Since I was a young child, my interests has always pointed me to the power of dreams. In fact, I was often told to pay attention, focus, or be called out of turn in the school setting, at those inopportune times I would shift my focus to my internal world. To me, the world was magical, a place of wonder, something to be dreamed forward, as I would spend countless hours engaging the figments of my imagination, as an exercise to dream about the perfect life to come. Was I focused? probably not. Was I experiencing Attention Deficits, or things a shrink would probably want to medicate my young mind for in the early 80’s to appease my inpatient teachers? Yes definitely, and they tried to medicate me! But I stayed my course, and well, the rest is history.
Do you know what your # 1 job is as a Practical Parent? Help Your Child to Dream and To Dream Big!!!
Let us explore further.
What makes childhood so special is their capacity to dream. ADD and yes ADHD is not an Attention Deficit. It is simply a child’s capacity to dream their life forward. The only problem, when children dream, or need an outlet for the enormous amount of energy they have, it does not coincide with social institutions need to have them compliant, orderly, in their seat, and attentive to the educational and occupational tasks at hand. Children’s minds wander and psychologically this is a good thing. They are supposed to dream because it is from this experience that children find future goals to aspire towards. While a dream is just that, a dream, something and the etherial plane of existence, once this construct transfers towards a goal, there is energy being placed towards its realization. This is not a new construct for the field of quantum physics, even though the field of psychology is sorely behind in its demonizing one’s capacity to dream life forward as being something of a symptom to be ameliorated.
In an article entitled “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” author and therapist Marilyn Wedge shows that the diagnosis of children with ADHD is primarily an American phenomenon. She shows that nearly 9% of school aged children are diagnosed with ADHD in this country as compared to 0.5% of French Children who have this diagnosis. What gives?
Author Marilyn Wedge believes that the American system for classification of this disorder is somewhat broad, encompassing, and views normal childhood behaviors as pathological symptoms to be treated medically versus working within the bio-psycho-social context that these behaviors arise. In short, where American clinicians see pathology and symptoms to be ameliorated, French clinicians see attention deficits from a more specific bio-psycho-social lens opening the door for more holistic treatment options such as nutrition and social intervention to take place.
How does this affect our children, who are subjected to hours per day of schooling, oftentimes with limited breaks, and within an environment that does not necessarily foster independent thinking let alone a willingness to let children explore their dreams as a possibility for future growth and development?
When my child was five, he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He answered a veterinarian. He had recently lost his cat to being ran over, was devastated, and wanted to help animals. While the answer has changed probably 10 times since this initial question, he most recently informed me that he wanted to become a “Youtuber.” While the dreams changed, he continues to engage in similar experiential behaviors. When he engages this question, he places himself in the role, can see what is the good points, the bad points, and can actively begin learning the unknown points as a means to make sense of life. This kind of lived childhood experience encompasses what Erik Erikson (1963) called the psychosocial crisis of industry versus inferiority, which is a time period that children learn basic social industries common to the culture and society in which they live.
I know, it may be confusing to keep up with all of your children’s dreams. However, it is important they engage in the activity of dreaming life forward. I promise, if they do this, the will learn the needed skills needed to make the dreams become a reality, or at a minimum, to sew the seeds for their future success.
- Hard Work: RULE 1 is a form of Golden Rule. You won’t get the Gold without the Work to Make it Happen! Once a dream is established, it is up for your to point your child in the direction of making that dream come true. This is wear sweat equity comes into play. No arm chair quarterback ever made a difference in a Super Bowl comeback. No back seat driver ever took the reigns or the responsibility needed to assure a safe trip. It takes hard work, determination, and when you hit a wall (lack of knowledge), more hard work to solve the problems you face. The WORK ETHICS you pass onto your children are the number one trait that will assure they have a fighting chance to make their dreams become a reality. Worst of all, if your child develops a hard work ethic, he or she can use it towards any dream they formulate.
- Forget Plan B: If you were responsible enough in formulating a plan A in the first place, is their really a need for Plan B. This is where myths of education and personal myths around failure take precedence. Ever hear “What’s your plan B,” or better yet, “What’s your back up plan?” Yes, any person who dared to dream big had that dream dismissed or ridiculed by someone who was too fearful to undertake that plan themselves. Hey, even the first work of art had a critic, right? I remember when my coach, all well intended, asked me, so what’s your back-up plan. Well, it is not a teacher, nor a parents place to dismiss a child’s dream. In fact, it is a teacher and parent’s place to foster a child’s dreams forward by directing their inordinate amounts of energy towards the hard work that will be needed to assure their success is viable. If your son wants to be a “Youtuber,” an actor, or a veterinarian, a sports star, etc. then it is our job as an elder and more responsible adult to nurture those dreams your child to channel their energy towards an appropriate course. It is not your job to put them down because of your own fears and heartaches about past dreams lost.
