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AIBU?

AIBU to think parents should stop telling their kids that they can be ANYTHING they want

173 replies

michellet86 · 10/01/2023 17:25

Stop telling your children "you can be or do anything you want to"

This is completely untrue and a flat out lie.

I prefer the term "you can do anything you are capable of"

A lot of parents today i've noticed fill their young minds with a cotton candy view of the world and then wonder why their kids feel unaccomplished or sad when they start reaching adulthood.

OP posts:
michellet86 · 10/01/2023 17:36

I'm not saying that we should destroy the dreams of our kids but i'm absolutely in favour of not over-inflating a child's hopes to the point where they can't cope with anything future failure.

We should be realistic with children from a very young age and instead say things like "you can do so much" , "the future has so many possibilities for you" anything else besides the false promise of "you can be anything you want to be"
I think it would help kids understand that while they have so much potential, there are some things they can't control

OP posts:
Goodread1 · 10/01/2023 17:40

Hi Op

I totally agree with you 100 % per cent too,

You obviously nailed it on the head👏.

It's obviously a well meaningful sentiment saying,
which is hell of a big improvement to the way my adoptive father thought of me,
A family friend who is like Auntie told me ,my father said to her when I was in very teens, on cusp of adult, that I capable of just wiping elderly people's backsides in care home,
I am not knocking this kind of work, it think it's very demanding/must be emotionally challenging kind of work,
I think it should be much more valued in society this kind of work too,
Should have same status as Auxiliary nurses at least,
Hopefully pandemic might of help with that,


I think bygone era, there was a tendency in society to think, that if you tell someone that they are capable of doing anything,
that this would go to the head, and they would get Arrogant/too big for the station in life,if they came from working class/ poor background .

Glad society has changed moved on, thankfully

AnxiousPancreas · 10/01/2023 17:40

Whose version of "capable"? Theirs? Yours? Their teachers? Plenty of people end up achieving less than they should because they don't realise their potential - how does telling more children that they can't be better than their insecurities tell them they are help?

There was a time that women weren't "capable" of being solicitors but 100 years ago Carrie Morrison did it because she wanted to. Jennifer Aniston was rejected time and time and time again before being offered Rachel in Friends. Steve Jobs was literally fired from Apple - I'd say that meant he was pretty incapable of being their CEO. Oprah was told she was "unfit for television" and Harrison Ford "didn't have what it takes to be a filmstar".

"Capable" is an opinion, and people's capacity changes over their lifetime. No five year old is capable of being a professional ballerina, the Prime Minister, a quantum biologist or a humanitarian aid worker - but, with the except of very limited circumstances, all of them could become capable of all of those things.

Coffeesnob11 · 10/01/2023 17:42

I had this conversation with my 18 year old ss the other day. He used to want to be a formula 1 driver but neither parents had the money, skill or time to take him karting constantly let alone support him any further and that's assuming he was a great talent. He was good but so were lots of other kids.
I also think it's okay to tell kids you don't have to have a dream job but one that is okay and pays the bills and has nice colleagues can be great too.

Delectable · 10/01/2023 17:43

After they've gotten over the deceit of santa; not many will believe than so will any case trust in their capability.

lieselotte · 10/01/2023 17:44

I agree too. You can't do everything. I can train as hard as I want but I'll never run as fast as Paula Radcliffe!

StephanieSuperpowers · 10/01/2023 17:45

I think you're largely right, OP. It's not capacity, really. It's a whole combination of factors that determine whether you end up being whatever you want to be. You might well be a fantastic singer - many people are. You won't necessarily end up as a professional singer for many different reasons. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it and enjoy it, but it also doesn't mean that you're failing at life if some dreams don't come true.

I think when parents say to children that you can be anything you want to be, they sometimes set them up for failure, disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction.

lieselotte · 10/01/2023 17:47

That said, I do agree that capability is an opinion and when people say "you can't be what you can't see" I actually think it's more that you can't be what people keep telling you you can't be.

But there's a difference between saying "if you work hard and get onto the right degree you can be a vet" and "of course you can do anything you want darling".

BasketCase101 · 10/01/2023 17:47

I get what you are saying, I agree a bit of realism sometimes is helpful but I don't think it's harmful to encourage your children to have the view that anything is possible. Things are achievable with focus, commitment and hard work if you want it enough (of course we know there are exceptions and extenuating circumstances that do not apply to this logic - but you know what I mean in a general sense)

I think telling your children this inspires confidence and builds self esteem so that they are much more likely to go after their goals because it doesn't feel like it's something that inaccessible to them. I also think that setting an example is also powerful.

My DP was privately educated and the biggest difference I notice with him and also other privately educated friends is their level of confidence and self esteem definitely makes you believe success is very achievable and possible when you are surrounded by it as an example, it becomes less of a myth.

BootifulLoser · 10/01/2023 17:48

I agree completely!
Parents should say instead :"You can achieve your full potential if you want to, and I will help you to do that as much as my resources will allow."

thecatsthecats · 10/01/2023 17:50

I actually was a great all rounder. I reckon I could have had a fair crack at most careers, with the exception of performing arts or sports style ones. But I'm a good all rounder for maths/english/finance/legal/IT/DIY etc

And "you can be anything you want to be" is also really unhelpful when you DO have a wide choice of options.

Much more useful is helping you identify what you enjoy, and what working style suits you. Do you want the flash car and the sharp suit? Do you want to be outdoors all day? Etc

I'm retraining into the career I want, because although I could be anything, what I needed was help to be something specific.

BootifulLoser · 10/01/2023 17:51

lieselotte · 10/01/2023 17:47

That said, I do agree that capability is an opinion and when people say "you can't be what you can't see" I actually think it's more that you can't be what people keep telling you you can't be.

