Why Is Society Discouraging Kids To Follow Their Dreams?

My ultimate dream is to help people achieve their dreams, especially the youth. Because of this, I keep up-to-date on the latest news in the art world—again—with the youth, and I’ve come across more negative articles than positive ones. Although many have great points, I think they fail in encouraging young artists to continue forward with their dreams by, instead, suggesting children should wait and/or telling them they aren’t good enough yet to be considered professionals. I have a problem with this, and I will explain why by addressing the three main points I disagree with when it comes to children and young adult artists.

1. “Kids should be kids, not adults” As I said on my Facebook Author page, this is the number one phrase I see used. Society encourages children to follow their dreams but only to a point. They tell kids they can do it, but, once they do, they order them to wait. Why? There seems to be a belief that kids can follow their dreams but adults succeed at them (or only adults can handle the pressures—not the happiness—of being successful.) I find the articles that say adults can handle the pressures are biased. There are many adults who cannot. There are many kids who have. And no one seems to talk about the happiness successful artists feel. And, by successful, I do not mean money or fame. I mean personal fulfillment–which many of these artists express having.

Furthermore, this line suggests that following a dream is an “adult” thing, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. It’s a human thing to pursue happiness. And children do not have to sacrifice their childhoods to succeed at their dreams. I think kids/teens can follow their dreams, succeed at them, and still be kids (meaning, go to school, see friends, etc.) It is possible. I know it depends on the extremes of the dream, but I believe it can be done. For instance, I had my first book published at 16, but I graduated high school, had a job, saw friends, and managed my novels by myself (which I will get into more detail in the next segment.)

2. “Kids aren’t driving the train; their parents are.” Although this is true for many of them, there are just as many who are driving their passions by themselves with no pressure from their parents or bosses. I know this because I am one of those cases. I started writing seriously at 11, published at 16, and I did it by myself. My father supports me, of course, but he struggles with reading. To this day, he’s only made it 10 pages into any of my books, and I’m proud that he even tried. The point of sharing this is to prove that a child can drive that train. There isn’t an age limit on the license you need to drive the train of your dream. Look at Mary Shelley or S.E. Hinton (who was 17 years old when she published “The Outsiders.”) But what about Nancy Yi Fan? She was 12 when she published “Swordbird” in 2012. All of which were not pressured by an outside force but rather an inside passion.

3. “Kids haven’t lived enough to understand life, so how can they express it?” This is the most disturbing trend I’ve seen. This might be a newsflash to some, but I hope that it isn’t: most children do not have perfect childhoods. Many kids have to face difficult and even horrible things. Because of this, some kids have gone through more in their childhood than most people have in their fifty-some years. It is very unfortunate, but this is life. There are hundreds upon thousands of children who understand life a lot more than we’d hope. So, yes. They can express life. Just reading about Ishmael Beah, Nujood Ali, or Jeannette Walls is enough to remind of us of that; isn’t it?

There is one thing I want to clarify: I do agree with articles that are focused on the physical dangers in certain activities. For instance, it’s proven that extreme sports on young children can be beyond hazardous, and in art, for instance, we have Jackie Evancho. She sings opera, and many are worried (and can use evidence to support their worries) that her vocal cords will be destroyed for life if she does not have the proper training. In cases like this, I completely agree there are limitations we must face in a productive manner. But I want to emphasize the word “productive.”

To this, I end my post with my ultimate opinion over this issue:

Follow your dreams. Just be safe doing it.


P.S. I want to share a book for all aspiring young artists:Do Hard Things” is a nonfiction book that encourages teens to “rebel against low expectations.” It was also published by Alex and Brett Harris — before they had their 20th birthday.

P.S.S. Comments from my Facebook Author Page: (read all of them by clicking the link)

Greg Lamb – Author: “No matter what their age, people should go after their dreams, especially if they have gift – I think most adults who say stuff like, ‘let kids be kids’ really just don’t want to see young people to suffer from the stress that adults tend to add into the equation.”

