As the oldest of 13 cousins, I was learning how to change a diaper by age 2, got my title as the family “baby hog” at age 7, and became a permanent babysitter at 11. Since then, I’ve been a princess, tickle monster, pegasus, jungle gym, storyteller, and superhero. Well, at least to them.
I asked them all what they wanted to be when they grew up, and they said things like football player, veterinarian, chef, dance teacher, dental hygienist, and mom.
But which of these jobs, would you deem acceptable or realistic? The ones that make good money? The ones that “most” people can get into? Or the ones that make you happy?
As we get older, our imaginations get stashed into a cupboard no one talks about anymore. However, the ideas and dreams for our future stick with us. But they’re too unrealistic, parents are pushing children to get more “realistic” jobs. So how does a parent pushing their kid to get a “more successful” job actually affect the child? New research shows that your parents have a lot more to do with your career choice than you’d think. The research indicates that the way a child turns out can be determined in large part by the day-to-day decisions made by the parents who guide that child’s growth in four complex and dynamic ways.
Parents introduce children to certain trajectories based on either their or what seems to be their child’s preferences such as enrolling them in art or violin lessons.
Parents give positive trajectories such as materials to study, or time to do the certain activity. This is essentially sustaining the child’s progress through praise and encouragement.
Parents may also help steer their children away from certain areas. This changes how the child perceives a certain event or career.
And finally, parents react child- initiated trajectories.
“Trajectories are useful images for thinking about career development because one can easily visualize concepts like “detours,” “roadblocks” and “off-ramps,” says George Holden, a psychologist at Southern Methodist University who conducted the research.
Detours, he says, are transitional events that can redirect a pathway, such as divorce. Roadblocks are events or behavior that shut down a potential trajectory, such as teen pregnancy, which can block an educational path. Off-ramps are exits from a positive trajectory, such as abusing drugs, getting bullied or joining a gang.
Holden says there are other ways parents influence a child’s progress on a trajectory, such as through modeling desired behaviors, or modifying the speed of development by controlling the type and number of experiences.
Some of the ways in which children react to trajectories include accepting, negotiating, resisting or rejecting them, he says. Here we see that the effect parents have on their children is quite large. And I’m not saying that all of these things are bad, but imagine this major influence being used negatively. You see, being an author doesn’t make enough money, no one takes an artist seriously, poets are emotional and brooding, inventors are unsuccessful, and game designers sit alone in their parents basements. But these are all stereotypes of worrying parents who just want their children to be successful. And that’s the problem, children aren’t being raised to create the future, they’re being raised to make money. Our society has turned into an unending cycle of making and spending money, but also requires that you have the same job for nearly your entire life. I refuse to spend my life, my adult life, doing something I don’t like because someone told me my dream wasn’t going to happen. Teenagers are given the responsibility of an adult, but not the freedom. These restrictions force teens to work towards providing for themselves without being able to make all of the choices. If someone is going to put in the time and effort to complete a task, it should be for something they are interested in. You say our dreams are unrealistic? I say, good. If making my own decisions and working hard to make it in a career I’m passionate about is unrealistic, then I want to be unrealistic. These jobs aren’t unrealistic, the real world isn’t good enough.
So, this is the real world. Creativity is a thing of the past, and imagination is only for children. Right? Wrong. Even “realistic” jobs use creativity such as lawyers and doctors. Creativity and imagination are proven to make you happier, more alert, to help people cope with difficulties, and to make them feel more secure. Creativity doesn’t just mean art, it’s also being able to solve problems others might miss. This could be crucial when it comes to preventing an innocent person from spending their life in prison, or a loved man or women living in pain or dying. The “real world” needs these skills. In a ten-year national study by Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University, it was discovered that young people who are involved in highly effective non-school arts-based community programs in under-resourced communities, in comparison with a national sample of students were:
Four times more likely to win an academic award, such as being on the honor roll.
Eight times more likely to receive a community service award.
Three times more likely to win a school attendance award.
Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair.
Likely to score higher on their SAT college admission test scores if they have been involved for more than four years of after-school arts study.
However, the positive effects of imagination hit before any of these career choices are made; the teenage years. Teens raised in an “imaginatively fulfilling” environment are shown to read and write better. Teens who haven’t had enough time to grow creatively, began showing signs of crucial social-emotional and cognitive problems. These problems are distinct as they lead to problems throughout your entire adult life.
Using fMRI scans, researchers like V. S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, have found that the same cells in the brain light up whether we perform an action ourselves or watch someone else do it But these “mirror neurons” aren’t activated just by the things we see. The effect also occurs when we simply imagine ourselves performing the action. Imagination can retrain and reshape our brains to cause growth and strength in many areas. It also increases feelings such as compassion and empathy. The lack of these emotions and abilities due to not being raised with imagination is a act of pure ignorance. If we have the ability to not only solve these problems, but to also create these advantages there is no reason that imagination should ever be considered unimportant.
Now it’s your turn to make sure that children are given the opportunity to become themselves. These kids have the potential to do things you can’t even imagine, and by suppressing their creativity and imagination we might not ever get to see that dream become reality. There are actually quite a few very simple ways to include imagination in a child’s daily life.
When you read to children, be dramatic. Act out stories with props and costumes. Encourage them to create their own stories to act out for you.
Save old Halloween costumes for dress-up fun. Add to the collection with clothing you no longer need: hats, scarves, purses, shoes, and items you can find inexpensively at garage sales or thrift shops.
Put together an “art studio” in your home. Stock it with a variety of tools and materials: crayons, markers, finger paints, scissors, watercolors, brushes, glues, papers of various sizes and textures, leftovers from your own home improvement, and boxes and containers of all sizes.
Expand your musical variation at home and in the car. Listen to something you normally don’t so that you and the children can hear something different. This can be easily expanded by turning to different radio stations and by checking out CDs from the public library — all for free!
While the music is playing at home, dance together. Teach your children traditional dances you know or improvise with them. Body movement is fun and good exercise.
Sing together. Teach the kids your favorite songs. Many of them allow for verses that can be made up, which can have an endless and hilarious number of rhymes added to it.
Look for arts programs after school, on weekends, and during vacations. Many community park and recreation centers offer these. Summer camps based on the arts are a good departure from the typical competitive sports camps.
Create a scrapbook together. Put photos, memorabilia, drawings, and captions together creatively. In doing so, you will not only have a shared experience but a memory that will last for many years
And many, many more. There are so many easy ways to give your child the intellectual and emotional foundation they need. Other important things to think about is that some children may be drawn to different things than their friends and siblings. That is completely fine, the point of imagination is to let the children learn as they want to. As toddlers and children do these things, you’ll start to notice how they are looking to find their own solutions. This is only the basis of what imagination can do. It starts at running a pretend stuffed animal farm, to constructing a city run on natural resources. Or reading silly stories to their siblings leading to writing a book that inspires people to fight for change. Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be brilliant, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more brilliant, read them more fairy tales.”
And you, yes you. This is your job too. To maybe fight back a little, because maybe you’re right. Or maybe they are, who knows?! Make a stupid decision every once in awhile, I’m pretty sure it’s the only reason I’m still alive or at least partially sane. Imagination is what keeps our minds alive. Make your dream world, the real world.
Hey y’all! So this is my speech for debate (it’s called an oratory) and I know it’s long, but it has to be 10 freaking minutes memorized! If you got through it (Congratulations!) Let me know your thoughts and opinions below.
Love y’all- Aspen AKA The Girl Skipping First Period Today Because Her Speech Isn’t Memorized xD