Is AMBITION a Dirty Word in Your House?
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Young people in developing countries often have more aspirational career ambitions than boys in the UK, an international survey of 20,000 children suggests.
While boys in the UK aimed to be footballers or YouTube stars, their counterparts in Uganda and Zambia wanted to be doctors or teachers.
The study asked primary school children, aged seven to 11, in 20 countries to draw pictures of the jobs they wanted to have when they grew up.
The careers charity said the results showed how much gender stereotypes were established early on & that children needed to be introduced to different types of careers from an early age.
Girls in more deprived schools were more likely to want to be shop workers and beauty therapists, while better-off boys wanted to be managers and lawyers.
Outside of the UK, the drawings often showed high aspirations despite hardship.
In Uganda and the Philippines, girls most want to be teachers.
In Pakistan, Bangladesh, Colombia and Indonesia they want to be doctors.
In China, the most popular career ambition for boys is a scientist.
In the UK, girls were much less likely to want to become engineers or scientists.
What sort of role model are you?
Children’s career aspirations are most influenced by who they know & who they spend most time with, so how you speak about your job, work, or career really influences your child’s aspirations.
I remember overhearing a Mum say to her daughter ‘People like us don’t do jobs like that’ which I found dispiriting because …. – why not?
It shows just how hard it is for young people to “break the mould” of their families’ expectations.
Children learn from their home, as well as their school environment, so there is a need for children in primary school to hear about the vast range of career options open to them and not just the stereotypical jobs of doctor, lawyer, teacher or firefighter.
Children can only spire to what they know. That’s why I enjoyed my time on the Kidzania Think Tank opening up the world of job possibilities to children from all ages & backgrounds – for example there are hundreds of different types of jobs people can do at British Airways – not just being an air hostess or a pilot. Kids need to know that.
But from the world of possibility then comes the problem of developing the strengths children need to fulfil their dreams and goals.
What does the word AMBITION bring up for you?
Grab a pen and piece of paper and jot down your feelings around the word ambition.
What have you discovered?
What does that mean for your kids?
Is that OK?
Do you need to make a small change that will make a BIG difference to your kids’ success in life?
When are you going to start?
To a lot of people ambition has a negative connotation conjuring up someone seeking power, fame or money.
You may have heard ‘Oh they’re very ambitious’ as a criticism of that person.
Yet if you ‘Pause to Ponder’ and reframe what you may have learnt about ambition from your parents, you may also discover that it can also include aspiration, intention, keenness, eagerness, purpose, or intention, it could even encompass a calling, a vocation, a desire, a wish, or the fulfilment of a dream.
Modern society has added a connotation of aggression and the pursuit of glory to the word “ambition,” but ultimately, I think it’s just hard work working towards something important to you.
As Joseph Epstein said, ‘Ambition is the fuel for achievement.’
We all want the best for our children, but how can we encourage them to use their own initiative and develop an ambitious mindset?
A Growth Mindset
I think the best way to help kids to become ambitious is to foster in them a growth mindset rather than a fixed, closed mindset and to give them challenges that provide opportunities to succeed, as well as to fail.
The more important question to ask & ponder is: ‘What are my child’s passions?’
When you and your child understand what is most important to them, you won’t need to teach them ambition, because their passion will propel them towards being successful at it. When you are doing something you love, you don’t need incentives to pursue it.
Taking the lead
Lead by example. By aiming high yourself, you set the tone & by ‘Talking & Teaching’ your children about your experiences, setbacks and successes you are inspiring and encouraging them. Children watch, listen and learn from us all the time. If you talk about responsible management, kindness, respect, working hard & regularly updating your skills, your kids will develop a love of lifelong learning & grow up with those values.
Your Parenting Style.
The way you parent affects & influences your child’s behaviour and outlook.
You can be super strict (authoritarian), loving but firm (authoritative), or laid-back, allowing your kids maximum freedom (permissive) or disinterested (laissez-faire).
Research suggests that authoritative parenting (loving but firm) is strongly associated with successful children, as those raised in this way are more likely to thrive academically, socially, and are less likely to take unhealthy risks as teens.
By introducing your child to success stories that might inspire them, and to role models from areas of life in which they have an interest, you can chat about what it takes to become like their heroes. Seek out books that challenge gender stereotypes, enjoy books that inspire.
Here are a few that I recommend.
When Pigs Fly ~ Valerie Coulman
Ralph wants a bicycle, but as everyone tells him, cows don’t ride bicycles! His father unwittingly offers a glimmer of hope when he tells Ralph he can have a bicycle “when pigs fly.” But pigs don’t fly, right? “Not yet,” replies a determined Ralph. With vivid, charming illustrations and a can-do attitude, this award-winning picture book shows young readers that positive thinking can triumph over all the no’s in the world.
Enna is a girl who doesn’t believe in herself and often utters the phrase “I can’t do that!”
One night in a dream she sees all the possible future versions of herself, discovering that she can be any of those versions with time, knowledge and dedication. She develops a growth mindset throughout her journey and instead of saying “I can’t do that,” she learns to say “I can’t do that YET!”
This is such a positive book that is modern and up to date and is just perfect for young girls to help give them the confidence needed and the help in choosing which path to take in life.
Giraffes Can’t Dance: International No.1 Bestseller Gerald the tall giraffe would love to join in with the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but everyone knows that giraffes can’t dance . . . or can they? A funny, touching and triumphant picture book story about a giraffe who finds his own tune and confidence too, with joyful illustrations from Guy Parker Rees.
The Most Magnificent Thing a funny book that offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity.
Also check out the world’s largest collection of books and films for smart, confident, and courageous girls. A Mighty Girl
Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
Ambition isn’t necessarily a dirty word.
Teach your kids that anything is possible.
Help them develop the skills of sticking with something UNTIL they’ve mastered it.
And help them embrace the kinder internal voice of ‘I haven’t mastered this YET’ as it inspires not depresses. I can’t read YET. I can’t count YET. I can’t catch a ball, YET. But in time and with practice they CAN ?
Give them the gift of self-esteem because the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
I have written an ebook on ‘Grit, Tenacity & Resilience’ that will out soon if you’d like to receive it drop me an email Sue@TheSueAtkins.com
The Can Do Kid Journal for Super Heroes
If you’d like to buy my ‘Can Do Kid Journal for Super Heroes’ click here
I wrote it to help children feel more confident, more assertive and more relaxed in all areas of their lives knowing that they have some tried and tested strategies, simple practical techniques, and a highly effective set of tools, empowering them to make some small changes quickly & easily that will make a COMPLETE difference to their lives.
The ‘Can Do Kid’ Journal is intended to empower a generation of children to become creative, innovative, independent, resourceful, resilient & confident in their own abilities to try new things, and be resourceful enough to tackle anything and bounce back after setbacks.
It will build the positive mindset, motivation & long term self-confidence & self-worth that children need to succeed as they learn to develop a ‘Can Do Kid’ attitude to Life.