Children are often faced with the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question can be a confronting one for a young child to answer. Some kids are happy to share their excitement at being the next teacher, doctor or lawyer. Others may be a bit more confused. For a small number of children, though, the answer could be quite simple.
These kids, filled with incredible ambition are the high achievers. They are willing to do nothing short of dreaming big. You probably remember as a child wanting to ‘be’ so many different things. Maybe you attended singing classes or played an instrument, so you dreamed of being a musician. Maybe you took drama lessons and dreamed of being an actor. Maybe you had high hopes for a professional career in sport. Or maybe you wanted to start your own business from the ground up. For many of you, life went in a different direction and you pushed those dreams aside.
But what happens, then, if your child refuses to push those dreams aside? What if your child has ‘big dreams’ about the future and is already equipped with the talent and skills required to achieve them?
According to Professor Mark Gabbott, Executive Dean at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics, there are early signs that your child could be a ‘high achiever’.
“There are some qualities that do set some children and young people apart,” he says. “Their natural interest or curiosity, the speed at which they can learn something new, their aptitude for understanding complex ideas and their passion for learning can all indicate that a child is achieving at a higher level.”
But knowing that our children have this capacity to achieve, is not enough. It’s important that parents develop the capability, sensibility and commitment of high achievers to help them become tomorrow’s leaders.
“This includes building resilience and self-awareness in children, opening them up to new opportunities and helping them realise that they can be whoever they want to be,” Professor Gabbott says.
It’s our role as parents to find and encourage educational opportunities for our young kids. “Whether that be helping out with school homework, encouraging a broader education through co-curricular activities or helping them find the right university degree, parents can be a great support to children.”
Providing emotional support is just as important. “Parents can help children reach their dreams and goals through helping them understand what it will take to get there, talking to them about study options and being supportive and encouraging.”
Encouraging children to dream big is not only beneficial to their own lives, but to those lives around them. “Developing high achieving children to be the best they can be is good for their prospects, and good for society. Our leaders need to be smart, capable and multi-talented. They need to have leadership, decision making, problem solving and communication skills.”
Following on this idea, starting in 2014, Macquarie University will be offering the new Bachelor of Business Leadership and Commerce degree for the first time in semester one. “Our goal is to provide the best and brightest young people with the opportunity to build the skills and knowledge to become tomorrow’s leaders,” Professor Gabbott explains.
Outside the Classroom
But for the children whose interests fall outside the classroom, ‘dreaming big’ is still a likely possibility. Some children may not necessarily dream of being the next teacher, doctor or lawyer. Some may dream of having the spotlight on stage as an actor, or to sing, or to kick a football around professionally. But these ‘big dreams’ can still happen.
Professor Gabbott says that children can continue to follow their passions, as well as furthering their education.
“These days there are many more opportunities to study and pursue your talent at the same time. The range of degrees available in arts or theatre management, sports management and coaching, or building and construction allow children the option to do both.”
“Parents should do their best to strike the right balance between encouraging children to take up opportunities without applying any additional pressure. The most important thing a parent can do is be supportive and help a child find their own path.”
Even if children ‘dream big’ and life doesn’t work out as planned, it’s important they get back up and try again. “Not all dreams will come to fruition which can lead to failure and disappointment. However, it is important to allow your children to fail as it is a way for them to learn, adapt, build resilience and become more independent.”
Children truly are the future leaders of tomorrow. They have the capacity to make a positive difference, to leave the world a better place than when they first arrived. But in order to get there, children should be encouraged to reach for the stars, to fulfil their potential, to live their best possible life.
And as Professor Gabbott so eloquently puts it:
“Dreaming big is a wonderful thing. As long as children and young people understand that their dreams will only be achieved through hard work, study and dedication.”
Thuy Yau is a freelance writer. You can read her motivational blog at Inside a Mother’s Mind.