Samantha Ann Achaia: “I believe that parents should help them pursue their dreams no matter what their age is. The media needs to let kids be kids and not be in their business and follow them with cameras 24/7. I think that’s the biggest fear parents have with their children following their dreams.”

Angel Pricer: “We can only encourage our children in a healthy, productive way to the extent that we do so for ourselves.”

30 thoughts on “Why Is Society Discouraging Kids To Follow Their Dreams?

  1. I love this. I was actually a little discouraged with publishing some time ago because I noticed that a lot of writing advice (i.e. time management) are targeted towards an older audience. You inspire me and you made me happy by writing this piece up. Keep it up!

  2. For many years I worked with young people 14-19 on projects where they wrote, acted in and shot their own films; I also did documentary work in film and photography with them and over the past 20 years writing projects. These have been both outside and inside education, and with groups like young offenders and dug addicts, the sort of people others like to forget about.
    They gave me so much and I have found that apart from some very long-standing friends most of the people I know are 20-30+ years younger than me. I think I had some success in that I treated people with respect and shared the skills I have, I worked democratically where I learnt as much from them as they did from me.
    If you can offer your skills to others through your life then you will gain as much as they will.

    1. I really loved how you shared your story, because it shows another side: a dreamer will win happiness by practicing their dreams but so will the teacher / supporter / fellow dreamer. It’s a win-win situation to dream, share, and help. The line, “If you can offer your skills to others through your life then you will gain as much as they will” was perfect.
      Thank you,

  3. I love this post because it is soooo true. Parents these days are so afraid that their children are not going to get a good job, so they nudge them away from dreams and push them towards the plan “B”. That’s why kids are so stressed out and unhappy these days.

    Thanks for another great post. Hope you don’t mind if I reblog.

  4. So true and I was debating this with friends yesterday. More along the lines of parents discouraging certain paths and pushing for others. I wonder if we live in a time where a lot of people have failed to meet their dreams, so they’re trying to ‘save their children from disappointment’ by pushing them into ‘prominent fields’. In the end, it really does seem like little is given to the desires and dreams of a child. People pass things off as a phase and ignore it. I wonder how many talented people have never reached their potential because they weren’t supported or driven in a direction that was ‘safer’.

    1. I agree. They are teaching their children how “they” learned to succeed. In most cases it was go to school, get your diploma, go to college, find a job in a prominent field (like you stated). It is a shame, because there are so many talented kids out there that never get even a chance to express themselves in their areas of interest. I think the parents want to protect them from failure. The only reason I can think of a person not supporting a child’s dream is either because they feel the child can’t make it or they don’t have the means to support what the child wants to do… interesting topic though.

      1. With the people that I met, it was strange. It was more that they didn’t want the child to follow them on an artistic path, so they discouraged all creative endeavors. If the child had any artistic talent then it was destroyed at some point. The fear that they admitted to was of their child trying to be an artist and failing.

  5. As a child I was always encouraged to be creative and write. I was also encouraged to work hard at school to get good marks. The two things were equal to my parents. It was wider society that tried to crush my dreams. Ideas of what was ‘done’ eg party when you’re young, get a job, house, marriage etc. Ideas emphasised in general culture and media. Miss any of them and you’ve ‘failed’. You have to fight to keep your dream. I don’t tell people about it now, saves on incredulous looks.

