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What do you want to be when you grow up?

How many times have you heard the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” posed to kids? I’ve done it a ton in my kinder classes. After all, learning about jobs and community helpers is part of the curriculum.

This well-loved question gets our insightful and imaginative kids thinking about their future with the possibility to be anything they want to be. And that’s a good thing!

But something I read today struck a chord with me. We always ask the kids “What they want to be, rather than who they want to be.

Children are taught at a very young age to identify with the type of work they choose to do, rather than with the type of person they want to be.

I fell into this trap where I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (it changed from a baker in primary grades, to a vet in junior grades, to a teacher in middle school, to “I don’t know!” in high school), so I just picked something. I picked Business because it could open a lot of doors and maybe by the time I finished my University degree I’d have figured out what I want to do with it.

I’ll never say that education is a waste. I’ve invested in 3 degrees and countless courses to prove that I believe in education very much. But I feel like we put the most emphasis on this - more than any other area of our lives. Get educated and get a job.

What if we helped our children to discover their true, authentic selves as they grew into pre-teens and young adults? Wouldn’t that be more important for them to discover their own passions and live a life true to themselves? I’m pretty sure they’d naturally choose a career that is inline with their authentic selves, and likely be much happier in the workplace.

I saw this list of answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” on Our Family World Blog and I think these answers really showcase the children’s imagination, interests, and who they are. There is so much potential to dig deeper with these kids.

A little girl who wants to be a tattoo artist because she gets to draw on people… a cab driver who is going to drive around and teach the kids that can’t get to school… and of course the sweetest answer of “myself” because someone has to be me! Here are the answers from Our Family World Blog:

  1. Tattoo artist – 4-year-old girl from a non-tattooed family. When asked her reason? “You get paid to draw on people, and they pay you lots of money for it.” She seems to have it figured out!

  2. A ninja chef5-year-old boy (who, when he was 5 wanted to be a videogame maker). Now that he’s 6 months older, he would like to have a very specific working schedule. Monday through Thursday, he’ll be a regular chef. Then on Friday, he’ll turn into a ninja chef. And don’t forget Saturday and Sunday – he’ll be off.

  3. Zookeeperthis entrepreneurial mind shared that she would buy lots of animals and start a zoo. When an adult questioned how she’d afford it, she said her house is available, and she’d keep the animals there. Good Night, Gorilla would be the perfect book for this little girl!

  4. Aerospace engineer – 5-year-old boy who tried to provide this answer to his kindergarten teacher. When his assignment came home and the teacher had written in “astronaut,” the boy told his parents he answered “aerospace engineer,” but his teacher didn’t understand him. So he settled on astronaut – something she could understand. Here he comes NASA; I have a feeling this clever little boy will indeed end up as an aerospace engineer!

  5. A mommy who cooks5-year-old girl who shared this gem with her mother. I wonder what she would have said if she’d been asked by her dad or teacher!

  6. Cab drivera little boy with a friend who had stopped coming to school because of a broken leg and no means to get to school. When asked why he chose a cab driver, he responded, “I want to drive around and teach those people who cannot afford to go to school.” Whatever this little boy chooses to do in his future, he will undoubtedly make a positive impact on his community!

  7. Dealer in antique Swiss Alp horns12-year-old boy in Australian with no musical ability who has never been to Switzerland. This is perhaps my favorite answer on the list…

  8. A grave digger7-year-old boy who had, apparently, been heavily influenced by Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which had been read in class (and the reading of which was discontinued shortly thereafter).

  9. A doctor…then a teacher5-year-old girl who plans to be a doctor long enough to teach preschoolers to be doctors, then she will become a preschool teacher.

  10. Myself4-year-old girl who didn’t understand the question, but does understand her importance. Her rationale behind her answer was that if she became someone else, who would be her? She just wanted to be herself. What a wonderful answer!

I know going forward I’m going to keep this in the front of my mind with my own children; helping them discover who it is they want to be when they grow up. Because they deserve to prioritize and put themselves first before their career.

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