Why You Shouldn’t Ask: “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This seemingly innocent question, I think, has many harmful effects for kids.

  1. It assumes that the careers/occupations that they want to pursue already exist (otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to answer the question). If they already exist, chances are, they are already highly competitive (like lawyers, bankers, chefs, designers, writers, musicians, etc..), which also means the humanity already has enough of them.
  2. The younger we are, the more we are concerned about “proving” ourselves by competing (as competition is the easiest way to do so), so this question sucks kids into meaningless competitions instead of imagining the paths that nobody has travelled.
  3. The question puts the focus solely on “you”, as if life is all about what “you” want. To live a full life, you have to also consider what others want. The other part that’s missing is, “What does the world need that I can offer?”