The question, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" always annoyed me as a kid. I found it so predictable that I avoid asking it to kids I meet now, Instead, I end up asking the equally-lame "What's your favorite subject in school?" But it is an important question--especially for children. It is much more important as kids get older.
I was recently considering a statistic I learned while I was getting my degree. I took a course in college about sex and society. I had very few opportunities to enjoy non-technical classes, so I really wanted them to be interesting. During the course, the professor stated that one of the factors related to reducing teenage pregnancy was whether the girls had a vision for their future. Girls with a vision for their future were less likely to end up pregnant during their teenage years. I found that bit of information interesting enough to retain for the last 15 years.
During a recent party, I had an opportunity to interact with a number of different types of people. One thing became really clear--so many people ended up in 'it's a job' type of work. A lot of those same people continued that way year after year. Just floating from one type of work to another or making self-destructive choices. During a conversation, I got a chance to talk to a person who recently started the hard work of undertaking a long-term plan and they were excited and thrilled even with the hard work. Another person couldn't elaborate what they wanted to do even as their life is just beginning. It was interesting to see the two situations at one time.
Planning is important for all people. It's especially important when kids can be making choices that could allow or eliminate entire career paths. Kids need to plan--that means picking a goal, or vision for their own future. That helps them to make decisions that are more likely to help them reach that goal.
I was reminded of what the professor had said. A vision of the future allowed many teenagers to avoid the trap of teenage pregnancy. I could see how a vision of the future re-energized an older person and a lack of vision could lead a teenager to any old job. So, parents, ask, ask, and ask again what your children what to be when they grow up. Help them try on careers by suggesting the many varied options available to them. And let them think big! Ask other people's kids, too. You will be helping kids toward a more satisfying future and teaching them a very important life skill.