So your kid is a dreamer, too? You have a kid who makes BIG plans? What do you do with a child who has huge ideas that you know are not going to work out? How do you encourage a youngster to be grounded in reality, without crushing their dreams? And before you jump all over me, we have all seen talent based reality TV auditions where somebody should have told that poor contestant the truth before they humiliated themselves on national television. Many of my kids’ fabulous plans have included time or funding from me. What does a cool mom do with that?
My kindergartner currently is frustrated with me because I am reluctant to invite passed out homeless men to sleep over and buy a food truck for sale in the neighborhood for the family donut shop she is going to open. She has a logo designed and is working on the menu. And the homeless eat free, of course.
Dreamers are amazing kids. And they are a lot of work – for you. My oldest was, and is, a big idea girl. I have had lots of practice with scaling down ideas while keeping the spirit of the enterprise. She is now a film major in college and has the opportunity to work on big projects funded by someone else. Her ringtone on my phone is literally “Little Wing” because that girl is always walking through the clouds with a circus mind that’s running around. She thanks me occasionally for encouraging her ideas, and finding a way to make a few work despite the size and frequency of her fancies.
And that is the key when you have a dreamer. Can it be done? I learned to have brainstorming sessions with her where we brought the ideas to scale to try them out in a small way first, before we, perhaps, failed in a big way. Her best friend once remarked that she only needs one of her big ideas to work out to be a success.
When she wanted to put together a fair to benefit hurricane victims, we partnered with a church/school movie night. She recruited friends to run old fashioned carnival styles games and sell easy carnival treats. It was lots of work on her part, some on my part, but rewarding for all of us. She fell short of her big goal, but was able to gift several hundred dollars to hurricane relief at the end of it all.
When my daughter wanted to start an Etsy business and crafted a strange looking line of popsicle stick finger puppets, I tried to put it off. She just made more odd little puppets. This was one I knew she had to try and fail on. After paying the small listing fee herself and getting no bites, she quickly gave up that idea and moved on. It was the natural consequence and she needed that gentle dose of reality.
And when my dreamer wanted to do a bake sale to raise money for a cause, we combined it with a garage sale to bring in more customers. She has had a subscription newspaper with paid ads, organized a kid’s craft show (I think they spent every dime they earned on buying the other kid’s handiwork, but that crew, adults now, remember that sale fondly), raised money for more causes than I can remember off-hand, and created a tutoring service.
And then she began to make short films. I should have known what the future held. She asked for a camera for her 11th birthday. We got her one. She rarely took pictures with it, though. It was video she loved. She appeared to be making a documentary of her entire childhood. In high school she began to make films. And then she won an award. Her film was really, really good. And that is how it goes. The creative child tries a little bit of everything until she finds her passion. And everything in between was a building block that lead her to that place. Each success was a step up. So was each failure.
My dreamer encourages her sisters who both have their own creative endeavors. She encourages other your entrepreneurs she knows. Now my middle daughters organizes Christmas craft fairs to sale her wares and give younger craftsmen a place to sell and show their stuff.
They key for our family has been to listen to the ideas with encouragement, be open to helping out where you can, point out both the upside and downside, ask to see or help them set budgets, assist in thinking all the way through a plan from beginning to end, and let them experience real world consequences if that is appropriate.
There are great resources for building entrepreneurial skills. My middle dreamer participated in Junior Achievement Biz Town and learned a lot. She laughs now at her middle school efforts, but it was great business exposure in a team setting. The Toothpaste Millionaire is a simple kid’s novel that was a source of inspiration for my girls.
My dreamer kindergartner recently decided to create a newspaper. The only trouble is that her writing skills are still fairly limited. So she dictated and I wrote out a one page newspaper on her travels. She drew pictures and wrote out some headlines. I convinced her to put the first issue out for free. She plans to charge a quarter for the next one. My cut is one gumball for my efforts. It was a great learning experience, though it required me to locate a template, write, and walk down the street ensuring the safety of the paper girl. Most learning doesn’t come from books, after all.
Kids can be practical people, even if they are dreamers. If they put in the sweat equity, they will know if something is worth the effort. This 5 year old is the one who let all her dreams of being an astronaut go in one moment when she saw a picture of the toilet they use in space. My teenager let go of her goal of being a nurse once she understood how catheterization worked and that nurses must do it. The dreamers can be more practical than we imagine. They are stronger than we think, more resilient than we realize, and often more flexible than we give kids credit for.
Great questions to ask the dreamer are open ended ones like:
What is your plan? How much will it cost? Where will you get the money to start? Who will help? Where will you host, prepare, or store? What happens when you get tired of this? How much of your time will this take? Where does it fit into your schedule? What are you counting on me for? Is there an alternative? A back up plan?
Dreams don’t work unless you do. – John C. Maxwell
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