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 10 2013: Lizz, i have been working on this question for last 8 months. We have been working to develop an education network for kids who are out of school. They are more than 7 million which are out of school. When we engaged these kids and try to communicate our values to them, we found different patterns. For example, A for apple may be the best start to teach a kid (4 years) whose mother language is not English, it took us more time to convince the kid to memorize A for Apple. But when we involved them in Activity Based Coaching (ABC) model we found better timings to learn. Now we dont only teach them A for Apple, we give them Apple. They learn how to find an apple in market, how to select healthy apple, how to wash it before eating, listen to the story of Apple Boy who discovered why apple fell on ground, and dispose the waste of eaten apple in a dustbin. This whole activity took 1 hour and 10 kids never forgot the procedure to eat an apple. They learned more quickly and easily.
    In this way, i feel talking to kids should be more than mere a talk and may involves more of activity. You provide them different sets of activities to select. Their selection will talk to you about their interest rather asking them direct question.
    • Jul 12 2013: I really like the apple example. I similarly taught my little one to wash her hands every time with a hand wash. Now she does it on her own most of the times. She is about 2years old now.
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        Jul 12 2013: We are working to generate similar activities to teach kids through activities.
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      Jul 13 2013: Great I will consider this example with my toddler son
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        Jul 15 2013: Regis, i would suggest you to record this video and post it for others and you can always keep it for other toddlers you may have in near future :).
        We are developing A-Z activities you can help us by teaching it your kids and showing the world so that other teachers and parents can benefit out of it.
    • Jul 14 2013: Qamar, this is truly inspiring! Communication is not just about talking and listening, it's about doing. Well done, I'd love to know more about your project!
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        Jul 15 2013: Thanks LIZ, your words are encouraging for me.
        i have recently posted an idea of Universal Network of Education on TEd. You can learn about my vision from there and can help us by suggesting your idea of educating kids as your profile says you are passionate about kids education.
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      Jul 16 2013: It is very nice to get an idea of what you are working on.
      I think that your method of interacting with kids is absolutely convincing. Because by teaching them things associated to a simple apple, you are actually help them to develop the ability to think perspectively and making connections between different issues which appear to be very useful for problem solving and generating new ideas.
      Additionally, it can also help to introduce global issues to the future generations through simple every day objects. That is truly amazing I really hope to join you one day.

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