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 25 2013: My parents never asked me what I wanted to be when I was growing up, and I am incredibly thankful for it!

    Instead, they did their best to encourage every interest I had. I went to science and history camps, dug for fossils, and worked with my school's science club to save acres of rainforest from deforestation. I had a microscope, for which my mother graciously pricked her finger (many, many times) to let me look at her blood cells with. I also played as a forward on my high school soccer team, and had an active social life. There was never extracurricular overload for me, or any pressure to choose something to do with myself when I grew up.

    As an adult, I'm doing work that I absolutely love and have 2 children (3 and 5 years old) of my own. I am definitely trying to follow my parents' example in this area.
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      Jun 25 2013: Hi Madeline! You are new to TED conversations? Welcome:>)

      I don't recall being asked that question either, and felt that all exploration was encouraged:>)
      It makes a HUGE difference in a persona's life!

      I sincerely hope you bandaged your mom's finger with "star" or "angel" Band-Aids, or something cool like that! LOL:>)
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        Jun 25 2013: Thank you, Colleen! Glad to be here!

        I don't remember giving her any Band-Aids, but I did make her grilled cheese to say thank you. :)
    • Jun 27 2013: Hi Madeline,
      thanks so much for your story - I was raised similarly. In fact, I told my parents the other day how grateful I am to them, for giving me the gift of solitude. They allowed me so much time to myself, to explore and discover, that I still consider the possibilities endless!

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