This is our new column, ‘Dear Danni’, where Dannielle Miller shares tips on parenting kids aged 10+.
My teenage son is obsessed with the idea of becoming a full-time, professional YouTube star. How do I convince him this is ridiculous?
I was visiting a primary school recently, and noted a little girl in year three had declared on her painting that when she grew up she wanted to be a policewoman, “…or a dinosaur.”
Aspiring to be a T-Rex is ridiculous. Absolutely adorable, but ridiculous.
The truth is, there are many thoroughly modern professions that seem fanciful, yet they not only exist but can be both personally rewarding and lucrative.
I know a 25-year-old woman, Laura Gilbert, who dresses like the fictional character Harley Quinn; she has almost 300,000 Instagram followers and is flown all over the world to attend comic conventions dressed as her fictional alter ego. There are young people earning salaries of between $3,000 and $5,000 a month as professional esport video gamers. Nine-year-old Ryan of ToysReview reportedly makes US22 million dollars in revenue a year from unboxing toys on Youtube.
My head could almost explode with how little any of this makes sense to my middle-aged brain.
We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.
So, rather than dismissing your son’s dreams outright, I would instead offer some gentle words of perspective.
Entering our dream career (especially if it’s in a field that is highly competitive as it sounds ideal to lots of other people too) is not quite as easy as clicking our ruby-red heels together.
Finding a job that suits us and gives a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction can be a long journey. There may be twists and turns along that yellow brick road. Even if we get our “dream job”, we may find that Emerald City doesn’t quite live up to the hype, and realise that now we need a new plan.
Most of us learnt these truths early on, way back when we got a part-time job during high school. I’m a huge believer in starter jobs as they tend to teach some really valuable skills. My starter jobs included babysitting and working at McDonalds. Each job has taught something valuable. At McDonald’s, for instance, I learnt how to work in a team, motivate and train colleagues, and look after customers. I also developed a strong work ethic. Babysitting affirmed that I did love working with kids, and convinced me of the value in learning strategies to engage with them.
A part-time job or internship might be a good starting point for your son to develop some generic, transferable skills (all while he continues to follow his passion and make YouTube videos! Indeed, he may even be able to score some work experience or volunteer work that allows him to create and edit video content. Certainly, social media content creation and management is a growth industry).
I used the word transferable deliberately above. Because no matter how talented at our work we are, there’s no such thing as a job for life any more. Our teens are likely to move through several different careers in their working lives, just like many of us do now.
This means that to succeed in any modern workplace, we need to make sure we develop the basic skills and qualities that contribute to career success. Skills like communication planning and organising, problem-solving and adaptability will always be assets – whether your son is working as a YouTuber, an engineer or a hairdresser. Similarly, qualities like reliability, the ability to deal with pressure, and a sense of humour are always valued.
I’ve worked with many talented young people who have had their heart set on specific careers such as professional footballer or a dancer. I’ve not been a Danni Downer and mocked their dreams, but rather cheered them on, all while encouraging generic skill development, and supporting them to keep their eyes, and options open.
I’d also have an honest conversation with your son about why he wants to be Youtube star. If he wants to express his humour, creativity or curiosity on a topic he’s passionate about, these are solid motivations. If he’s simply chasing fame or money, that will require some frank dialogue. But by keeping an open mind and not shutting down communication, he is more likely to turn to you if he needs advice, and support.
Check out our introduction to Dear Danni here and find out why we need to ask and answer questions about our teens right now.
Get Jugglehood in your inbox, our weekly newsletter for working parents.