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Updated: May 8

Imagine this: you try to create art with your child, but instead of relaxing and enjoying the activity, the child declares that he didn’t do well or asks you to do the work for him. Or, he leaves angry or tears the page and cries, claiming it is not good enough.


The child cannot enjoy the creative process because he wishes for the artwork to be perfect (and, if possible, not have to work too hard to make it). The frustration comes from the gap between what the child wants to create and what he can produce at this given moment.


Around the age of four, children develop a need to express themselves through realistic drawing--as true to reality as possible. They would be interested in abstract art again, only around ten years old. Only then will their brain maturity be ready, which may confuse them. So, let them try realistic painting, and don’t try to persuade abstract painting.


This means that we would need to find ways to deal with the frustration of less-than-perfect performance while trying to draw or paint realistically. First, take a deep breath. Inhale through the nose to the stomach and exhale through the mouth. You can also turn your face up for three seconds. 


When dealing with our child/ student’s frustration, we must stay strong, calm, and stable. Our Calm state shows the child that we can contain his complicated emotions. The last thing a child needs is for the adults to ask, “Why did you do that?” He cannot answer, and this question will only annoy him and keep him distant. 


Once we breathe and make sure that we can provide stable support to our child, we can use one of the following methods:


Acknowledgment & Solidarity: “I see you are frustrated; it seems very unpleasant to feel that way; I know the feeling.” This response demonstrates to the child that you accept his feelings and don’t judge them. 


Leading Question: Please explain here what you would like to change/add/subtract. Often, kids will answer, “Everything!”. Do not accept a general answer, and direct the child to something more specific: “Please show me one or two elements that bother you.”


In the first few times of practicing this method, it may take longer for the child to learn how to provide a specific answer, and you will need to repeat the question several times. The child needs to see that you are not discouraged. Do not give up!


You can help the child to understand the message through examples and stories: “If I ride my bike, fall, and bruise my leg, does that mean that I should never ride again? Or maybe I could disinfect the wound, continue riding, and even be really good at it?” It’s best to come up with examples relevant to your child’s world: dancing, singing, sports, drama, cooking, etc. 


Our job is to help the child separate the problem he has with the painting from the perception of himself as a whole person. We must help them change their mindset from “Everything I create is ugly” to “I am learning to paint as a beginner, and I know how to deal with challenges.” We want to constantly lead him by focusing on what bothers him explicitly in his work and avoid implying a general assumption that he is incapable of anything.


Once the child tells us what bothers him, we move on to the next question that would lead him to find a solution and overcome the frustration. For example, the child says, “The head of the teddy bear I drew is too small.” Your response should be: “Okay, if this bothers you, how do you think you can change it?” do not rush to provide solutions. Let the child think for himself. In most cases, he will come up with creative and better solutions than the ones we adults could provide. When you allow the child to solve his problems, you empower him and give him a sense of control and independence. 


Suppose the child does not come up with solutions. In that case, you can offer two options: “You could put a blank paper on top of your drawing and copy everything except for the head, which you can draw bigger. Or you can draw a bigger head on the existing drawing and erase the initial version. Which option works better for you?”

Once the child chooses a course of action, praise him for overcoming frustration. For instance, “I noticed how challenging this was for you; you were frustrated (it’s important to name his feelings), but you didn’t give up and kept trying. This persistency is how famous and successful artists like Michael Angelo and De Vinci responded to challenges; they didn’t give up either.” Do not praise him for his talent! 


I wish you all an enjoyable and empowering creative process. 


Yana Stup (b. 1983, FSU) lives and works in Rehovot, Israel. She studied art and painting privately; among her tutors was artist Eran Weber. She also studied Art History at the Open University of Israel. Stup’s art focuses mainly on engraving and hammering on metal (gold aluminum foil) in varying dimensions, small as well as large, and on figurative oil painting.

Her works consist mainly of metal plates engraved in reverse (embossed) and hand-sewn with wax thread. Some of the works are painted on canvas in mixed media, including hot-melt adhesive on which gold pigment is impressed. Another body of work spans figurative painting in oil on canvas. Her works contain images and texts extracted from her diaries over the years, in which she describes autobiographical places with traumatic overtones as well as additional questions pertaining to gender identity and multiculturalism. She is currently working on her first book, an autobiographical novel.

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