I read some interesting articles at work today about the topic of what kids want to be when they grow up. Same subject, but two different takes on it. This article at forbes.com approaches the idea that while children aspire to be anything from a doctor to Spongebob Squarepants, they’re actually missing the bigger picture, which is money. Though the site is American, and despite our similarities, us Brits often think differently to our US counterparts, as highlighted in Frances Booth’s article in The Guardian.
While both articles pick apart the problems that children have by thinking up un-realistic life-goals, I think The Guardian only slightly favours better in its opinion than Forbes due to the fact that Booth makes the point that aspiring to have your dream job shouldn’t just stop when you become an adult. However, what both articles fail to do is to see “what I want to be when I grow up” for what it really is – kids being kids.
Forbes.com misses the point entirely – even going as far to assume that children remember what they said they wanted to be when they were 4 or 5. It doesn’t mean to say that when you say “I want to be a fireman” at aged 4 means that you must pursue this your entire life and you will be unsuccessful and unfulfilled should you not meet this goal – it probably means that you really liked Fireman Sam. Children only relay what they are exposed to, so for example, if you were a child who grew up around books and a practical thinking parent, you’re probably more likely to want to be a doctor, teacher or scientist when you were a child – children exposed to media more often than those who are not, however, are more likely to choose a dream job in the vein of celebrities and what they see on TV, such as cartoon characters, singers and actors.
I also read on a parenting site that children aged 0-2 years should not watch any television whatsoever. I’m not sure if I agree with this entirely, while I believe that watching certain shows has no impact whatsoever on intelligence – and can in fact hinder it – I also believe that television is the fastest and most popular form of receiving new information. I believe that certain shows can teach children how to communicate, how to establish their interests and can open them up to new experiences. However, that having said, I think that children being exposed to soap operas are probably losing intelligence by the second and their brains are slowly being sucked out of their brains whenever they hear the Coronation Street theme tune.
What forbes.com seems to try to communicate to the reader is the significance of wage vs. practical jobs vs. dream job. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on how much certain roles get per year and that children are probably kidding themselves if they think they’re going to be happy being a singer. They give the impression that parents need to hinder their children’s dreams instead of help them. Both are equally wrong, and both are equally futile.
To tell a child that they “won’t be able to be an actor” or some other such seemingly unrealistic goal does nothing but squander them. While being a mermaid or fairy or princess when they grow up isn’t realistic, telling them this outright can only make them believe in the future that anything they really want or dreams cannot be achieved – mainly because the reason they can’t be acheived isn’t clearly laid out to them – but wanting to be a fairy or a superhero and then have them change their minds the next day is a part of their imagination, it’s a part of being creative, of learning and playing, and eventually they’ll understand that those goals are unattainable out of common sense and understanding – it’s a part of growing up.
What we shouldn’t teach children is that we can’t dare to dream – that money makes it impossible for us to strive towards our goals. We shouldn’t teach children that money is more important than happiness, that how you grew up should determine how you should live as an adult. We all have some dream we want or wish we had achieved, and very little of us are actually living out their dream.
But I don’t think this, as Booth says, is because society and financial worries stop us. I believe that humans are naturally curious, we naturally adapt to situations and new things – we are all constantly learning and growing, some of us welcome that change and some of us are afraid of it, but we still develop, because if we weren’t learning something new at least each year of our life, we’d be dissatisfied with life by the time we get to our mid forties.
Developing and understanding is a part of the human life and the way we are raised is a large part of how we turn out – but it doesn’t have to be how we are for the rest of our lives. Determining what a child says they want to be when they grow up as a clue to what career they’ll have twenty years down the line is unrealistic. I wanted to be a vet, a teacher, an actress, a director, a banker, a model, a singer, a dancer…I’m none of these things, yet I was all of these things as a child and my imagination allowed me to be all of these things. Imagination is powerful. It is more powerful than money, it is more powerful than a job.
Children have got life spot on. It is the adult version of us and our own self doubt and insecurities that is the transition between dreaming and reality. I’ve never stopped dreaming, I’ve only tried to make my dreams fit into reality, where I can do something that makes me happy and makes me able to feed myself at the same time.
It is not our dreams which are unrealistic, but it is thinking that having money will satisfy us, like a thirst we can’t quench. We should be allowed to make the choice of living our dreams or living in luxury. Most of the time you get one or the other, you just have to work out what is more important to you.
And remember, if you were stranded on a desert island, “I make lots of money and then I spend it” is not a viable skill. And it will probably get you killed by the indigenous. I’m sure money has place on a desert island somewhere though, I mean, you could use all that dollar for toilet paper or something.