Every kid has a dream of what he wants to be when he grows up, just like you did when you were a kid. Maybe you had parents who encouraged you in that dream — or maybe you had parents who weren’t so thrilled by your dream and wanted you to do something practical instead.
Whatever your experience was like as a child, you have a choice right now to help your kids dream.
Help your kids dream big — and dream right. It sounds like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By doing these three things, you can help raise a child who pursues his dreams and succeeds at them.
1.) Get to know your child very well.
Spend time with your child in order to understand her better. Watch for her strengths and weaknesses. Listen to what she talks about. Listen to what she wants to be when she grows up. Get to know her.
Get to know her as she tries out different dreams and interests. Encourage her to have as many dreams as she wants. Don’t pigeonhole your child by putting her in gymnastics for six hours a week at four years old. What if she wakes up at age 17 and realizes she doesn’t actually like gymnastics — she’s only doing it because that’s the only thing she’s ever done? Allow her to try many different things and get to know her as she explores.
2.) Encourage your kids to pursue goodness.
Kids want to grow up knowing they have a purpose. They want to do something that matters. Encourage your kids to not only dream but to seek God’s will in that dream. Encourage them in a path that will help people, or to channel their dreams in a way that is for the greater good.
Don’t let your kids become too self-absorbed. Work on their character. Encourage them to pursue what’s good and right, and their dreams will follow.
Don’t let the world miss out on all your kids have to offer.
3.) Encourage them to pursue dreams that use their natural gifts.
This is where you as a parent have the most wisdom and guidance to offer. As you’re spending time with your child and intentionally getting to know him, you will see his natural gifts rise to the surface. Kids can’t always recognize these. For example, if you have an 11-year-old who wants to be a professional athlete but has no athletic talent, steer him in a direction that is reasonable. Point out what he’s really good at and find ways for him to use that gift.
Also — and this is important — don’t push your kids to pursue your dreams or become good at what you’ve always wanted to be good at. Having a child isn’t your opportunity to live vicariously through your children and achieve your own goals. You might see that your kid, who you’ve always wanted to be a doctor, actually excels at the arts. Let her pursue the arts. Or vice versa, if she’s leaning toward science and hates her piano lessons, let her lean into that gift.
I interviewed actor, producer, and author David A.R. White recently. You may know him from the blockbuster “God’s Not Dead” or as the co-founder of PureFlix. He grew up in a Mennonite family on a farm in Kansas.
You can imagine his parents’ surprise when he called them from college and announced he was moving to Hollywood to pursue acting. No one in his family had ever done this. By the time he was 18, he’d only been to a movie theater once.
But instead of freaking out or ordering him to come back to the farm, David White’s parents simply said, “As long as you serve the Lord, keep Him first in whatever you do, we support you.”
Parents, this is the perfect example of supporting your child’s dreams, even if they don’t match your own — even if you don’t get them.
If David White’s parents had forced him to stay on the farm and live the life they were living, the world would have missed out on all the talent David has brought to Hollywood. He writes about his storied journey in his new book, “Between Heaven & Hollywood.”
Be supportive of your kids. Get to know them and encourage them to pursue good, big dreams. Don’t let the world miss out on all they have to offer.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project .