Should we really tell kids they can be whatever they want to be?

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We all want the best for our children. We have high hopes and high expectations and truly think these little people are incredible and amazing. We believe they are talented and bright. So, often we tell them not to limit themselves or their potential because they can be and do whatever they want to be or do when they grow up. And we make sure our children are exposed to all sorts of different activities, pasttimes, hobbies, sports, and academia. We want to open their horizons and have them test the waters in hopes that they will find something that they truly love.

And while I believe that being well-rounded is great, and opens children up to cultures, schools of thoughts, and abilities, it doesn’t mean that they can do anything, or that they should do whatever they want when they grow up.Should we really be telling our kids they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up? Here's maybe what we should be saying instead.

I, for one, won’t be telling my children they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.

And it’s not because I don’t believe they aren’t capable, because at almost 5 years old (and almost 2), I think my kids are pretty darn smart and talented and have pretty good social skills. They really seem to fit this “you can be anything” mold pretty well so far.

However, I believe in God and that God has an individual plan for all of us, and I want my children to stop asking themselves “What should I be when I grow up?” and instead ask “What should I do when I grow up that will glorify God?” or “What does God desire me to become?”

I honestly believe my children have special missions to complete on this earth, not just to be whatever they want, but to be someone who will fulfill a wonderful mission. Perhaps that mission will be to become a doctor, or a fire fighter, or a librarian. Maybe it’s to create beautiful works of art, or write powerful scores of music. Maybe it will be to teach children or to help the less fortunate. I don’t honestly know yet what their mission in life, what their call, will be. And I’m sure they have no idea yet either.

I want my children to be more concerned though about what their unique, God-given, abilities and talents really are, many of which may have not fully manifested themselves yet, or not have been needed to that point. That’s why perhaps the most important thing I can teach my children while they are young is what the impressions of the Spirit feel like, and to help them recognize those promptings, and then to act on them!

I have a hard time wanting to encourage my children to continue to pursue things that aren’t their life calling, especially because they are so young. Really, my job as their mother, as their guide, is to help them discover talents they didn’t know they had, to observe where they may blossom more than other areas, to help them learn about all sorts of things that might open up the possibility of purpose in their life long-term.

Eventually, however, if I keep putting emphasis on my children’s passions, interests, likes, or personal desires in order to help them determine what they should major in during college, or what work experiences they should pursue, then they may be missing out on something much better for themselves and their futures. Because, ultimately the choice of what they will do with their lives, will have to be theirs alone to make and sustain. And sometimes that path may look quite different than “the norm” or from what I may have envisioned for their futures.

Because the thing is, many of us will major in one field, but eventually pursue a different career path. Some of us may be horrible students, because it’s just not how our brain processes things, and we won’t be able to become a doctor because we just can’t understand or pass certain classes necessary toward that career. Some of us won’t be bothered by structured school because our free spirit best expresses itself outside of four walls. Some of us may try a business endeavor, only to have it fail. And still some of us may work a job that we may not love, but monetarily it provides us with the means to pursue our true life’s call, whether that means volunteering in our communities, or helping spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in remote corners of the world.  God will provide us with the means to pursue what really matters to Him, but we have to trust him.

That’s why I don’t want children who are so set on doing what they’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes life throws you curve balls that prevent you from doing the career you always wanted to do, or doing it for long. I don’t want my children to be afraid of change, of taking leaps, of doing something uncomfortable, and certainly not of doing something hard. Because certain things are worth fighting for, despite how long or difficult they can be.  Plus, those trials will come, and I don’t want my children so paralyzed by fear, by the change, that they no longer know who they are, or what they are to with their life.

But a job is only one aspect of your life. It’s only one way you can truly fulfill your calling, your mission, on earth. As I said earlier, sometimes your job is just the means for you to pursue other passions, other work, other hobbies. Sometimes your job isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things, because your calling in life may lie elsewhere. Sometimes your job is only important in the experiences it gives and the people you will be blessed to interact with. Other times leaving the workforce to stay home with your children may be what God really wants you do. And it may be within the walls of your own home, or your own community, that you truly excel and glorify God.

So, no, I don’t want my kids thinking about what they want to do or should do when they grow up. I want them thinking bigger than that. God has a plan for them, and I want them to search it out in prayer. I want them to know that while you can work hard enough at anything and become good at it, it doesn’t mean we should! It means we shouldn’t be killing ourselves to become a lawyer, when we don’t naturally possess the qualities and characteristics that make for a great lawyer. Same goes for becoming a teacher, or a doctor, or farmer! Sure, we can all (limitations aside) become whatever we want if we work hard enough, put enough hours in, get help, study constantly, and pray for extra support, but it doesn’t mean we should do this. We should be aware of our natural God-given talents, and find ways to use them to glorify Heavenly Father and bless the lives of our fellow man and woman.Should we really be telling our kids they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up? Here's maybe what we should be saying instead. Such a fantastic post. Really making me think.

