Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow Up

One of my earliest memories is a friend of the family asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the time, I was maybe 4 years old and mostly concerned with conning my parents into giving me some extra TV time and getting back to my stories. It seemed silly to me then, just as it makes no sense to me now, that we expect children to have an answer to that question.

I’m sure I gave some mundane answer, if an answer at all. Over the years and the million times I’ve been asked that question since, I answered with firefighter, paleontologist, Ninja Turtle, and a myriad of other cliche responses. I didn’t know then, and despite being very happy in my current profession, I still wouldn’t know how I would respond to that question.

We don’t expect children to know where they’re going to live when they grow up, who or if they’re going to marry, or how many tattoos they plan on getting. Childhood is about exploring and figuring out who they want to be, and while this questions attempts to help kids plan for their future, for some it can cause undo stress.

To put it bluntly, that question freaked me out. All the other normal questions you ask a child I understood and had prepared answers for. Favorite color? Yellow. Favorite food? Pizza, just like Michelangelo. But expecting me to pick a career when I had just learned how to tie my shoes wasn’t going to happen.

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