Photo credit: iStock
By Erica Reischer
When my son turned one, friends gifted him with an illustrated Snoopy the Dog book called “You Can Be Anything.” On page after page, this chirpy book shows Snoopy engaged in a variety of impressive professions: Sports Star, Surgeon, Flying Ace, and so on.
Dressed in the garb of his chosen occupation, Snoopy is pictured as a “world-famous lawyer,” a “world-famous literary ace,” and even a “world-famous grocery clerk.” Snoopy is superlative in everything he does.
The book was big and bright and colorful, and probably intended for an older child since the pages–instead of being thick and sturdy like board books–were made of regular paper.
When my son tried to turn these flimsy paper pages with his pudgy little hands, they inevitably ripped. Which delighted him, so he ripped them more. I let him. I even helped him sometimes.
You might think this permissiveness was due to a laid-back nature, or some lofty ideal of allowing my son’s curiosity (paper rips when I pull it!) to range free. You would be wrong.
The real reason I didn’t mind him ripping the pages of this book was because, as a psychologist and parent, I deeply object to its core message, which is succinctly stated on page one: “Just like Snoopy, what you can achieve is limited only by your imagination. You can be anything!”
This message—that our kids can do and achieve anything they put their minds to—can be deeply alluring to parents. What parent wouldn’t want to believe that their children’s achievement is limited only by imagination, and to encourage their kids to pursue ambitious goals, like becoming a surgeon or a tech company founder?
What could possibly be wrong with telling our kids they can be anything? Plenty.
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