My Story

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. It changed all the time, in part because I was a great student, had many talents and interests, and believed I could be whatever I wanted to be. However, I really did want to glorify God with my choice and prayed hard during college to be led to the right major, and the right career for me.

However, the answer that came was that it didn’t matter what I majored in college. I just had to choose, and that God would bless me to do it.

It wasn’t quite the answer I wanted. I wanted a definitive “Major in Business” or “Become a teacher.” But, apparently, in my life, it wouldn’t matter. Apparently I would be led along a different path.

I married the same year I declared a major, and by the time I was graduating was giving birth to twin daughters. My degree was earned, but I was now staying home with our new babies instead of pursuing a career.

Now five years after I left college, I have done very little that has been specific to my degree in art. And sometimes I do wonder why I earned that specific degree when I think some other ones would have served me better right now in my life (like early childhood education).

But, God told me to pick and that it didn’t really matter. Perhaps because he knew my life had a different path to take, one I did not foresee, ever, in my future. I am now a stay at home mom to three children (with another on the way), who plans on homeschooling, thus fulfilling my natural talent for teaching.  Plus, I am now working as a full-time blogger, a career I didn’t know existed as a 20 year old in college.

But, I was inspired by God to turn my blog into a business. I honestly believe he led me to it and encouraged me to really go for it, and actively pursue it as more than just a hobby. But, it was only when the time was right that I received that prompting. Now almost two years after feeling that initial prompting, I can see why it came. I can see how blogging is blessing my life, my family’s life, and our finances, but also hundreds and thousands of others who read what I write.

I give God the glory for my accomplishments, for my success, and for my continued growth as a blogger (and as a mother). Sure, other people and resources have helped me, and I readily acknowledge them, but I believe God put them in my life to bless me and my business.  And I don’t think I’d have this success without him. And often I have to remember why I am doing this blogging thing, and to really pray and search for what I should write and how.

It is funny that this is now my job, as I had no interest in programming or designing or software, and my work revolves around a computer and social media. And while I still struggle with the tech side of it, and also the marketing, advertising, photography, graphic design, and even writing sometimes, somehow I am doing it anyway with moderate success. As for some strange reason people actually read what I write and share! So here I am writing for a living, trying to help, inspire, and encourage others as they pursue motherhood, marriage, homemaking, finances, and health, even though I still don’t know what I am doing myself in those categories, as I, too, am learning as I go along. And how great it is that I get to be a mother of some pretty incredible children and the wife of a pretty good man.

God has blessed me with a keen mind, and my unique personality. I know that I am pretty capable and hard working and could probably be successful at anything I pursued. But, I really want to pursue what will best serve my family, God, and others. And right now that means staying at home, homeschooling my kids, and writing a blog. Someday that may change, and I may be led in a different direction, that I right now cannot foresee. But, I do believe as I continue to pray and ask for guidance I will be led in a way that will bring glory to God.

The point is, I never want to limit my children by telling them to do whatever they want. Because, pursuing one dream at the cost of everything else or other paths, may indeed limit them. I really believe that if they simply follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit throughout their life that they will find greater satisfaction and joy, and ultimately not be limited by some overwhelming need to stay in one career, or to have to go to college, or to keep working at some business venture, even if they are not where God wants or needs them to be anymore.

So, remember, as you parent and rear your children, that being well-rounded is great. Doing well in school is great. But, being great is following where God leads you.

Where has God led you in your life? Are you doing what you always thought you would do or has God taken you on a different path?


  1. says

    Katelyn, I agree that we need to teach our children to find their calling. And, that life will definitely bring challenges and changes. It is not only teaching them to do hard things, but how to be resilient and bounce back when hopes and dreams don’t work out. I think it is amazing what you have done with your blog, and how you balance writing and sharing your “good news” without alienating others. Great post.

  2. says

    Hey Katelyn!

    I wasn’t sure where you were going with this one in the FB group so I was glad I got the chance to read it. I see what you mean and I think it’s a great point.

    These days I think kids are getting too much of “you can do whatever you want,” “don’t do it if it’s not fun”, that sort of thing. But the thing is, I think they need to hear a little bit of “sometimes you have to do hard things, things you don’t want to do.” Because it’s true. There’s no avoiding it.

