Have you ever asked your children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question most kids are asked at one time or another. And I think most adults mean well when they ask this question.
When we ask that question, we’re really implying that our children aren’t doing anything important right now. It’s saying, “When you grow up, then you’ll be doing something really important.”
Kids have this idea that when they are “grown-up” they will finally be able to live out their dreams. The things they’ve told friends, relatives and countless strangers that they want to “be,” that will only come true once they’ve grown up.
Then they’re hit with reality.
The thing they wanted to be has often morphed into the thing someone else wants them to be. Or the thing they want to be turns out to be something they didn’t expect it would be because they were never given a chance to really explore that thing fully when they were still young.
And now that they’re “grown-up,” they think that what they are doing is what they need to do for the rest of their lives, even if it’s something for which they have no passion and interest. They no longer have that glimmer of hope that there’s an exciting and magical future waiting for them.
So what should we ask instead of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
How about, “What do you want to be now?”
Kids have a difficult time thinking about what they want to do five, ten, or fifteen years from now. In fact, most kids don’t even have a clue what they want to be doing six month from now.
But they know what they want to do now. They know what interests and excites them today.
And as they go after those things that make them feel alive, they become the people they were meant to be.
All those experiences, people they’ve met, activities they’ve participated in, books they’ve read, places they’ve traveledto, work they’ve done, and dreams they’ve accomplished, will shape them into the adult they will be someday.
How can they truly know what they want to be until they’ve experienced all those things first?
When we can help our children achieve their current dreams and goals, it stretches them. It helps them push towards more complex dreams and goals – goals that take more effort but that also yield a much higher reward.
By honoring their current dreams and goals, we’re showing them that what they are doing now IS important. They can make an important contribution to the world right now. They don’t have to wait until they are adults.
If your child wants to be a baker, found out ways he can do that – not only for himself, but also for others. If your child wants to be an archeologist, find out ways she can do that now.
Its’ great to help your children work on academic or practical skills they need to pursue those dreams, but don’t forget to help them really participate right now in the things they want to do, too.
Some day our children will be grown-up. And if they’ve used to thinking about what they want to be now instead of someday, they will have grown up working towards their own goals and achieving great things.
They’ll know what it feels like to be what they want to be in the moment – not having to wait for the future.
Photo Credit: The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa
How can your encourage your children to be what they want to be today?