My daughter, age of 6, has just started school. The school had the great idea to let the children show to their parents what they will learn this year and how their learning places look like. During this guiding tour, my daughter showed me in one of her notebooks what she has drawn as an answer to the statement “this will be me when I grow up” (in Dutch: “dit word ik als ik groot ben”), explaining that she will ride a horse. Some months earlier I also asked her a similar question and she replied that “she does not know” and later added that “she wants to be a horse”. While horses seem to play role in the view of her future, I start asking myself how meaningful is such question / statement to my daughter and her personal growth?
We definitely want to inspire children and stimulate their dreaming by letting them think about the future. However, we often do so based on our adult knowledge and experience, which can be pretty limiting by assuming:
- Only one answer: The statement above suggests that there is only one answer to what a child can become, while we and our dreams change over time.
- Completed person: Am I done with my life when I “become ...”? When am I grown up actually? If we take the lifelong learning paradigm then the notion of ‘growth’ is never ending.
- Just a profession: Often the statement of ‘becoming’ suggests a choice of an existing profession – a doctor, teacher, astronaut, engineer, …. In this fast-moving world, however, professions disappear and new ones emerge - think of online gamers, social media influencers. What remains in long-term are the challenges and creative ideas we want to put our talents on.
- learning context: Why pose the question, if it does not connect to the process of child’s learning and development? How ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ would help my daughter, directly or indirectly, become a horse rider?
What I believe is crucial in order to inspire self-aware and -growing people is to:
A. Celebrate who we are NOW, as a solid basis to build the future we want:
- Who am I now – curious, kind, chaotic, creative, calm, playful, assertive, confident, musical, logical, social, or … – How lovely is that?
- What do I like doing and what am I good at?
Ask authentic questions about the future such as:
- What are my dreams and what do I need to learn to fulfill them?
- Whom do I want to be of help?
- What challenges do I want to solve?
- What do I want to create in life?
My daughter started answering the first question by a drawing, showing her as a happy person – a good basis, I believe, to go on with the conversation. Some time later, when I came back to her with a question about the horse she drew, she eventually said: “You know I just want to be a human”. No need to comment or question further from my side.
to all parents, caregivers, teachers and anyone
involved in the bringing-up and education of children:
Please celebrate each other’s human value, ask authentic questions and engage in meaningful conversations about the future, allowing a whole new world to open-up to our children and us, the adults.
Enjoy and keep exploring!