It’s everyone’s favorite question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Yet when we ask children this, it can imply that they’ll be defined by what they do, and that their achievements regarding this singular goal will determine their success.
Instead, ask, “What problem in the world do you want to solve?”
A Shift in Perspective
This new question has several benefits. It shifts the focus from being career-driven to being mission-driven, gives the child the chance to be of value right now—rather than only when they grow up—and opens the world of opportunities to them.
For example, if your child wants to be a doctor when they grow up, then veering from that path could mean they may feel like a failure. They may also feel stressed if they force themselves to accomplish a career goal that doesn’t bring them happiness. Asking children what they want to be teaches them that their value isn’t reached until they “grow up” and attain doctor status.
A New Question for an Evolving Future
Try asking your child, “What problem in the world do you want to solve?” If they respond, “I want to help people to be healthier,” they have endless options and goals, and they can start now. Their journey can lead them toward writing books; becoming a scientist, teacher, fitness instructor, chef, nurse or the president of a hospital; or even starting a healthy habits video series right now.
This reframing of the conversation is especially critical given the evolving professional landscape. The pace at which jobs are shifting now due to new technologies is extreme, to say the least. There are young people right now who are readying themselves for jobs that won’t even exist in about 10 years. Asking a child what they want to be when they grow up bears the risk of pointing them toward a job or career that’s being phased out, leaving them feeling confused and ill-prepared.
The Future of Work
The future of work is evolving. The way that we communicate with our children should, too. So, today, try asking your child, “What problem in the world do you want to solve?” and give them an opportunity to be mission-driven, see the world through a lens of empathy, and experience life with adventure and curiosity.
For help navigating this challenging and evolving educational landscape, explore the Verizon Innovative Learning HQ portal, which provides free resources and classes to grow the next generation of problem solvers.
Gahmya Drummond-Bey has taught through two pandemics and is a TED Resident, global instructional designer, author, educator and CEO of Evolved Teacher. She has redesigned learning programs in more than 20 countries.
This content is provided by Verizon. National PTA does not endorse any product, entity or service. Verizon has compensated this author in exchange for this article. Get more tips and advice from experts on parenting your connected kids in the digital age. Visit Verizon’s award-winning Parenting in a Digital World.