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Life lessons for children: Idealism vs Pragmatism

  1. Sep 11, 2010 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    When raising a child, is it most important to stress the practical aspects of life, and the reasonable limits of expectations in life, based on the life experience of the parent, or to stress the possibilities for life, and to encourage following ones heart, or dreams?

    In another sense: Is most important for a child to see the world as it is, or for what it could be?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 11, 2010 #2
    why not swing between both ideas?
     
  4. Sep 11, 2010 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    So then your answer is that neither is most important - they are of equal importance in life?
     
  5. Sep 11, 2010 #4

    Pengwuino

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    I second pongo's opinion. Going solely either way can probably ruin a kids future.
     
  6. Sep 11, 2010 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Which should receive the greatest emphasis?

    For example: Is it just as important to dream of being President one day, as it is to plan for college?
     
  7. Sep 11, 2010 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    If your child dreams of being a philospher, or an actor, but has strong abilities in and enjoys engineering, would you encourage one choice or the other?
     
  8. Sep 11, 2010 #7

    Pengwuino

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    From all the child psychology articles I've ever read, it's probably far better to place the emphasis on the realistic goals. I think dreamers are far far far less likely to reach success in life if they don't have the idea in their mind of the reality behind becoming successful. Then there is, of course, the fact that "dreams" to a kid, like as you say being President, can in reality be awful awful things. I personally would never dare dream of being President (obviously I agree with the idea that 'those who are most fit to lead want to the least and those that are least fit to lead want to the most' :biggrin:). I mean really, having the responsibility of an entire nation in your hands, every detail about you being public, having to actually be around politicians (I can't be around people who are sleezy or two-face, even if its "just part of the act/job"), all sound awful to me! Be an astronaut? PFF! Sure, seeing the Earth from space and being out there must be a life-altering experience.... but eh... it's not worth it. Actually, back in the day when it was only air force pilots and the military that got to be astronauts, definitely not worth it to have your whole career devoted to a one in a million chance! No way.

    On the other hand, people who are taught to be realistic can develop dreams on their own in a positive way. Dreamers seem to become realistic from rather unpleasant experiences.

    And the great thing is that I feel dreams are like a seed, they just need to be planted and it can flower into a wonderful experience. Becoming a more realistic person usually comes in much less welcome lessons.
     
  9. Sep 11, 2010 #8

    Pengwuino

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    I'd say pursue both. The thing is, I believe the "point of no return" in life as far as being successful in your life-long pursuits is quite a late age (that's why I almost want to punch my laptop when i read threads about someone who's 23 and thinks his life is over because they realize they want to become a physicist and have this screwed up notion that if you don't have your phd by your 18th birthday, you'll never become anything in physics). Late enough that the person can make their own decision and is better informed about how to make the decision at that age.
     
  10. Sep 12, 2010 #9
    Idealism and dreaming are practically useful insofar as they help children/people create their own "big-picture" of the world they live in. A kid may not have much of a chance to become president, but thinking about what it would mean to be president helps them form a world-view that helps them orient to practical everyday decision-making.

    Kids/people should also get a clear understanding of how practical, everyday social interaction works in general, though. Too many people, imo, orient toward social life on the basis of superstitions and beliefs about what kind of attitudes will win them the most friends, jobs, etc. You have to realize that people have power to do you favors and reject you, and that this could be based on anything from how you look to what kind of personality traits they like or dislike.

    Ideally, I think kids should get an idea of what's involved in producing the things they consume so they can have a practical sense of economics that goes beyond making and spending money. They should know how food is grown, shipped, prepared, etc. They should know what the components of vehicles and buildings are, how they work, and what the material and processes are that go into making them. They should know how labor is organized and divided and how different jobs contribute to the world they live in.

    Then they can have ideals and dreams but still have a practical outlook on how material realities work that goes beyond popular philosophies about what beliefs are and aren't realistic in everyday social life.
     
  11. Oct 19, 2010 #10
    I would say it's not an either/or thing and it most definitely depends upon the child, their age, and the individual situation. I certainly would never advocate dashing children's dreams and squashing their spirit. But it couldn't hurt to encourage them to explore all their options when they are of an older age.
     
  12. Oct 20, 2010 #11
    We all have something in our nature that compells us in a certain direction. I believe the best thing to do is support and encourage a child to follow their heart. If they trust you and have support in their exploration to discover their own desires, then you will be a greater resource for them better able to help their decision making than if they felt pressure from you to be one thing or the other.

    I think the best things to nurture is a sense of personal integrity, self-esteem and respect for others. If a child has these things from a loving family, they will naturally make the right decisions for their lives.
     
  13. Oct 20, 2010 #12

    Siv

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    I second others comments that it has to be both.

    And re: choosing the right profession, quite frankly, children are quite clear about what they want these days, and are not easily influenced :) Having said that, if the child's passion and aptitude for both professions is the same, choose the one which will give him/her more rewards, monetarily and otherwise.
     
