How to Raise Children's Aspirations

Motivational speaker Les Brown once encouraged listeners to, “Shoot for the moon,” reminding them that, “Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Many parents, eager to see their children be as successful as possible, would love for their youngsters to follow Brown’s advice. If you’re eager for your child to set lofty goals for himself, working to raise his aspirations could prove beneficial.

Talk about your ambitions. If you model high aspirations, you can increase your child’s desire to set his own lofty goals, suggests 2009 research by the Community Links organization. When you talk to your child about your goals, encourage him to share his in return, making it a conversation, not a lecture.

Ask your child to write or draw about his aspirations. Without your help, your child likely will not think critically about what he wants in life. Encourage him to think about the future by asking him to create an aspirations map. Give your child a piece of paper and ask him to write or draw what he wants to be when he grows up in the center. Around the edge of the paper, have him write steps he has to take to reach this goal.

Explore obstacles with your child. Many children lower their aspirations because of obstacles they perceive as standing in their ways. These obstacles can be so imposing that children simply abandon their dreams for fear of facing them. Assist your child in seeing that nothing is too major to overcome by asking him to list the obstacles that stand between him and his dream. After he has created a list, review it together, explaining what he could do to overcome each obstacle. For example, if he sees the cost of college as an obstacle that could prevent him from becoming a doctor, talk to him about the scholarships he can receive if he commits himself to academics.

Show your child strong examples. Hearing encouragement from parents might be insufficient to motivate some children to really work toward their goals. If your child doesn’t seem duly inspired by your encouragement, show him that other people -- more famous and cooler people -- want him to be successful as well. President Obama, for example, spoke on the importance of goal-setting in a 2009 address to America’s school children 1. Play back this address for your child to show him that you aren’t the only one who wants him to reach for the moon.