    1. Very true! There are expectations that society pushes on everyone as the “right” path, even though it isn’t the right path for everyone, and that idea of the “right” path is often one of the main reasons someone falls off their dream path.
      Thank you for commenting,

  6. A great post – what you say is very true, and it’s sad how kids are discouraged from following their dreams. Well done you for following yours!
    I think that the education system unfortunately plays a big part in reinforcing this, not because of the attitudes of teachers, but because of the way it is structured. I wrote about this a while back for an education blog, if you’re at all interested:

    1. I loved your post. It wouldn’t allow me to comment, because I don’t have an account through that website, but it sounds like UK education system does the same as the US aside from they encourage it only to stop you once you do something with that encouragement. I am reminded of my principal’s speech my freshman year in high school when he said, “If you have a dream, come to us. We will help you.” However, when I went to the office with my typed-up novel, they basically told me “that was just a speech, Shannon.” They couldn’t help me, and, it seems, they honestly didn’t want to. It struck me then, and it still does today. I think education systems need to be encouraging and honest. For instance, I think learning a little of everything is great, but math isn’t for everyone. Teach them up to a certain level (like Algebra) and then let them pick what they will excel in (instead of making them learn Trig or Calc.)

  7. Nice blog, Shannon. As a “baby boomer”, I recognize what Khalil Gibran encourages in the book, The Prophet. Basically, STAY OUT OF THE WAY! 🙂 Each new generation is the wonderful future that I and my generation won’t get to see, though I am truly grateful for the glimpses we get of you young people with so much vim, vigor and creativity! Val

  8. Parents need to help their kids be realistic, however. We all know that writing a book is only the first step (although in some ways the most difficult step). Kids may hear of self-published authors who are wildly successful and believe that fame will come that easily for them, too. (Adults think this too, by the way.) Only the parents are in a position to know how their children will react if their literary efforts are met with silence or savaged by Internet trolls.

    So one person’s “discouraging” can be another person’s “realistic.”

  9. This post is so true. From a young age, my parents have encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and I’m very blessed to have them and their support. I’ve also been very blessed to meet people with similar passions, and these people have always treated me with respect, despite my age. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have their encouragement, or if they told me I should go into something else. The world would be a much brighter place if all adults encouraged kids to pursue their dreams.

    1. Yes! I didn’t realize how I lucky I was to have encouragement until I met other artists who had the exact opposite. It makes me sad when I think about how many children had dreams that weren’t encouraged, let alone squished by discouragement.

  10. fabulous article –
    ‘And, by successful, I do not mean money or fame. I mean personal fulfillment–which many of these artists express having.’ ~sums it up for me~
    At any rate – back in the day – kids were no longer kids at the age of thirteen – and were inducted into the adult world – some such rights of passage still occur.
    – kids should be kids not adults – but sometimes they need the right guidance to reach the dreams they hold – or to find them if they are struggling to – pretty sure that is how we are supposed to be in life…and you are doing just that on ALL levels – done and guiding, and I applaud you.

    (published at 16? – stunning!)

  11. Superb post. Absolutely correct on success. Our culture has it backwards. We equate success to the acquisition of material things, when it’s actually being happy in life and what you do. I gave up on my dreams of photography when I was younger, for various reasons, fear and the above the most prevalent. Slowly rediscovering my passion. Thanks for writing and sharing. Cheers!

  12. Thank you for this. As a teen writer, I often feel discouraged when I hear people say that young people can’t make it. One of my favorite Bible verses is this, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). I think anyone can benefit from that advice.

  13. My brother and I have both experienced this discouragement. We are both in our 40s. He has given up and become homeless. A few years ago I discovered that I am an artist and not a general laborer or a desk jockey like society has encouraged me to be. There is room for all of us.

    If you are young, believe me, success at every job is challenging to come by, so you might as well follow the career you love. Don’t think of each job as the last job you’ll have; each job is just a step towards your freedom.

    Follow your Plan A, first. Plan B will figure itself out as you go.

  14. I’m 42 years old. For the last few years I’ve been awakening to how much I was discouraged from pursuing my strengths as a child. I am on track with as a part-time undergrad in Fine Arts, but it is definitely scarier at this age. My older brother has ended up homeless, and I believe it was due to some abusive discouragement from being himself.

    Focusing on Plan B is the absolute worst career advice to follow. You will never reach a point where Plan B figures itself out enough to allow you to move your focus to Plan A.

    if you focus on Plan A, though, everything you would ever need Plan B for, will figure itself out.

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