  14. Oct 22, 2010 #13
    I think, as said above, both are important. However, I think that currently society raises children too far on the "dream" side of things, and pragmatism only enters the picture when the real world hits. There's lots of kids running around out there with inflated senses of entitlement and unrealistic paradigms that make them think they own the world.
     
  15. Oct 24, 2010 #14

    Siv

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    I am reminded of what Kahlil Gibran said.
     
  16. Oct 27, 2010 #15
    I'm struck by how similar this is to Obijwe traditional teachings on parenting.

    But to the OP of this thread. I think that it's always important to show a youth that you respect them. It's a good basis for nurturing. But the question for me is balance because decision making is something that the youth should be encouraged to do. If a youth returns the respect you've shown them they'll ask you for advice. A youth can always learn from the accountability of regret. But there's nothing to be learned from the process of blame.

    The things your asking really are subjective questions though. "Practical aspects", "reasonable limits" and "expectations in life" are subjective and are better learned through observation. But, in order to do this I think it's most important for them to develop decision making, critical thinking, and from those they can develop their self-awareness.

    I wouldn't obsess on the actual decision. I'd nurture the process of decision making instead. So, concerning dreams and aspirations? Oddly, dreams are often something you only get one crack at, but skills are something that you'll always rely on.
     
  17. Oct 28, 2010 #16
    I'm normally against the whole "Follow Your Heart" idea, because usually the people who use it aren't the most intelligent. (Not saying the idea is bad per se.) But I look at it this way, a parent is bound to screw a child up somewhat no matter what. If you think that idealism is better for you specifically, chances are it will be for your kid too. Same for pragmatic thought as well.
    Both have down falls, so does any other philosophy you choose to instill upon your child, so don't sweat it and just let it happen. There's not much else you could do anyway. :P
     
  18. Oct 31, 2010 #17

    Siv

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    Based on what do you say that ?
    On the contrary, I feel that parents dont have as much influence on their kids as we think we do.
     
  19. Nov 2, 2010 #18
    It was actually my parents "actions", through both how they made choices and what choices they made, that had a huge influence on me and which I learned from. Thankfully, they allowed me to make my own mistakes. But this is just my experience. And is why I've come to believe that the best you can do is give youth the tools for making responsible choices and try not to influence the actual choices that they make.
     
  20. Nov 2, 2010 #19
    As someone who has previously raised teens and currently raising small children, your focus will change with time. You tend to be more idealistic when they are younger but move toward a more realistic parenting style as they become more mature. My advice is honestly let your kids questions and ideas kinda tell you how to begin. I have had 5 kids and everyone of them has required a different style. Just show them love and most of all, don't ever be affraid to tell them how proud you are of them.
     
  21. Nov 5, 2010 #20

    Siv

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    Actually evidence suggests that the home environment has little effect in shaping the long term character of children. Its a topic for another thread actually, but just thought I'd mention it here.

    The peer group has a huge influence. And of course genes do.
     
  22. Nov 22, 2010 #21
    No, my parents didn't shape my character, I am who I am. They simply helped me develop the tools with which I've made my choices.
     
  23. Nov 22, 2010 #22

    Evo

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    What evidence? That's not what I've witnessed.
     
  24. Nov 22, 2010 #23

    Astronuc

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    I think home environment influenced me. I pretty much ignored my peer group, or never had one - at least one that I could recognize.

    The first five to six years of my life were spent in two small coastal towns of a few hundred people, so not a lot of children. I spent most of the time by myself, although sometime with my younger brother tagging along. I'd just wonder off around town, or down to the beach. Perhaps that's why I like being along and outdoors. I was strongly influenced by my father's study and library.
     
  25. Nov 22, 2010 #24

    marcus

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    As someone with no background in evolutionary anthropology, I will toss in an amateur conjecture.

    Look at the recent thread here:
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=448974

    The thread suggests to me that our species EVOLVED what is (in biological terms) unnecessarily slow maturation. We evolved a long period of being dependent on our familes as half-grown sub-adults.
    Some evidence was found that another species, Neanderthal, did not have such a long period or slow maturation.

    Suppose that is true. Then WHY that evolution? What is the survival/reproductive advantage of having a long period of immaturity and dependency on one's parents/other adult kin? In terms of anatomical (including brain) development it doesn't seem necessary. You'd think it would be pure disadvantage in terms of survival and reproductive success.

    The only selective advantage I can think of is that the youngfolks pick up a lot of behavior from the adults---gradually absorb culture---and that culture and learned behavior can confer fitness.

    This could be kindergarten-level evolutionary anthropology--I wouldn't know. Everybody I know well, I would say carries a huge imprint of their parents and other close adults around as they grew up. It can even be a nuisance but I won't go into that.
     
  26. Jan 6, 2011 #25
    I think the practical aspects of life must be explained - this gives a child a track to run on and protect them (or at least make them aware) of their surroundings. However, I don't think the limits of possibility should be defined - the sky is the limit. I do believe in encouraging creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit - that is encourage kids to own their choices and make the most of them.
     
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