Help Your Child Develop Healthy Ambitions
On America’s Got Talent last night an energetic young lady commanded the stage. Full of enthusiasm, this talented 8-year old exuded self-confidence and charisma as she sang and danced across the stage in front of a cheering audience. After her performance, one judge gently suggested that while she showed a lot of stage presence, singing might not be the best outlet for her talents, he was booed by the audience. You could see consideration of the new thought flit across the young girl’s face, before another judge cut in and told her, “If singing is what you love, then that’s what you should do.” The little girl beamed and the audience cheered as she walked off the stage.
There is nothing wrong with dreaming. We encourage our children to dream big. The youngster who dreams of becoming a singer or an astronaut may someday attain their childhood goal. Childhood is about trying on different roles and different personas to see what fits. Most children try on a series of different roles as they move through childhood and their interests change. The 4-year-old fireman morphs into the 6-year-old super hero, the 9-year-old paleontologist, the 13-year-old pro quarterback.
A very small number of us actually realize those childhood dreams. The world has its stars in entertainment, medicine, science and sports. Stardom is usually reached after years of singular focus, years of dedicated hard work and the serendipity of luck. But a few shooting stars seem to flash into popularity overnight, just often enough to make us believe we might be the next instant sensation. It’s a dream fueled by reality TV shows that promise instant success or wealth. The reality is that most talented people never become media stars but do carve out satisfying lives. They contribute to their communities and enrich the lives of those around them. They pursue their talent for the unique pleasure it adds to their own lives.
Rather than fuel unrealistic dreams of stardom, parents need to guide their children to develop healthy ambitions. Help your child focus on the pleasure an activity adds to his life, not on whether he gets the lead role in the school play or is the star of the team. Parent for the long haul. Encourage your child to explore and develop his talents; but most importantly, teach him the value of enjoying his talents.