Stop Asking Your Kids This Question

I'm sorry if I've asked you this.  Lord knows I've asked it all the time, every day probably.  For Christ sake, the class I taught to middle schoolers sought to answer this precise question - perhaps a reason why in hindsight this chapter of my life just never fully agreed with me.  I must have known deep down that it was wrong.  And for that I am sorry.  Forewarning - I'm about the rock the inner core beliefs of many people, but I can honestly say this thought process is coming to me straight from above and I believe it's my responsibility to get it out into the world.  Because there IS another way and there IS a bigger purpose, despite what the rest of the world has led us to believe.  Personally, this question always made me feel uneasy when people would ask it to me, and when I ask young people today, I can feel the same unsettled anxiety setting in.  I guess I thought that helping kids to answer the question would somehow calm said anxiety, but it turns out it's not the lack of answer that's the problem.  It's question itself and the doubts it inevitably begins to raise.  So for the love of God, please stop incessantly asking our youth... 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sure, it seems like an innocent question. And as a child it can sometimes be a fun game of make believe.  But for the most part, even in my 3 year olds, this question is met with a look of confusion.  When you ask kids what they want to BE, it implies that that ARE NOT already.  It slowly begins to break down a child's belief that they are already complete and valuable, and replaces that with this idea that we must label ourselves according to career in order to be considered a successful member of society.  And if I'm being honest, I find that most kids (heck, even adults) don't ever fully know what they want to BE or what they want to DO, and so begins the vicious cycle of finding our place in a society where we are never quite enough, constantly measuring ourselves against a pay scale, a rubric, a set of test scores... 

See children are born with a knowing.  They KNOW that they are important and useful.  They are experts at taking in each day for the moment that it is and experiencing where they are in the present.  They don't look to the months ahead or dwell on months past.  They already know that they have purpose here and do not need a certificate or a title in order to fulfill it.  As we get older, surely we will have future visions and goals, as we should, but we can never let go of this knowing.  That success is found in the soul of a human being and in your daily interactions, not in accomplishments or things that can be listed on a resume.  

I'm sure there are some of you reading this thinking I am being idealistic.  That the removal of this question will create a society of lazy individuals just sitting around waiting for a handout, but I think you'd actually be dead wrong.  See, kids are born wanting to help.  They WANT to help me unload the groceries and the dishwasher.  They WANT to help me package new client gifts and make videos.  They WANT to help me cook dinner, even clean the toilets!  We are all born to innately WANT to be giving, helpful, and full of purpose.  Nobody says, "hey I want to be a lazy piece of sh*t when I'm older".  No.  People who are lazy and asking for handouts are the ones who have lost their sense of knowing.... because they don't know what they want to BE or don't think they are capable of it... and because society has trained us to believe that we cannot be successful without this.  So they abandon the mission altogether and we're all left trying to pick up the pieces for them.  

Hey, maybe the answer isn't getting kids to be "college and career ready", but to look inward and identify the compass already positioned in their soul.  There, I said it.  And hopefully I don't get fired.  But seriously guys, we're missing the point here.  

So why did I continue to ask "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  Because I honestly just wanted to get to know who you are.  Because I'm hoping that the answer to that question might give me some glimpse into your dreams, your hopes, the beliefs you stand for... I'm fishing to find out the reason God has placed you in my path and how our interaction will serve a purpose in the world.  But for the record, it doesn't really matter what you want to BE.  Because you already ARE and your current place in this world is a very important step in your journey.  

So what questions SHOULD we ask our kids then?  How about something like "Why do you think God created you in this place at this time?" or "What is your message that you want to share with the world?"  or "When do you feel happiest and most inspired?" These questions validate the soul that is inside right now at this current time.  They don't require any formal training.  This is something that every human being can access, at every income level and every age and it naturally cultivates purpose and drive.

It's time to shift our focus to be less on future planning and more on the present journey.  On the successes you can create TODAY and the person that you are NOW that over a lifetime will inevitably lead to the kind of life we are asking kids to commit to before they are ready.  Let this be the start of a movement... of defining success in a different way! 

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