But there's a difference between saying "if you work hard and get onto the right degree you can be a vet" and "of course you can do anything you want darling".

Some people couldn't be a vet no matter how hard they worked. Either they don't have the academic skills or they don't have the right temperament.

I think every kid I knew went through a phase of wanting to be a vet. When I was going through mine, my mum helpfully asked me if I thought I would like seeing sick animals all the time ,and often having to euthanize them. I soon changed my tune about wanting to be a vet!

Tearsndears · 10/01/2023 17:52

My six year old wanted to be a premier league player . Soon got talked out of that one !

FlorenceAndTheVendingMachine · 10/01/2023 17:52

Thought this was going to be another trans thread.

BootifulLoser · 10/01/2023 17:55

Much more useful is helping you identify what you enjoy, and what working style suits you.

Yes, and what you are good at! Of course people usually enjoy doing what they are good at, so it all ties together.

After working at a job I hated for many years, I finally realised that the reason I hated it was because I needed to do project based work, rather than be a role where you carry out a day to day routine and nothing is ever really finished... I changed careers and from that day on I never had a dull moment! I also advanced very rapidly in the company.

EmmaDilemma5 · 10/01/2023 17:55

I totally agree. Being realistic (yet positive) with your kids is so important in managing life expectations and not feeling like a failure when it doesn't all work out.

Work hard and but there's no need to want to be a millionaire, astronaut or youtuber. Having a 'normal' job is completely valued too.

UWhatNow · 10/01/2023 17:57

"Capable" is an opinion, and people's capacity changes over their lifetime. No five year old is capable of being a professional ballerina, the Prime Minister, a quantum biologist or a humanitarian aid worker - but, with the except of very limited circumstances, all of them could become capable of all of those things.

You can be perfectly capable and even talented enough but if you’re from the wrong class, have the wrong accent, don’t have the right connections etc. you don’t stand a chance in some arenas.

I watched a fairly notable film the other day where the most unremarkable, talentless, drab girl was cast as the lead actress and I just knew she was a nepotism case. I looked it up and lo and behold - her dad is a film director and her mother is producer. I wondered how many thousands of other aspiring actresses could have played that better but didn’t get a look in…

How many talented young people from less privileged backgrounds with no ‘connections’ get plumb internships and opportunities to pursue their capabilities and talents? Very few I imagine. Privilege is what opens doors to children ‘becoming anything they want to be’. Some have it, most don’t.

YANBU op.

PlaitBilledDuckyPuss · 10/01/2023 17:59

If their ambition is to do as a career something people do for fun (acting, singing, dancing, football, writing, art, making TikTok videos etc.) then they need a B option that's something people only do as work.

michellet86 · 10/01/2023 18:00

@FlorenceAndTheVendingMachine haha nope! The title does look abit misleading looking at it now😂

OP posts:
Parisj · 10/01/2023 18:01

I think it's good to encourage them to focus on what makes them tick. Be realistic but positive. You can get good at what you enjoy if you apply yourself to the task, and if you follow your interests and abilities that's a lot more likely to happen. I think encouraging lots of early careers exploration - without judgment - helps. Even, so how do people make it in the music industry, lets find out, or what opportunities are there in football. But also, are you detail focused, do you like variety, are you people focused, do you like a challenge, what careers follow on from a history degree if you love history - and use career quizzes to get ideas and throw them around.

EL8888 · 10/01/2023 18:01

It depends on who is doing the judging though and if their judgement is sound. My brother is Mensa level smart, few degrees from Cambridge type clever. My parents therefore thought l was thick in comparison and going to university was a “waste of time for me”. Luckily l ignored them as l had the sense to see l could achieve well versus peers. Plus it wasn’t an accident l got 9 GCSE’s and 4 A levels with decent grades -then went onto get a 1st class honours degree, came 2nd person in the class in a healthcare subject. Plus an award as most outstanding BSc student. Im not thick, just not as bright as my brother which isn’t the same thing at all! Most of the population aren’t -my parents included who l outperformed academically 🤷‍♀️

WinterFoxes · 10/01/2023 18:02

I agree with you.

I remember DS2 saying to me when he was about 8 years old, 'I want to be a famous footballer. Do you think I could be a famous footballer?'
'No,' I said.
He looked so shocked. I'd never told him he couldn't achieve something before. He was about to cry. I'm usually very positive, but this was bloody ridiculous. I said, 'You hate sport. You won't even turn up to Warm Up (a 15 minute aerobic session run by his school before classes started every day) You have never willingly kicked a ball, unlike most kids. You are brilliant at art, music, writing, comedy but if you want to be a footballer, you need to spend about 5 hours outside every day before and after school, doing ball skills practise, just to catch up with the boys in your class. Want to start now?'
'No,' he said and snuggled down under his duvet! End of famous footballer dream. I don't think the England team have missed out, somehow.

Ireolu · 10/01/2023 18:02

I just broke it to my 5 Yr old that she can't sing so won't be a rock star. She disagrees but I think me and DH will keep fighting that battle till she sees the light.

JamSandle · 10/01/2023 18:04

It's a fine line between not encouraging and unrealistically encouraging - somewhere in the middle is what we should aim for.

5128gap · 10/01/2023 18:06

Neither is helpful in a hypothetical context. You don't want to give unrealistic hopes, but nor do you want to completely stifle ambition/interest.
Conversations like this need to be about specifics.
'I want to be a Hollywood actor'
'That's a very difficult thing to become. Very few people make it so its probably a good idea to keep some other options open. But if you enjoy acting how about this or that class and you can see what opportunities there may be for you in acting'
What should always be avoided is the message that 'if you just work hard enough and never give up...' its very cruel.

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