You have heard it before; the conversation goes something like this:
Adult: And what would you like to be when you grow up?
Kid: Maybe a fireman or policeman or doctor or ... superman.
It is not uncommon to invite kids to dream about what they will be when they grow up. It is fun to imagine being someone who saves people, helps people, owns a shop, designs new products, makes people laugh, or creates/performs amazing works of art. The endless possibilities of childhood are wonderful!
Out of the blue one evening as I was preparing dinner, I thought to myself that as a parent, I couldn't really care less what my children grow up and do as a career, as long as they are people of integrity, with strong character and a devotion to loving God and loving others.
As a result of that, I pose a new question to ask our kids when we invite them to think about their future:
What do you want to be like when you grow up?
Adding one little word changes the whole feel of the question!
Often when our kids express what they desire to be when they grow up, they are already thinking about what they want to be like: courageous, helpful, kind, creative, entertaining, etc. We can invite our children into conversations focused not only on the skill development, education, and training required to be something, but also on how they can, right now as young ones, strengthen those character traits that they want to have to be the kind of person they want to be in the future.
Character is transferable! An honest man will be honest no matter his career. Trying to catch up and develop character as an adult is difficult - old habits die hard! Learning new skills, on the other hand, is comparatively easy.
Here are some follow-up questions you can ask your kids to get them thinking:
- Who do you know right now who lives and is the way you would like to be when you grow up? Maybe they could talk with this person or people about how they came to be who they are.
- What can you be doing now to develop those qualities in yourself? This is a great chance to talk about how God grows the fruit of the Spirit in us as we seek to be obedient to Him.
I do believe kids need to dream about what they will be when they grow up, it give them a chance to think about what they love to do, what they are good at, what they can learn, and how they might serve the world! However, what we do for a living does not define us and can also change a lot throughout one's lifetime. Those two reasons make me want to invite my kids to think even broader than occupation, to consider who they want to be and, then, how those qualities will assist them in whatever career path they take.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Now I wonder for myself, what do I want to be like when I grow up?