Why Do Kids Do What Their Parents Do?

Why do so many children follow in their parents professional footsteps?  Investigate professional sports, or entertainment, or entrepreneurship, and you’ll find a large percentage of those making a living there had parents who did the same.  I do not discount the role played by heredity.  Nor do I overlook the effects of learning from parents how to ply the craft, or connections parents can provide.  But I think there’s something else going on as well.  Kids who grow up with parents that do X do not feel the need to seek permission to pursue a career in X.

If I asked you in all seriousness if you want to change life direction and become a rock star you’d probably laugh.  You’d laugh because you see rock star as something outside the realm of possibility for you.  Even if you have some musical interest or talent, you’d feel sheepish about attempting to reach rock star status.  You’d probably want to hone your skills in private for a very long time before unveiling them to the world, and even then rock star might seem too distant a target.

But I bet your response would be different if you had a parent who was a rock star.  Even if you’d not spent much time on music or asked your rock star parent for advice and connections, you’d view a music career as a real possibility.  The things you’ve seen people close to you do are possible.  They’re matter of fact things that don’t seem all that lofty.  Kids who grow up around actors aren’t embarrassed to make head-shots or go to auditions.  Kids with athlete parents aren’t intimidated by tryouts or the idea of being team captain.  I suspect it’s more for this reason than pure nepotism that even mediocre performers often have careers in entertainment when they’re related to a star.  They simply don’t fear the things required to step out and give it a try.

Most kids feel the need to ask for permission pursue big dreams.  They think they need to be invited or discovered.  If you’ve never seen someone who does it except on TV it seems far-off.  If you’re familiar with it, it automatically becomes a part of your set of options and you need no one’s permission to pursue it.

The first hurdle to doing anything is knowing you don’t need permission.  Bring your heroes down to earth.  Remember they’re just fallible, searching people.  Imagine what their kids must think of them, as kids always see the weak and mundane side as well as the great.  Expand your set of options beyond that which is familiar; or rather, make all options familiar.