A common question that adults ask children, often as an ice breaker or an attempt at polite conversation, is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ve asked that questions many times, and answered it as many, when I was a child. There’s nothing wrong with that question. However, a few days ago, I saw a quote that greatly intrigued me. It suggested a different question.
Yesterday, I got to pick up three of my grandchildren from school and spend a couple of hours with them. The perfect opportunity arose to ask them this new question.
I saw the quote on Instagram. Jaime Casap wrote, “Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them what problems they want to solve. This changes the conversation from who do I want to work for, to what do I need to learn to be able to do that.”
Isn’t that an amazing shift in thought and perspective? I love it. I wondered how kids would respond. Would the question about solving problems be too difficult? Would they come up with outrageous answers? Would I get a shrug of shoulders and a “I dunno” answer?
I was about to find out.
After snacks and playing outside in the bright sunshine, catching up on school news and much laughter, the kids settled into playing Minecraft while I watched. I asked them if I could ask each of them a question while they created elaborate houses on a tv screen split three ways.
They were immediately attentive as I asked…What problems would you like to solve, as you get older? And then they were thoughtful. Here are their answers:
Joey, age 11: I want to help people live longer and be healthier. This answer led to a lively discussion about how long people could live, if they ate differently and didn’t have the environmental toxins that we currently do. Joey thought way outside the box, wondering if people could attain the extraordinary age of 200, if they took really good care of themselves. Joey has reached an age where he realizes people can and do die, and sometimes at a young age. Underneath his answer is the desire that his family members and friends live long and healthy lives. I loved his answer.
Aubrey, age 9: I don’t want animals to suffer and get sick. I want to take care of them. Aubrey has a tender heart toward all creatures, great and small. In my family there seems to be a genetic disposition toward taking care of and protecting animals. Aubrey has that strong tendency as well. This led to a discussion about what she would need to learn, and do, to solve this problem. I loved her answer.
Oliver, age 10: I want to help animals too. He discussed how he and Aubrey could partner in this endeavor, solving the problems of animal cruelty or healing sick animals, together. Then he said something that brought tears to my eyes. Yaya, I’d like to end world hunger. Is that too big of a problem to solve? Wow. No, I assured him, it’s a big problem, for sure. But we need big thinkers and doers, like you, to solve big problems. We all discussed what could be done, to make sure everyone has enough to eat. Oliver had wonderful ideas. I loved his answer.
I didn’t know how the kids would respond to this different kind of question, and chose to stay open. I was amazed at their sincere and thoughtful answers. I realize these were their answers today. Next week, they might have different problems they want to solve, but what a great launching place for deep discussions about their hearts’ desires.
Oh, how I love those kids and their precious hearts. How blessed I am to journey with them. I will ask them this question periodically, so that I can continue to hear what’s on their hearts and minds. I’ll be asking grandsons Jonathan and Dayan this question as well, and I look forward to their answers.
In fact, any child I am chatting with will get this question from me…what problems do you want to solve as you get older? Join me, in asking the kids in your lives the question, and really listen to their responses. And then look out world, cause here they come, a generation of problem solvers.