What Does It Mean to Follow Your Dreams?

Child in coat looking at the horizon

Children are often told “follow your dreams,” meaning that they should learn more about what they love and try to make it a viable career if they can. But should children follow their dreams? It’s important to learn about your child and their passions, but it’s also part of your job as a parent to help them become a self-sufficient adult.

The language we use in encouraging our children is incredibly important. Here, we’ll explore what following your dreams actually means, how you can discover and support their passions, and whether it’s a good idea to take this approach in teaching children about their potential.

Inspiring Our Children

At some point, most children are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up”? While very few of them will make their way into the careers they select in childhood, it does get them thinking. But what if their biggest passion is something they haven’t discovered yet? Or what if the career they’ll eventually have doesn’t even exist yet?

The purpose of asking kids what they want to be when they grow up should be to get them thinking of what excites them. As a child, the meaning of “follow your dreams” should be “explore what interests you.” There are plenty of productive things kids can do that can help teach them responsibility in the meantime.

Dreams Lead to Discovery

The cool thing about dreams is that when we find something we love, we never stop learning about it. In fact, using one of your child’s passions to help them learn new things is one of the best ways to feed their love of learning. And if we take “follow your dreams” to mean “explore what excites you”, it can lead to the discovery of new passions & interests!

Children should follow their dreams, but always stay open to new discoveries. A child’s passion for music might lead them to play in a band or orchestra, but it might also develop into an interest in audio engineering, or work as a music teacher, music journalist, or even a music therapist. There are hundreds of ways that children can apply their passion to their lives or careers, many of which might not even exist yet!

girl and man at the beach

Happiness and Success

When many people say “follow your dreams”, they might mean that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But success comes from happiness as much as happiness comes from success. Encouraging your children to follow their dreams will mean a whole lot coming from you because some of the most impactful lessons are ones kids learn from parents.

The Practicality of Dreams

Every parent wants their kid to be successful and financially secure. But even if your child shows an interest in biology, chemistry, and the human body, don’t try to force them in the direction of being a doctor. Even when it’s well-meaning, following their dreams should stay exciting, because having fun is how kids learn best.

If they have a genuine interest in a traditionally practical or lucrative field, it’s best when they stay in it voluntarily. The best way to make a child lose interest in something is to force it on them when they’d rather try something else.

boy with a fossil set

Disconnect Dreams from Careers

“I want to be an actor” is something not every parent loves to hear. The chances of anyone making it big as an actor are pretty slim. There are far more people auditioning than there are roles to sustainably support careers in acting. It’s enough to ask whether children should even try to follow their dreams of being an actor, or similar longshot careers.

But “Follow your dreams” doesn’t always have to mean “as a career.” Childhood is when our kids are still learning about themselves, what they like, and what motivates them. Children should absolutely follow their dreams, even if they lead to a hobby rather than a career. It encourages a love of learning and growing for a lifetime, which can lead to a richer and more fulfilling life in more ways than monetary success.

And if your child does want their dreams to become their career, support them wholeheartedly. It heightens their confidence, happiness, and their chance at making it a reality. After all, somebody has to win at the Oscars.

Help Your Child Discover Their Passion with Hello Genius

One of the best ways to learn about your child’s dreams is with Hello Genius. It’s a parent and child app that allows children to explore and learn about topics as wide and diverse as the world they live in. All the while, the connected parent app tracks what they learn and interact with to help parents learn about their interests. It even helps connect families with the child-friendly activities in their area that best support their interests.

Sign up for Hello Genius and try it free for the first 30 days.