8 Reasons to Stop Asking: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” – Hidden Power of Words Series, #21

Children and young adults are bombarded with various forms of the question “what do you what to be when you grow up” from almost day one. Such questions are important in that we need to always think about the future, but there are many more problems with such questions when we examine the hidden power of these words. 

1. These questions imply there is a time when we can, do, and should stop growing

2. And further subtly demonize and artificially divide the time when a person is and is not “grown up.”

3. They suggest there is only one thing a person can and should do. (Grammar matters!)

4. And that a person needs to decide as soon as possible.  

5. And that the person actually has full choice in said matter. 

6. They assume the answer involves a job/career and not a characteristic, such as a loving aunt or animal caretaker. 

7. They falsely assume every person–even “grow ups”–is already aware of the full scope of jobs that exist and will exist. (And the template of job possibilities a person knows about is almost solely informed by the geopolitical area in which he/she lives. This problem also makes many career days problematic.)

8. Such questions and conversations almost never involve a discussion of how to actually achieve said thing. (Leading to students sometimes having “cognitive dissonance” between their goal of being a surgeon and their classroom behavior.) 

Please visit the full Hidden Power of Words Series here.