s art not as an activity with a purpose but as a creative and pleasure process, and it helped me to position myself in a more correct way (I think) before the colorful lines of Terrícola.
So I leave some last ideas to help you think and decide what to say to that … “mom (dad) look at my drawing.”
- Why is it always necessary to say something? Sometimes a look, a smile, being present is worth a thousand words. It’s us adults that silences bother us, right?
- Who needs to know what is drawn? Is it the child or do we need to put words to that picture? I, at least, after these learnings I have observed that as a general rule Earth does not need me to guess what it is.
- And what do I say? Well, there really is no magic answer! The best thing is to observe the moment, his face, his gesture … in order to know what the little one needs, it is possible that he does need us to see the tree that he has drawn, it is possible that he just wants to show us what he has enjoyed creating, it is possible that he just want to make sure we are there …
It is not easy to know what to answer but from my own experience I know that when one adopts an attitude of listening and presence, evaluating each situation and trying to discover what that child needs … the answers come out on their own and each time more agile.
And as I said at the beginning of the post … “the best answer is the one appropriate to each moment (child and drawing)”.
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