Your preschooler may not tell you she wants to be a rocket scientist before she attempts math in elementary school, but helping your child set high standards and raise her aspirations is important. It may mean you receive a free ticket to Mars later in life -- courtesy of your daughter, the head of the Mars project. Children learn to dream and set aspirations by watching and taking encouragement from the adults around them.
1 Encourage your preschooler to do well in everything, but understand development plays a role in what your child can achieve at certain ages. Encourage her by saying, "That's a nice drawing, but it would look better on the refrigerator if we cut the rough edges off." The improved edge cuts might not end up as a perfectly smooth edge, but you've encouraged your toddler to pay attention to the details that she can easily handle.
2 Encourage your child to raise aspirations in things she hasn't done well and finish things she starts. When your toddler rushes through projects and leaves things unfinished, focus her on the first project by saying, "Let's see what you've done on this project and how we can finish it before moving on to do other things."
3 Allow your preschooler to dream big, and understand that life experiences will help your child shape more practical goals as she ages. Avoid saying things like, "It's too much work to be an astronaut," or "Uncle Eddie wanted to be a singer, but he couldn't cut it."
4 Talk to your toddler about what it means to aspire to be or do something. Ask, "Do you think the president planned to be the leader when he was your age?" Discuss how people make important goals and plan careers.
5 Read books about famous people and chat about their aspirations. Talk about how these people achieved their goals. This helps encourage your child to set high aspirations. Buy books or find picture books at the local library about regular, just-folks people, working in careers. Include books about the people your child sees everyday, like teachers, firefighters and doctors.
6 Talk with your child about people in the community you and your child know and how these people aspired to meet their goals, including friends and family members. This helps her understand that goal setting is an important part in meeting high aspirations.
7 Set high aspirations in what you do as a model for your child, and talk to her about how you set those goals. Ask your child, "Do you know what your mommy had to do to earn her college degree?"
- Talk to your preschooler about setting goals in a casual way. Avoid putting too much stress on pushing to pick difficult goals or setting extremely high aspirations. This creates tension and anxiety in a time when your child should be focused on having fun with exploring different aspirations.
- PBS Parents: Child Development Tracker -- Approaches to Learning
- South Australia Women's and Children's Health Network -- Kid's Health -- Goal Setting
- Slate: Why Can't Johnny Jump Tall Buildings?
- Vanderbilt University Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: Helping Children Make Transitions Between Activities
- Reading Is Fundamental: 44 Proven Ideas Parents Can Use to Help Their Children Do Better in School
- Brevard Community College: Parenting Exchange -- 20 Ways to Encourage Children's Resourcefulness and Creativity
- ABC News: Famous Women Share Their Childhood Aspirations
- Forbes: New Evidence the Gender Achievement Gap Starts in Childhood
- University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education Cooperative Children's Book Center: Career Development Through Children's Literature
- University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education Cooperative Children's Book Center: Great Expectations -- Books to Help Young Children Learn About Good Behavior
- University of Michigan Health Systems: Developmental Milestones
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images