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 27 2013: That's awesome Lizanne. It's been fascinating and helpful to me to understand how my kids engage with the world. It's allowed me to walk Jake's line fine line with a little more conviction.

    There have been many suggestions here and the basis of them all it seems to me is listening. The willingness to listen with the ears of your heart to young people gives them the belief that they are worthy and respected.

    This provides them the ability to feel trusted and develop a deep level of self confidence. Could be the basis of a revolution based on self esteem.
    • Jun 28 2013: Morgan, 'the ears of your heart'.
      LOVE that.

      I believe the importance of self-esteem is underestimated. Embracing emotion, learning respect through self-exploration, putting empathy into practice and genuine communication are essential tools for our children, and ourselves.
      I believe also, that we have the power to change our minds, but that kids have the power to change the world.
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        Jun 28 2013: Me too Lizanne.. I do believe that our young people have the opportunity to shift a lot of the craziness that we've created. They have the energy, passion, and creativity to make some big and important things happen.

        Part of the challenge is that when us as adults struggle with our own self esteem, and when we're overly focused on our own survival/thrival we don't give our kids the empathy and listening they need...and the cycle of low self esteem perpetuates.

        Having mentors/elders/coaches who are solid and able to put their needs aside and respond to others (empathy) is super important.
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        Jun 28 2013: I am also thrilled that more teens and parents are considering alternative options that include "finding your passion" or "discovering how to give the gift that I am on this planet to give."

        With this, I am super fascinated to see how it plays out, as saying that and doing that are really different.

        I feel lucky that I get to spend time helping teenagers build the skills they're going go need to navigate these waters

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