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 21 2013: A woman I know is an incredible parent of two children who are now 18 and 12. From the moment she knew she was pregnant, she studied all the books and decided which ideas made sense. What she did, essentially (and does still), was give her child total respect and her full attention when they interact. It is a full time job. She and her husband home-schooled both of them until her daughter entered a public high school in the 9th grade. You can imagine how concerned her parents were, school memories being not so good for either parent, but she did well, was on the Varsity basketball team, and had a super time. To my knowledge, the siblings never fight; they have been allowed to explore their interests, but not required to continue if they lose interest. In other words, they were given love, respect, attention and time to learn who they are at a very early age, and they are amazing. I want my friend to start a parenting school as part of the Planned Parenthood program.
    • Jul 22 2013: seems all good up until ... "Planned Parenthood program", and the zeal of Sanger regarding negative eugenics, it's goal to change humanity by stopping reproduction of those considered unfit. Or that Sanger said the white race was superior to blacks when speaking at KKK meetings.

      Then on the other hand I've never seen the need for such organizations, as there are alternatives, but America does love politicizing things, and having lobbyists for all and sundry.

      Regarding the kids in the above paragraph, one thing does seem missing.... Drive.
      • Jul 22 2013: Out of curiosity, Tify, why do you think drive is missing from Stephanie's story? When I read it, I really don't see a lack of it at all, but I may be interpreting it differently. People who home-school their children are, to me, very driven indeed (I know many personally)! Just curious!
        • Jul 22 2013: Thats a good question Lizanne.

          and the paragraph came across to me, as the kids had lack of drive, or for Mary's sake :) Passion.

          That really what I felt was missing, Energy, Passion, Drive, although it might not be missing. Sometimes when people write the core of a subject can be elusive, and open to interpretation.

          And then like Mary they jump all over you. :)
      • Jul 22 2013: I should probably have not capped "planned parenthood," as I really meant a low cost program available for lower income parents.
        • Jul 22 2013: Whats the difference?

          and why should it only be for "lower income parents"?

          Are you telling me that wealthy parents always get it right when it comes to kids?
      • Jul 22 2013: I don't understand the "what's the difference" question. Anything that is available for low income parents is always available to upper income parents as well. The final question is just silly :)

        Also, with respect to "drive" -- I am not sure who would do the driving, nor where one would drive them. They excel at anything they do -- chess, music, photography, art -- and they are happy, joyful, loving kids. The recent graduate is going to junior college for photography classes -- that is her passion -- as well as taking the basics before moving on to a university for the last two years.
      • Jul 23 2013: Tify, I see - you were referring to the kids, not the parents...
        "Sometimes when people write the core of a subject can be elusive, and open to interpretation."
        100% true!
    • Jul 22 2013: Stephanie, this is wonderful! Parenting is absolutely a full-time job, and as many agree, a very under-estimated vocation!
      There are so many people who research and read and attend classes about how to raise their children. These things are there for a reason - and not just in the States! There is an abundance of parenting courses where I live, which are often fully booked. There are many parents, myself included, who wish to be the very best parent possible, for the sake of my children, and if there is something I need to learn, by golly, I want to learn it!

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