    What we CAN do is make the most of what we have.

    Thanks for the reminder.


  3. says

    I totally agree with you. I think we use the phrase “you can be anything you want to be” flippantly. Of course, we don’t mean anything. We really do want to help our children focus on whatever things they choose to do. Thanks for stating what should be obvious but has become cliche.

  4. Andrea says

    I don’t know how I came up with this article but was everything I needed in this moment. I’ve been struggling exactly with the issue of “did I chose the right carreer for me?” I’m 23 years old and got a degree in marketing. Let me tell you that I like it but don’t love it. I’ve always been shy and living inside my world. That doesn’t mean that I do nos socialize or retreat completely from people, nevertheless it’s been hard for me to come out from my insecurity shell. As a marketer, there are some abilities that you should possess in order to be a successful professional. I’m not saying that I’m a bad one, but I just simply feel this is not my thing. My passion is literature, if I could read all day or have a job that implies creative writing, I would be happier. God has blessed me with a great life, but still I’m having this internal fighting that haunts me everyday. I feel miserable most days because of this and sometimes guilty. I’m aware that I’m young and can change my path, but don’t know why.

    • says

      Good luck figuring out where God wants you to grow, blossom, and use your divine talents Andrea! It’s hard! Perhaps those marketing skills and knowledge will prove useful in a way you didn’t imagine before, as you someday venture on a new path.

  5. Maioha says

    Ahh, thank you for this!
    Not for my children (they’re too young right now), but for me, this is EXACTLY where I am right now.
    I spent a fair amount of time earlier this year praying for God’s direction about what He wanted me to do with my life and I felt a most definite response (so nice when that happens 🙂 )
    Now that I am pursuing that path, I can see how He has guided me from the beginning. All of the jobs that I had and hated, but persisted in, and the job I loved, have all given me the skills and confidence to go ahead with the business that Heavenly Father has directed me to. Without any one of them, I wouldn’t be prepared for what comes next.

    Also, the Lord always has a good reason for not telling us everything from the beginning. If I’d known when I was younger what His plan was for me today, I would have died with the thought of becoming something I would have considered to be so boring, but now that I’m here, I love it!

    Thanks, Katelyn!


  6. Kelsey says

    I love that you are courageous enough to do whatever God asks of you. I guess for me, I have difficulty with the wording of some of this post because, you ARE doing whatever you want to do. You are pursuing your highest desire; you WANT to be a disciple of Christ. I like using the language of whatever you “want” to do and be because I hope (and I’m guessing you do, too) my children will follow the promptings of the Spirit because that is what they want. I think the point you are making is spot on – what the world sees as being “whatever you want to be” is too limiting. It doesn’t see eternity. I guess for me it’s just important that I chose to be a mother and do what God wants me to do because I WANT to follow Him. Too often in my life I have felt pressured, or perhaps more to the point, pressured myself, because I thought I was “supposed” to do a certain thing. I actually had difficulty doing some of what God wanted me to do (like get an advanced degree in a “frivolous” major) because it wasn’t what I was “supposed” to do. It was, in fact, what I wanted, what I had really always wanted to do since I was a little girl. And that was also what God wanted for me. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I think it’s important not to take the “wanting” out of it. To me, that is what we are on earth to decide – what we really want. To follow God or not. To choose what we really want to be. And often, I think God uses our desires, our wanting, to do His work.

    • says

      You make such a great point! Ideally we do WANT to do what we do because it is where God has led us or our children. And there are things that we do often feel we are “supposed” to do, in order to do things “right” but they may not be right for us or what we are supposed to do. Thanks so much for your comment. I love it! Wanting is important – it does show where our heart and our priorities are.


  1. […] We Encourage Them to Focus on Finding Their Calling “I won’t be telling my children they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, because I believe God has an individual plan for all of us, and I want my children to stop asking themselves ‘What should I be when I grow up?'” and instead ask ‘What should I do when I grow up that will glorify God?’ or ‘What does God desire me to become?’ Plus, sometimes life throws you a curve ball that prevents you from doing the career you always wanted to do, or doing it for long. I don’t want my children to be afraid of change, of taking leaps, of doing something uncomfortable, and certainly not of doing something hard or different. Plus, a job is only one aspect of your life It’s only one way you can truly fulfill your calling, your mission, on earth.” Katelyn of What’s Up Fagans? (Katelyn goes into more detail in her post, Should We Really Tell Kids They Can Be Whatever They Want to Be?) […]

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