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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 30 2013: A meaningful answer to the question "what you want to be when you grow up" shows that you have long forgotten the free thinking mind of a child.

    If you listen more carefully to their answers, most children honestly answer something like "no idea" and "let's move on".

    Your question shows that this is not what you want to hear, but an honest response from a child is as good as it gets.

    Guiding children is as sophisticated an art form as the world has ever seen and parents are little but just jobbing painters with one extremely large brush.
    • Jun 30 2013: Hi Vincent,

      I am having a bit of trouble reading your comment, and really want to understand it better.

      By "A meaningful answer...", do you mean that the idea of expecting a meaningful from a child means that people have forgotten how a child thinks? Or, do you mean, it is impossible for a child to give a meaningful answer to this question, and will probably say he/she doesn't know?

      Are you suggesting that people who pose this particular question (what do you want do be), will not be satisfied with an honest response, but should be?

      By "parents are little...", do you mean parents don't listen well enough to their children? That they tend to sweep across their children's development too widely (hence the large brush)?

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