Parents Must Temper Children’s Dreams With Reality
As parents, we all want our children to be happy in life and succeed. We encourage our children to dream big. We nourish our children’s dreams. We buy our future fireman a fireman’s hat at the toy store and take him to visit the local fire station. We invest in a piano and arrange music lessons for our budding concert pianist. We applaud our yet-to-be-discovered movie star by sending her to drama camp at the local college. We foster our emerging soccer star’s ambitions by signing up for a traveling team. There is nothing wrong with helping our children explore their dreams. It’s one way of letting them “try on” potential career choices to see how they fit. But some parents become so wrapped up in their children’s dreams that they lose perspective and fail to interject a necessary dose of reality.
When they are young, children’s dreams change quickly. Today’s fireman is tomorrow’s astronaut and next week’s rock star. But as children grow up, dreams begin to move them toward career paths. Sometimes parents co-opt their children’s dreams, reliving their own failed dreams or missed opportunities through their children. The dad who always wanted to be a high school quarterback pushes his son into football. The mom who dreamed of winning the lead in the high school play pressures her daughter into drama.
When parents force their own agenda onto their children’s dreams, children suffer. They are torn between their own interest or lack of interest and pleasing their parents. When parents “over-encourage” their children to succeed, particularly if the child expresses disinterest or feels uncomfortable with his ability to compete, children can become anxious. Constant anxiety can lead to insomnia, behavior problems, even depression and other emotional problems.
Parents need to take a step back and allow children to fully experience their own dreams. Certainly, provide opportunities to explore interests and talents; but temper dreams with reality. If your child warms the bench during the game, don’t step in and argue with the coach or make excuses that feed your child’s sense of entitlement. Allow your child the important lessons of disappointment and failure. Finding out for themselves whether they have the ability and skill to realize their dreams helps children to refine and restructure their dreams into attainable goals.