- Perseverance: Abraham Lincoln failed in almost every venture he undertook before he realized one, and probably one of the America’s greatest success stories. This occurred because of perseverance. What if his early childhood teachers asked him, “so do you got a back-up plan?” Where would our country be then? It takes hard work, forward momentum, perseverance, and grit to achieve your dreams. Don’t believe this, look up the autobiography of any successful person, and I guarantee you that you will see more failures than successes. However, it only takes the one success to erase from history all the past failures.
- Turning Failures into Success: School is the the only place where a failure is seen as such. Even with a theoretical 59%, you still achieved 59 right answers out of 100, even though educational institutions view this as a failure. Why do we focus on the 41 wrong instead of the 59 right? Well, the key to the lesson here is to honor the 59 that were right. At least you don’t need to study those any longer. Once we move on from what we already know, you can then focus your effort on the 41 that were wrong. The only failure in life is a lesson not learned. I wonder how many children are ever provided an opportunity to rectify those 41 wrong answers after the so called test date has passed? My guess is not many, because it would not fit into the systems need to move despite a lesson learned or unlearned. Maybe this should be part of our education policy, and not test scores!
- When Dreams Don’t Come True: The Buddha postulated: “It is Better To Travel Well than to Arrive.” Our journeys have many forks in the road. Sometimes dreams go away. Sometimes they transition. Sometimes we find new and more exciting dreams. This is the “Grass is Greener” phenomena in full swing. This is not wrong, even though it can lead towards deficits of attention. What is needed to fix this problem is to teach basic skills of focus, and to place value on the dreams we do formulate instead of encouraging your child to have a plan B. Regardless if your child’s dream transitions, is abandoned, or even forgotten, what is important here is the foundation you helped them to build. It is not the Destination, but the Journey that Matters.
So now, your child is all grown up and you are beginning to realize the fruits of your labor. All along the way, you have taught your children fundamental values of how to make dreams come true. You have showed them that hard work is required to realize a dream. You have exposed them to encouragement and belief when they told you of their Plan A. You have avoided at all costs the proverbial “Backup Plan.” You have exposed them to the need to persevere, despite the hardships in life they WILL face.
So the time has finally come. You have taught your children how to learn effectively, not just regurgitate data taught to them to pass some test. You stood with them as they learned to navigate and overcome the school of hard knocks. You took a few shots as well, as you learned to navigate the stresses and joys of parenthood. Now it is your time to shine in their accomplishments, as you see them actively engage their own story of success in any venture they choose to take part. This moment occurred because you chose to help them channel their efforts into a direction of mutual benefit, and actively helped them engage their dreams. While all has gone well, I know that there still may be questions lingering.
Many parents stress when it comes to the thought of their children not being in a better off position than they are. Isn’t it part of our dreams as parents to see our children have life better off than we have. Many times, that is why we form the idea of Plan B. While this is problematic, there is a solution. If a child wants to play professional baseball when they grow up, and yes, this is a common dream, it is your job to encourage them in this journey. I know, there are many hurdles in the road, and the odds may be against them. However, it is your job to encourage them at all costs, and help them channel the energy towards activities that move them closer to their dreams.
In this scenario, you may expect a minimum GPA, while requiring them to take part in their daily practice. There are only 24 hours a day, and your child needs to learn how to work towards their dream as part of their fun time while keeping up with their studies as part of their expected “work time.” When they are in high school, encourage them to shoot for the minors; let them know even if they miss, there is college in which they can still play and be scouted by the pros. In this scenario, you have not presented a Plan B. Instead, you have encouraged them to pursue their dreams in a manner that exposes them to the possibility of achieving their dreams while secondarily exposing them to individuals in a variety of professions that interlink with the profession of their dream. It’s a win, win, win, scenario. Your child wins because they get to pursue their dream. You win because they feel supported yet are actively moving to make their dream become a reality. Social institutions win because they now have a motivated and dream oriented, goal setting work force that has valuable work ethics behind them.
I encourage you to ask your child “what do you dream of” at least one time quarterly. This will allow you to monitor and determine their progress towards optimal psychological health. When children think about their futures, they actively place themselves into a dream like state, and see themselves acting with some degree of responsibility and success. This forms the psychological foundation for responsibility to take hold; which in turn, and with hard work, assures that their personal as well societal success will take place.
Erikson, E. H. (1993). Childhood and society. New York: Norton. (Originally published in 1950)
Wedge, M. (2012). Why French kids don’t have ADHD. Retrieved 08/15/2018 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd