dream big little one

For Kids, Dreaming Big May Be More Important To Their Success Than Their IQ Or Background

And parents and teachers are a kid’s biggest influences when it comes to aspirations.

A young boy looks at globe in bedroom. A new study found that kids who dream big are more likely to ...
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It could be argued that kids do not need their heads filled with unrealistic dreams of their futures or who they grow up to be. It could be argued that kids need to think more practically and realistically when it comes to their dreams because they’ll avoid major disappointment in the long run.

But science says differently. In fact, there may be more benefits to kids having big dreams that previously thought and a kid’s desire to dream big and think expansively about the world could be equally (if not more) important to their adult success than their IQ.

A recently published study analyzed surveys of 17,000 children conducted ten times from 1958 up to the present day and finds that when it comes to how much kids achieve in life, big dreams matter as much if not more than IQ or the family's socioeconomic situation. That’s over half a century’s worth of data.

To no one’s surprise, researchers found that kids from less privileged backgrounds had smaller and more modest aspirations than kids from better off families. For instance, at age seven, just 22 percent of kids from the bottom fifth of families said they planned to go to college after high school, while almost double the amount of kids from the top fifth of families said the same.

The exact percentages in each group may have shifted since this group of kids was young, but a gap in aspirations between richer and poorer kids no doubt persists. Kids from less well off backgrounds dream smaller and go on to achieve less.

While that sad observation is a darker spot in the survey, that should not shadow over the fact that there is a huge space for parents and educators to help influence youth into dreaming bigger and setting higher standards for themselves. In fact, influence and motivation from parents and teachers is huge.

The researchers "found that the influence of parents and teachers impacted on the formation of aspirations above the socioeconomic background of families and their own abilities. That is, parents' desires for their children's future were a stronger influence on their aspirations and, eventually, their achievements, than their socioeconomic background," reports the British Psychological Society Research Digest writeup of the study.

This study showed that the more ambitious kids were with their goals, the more successful they became as adults. And what helped those kids reach for the stars? Their parents and teachers encouraging them to dream big.

So, what about those of you who are wondering if this is just some cruel joke to play on your kid who wants to be the next Taylor Swift or Tom Brady but they can’t carry a tune or throw a perfect spiral?

The study found that when kids have unrealistic goals in their teenage years, they do actually become sadder when the reality sets in that they won’t achieve said goals. However, there is hope.

“These negative effects subside in their later working lives, however,” co-author of the study, Reto Odermatt, explained on Psychology Today.

Instead of encouraging your kid to pursue a dream that you know will not pan out, it might be better to encourage them to channel their ambitions differently — a different avenue but still aspirational.

No matter what kids want to do or be when they get older, this study found that it’s largely up to the adults in their life to really lay the groundwork for their successes by teaching them how to dream.