Why “What do you want to become when you grow up?”-is a mind restricting question.
That’s right. That’s the most restrictive question you can ask a child and I will explain why.
I was reading Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” an amazing bestseller and that’s where the reality of the restrictiveness of this question struck me.
In the preface, she explains how simple her aspirations as a child were (I imagine she never thought she would be First Lady of America then, which to me is just a pinch of her achievements; you should read the book to find out).
Of course, she had an answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up ” question _ A pediatrician. She later became a lawyer, lol. She explains she was ambitious though she didn’t know exactly what she was shooting for, and then she says;
Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child- what do you want to be when you grow u? As if growing up is finite, as if at some point you become something and that’s the end.It struck me.
Now I must say, it might not be a useless question because it definitely made me think as a child, but I must admit, it was restrictive in a lot of ways especially in my mind.
As a child, I thought there was one thing to become. I thought there was a stage called grown up where you achieve things, but I didn’t know end of that phase. Since there was one thing to become, since I had to choose something, it had to be the best.
I’m sure we all have our stories and factors that guided our choices, but I will share mine (please share yours in the comment section). In primary school, when we were taught professions in class, Doctors always came first, then lawyers, engineers, bankers and so forth and that was the hierarchy in my head. Doctor’s first, lawyers next and so on.
My elder sister had decided to become a doctor, I didn’t want to interfere (at least to me it wasn’t fair, lol) so I decided I was going to become a lawyer and that was it. Yea laugh at me, I laugh anytime I tell the tale too.
Anytime I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered, “I want to become a lawyer”, if you had asked me what next, I would have said nothing
Mind you, the only thing I knew about the profession was that lawyers argued in court and you never beat them in an argument if you are not one and that it was a prestigious profession. Long story short, I knew the sound of it made my parents happy too for all the stereotypical reasons. Guess what?
In SS2 (grade 11), I told my mum I wanted to become a cosmetologist. Imagine how hard I’m laughing writing this, please join me?. Why though? You ask, simply because I was confused, all along becoming a lawyer my answer to the what do you want to be question.
I did a lot of reflection then and struck a deal with God in prayer, if you want me to study law, let the admission be granted this year otherwise I’m applying for something else next year. Period.lol. (SS3).
I got the admission ?, long story short, I know I got lucky to love the profession (I saw the admission as an affirmation) a lot of people now regret their choice in whatever area, but I wish I didn’t feel pressured to answer the question then or at least was made to understand that it’s not an end. There’s so much to do, to become, I didn’t know that as a child.
Like I said, it wasn’t a useless question, it gave me a sense of direction whether it was false or not, I’m sure you can relate to that. I knew I wasn’t going to be under my parents forever, I was one day going to be responsible, but it did restrict my thinking in a lot of ways.
How is that question restrictive?
1- It makes you feel growing up is finite: Just like Michelle said, which from experience I agree with, it makes the child feel growing up is finite, like there is a phase called grown up when you achieve things. What about now? As a matter of fact, there are a lot of children who have become a lot in their not grown up phase. What do you want to become in the future or when you grow up? is so abstract.
Marsai Martin became an executive producer at 13, she’s a three time NAACP image awards winner and a six time nominee, I would be wowed. I’m using this example because many of us identify with Blackish or Little. I know we have different paths but a lot of children have potentials that can be harnessed now, but somebody told them they have to grow up lol.
2- It makes the child set early bars on what they can be: what do you want to be when you grow up? So restrictive. I definitely set an early bar which I have now removed. My children will understand there is no what, the world is looking for solution providers and you can be one in more than one sphere, the course you study doesn’t restrict you to one path. I recommend an episode on Just Talk Podcast, titled Be all you can be.
3- The disappointment many feel when they don’t tow that path:
Before I comment on this, I know a lot of people choose out of passion and won’t mind trying multiple times, but I also know many like myself chose for reasons you might not term passion (I got lucky on the way) and are disappointed when they don’t tow that path because they have held on to one answer for the longest time. Many write JAMB and SATs repeatedly, some for the good reasons, some to keep up with that answer (if you can relate, please comment below?).
This is my take, as much as kids (anyone generally) should have a sense of direction, it should never be restrictive. Make your child or yourself understand that there is a whole lot to be. In her book, Michelle Obama goes on to state the many things she has become. There are solutions to be sought, growing up is not finite. Let the child understand that what they become is not centered on their course of study (many don’t know), it should be a guide. Keep yourself and them open-minded and harness all you have in you.
I know we have thoughts in this and I imagine how diverse, so please share your thoughts in the comment section, tell your tale if you can, do you agree that the structure of the question makes it restrictive especially to a child. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe ?. Ciao!
