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 22 2013: RE: A goal gives one a direction, but it is often just a way to take the first step. If my eye is fixed only on the goal, I might miss a shortcut, or even a totally different goal that serves me better.

      Or on the other hand the distractions may make you not achieve the goal. And so?

      Or on the other hand if your not attached to the out come maybe you wont try as hard or not bother, because you not investing in the outcome. And so?

      Isn't self-actualization a goal? Or are you supposed to be not bothered/attached if you don't get there. If so, what's the point of doing it it the first place?

      The whole paragraph, sounds a bit "chicken soup."
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        Jul 23 2013: I think it's important to go further with goals--once you have one--to be clear about what it is, think about action you will commit to taking toward reaching it, and also to imagine what kind of evidence you'll be able to collect to show that you've learned or made progress toward the goal.
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          Jul 23 2013: Yes Marjorie....well-said.
      • Jul 23 2013: I posted this in the "comment" rather than reply. Just getting the hang of this site. :)
        1 day ago: Self actualization is a way of being, so yes, I would call it an ongoing goal. It is not my intention to diminish the value of having a goal, or achieving a goal, but rather to be aware that if it ends up differently than I anticipated, I can learn from that and create a new goal. I must assume that any goal I choose is something I actually want to do, so I do not understand "trying hard" -- the process of achieving the goal is as important to me as the goal itself and not particularly "trying" -- but that's probably semantics.

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