I have written before about how parents can inspire leadership skills in their children. As Steve Jobs is being memorialized these past few weeks, his passing inspires thought about which of his many strengths propelled him and his visionary Apple products to supersede the competition. He was certainly not a pleaser; known for his irascible style. I think the Apple motto, "think different" is probably the key to understanding his success as an innovator. He trusted his intuition and creativity. He was able to ‘read’ our minds and figure out what the average person wants, not what we need. Translate, "if I had an extra $500 how would I spend it?"
Most of us don't necessarily strive to have a Steve Jobs as our son or daughter, although we wouldn't mind. But we do want to cultivate that type of individualism and insight in our children because individuals with those qualities end up leaders in business and professions? How does a parent foster those skills? Answer, encourage imagination and awareness. Steve Jobs had a keen sense of what people want, if not a need to be liked. He listened to those around him and pushed them to reach for the stars. He also trusted both his intuitions and his creative drive.
So how might you cultivate this kind of genius in your children?
Cultivate the natural problem solver - age 4-8 – Try to find time each week to play with toys like blocks, strings, pieces of cardboard and movable objects like cars or balls; things that children can use to create but don't do anything on their own. Then give your child a problem to solve. Some suggestions are below:
a. How could you build a bridge over a lake? If this piece of paper is a lake how can we use our blocks and this cardboard so this car can go over the lake without falling in?
b. Can you figure out what we could build that would make this car go so fast on it’s own that it would start at this side of the room and end up at the other side of the room? (hint…use the blocks to build a down ramp so that the car will build speed as it goes down and continue a far distance.) How high will the ramp need to be to get the car to the other side of the room? How smooth will it have to be? How can you use blocks to do that?
c. Water play (floating makes for a good problem solving task) – Show your child how some objects sink (pennies, stones) and some objects float on water (an empty vitamin bottle with the cap on). Ask your child to find some things that she thinks will sink then find things that will float. Hand your child a bottle without a lid and ask him if he thinks it will float? Ask he why it won’t but the lidded bottle did? Help him figure out what makes something float.
Imaginative play - Age 8 -15 -creativity starts with the ability to let imagination flourish – on the next blustery or rainy Saturday encourage your child to “dream the impossible dream.” Some suggestions are below:
-- Design the vehicle of the future. Will it fly or move on the ground? How would it work? What would make it special? What kind of materials would it have to be made of?
- Draw (design) the house you would like to live in when you grow up. How many rooms will it have? What will you do in each room? What kind of furniture will each room have?
- Let’s try to write a very scary story together. Who will the characters be? How old will they be? What will be the setting? What time of year will it be? Will there be a house or a building in the story? What will it be like?
- What kind of world would you make if you were the "boss" of the world?
- What kind of video games would you make so that math would be easier?"
Imagination and creativity open the way to helping your child achieve the Apple Motto - "think different." If you add the ability to solve problems never encountered before you will build the primary traits of leaders. Cultivate those skills in your children and watch them soar.