27 thoughts on “Why “What do you want to become when you grow up?”-is a mind restricting question.”
True. This question is restrictive. I’ve heard you tell this story on how you decided on law. Madly funny??…many of us are victims of this question though.
??? I know right, thank you favour?
It was the same with me, I was asked what I want to become In future, My brother is on his path becoming and accountant, my sister on her path to becoming a doctor, I then decided to go for Law
Now come to think of it this is not the type of restrictive bar I want to set for my Kids, I already plan that I cant have the mentality of our people I gat think outside the box.
wow, thanks for sharing Ope?
I can’t imagine how life would have been like if I actually studied medicine but I can imagine where I would have been I started to harness my God given abilities the moment I realized they were abilities instead of waiting till I’m grown . Children are often restricted to their parents decisions which should end!
Kai, true sis, thank you??
Honestly this is the first time I’ve had someone say exactly what I have been thinking about. The question is not the problem actually.i believe it’s the way of life.for the most part Nigerians put a lot of acknowledgement to some proffesions than others and always streamline their children’s thought to fit into what they want so in essence it’s more of what they want than what we want for ourselves.most times it works for the children and the other times we live the rest of our lives knowing that we could have been more and we didn’t.
Wow, thank you for this Rejoice. True, you’re never too young to make a difference.
Though, I think it is majorly restrictive to people who are sentimental and sometimes what you think you want to be as a child might actually be what you want to do for life. And I’d also like to say that if a person does not achieve what they wanted, you could still change it and dream again, you could still make a change… The only restrictions are the ones in our minds.♥️
yes dear, thank you for sharing ? thank
so true dearie, thanks for sharing
wow, thanks for sharing Cassandra
In as much as the question is restrictive, like you rightly said, it does gives one a sense of direction. Kudos for the post tho♥️♥️♥️
Right. Thank you Very?
Yea.This question is restrictive
I never imagined a life outside a court room
I was asked this same question back in grade 4 , What I want to become when I grow up? (LAW) I said . Because it’s a well to do profession in our society. I never thought of what else I could do ,when I got to grade 10 I realised I missed everything a new dream I had to become a writer.
Because law was a good profession I didn’t try to find myself as a writer .
In grade 11 that was when I discovered Writing will be best for me than law. But my dreams of standing in a court room limited me. After my grade 12 I applied for law in a university and also applied for English and creative writing .To the glory of God I was admitted to study English and creative writing and today am doing great in writing .
Wow, thanks for sharing ThankGod?
This is so nice and relatable
Though the question seems limiting, it has been a source of direction over the years to the young. I was asked same question and the answer has been the propeller to whatever drive I have today. At least, no one has been chided for saying that he/she wanted to be more than one or two things noble. I have always wanted to be a lawyer at my early years, though have not give up on that, I have become so many things before it.
Right, it gives a sense of direction to the child, but the structure limits the thinking of the child at an early stage, many grow up with the idea that there is one thing to become, but like yourself the choice of many is out of passion, thank you Mr Micheal for sharing ?
The idea is not entirely restrictive as it has given direction and drive to many young minds, I inclusive. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and that’s the question that triggered in me lots of drives that have placed me among many careers but yet not giving up in law.
Growing up, I liked to watch lawyers on t.v. I liked their wig/gown. I consider the question restrictive, with our parents putting some profession as the best and law was one of them. So I will quickly reply “a lawyer” not knowing exactly if I was passionate about it. With my reply in mind it was gonna be law or nothing I didn’t see myself trying other things and developing new interest.
Right now I’m interested in Athletics,Hair care?
Wow, thank you for sharing Okay??
No doubt about the fact that this question gives a child a sense of direction, but it is restrictive for the fact that our parents made it dance around a few professions that they considered to be the most relevant. That is, doctors, lawyers, engineers and the likes. My parents were quite encouraging too when I showed interest in learning how to play musical instruments in primary school. My dad even paid for music classes which took place three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Those of us in this music classes will spend the several minutes we had for break under the tutelage of our music teacher back then. Even when school has closed, we will spend an hour as this was the time we could get the best out of the session. I learnt how to play the recorder and the piano back then. To top it up, my dad even bought me a piano and even got someone to still teach me. I still remember the things I learnt back then. Good times indeed. This is a lovely write up. I love the fact that you addressed the question “what do you want to become when you grow up.” For me, parents should allow their kids to discover their interests and encourage them to build on it. They shouldn’t streamline their thoughts into thinking that they must be either doctors, lawyers, engineers and the likes. My opinion though. Once again, this is a lovely write up. Well-done.
Wow, thanks for sharing ?