A Question about Art from a Real Mom


“My child enjoys doing art, but “ruins” it at the last minute.”

Dear Dr. Mom,
I want my daughter Ezzy to get the most she can from doing art. But, I find it hard to sit by and watch her creating
what looks like a great painting and then see her add some sweeping brushstrokes that change the picture from something I want to frame to something for “the drawer.”   It is hard for me to stay out of it and not direct where colors or brush strokes “should” or “should not” go in the painting. Every painting is allowed to have refrigerator space, but, honestly, I only allow a select few to make it to the walls. I feel guilty.
Ezzy’s Mom

Dear Ezzy’s Mom,
Thank you for sharing what I am quite sure is happening in many homes all over the world. I don’t write prescriptions saying what to do or not do. I trust you will make that decision based on your understanding of Ezzy and your family. Instead, let me share some information that can help you decide what you think is best to do.
  1. Ezzy may be satisfied with her picture with those last brushstrokes that you think make the picture ready for the drawer.
  2. Ezzy might be experimenting – taking a chance with certain colors and strokes to see how they will turn out. She will decide that some did work out and some did not. You may want to be sure to keep all these “experiments.” They could be valuable if she develops into a popular artist.
  3. Based on your description of what is worthy for wall display, Ezzy has probably seen perfectionism at work in your household, perhaps related to more than just art. Ezzy may be growing into a perfectionist herself and when she thinks her picture isn’t what she expects of herself, she puts the kibosh on it with those last brushstrokes. This would be like writers who take their printed page and ball it up for the trash. The balled up papers are just steps to a final product. Any one picture of Ezzy’s might be one more step toward a wall-worthy painting.
  4. Questions can help adults show interest without directing the child’s art. What’s your favorite color today? What color do you like best with green? What color will you like to look at most when the picture is done? What color does the picture make you think about?
  5. I suspect you are very careful about not criticizing any of her art. But, ask yourself if you think Ezzy has noticed on her own that some of her art ends up in the drawer and some on the wall. If so, she may be trying to measure up when she does art instead of feeling free to have each piece be what it is whether she is fully satisfied or not. Some parents can live with all art going on the wall at a specific location in the house at least for a while and replacing it with each new piece that is created. That way, you will have art that you love on the wall at least some of the time without creating a sense of “grading” the pictures. Some very select pieces you love, you might still keep hanging but in a different location. Those that are replaced by new art can sill be filed or put in the drawer for safe-keeping.
If any readers have a question about any topics, feel free to submit in the “what do you think” section at the very bottom of this post.

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