Should we tell kids they can be anything they want to be?

Kids dressed up

Should we tell kids they can be anything they want to be?

What did you want to be when you were growing up? I wanted to be *many* things. The first I can remember was a florist. When I was older it was a composer, and then a conductor. I do remember my grandmother telling me I’d prick my hands on the thorns of roses if I became a florist, so this dream was promptly quashed. Fortunately, no one told me I couldn’t have a successful musical career. I seemed to do ok at it, and so naturally I decided to pursue my passion and aim for the stars.

Some would argue that it’s not healthy to tell kids they can be anything they want to be. What if they fail? What if they can’t get a job or make any money? God forbid, what if they aren’t good enough?!

Surely, it’s not better to say, “Aim low so you’re not disappointed.” How boring life would be and how little we would achieve! How will you ever know how far you can go if you don’t dream big.

I worked hard at music until the end of university. At this point, as I entered a new chapter of my life that involved travel and finding work, music didn’t seem quite as important anymore. Do I have any regrets? Absolutely not. My musical journey taught me many things that have contributed to the person I am today. Hopefully, if the experts are right, it made me smarter as well!

It is true that not every child who wants to be a professional footballer or a famous musician can be one, no matter how hard they work.

Chris Rock once spoke about a school administrator who was addressing students and telling them they could be anything they want to be. His response was, “Tell the kids the truth. You can be anything you’re good at — as long as they’re hiring.”

At Speak Up, we feel that stifling a child’s imagination could be detrimental. It’s important to be ambitious and imaginative. We think kids should dream about their future, harness their creativity and imaginations to visualise what their world could look like.

Should we tell kids they can be anything they want to be

We can help them figure out how they might be able to make it happen. It doesn’t really matter what the outcome ends up being. There will be disappointments along the way, and it might lead them in a surprisingly different path, perhaps one they are better suited to. The obstacles and failures they may encounter will strengthen their character by providing them with problem solving opportunities and valuable life experiences.

Tim Minchin has said, “Don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are too big.”

We have to agree. Keep dreaming, work hard and see where it takes you. 

How to guide children as they work towards their dreams

There are a number of ways to make ambitious goal setting work. This is where teachers and parents play an important role in guiding kids towards positive outcomes and are able to teach them a few little lessons along the way.

Be a little bit flexible

When your child comes to you and says they want to be famous musician, dancer, or basketball player, ask them what attracts them to it. What might they choose if their path doesn’t quite lead to where they want to go? We can guide them to adjust their goals as they go through life – to break their dreams down into smaller goals and help them understand different paths they can take if the road gets a little bumpy. It is healthy and a reality to fail occasionally but of course it’s important to learn from mistakes and be open to new ideas as they come up.

Be brave

Help them identify opportunities when they come their way, but also help them find the courage to grab hold of these opportunities even if they seem a little scary. Achieving your dreams requires you to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

Learn self-discipline

Of course, dreams don’t just happen. This is our opportunity to instil a good work ethic so they are more likely to keep trying when things get difficult and can continue to aim to be the best they can be.

Have patience

Kids will need to work very hard towards achieving big dreams. We can teach them that with hard work and patience they will see progress. Dreams don’t come true overnight.

It’s ok to not be the best

Big dreams don’t necessarily mean you want to be the best at something. We can teach kids it’s ok not to be the best and celebrate little successes along the way.

Find worthiness and respect

The value of who they are when they are grown up won’t be on how good they are at something. We should not be judged on what we have achieved or made to feel more worthy because of how successful we have become. We can teach kids to respect all people, including themselves. Everyone has their important place in this world.

We can teach kids that even if the dreams they have now don’t turn out exactly how they imagine, it’s important that they care about others and have an opportunity to be of value throughout their lives.

So as life would turn out, I am not a florist, a famous composer or conductor. But I know for sure that my grandmother enjoyed watching me grow musically and it made me the person I am today.

~ Amy

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