#BigParentingIdea — Can’t Tell You Enough How Much I Hate This Question!

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up? Lawyer? Doctor? Architect? Fireman? Teacher?”

That’s what we often think should be a cornerstone of our children’s future career life.

It’s like this Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. It seems like it’s always been there.

Heck, this question is so obvious and so commonly used nowadays that if it was a brand it would be one of those household names, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, Hershey, Heinz or M&M’S.

Yet it is so flawed.

I remember once playing soccer with my then 5-year-old son. It was soon after he started to take interest in all those star players. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to name just a few.

I took turns at being both goalkeeper and defender. He, on the other hand, was a forward.

So I asked him: “I’m Manuel Neuer. You?”

And here came his answer which was quite a surprise for me: “I don’t know. I am myself.”

It surprised me because when we played a few weeks earlier he did want to be one of those star players.

I was amazed by his answer and said: “Totally! Why shouldn’t you want to be yourself? You can be great being yourself.”

I was stunned how innately smart kids are and how good their bullshit detectors actually are.

I realized how much this whole idea of us wanting to be someone or something sucks.

That’s why I hate the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question sucks!

It forces our kids to attach labels. To pigeonhole themselves.

Our parents and teachers asked us this question. All sorts of well-intentioned adults (members of our families, friends, neighbours, store clerks) ask this question. No wonder it stuck with the whole society.

I never asked my son this question and I will never ask it. I explained him why I consider it to be one of the worst questions you can ask a child.

I’m glad he wants to be himself. And I guess that’s what he will answer whenever those well-intentioned adults will ask him “So, what do you want to be when you grow up? Lawyer? Doctor? Architect? Fireman? Teacher?”

“I want to be myself.” is the best answer a child can give. That’s the answer which gives hope that the child will not pigeonhole himself or herself or let others do it.


Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, here’s more.

Writing is my oxygen. I write every day. About parenting, career life and the challenges of being a young adult.

Each day I share my musings on my blog http://mygame.typepad.com.

You might consider subscribing to my newsletter which goes out once each day. In it you’ll receive my newest posts. No spam guaranteed. Promise!

You can also subscribe to my Medium Publications and receive an e-mail each time I publish a new story. Here they are:

I appreciate every second you spend reading my stuff!

- Lukasz