An 11-year-old girl who spends 30 hours a week training at a ballet studio. A preteen boy who misses school to travel all over the world and fight in martial arts tournaments. And a 15-year-old girl who just moved to L.A. to break into ‘the business’.
Are these kids living the ultimate dream, or are the parents living vicariously through their children? Exactly whose dreams are coming true?
How to Dream WITH Your Kids
As the momma of a kid with some pretty big dreams, I often have to reign myself in when we discuss her future so that I can be sure she is in the driver’s seat – not me.
In each of the scenarios above, it is definitely a child-driven dream. Yes, the parents also have to dream big in order to help their child’s dream come true, but these parents are not pushing their kids.
I personally know each of the families mentioned. I’ve watched their kids grow from starry-eyed dreamers to hard-working, dedicated students who are pursuing a dream of making it big.
“Children need parents to have ideas and goals for them. They need us to expose them to many ideas and activities and even dream about their involvement in camping, tennis, music, art, gardening, creative writing, cooking, woodworking, journaling, and more. But we must not dream for them without them. We can’t leave them behind.” ~ Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch, NO MORE PERFECT KIDS
As the parent of a dancer who dreams of being on Broadway, I find that there are times I have to give myself a mental reminder of why we do what we do.
Emma loves to be on stage and to perform for others. She loves to learn new dance combinations and push herself to master them. I love to watch her dance and shine on stage. I enjoy watching her set goals and master them as she works on new routines.
However, I have to be sure that I am not pushing her to be someone she is not. I have to let her take the lead to pursue her dreams. I have to be sure she’s dancing because she’s following her passions – not because she wants to please me.
God has given her an amazing gift. It’s not my gift. I have the gift of watching her live out her dreams on the stage, but she is the one doing all the hard work. We have many discussions about what she wants to do with this talent.
At eleven, she has some pretty realistic goals. She has some others that are not likely to come to pass, but it’s okay to dream big. Will she be the next Broadway star? Probably not. Will she be a famous tapper? Not likely.
However, if she works hard, she could very well get some big roles wherever she is dancing. She could win an award or two. Or, she could just keep doing what she’s doing – going to classes, learning new things, performing in front of audiences, and living out her dreams day to day in our little dance world. Any of those scenarios is just fine with me.
My job as her momma is to pave the way for her to pursue her passions. I am there with her every step of the way. I am her loudest cheerleader. I’m also the one asking repeatedly if she’s sure she wants to keep following this path or that one.
I give my opinions when decisions have to be made, but I really work hard to let her know the decisions are up to her. She’s dancing, because this is her passion. I want her passion to be the driving force… not mine.
She also knows it’s okay to say she’s done. When and if she decides she’s done dancing, I will let her make that choice. Yes, it will be hard. I love to watch her dance. But, I love her more. I only want her to do it if her heart is in it 100%. If I am truly allowing her to live her dream, I have to accept it when/if her dream changes.
I see parents – in dance and sports and music and academics, etc – pushing their kids to do what the parents have always loved. Former dancers pushing their daughters to dance whether they like it or not. Former athletes pushing their children play their sport – even when the kid’s clearly not enjoying it.
It’s up to us, as parents, to foster their talents and passions in a way that allows our children to be the best they can be with the talent God has given them. It’s not up to us to mold them into the little people we want them to be.
Keeping it all in perspective.
It is good and natural for our children to have dreams. It’s even okay for them to dream big. It gives them something to aspire to. It helps them set goals and work toward them. It’s healthy. Goals teach children perseverance and work-ethic. However, it is important that parents allow their children to create their own dreams.
We need to dream with our kids not for them.
Are you raising an athlete?
This article is updated from a post I originally published in October 2014.