What do you what to do when you grow up?

We are all guilty of it. Asking our children what they want to do or be when they are older.  I did it just the other day. While I was putting my daughter to bed the other night I asked her what she wanted to do when she grows up. I was excited by the question but in return, my question made her uncharacteristically sad because she didn’t know the answer. She said, “Mum. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  To be honest this was the right answer. She is nine years old. How would she know what she wants to do in fifteen or twenty years’ time? Perhaps I was in the wrong for asking her in the first place.

Now, in some cases, I have some friends who have known that from the age of seven that they wanted to be a doctor. And you know what; twenty years on they became a doctor. However, many of us will agree that these types of early career making situations are rare. For most us, we had no clue what we wanted to do when we were older. Did you? 

 I’m certain my answer was always the same. I just wanted to be on the stage or television. An actress. A veryfamous actress. Maybe someone on Dynasty, like a long-lost daughter! However, the reality is that I’m not an actress. But…unfortunately that is not my life and Joan Collins is not a close friend. Instead, I sell iPhones for a living as well as being an accredited writer and award winning speaker. I suppose you could say that I did get on the stage in the end but never in the way that I had envisaged.

As parents, what we really want for our children is for them to be happy. We want them to wake up every day, do their best and to be their best self. It’s a simple statement but an important one.When we ask our children, what do you want to be when you’re older what do we expect them to say? A firefighter, an astronaut, a scientist or an engineer. But when we try and pigeon hole our children to just being one thing, research shows that searching for one leaves students feeling lost and confused. And even if you have set your heart on a set career, is it the right career for you or does your child just like the idea of that career, much as I did. 

I tell my children that I am forty years old but I still dream bigabout what I might do when I grow up. They may smile or laugh when I say this but it’s important that children know that their career choices don’t have to be defined by the age of seven. For some of us, we can be changing, side stepping or growing our careers at any time in our lives. 

 I spend a lot of time going into schools, colleges and universities to encouraging youngsters to aim high and dream big. But, equally, I remind them that whatever they do, they will need to work hard. To seek out opportunities and it’s unlikely they will land in their lap. Encourage your children to investigate all kinds of careers. Gosh, they might even want to choose a career which hasn’t be created yet! Many of the people working in the field of computers and Internet technology have jobs that did not exist when we were youngsters. The future is unwritten and the possibilities are endless. And when they grow up, their future should not be limited to just one day. As they grow, tell them to talk to teachers, relatives, friends and mentors about lots of different career options – not just one. 

What do you want to do when you grow up? 

We need to change how we ask children this question. Many children and young adults do not know what they want to be when they grow up because they are being asked the wrong question. You cannot know what you want to be until you know who you are. 

 Gently remind children that they should aspire to be someone, who is, not necessarily defined by their work but what kind of person they are. Maybe, just maybe they want to be remembered for being someone who did something amazing for other people. Tell your children to take some time today to dream. The world is their oyster. So; in summary, let’s switch the conversation from not “who do I want to work” for into “what do I want to learn and how can I strive to achieve that?” 

 I’ll never give up dreaming big. I am still after my own television show. To be continued…




ParentingHope Marshall