TED Conversations

Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach


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How can we talk to kids?

How many of us have (albeit inadvertently) asked a child, "What are you going to be when you grow up"? Admittedly, I have caught myself doing this.

It's a bizarre way of making small-talk with a child, isn't it?
"Having fun in the sandbox? That's a cool sandcastle... so tell me, kid, what is your ultimate goal in life?" This isn't an easy question for anyone to answer, let alone a 5-year-old.

To me, this question reinforces the way our system is put together - which is designed to mold children into consumers, so they will be instrumental in our economic growth. At the same time, it is a question that can help us understand what drives our kids, what they are passionate about, what their dreams are...

In this article, Jennifer Fulwiler proposes that we should altogether stop asking kids this question, as it "reinforces the idea that the way to find identity and value is through career" and "undermines the concept of vocation":

How can we talk with kids, encourage them to explore who they are, and get them excited about who they will become, without asking such a weighty question? How can we allow them to expand their imaginations, and let them know they are taken seriously at the same time? How can we differentiate things like a purpose in life, as opposed to a career, in a way that children can focus on and hopefully achieve their passions?


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    Jun 24 2013: Encourage them to play!
    I'm reading a new book titled, "Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self Relient, And Better Students for Life" by Peter Gray. I highly recommend it.
    This will also help us all reconnect to a part of our life the that we great overlook.

    Play more and reconnect with the child inside you. Other children will like you better.
    • Jun 24 2013: Yes, yes, yes, Theodore!

      There was a conversation a while back about the importance of playing pretending and make-believe:

      For some reason, society seems to determine that becoming an adult means neglecting the child we once were, when in reality, we still ARE that child. I agree, if we are in touch with that child, we will be able to communicate better not only with children, but with each other.

      I can't wait to hear more about this book, if you'd like to share any insights!
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        Jun 24 2013: I first became interested in the topic of play after hearing the TEDTalk by Stuart Brown
        A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults -- and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

        His research started with criminals where he found that they suffered from a lack of, you guessed it, PLAY, in their upbringing. So we have some idea of what the deficiencies ends up looking like.

        Gray's book has some 46 items listed in the index related to "play."

        He write, The drive to play is a huge part of a children's natural means for self-education, so a portion of this book is about the power of play." And adds that for the past half century or more we have seen an erosion of children's freedom to play.

        • Jun 26 2013: This is truly fascinating, Theodore! Thanks for these links - this whole train of thought is very much in tune with how I personally feel, and particularly as a Mom.

          I recently stumbled across this book, called 'A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder' by Eric Abrahamson and David H Freedman:
          Kids' lives tend to be cluttered, unorganized, even chaotic - they are still learning organizational skills. How many times I try color-code the toy bins, the doll clothes are still always thrown in together with the Legos, and my kids can still always find what they need. What's more, they will invent new ways to combine their toys to create new games.
          Yet another exploration in how adults can learn from kids... perhaps?
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        Jun 24 2013: Lizanne,
        You took the words right out of my mouth.....Yes....Yes....Yes!!! :>)

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