Last week, I went to one of those coffee and canvas events.
These events—especially the variety involving wine—are very popular in the Midwest right now.
But I had never been to one. Nope. I avoided them like the plague.
Why? Well that’s easy…
I’m the worst artist anyone could ever imagine!
Sure, I can draw shapes. And boy can I color them!
But anything else? Well, you know how you look at your kid’s drawing and you say, “Oooh…it’s beautiful. Umm…what is it?” Yeah, that’s how you would feel if you looked at one of my drawings.
So needless to say, I was a little bit hesitant about attending an event that had the sole purpose of asking me to showcase my artistic skills. But I agreed to go because my family was going, and hey, they gave you coffee and dessert, so I said, “What the heck.”
And you know what, it turned out alright! I actually did a decent job. You can judge my artistic skills for yourself here.
So is this article about how well I did? Nope…it has nothing to do with the finished product. It has to do with what an incredible hypocrite I am! Let me explain…
As the event began, the girls in my family selected our spots. I instantly starting making jokes about how I shouldn’t sit by one of my cousins—who I of course ended up sitting by!—because we all know of her excellent artistic abilities.
Then I learned that my other cousin—who I again just happened to be sitting by—is a talented sketch artist.
Cool guys. As likely the most untalented person in that room, I had sat between two people who were likely the most talented people in the room!
Now something you should know about me is that I’m not afraid to make fun of myself. I know what I’m bad at and what I’m good at, so I’m not afraid to admit that art isn’t in my repertoire of skills.
This is actually a skill I use quite a bit with the kids in my counseling sessions when they feel down on themselves for failures and lack of skills in certain areas. I let them know that my failure as an artist doesn’t make me a failure in life, because I’ve got plenty of things in my life that I’m proud of and should be proud of.
So since I’m comfortable with the fact that I’m not a talented artist, the jokes were hitting pretty hard, both before we got started and as I struggled through the process.
I felt pretty good at the beginning.
I followed the directions to paint green on the top and green on the bottom.
Then, I looked around to compare my painting, not only with the teacher’s but also with the others’ in the room.
So far, so good. I moved on to the next step.
I followed the directions to paint my accent color in the middle.
Again, I looked around to compare my painting to the others and couldn’t move forward until I was satisfied that I had done it “right.” Then, again, I moved on.
I followed the directions to add white, to merge the green and accent color together.
And once again, I looked around to compare my painting to the paintings of others.
This is where I struggled. My white paint didn’t look like everyone else’s, including the teacher’s example.
“Why does mine look so wrong?” I thought to myself.
Did I make some jokes? Of course.
Did I laugh it off? Sure.
Did I use the same logic that I would use with a kid who only wants to compare his work to someone else’s? Absolutely not!
Did you notice a trend in my story, the actual part about starting to paint?
I started every sentence off with, “I followed the directions…” and then I described how I looked around to see if I was doing it “right.”
In art, there is no right or wrong. And the instructor at this event even clearly indicated that to the class as a motivator for us to use our creativity. Apparently, I didn’t care about this.
Regardless of what the teacher said to expect of myself, I was stuck looking at the directions that she was giving to complete the project the “right” way, I was still looking to create the “right” painting, the one that looked exactly like the example.
Do you ever see this in kids? Or worse, do you instill this value in kids?
In our world, the adults are the experts and the kids are the ones who need to learn from our experience and wisdom.
We set rules so that kids can learn how to behave the “right” way.
We select what to teach kids so that kids can learn the “right” skills they need to be successful in life.
We set consequences in an attempt to encourage kids to make the “right” choices.
And in doing so…
Do we create little zombies who must look around the room to make sure that what they’ve done is “right?”
Do we label creative and innovative kids as behaving in the “wrong” way?
Do we reward those who lack creativity and punish those who have it?
Is it always necessary?
Are you doing it because you love them and you want them to learn about the rules of the world? Or are you doing it because you’ve become so accustomed to telling kids how to act that you’ve forgotten the whole goal of discipline in the first place?
For me, it’s probably too late. I’m a rule follower, and apparently a little too obsessed with symmetry, as the art instructor pointed out to me!
But it isn’t too late for kids who are still learning and growing through their experiences. They have a chance to learn that there are certain rules that help the world to function, but an over-obsession with the rules can be debilitating.
What can you do today to help them feel comfortable to do what they think is right—without seeking validation from others—instead of training them to do what you think is right and requiring that they seek your validation before knowing that it’s right?