When you ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, they say all manners of things: astronaut, president, doctor, baseball player, mommy, race car driver, fireman, police, and I’ve even heard kids say they want to be Spiderman when they grow up.
When you ask a pre-adolescent, they may have become slightly more reasonable, eliminating things such as ballerina, princess, pirate, and circus performer, but they rarely say: claims adjustor, customer service representative, or regional manager for the electric company. No offense to those of you who hold those positions currently, but really, was that what you dreamed of as a child?
By the time a kid reaches high school, he may have found a passion he wants to pursue, but that individual is rare. Good students often want to become teachers. Inquisitive teens may want to become “scientisists” without really knowing what that might entail, and those who have set their sights on riches may want to go “into business,” again, having no idea whatsoever of what that would require.
Most of the average to above average kids are thinking about college by the middle of the junior year, although some are not. Many who are very interested in going to college have no clue what they’ll actually do there other than ‘take classes.’ The notion of a major or a field of study may elude them for 2-3 years into their college career, or more.
And then there’s the “eternal student,” the guy who’s still living in the dorms when he’s 26 years old, he has 245 credits, but not enough of any one kind to actually graduate, who manages the pizza parlor on campus and always manages to date the really cute girls despite that he doesn’t even have a car.
A child’s “dream” or “vision” of what he wants to be when he grows up starts when he’s about 3-4 years of age and it can morph a dozen or more times before he settles in to what will eventually make up the majority of his life’s work. Additionally, with our increasing lifespan, most people are having two, or even three, separate careers over the course of their lifetimes.
The bottom line: There is NEVER any need to tell a kid of any age he can’t be whatever it is he wants to be.
We usually let the 4-year-old believe he may be President one day, but by the time he’s 12, if he’s still saying that, we tell him to “get real.” Our beautiful little baby girl might make the most lovely dancer at 6, but when she blooms into a pudgy or awkward 13-year-old, we start to tell her that her hopes for a Broadway career are out of the question. Likewise, our teen who seems to have a logical argument for everything may make an excellent barrister, but when we see his 1.8 GPA, we start telling him he’ll never be a lawyer with those grades.
Folks, there’s no need to do that. You do NOT have to crush kids’ dreams. The world will take care of that, you don’t have to. Or, perhaps the child will reach his goals, and then won’t you look ridiculous for failing to support him? Turn on the T.V. There ARE actresses, football players, and rock musicians. Those are real occupations and some people get to do that, but no one gets to do that unless they believe they can, and it’s hard to believe you can when everyone around you is telling you that you can’t.
Realistically, not every kid who wants to become a veterinarian does, but those that go on to become accountants may be miserable while those who go on to work at the gift store in the zoo may really enjoy their job. Likewise, not every golfer will rival Tiger Woods, but people who love to golf can teach golf, own and operate golf courses, and sell golf equipment. If we force them to teach high school history instead, we end up with a bitter, lousy history teacher.
Let children dream. It does no harm. They’ll get as far as they’ll get and then they’ll change their dreams if they need to. It is not your business or responsibility to spoil a young persons’ dreams. Now, it’s not to say that you become totally unrealistic and tell them they’re going to make the Olympic team if they really have no skill, but if they enjoy hockey, there’s no harm letting them play in club leagues as long as they do their chores and their homework. When they get old enough, they’ll realize themselves that hockey won’t be the best career for them, but they’ll at least be able to stay within that general field if they want to. If you’ve completely badmouthed the sport as a useless waste of time, they won’t be able to think creatively enough to realize that someone has to design, sew, and distribute hockey jerseys, and that person probably gets to watch a lot of hockey.