You can’t do anything you want
"I don’t think my children can do anything they set their minds to", says this mom.
(Getty Images)
Call me callous, but I don’t think my children can do anything they set their minds to. They can’t achieve just by trying really hard. And they can’t have anything they want in life just because they really, really want it.

It seems to be an epidemic in schools and on children’s TV programmes, this positive thinking, stroking-the-ego kind of encouragement. “You can do anything you put your mind to”, our kids are told. And they swallow the line whole.

There’s nothing wrong with encouraging a child to dream. In fact, it’s required, isn’t it? When you’re a kid, you dream impossible dreams. You dream that anything is possible and the world and all its riches are there for the taking. You could be a fireman who saves lives every day, or a doctor who finds the cure for cancer, or a famous singer who everyone worships. The possibilities are endless. You’re young and you’re entitled to dream. Dreams are the beginnings of goals. They get us to where we want to be.

There are several things wrong with this picture we’re painting for our children:

Firstly, there’s the apparent absence of effort, the perception that our dreams never have to turn into goals. If we keep telling them they can have anything they want if they just want it really badly, what happens to the concept of sacrificing time and money, or of real work to get where you wanted to be? Because that, to me, is how people really rise to the top. Not by thinking positively about something, not by really wanting to do something and hoping it will happen, but by determination and focus.

Secondly, there’s the fact that we’re all built differently. Some people are good at math. Others are brilliant sportsmen, and still others are accomplished musicians. My kids can’t be any of those things if they don’t a) work really hard to become good at them, and b) demonstrate at least some innate talent for it. Saying they’d really like to be a famous singer when they can’t carry a tune is like me saying I’d love to be a man, when it’s patently obvious I don’t have the right bits.

Thirdly, and probably saddest of all, there’s the fact that we don’t all have the same opportunities in life. True, Justin Bieber wasn’t from a rich family, but the fact that he’s famous now is because he got a lucky break. Someone discovered him and became his manager. There are probably thousands of kids out there with voices just as good, if not better than his. But he was given a chance at being famous. Thousands of kids won’t get that break.

Call me hard-hearted, but I don’t think my kids can be anything they want to be. I’ll be there, helping them with their homework and ensuring that I nurture their passion for violin, writing, sport or whatever it is they enjoy. I’ll be the one paying for their education and making them coffee in the middle of the night when they’re studying for a particularly difficult exam. But I refuse to be the mom who tells her kids they can do anything in the world. Because that would just be lying.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do you agree that parents should be supportive yet realistic?

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.

Jobs - Find your dream job

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

Java Developer

Network IT Recruitment
R450 000.00 - R500 000.00 Per Month

Financial Manager

Communicate Recruitment: Finance 3
R750 000.00 - R800 000.00 Per Month

Property - Find a new home