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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  • Jul 7 2013: After reading all the comments, I come to some conclusion, that being that the comments here are personalizations and somewhat of a middle class mindset.

    One has to wonder are people narrow minded - Or is it that people can only really see their own position and not others - Or are they just projecting it (the question) to what it means to just - their children.

    And if so, what does that really and honestly mean for the millions of children who are in poverty, labor, and or in other dire circumstances around the world.

    Or does their far and distant voice not matter.. as no-one speaks for them, and no-one sees them.

    Will they ever achieve their passions? - Or do you write that kind of thinking off as a child of poverty.

    Are those very dreams your child has, and you have for your child - a luxury not afforded to, and far out of reach of these children of another land.

    Are we not all children of this planet? Are we not all parents of the children of the world? Is our very future not predicated on theirs...

    As Lizanne poses - "children are the future"... I pose "who's children?"...

    While you think about that and see the urls below, I'd urge you to think... there, but for the place I was born, go I.



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      Jul 7 2013: Tify, I cannot speak for everyone, but may I share something with you?

      Millions of individuals are working worldwide to help improve the way of life of many.
      Educating them. Instructing them in many diverse fields, to help them become loving parents, loving wives, loving husbands, responsible citizens. To improve literacy, and hygiene, and other social issues.

      I personally am part of a global educational work seven million plus strong.

      Through study of the Bible, I have come to know that the world will change for the better in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I, as well as those who belong to my faith, work locally to change one person at a time.

      TED has made me realize that there are many many individuals who share this desire for a better world.

      There are billions of individuals living worldwide. Many of the changes that need to occur, need to come from within the individual......corruption has to be eliminated........from government mainly......and then there has to be a trickle down effect.

      Please know that amidst all of the terrible things you see, and I see, and we all see, there are millions of individuals working for a change, and praying for a change.

      The question is..........will we live to see it?

      My sincere desire is that the answer will be a resounding YES!!

      (Did you ever see the link Lizanne gave of the fill-har-monic on vimeo?)

      • Jul 8 2013: Of course you can share Mary, it's always a pleasure to listen. But sometimes we respectful disagree.

        Which is the exact reason I mentioned those 'unseen' children. To open people's eyes, and as Linzanne says that dreams, and opportunity are up for grabs in the 'western world', and that has been the view point of most comments here.

        As for praying for change, I nave never believed in it, change is inherently up to us. Small decisions effect change, one such example would be NOT to upgrade to the newest iphone, as the minerals, metals, and other elements needed have major social and medical implications to the very children people people pray for. Seems to me that one has a very simple choice, weather one's brave enough to stand by the courage of one convictions is another. Which is somewhat ironical as someone was crucified for actually doing that.

        As I mentioned before we, of which I am a part do provide free education and training to over 500,000 people across the world. But unfortunately that's not enough. The plight of the Philippines, and many other countries, debt repayment which is forced by the IMF, the banks, keeps places suppressed, with little or no education, medical nor social services. And the children suffer. How much is this debt, less than the cost of a fighter jet. The reason I say this is too often the facts are mismanaged, where one puts it down to corruption*, and does not realize that half of all the money in used for interest on debt.

        I find it laudable that you hope the answer will be yes, I dont believe that to be the case.

        Not unless we can all see that everyone's child, every person irrespective of where they are born deserves and should be afforded equal opportunity. The reason for this post.

        *corruption: Like the IMF giving a loan to the Philippine government, to build infrastructure projects, like a nuclear power plant, which was designed and built by GE, on a major earth quake fault lines, many years ago. Still inoperative.
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          Jul 9 2013: It seems that you are preaching to the choir Tify.

          Many of us are like you, doing something to change the world.

          Don't you believe your efforts will help?

          Sounds like you feel something bigger has to happen.

          If so, then what do you propose the bigger thing that has to happen should be?
      • Jul 9 2013: Not really Mary.

        While some of us are doing something, and that's worthwhile, often our efforts get massively trumped. You only need see the latest Ted talk on corruption.


        A bigger thing, would be that, Shell, Dictators, Misters et al...responsible for state assets who use them illegally, like in that Ted talk, are simply jailed, the funds repatriated, and Shell etc left out in the cold, 1/2 billion dollars down the hole.

        If that were to happen, then the poverty and the lost dreams of those children, would soon come back, and the efforts -we- make, would then add significant value to the future of those kids.

        The way it goes now, Shell, nor HSBC are not seen to be guilty, ie they keep the assets illegally gained.

        Thats the bigger thats needs to happen to really start to make a difference in the lives of children in the (developing countries - who am i kidding being politically correct) - 3rd world.
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          Jul 9 2013: As I listened to that talk yesterday.......I kept thinking of you over and over.

          Just know that something bigger will happen Tify.......I truly believe it. I really do.

          What about the elderly? You haven't gone back and replied to my questions on the elderly?

          I'd love it if you went over and added some insights, or thoughts.

    • Jul 7 2013: This is such an important point, Tify. Your comment reminds me that dreaming of what we can achieve as kids, suggests that dreams are pretty much up for grabs in the wealthy parts of the world. Opportunity is everywhere, chances are plenty when you're lucky enough to be born in certain places...

      I do sincerely agree with Mary, too, that those chances are spreading out, slowly but surely. Indeed, the first thing that comes to mind is the Landfill Harmonic (thanks for the link, Mary) as well as the inspiring Richard Turere, and his invention that "Made Peace with the Lions":

      Whether we will live to see the fundamental change, that promises the same chances and opportunities to all children, around the globe, I don't know. But you know, the chances and opportunities children have in the poorer regions of the world may be just as challenging and their achievements are just as worthy of celebration. But the chances for children to 'just' be children may be the greatest challenge they face.
      • Jul 8 2013: I'm really glad you see it as an important point, I felt like it was an issues that was / is being completely overlooked. And I can't be one of those people who say, I'm alright, so to hell with the rest.

        For as long as we continue to do that, we will always have children who are slaves.

        So I thought I would speak up for all those that have no voice.

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