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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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    Jul 4 2013: Lizanne, I can't tell you how important this question is to me (primarily because I've done this as recent as yesterday). Its terrible that we're so fixated on molding kids into their careers while they are still so young. Sir Ken Robinson once said "Not everyone needs to go to college, and not everyone needs to go right now"

    The best way to combat this is to get back to why we ask the question in the first place, and for me its because I'm excited to what they could be capable of; I'm excited about their future, I'm excited about their potential.

    I have lots of conversations with young people and the best thing to ask them is "what do you like to do?" or "what are you excited about?" Talk to them the same way you would talk to anyone else, with the same candor and the same respect and the same sincerity. Allow them to connect with their present self so they can find who they want to be whenever they are ready.
    • Jul 6 2013: Couldn't agree more, Ricardo. There are so many other, more stimulating and inspiring ways to encourage kids to talk about what they love, instead of pinning them down with a question like that!
      Allowing kids freedom to express, however they want or need to, is key! Mary's link above is the answers to the question I posed, by a kid even!
      And look what happens to kids who do get the freedom to express, they turn into little rockets of enthusiasm!

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