Being a Realistic Mom While Still Encouraging Your Kids to Dream Big {Plus $100 Fandango Giveaway}


While my husband sometimes chides me for being a pessimist, I like to think of myself as more of a realist to his more dreamer-optimistic nature. Those natural inclinations show up not only in our daily lives, but they also come through in our parenting styles. He’s the one who is more likely to say, “That sounds great!” when our teenager says he wants to be a historian who travels all around the world learning about other cultures as a job.

I’m the one who says, “That sounds cool, but what kind of job do you think you would have that would pay for you to do that?” I know, that makes me sound like the dream crusher, doesn’t it? I like to think, however, that I am trying to keep my kids realistic but still with the courage to try to make their dreams a reality. So, instead of just leaving it as a dream crusher, I talked more to my teenager about the kinds of jobs history majors might do as well as the kinds of jobs that might involve travel and exploration.

When we recently were able to watch a trailer and read more about the characters in the new Disney film Planes, which is flying into theaters this summer, I recognized right away that my parenting style is well represented by the character Dottie. Dottie, voiced by Teri Hatcher, is the sensible forklift and friend to the main character Dusty, a crop duster who dreams of taking part in an international race. Dusty, however, has some distinct disadvantages. Not only is he a crop duster, but he’s also scared of heights. While Dottie tries to keep him realistic in his dreams, she always has his back. You can go check out the trailer for Planes too!

That same history loving teenager of mine has his own limitations. Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning form of Autism) definitely makes life more challenging from him. While I have probably done some coddling, I’ve also often had to take a tough love approach (just like Dottie!) to force him to try new experiences that he would often like to just skip out on.

While my son had long since given up on the idea of learning to ride a two wheeled bike, I hadn’t given up on the idea for him. I tried to keep realistic about his limitations, but I also researched options that might make it possible for him. Even though he was scared, when I found a program that teaches children with special needs to ride bikes, I took a tough love approach and talked him into reaching for that dream of independent riding.

You better believe that when he finally rode independently on a two wheeled bike, one month before his 14th birthday, we were both thrilled that I had taken that tough love approach to encourage him to go for that dream, even if it seemed out of his reach. After his class that day, he declared that he felt like he “could take on the whole world.” And this Mom that sometimes gets guff for being pessimistic believes that he just might be able to do anything he really puts his mind to.

Our whole family is looking forward to being able to go see Planes this summer. My kids loved the Cars movies, so the trailer excited them right away. As we watched it, they alternated with laughing and oohing and ahhing over the international planes and their designs. My kids are already eagerly awaiting our trip to the theater. And, with our bike riding adventure happening so recently, I know that we’ll have an extra special place in our heart for Dusty the crop duster as he tries to achieve his dreams and overcome the obstacles in his way.

How you encourage your children to try new things and follow their dreams?

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Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. Mami2jcn says

    I encourage my children to follow their passions for art and music. My 8 year old is a budding artist, my 10 year old plays guitar and drums, and my 3 year old daughter takes ballet. I applaud their accomplishments and motivate them to keep doing their best.

    mami2jcn at gmail dot com

  2. Jessica To says

    I try to encourage my son to try new things. When he is leery to try something, I will try it myself to show him!

  3. Elena says

    I encourage my son by supporting his ideas and dreams and by teaching him to work hard to achieve his goals

  4. Heather Singell says

    Having a child with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, I have had to really be encouraging with her to try new things. Its tough for her, but she feels wonderful about herself when she does try it out!

  5. bondservant says

    When they show an interest in something (usually something mentioned consistently over a period of time), we give them a long leash to try it out (allow breathing room in their daily schoolwork to do this).

  6. Jamie says

    My husband is the dreamer also, but I find that he is also the one that will get creative to do whatever it is that he wants to do. He always inspires me, not because I don’t have dreams but because he helps me see through the clouds to achieving my own.

  7. Jennifer DelaCruz says

    Ours are still young but I encourage them to try as many new things as they can. Try them at least once even if they are scared or think they wont like it. You never know when you might really like something.

  8. Beth says

    My girls are performers and while I give them plenty of opportunities to pursue this dream, we spend much more time on the academic subjects needed for most careers. Who knows, maybe they’ll find a way to fulfill their dream and make a living!

  9. Katie K says

    we play imaginary games – house, etc – and we never tell them they can’t do something

  10. Avon S. says

    Setting a positive example all while having tons of fun. We also love encouraging our two year old to trying anything and everything he sets his mind to.

  11. Barnabas A says

    One must walk a fine line between instilling false hope and crushing dreams. It is not true that we have unlimited capabilities. That being said, one cannot hope to achieve greatness without a certain amount of that hope which spits in the face of reason and says “I will overcome this!”. It sounds like you are walking that line perfectly.

  12. LeAnn says

    I am having to overcome my fears and dislikes… Or I pretend to! We all taste “new” foods together, and I really do not prefer all foods. I am terrified of bugs and spiders in particular, but I do not want to pass that along, so after a sharp intake and a little “eep!” I say, there’s a little black spider, look… 8 Legs! Now I have a daughter who loves all critters and is fascinated with how they live and move… Eek!

  13. Amanda Hunter says

    I try to not anxious or worried about things but instead try to be a good example by taking on challenges eagerly and confidently. I also remind them that God is helping us!

  14. Allison Wilson says

    Introduce them to new things, and encourage them to explore new interests.

  15. says

    I take the time to listen to my son when he talks about his dreams and passions, even though he is just 7 years old. Even though some may not make sense, I encourage him, and remember that these are his dreams. :)

  16. Nicole Larsen says

    I encourage my daughter to try new things–types of sports or activities and when I see she is really interested in something I push her to do the best she can at it and constantly be supportive of her in any decision she makes!

  17. rachel says

    By reminding myself it’s not my dream — it’s theirs. But also encouraging them to be selfless.

  18. Dee says

    I have two nieces and I don’t encourage them. However, I do try to inspire them and open them up to new interests by taking them on day trips to local museums, concerts, and storytelling events at the library. We participate in arts and crafts classes once a month and bake together. I spend every Saturday morning and afternoon with them while my brother and his wife work so we try to make it a fun experience each time! Hopefully they feel encouraged enough to get excited over trying new things at other times! :)

  19. Mel says

    I tend to be more like you. My 2 year old tries to chase after a rabbit and I tell him “you can’t catch it.” I’ve been pondering lately how to keep kids feet on the ground while their minds are in the clouds. I think with kids I will encourage whatever occupation they want but make sure they intern or follow someone with the same or similar occupation so they can be realistic.

    • says

      Your comment made me burst out laughing, mostly because it reminded me of the time that I encouraged my kids to chase a rabbit that they were trying to catch. It was in the garden and my husband and I were all, “Catch it! Catch it!” They were old enough that they knew they couldn’t, but we still laugh about it.

  20. Anastasia says

    I encourage them to try new things by leading by example and doing things with them that they and / or I have never done :) I encourage them to follow their dreams by supporting them and helping them find ways to get to where they want to go :)

  21. Heather S says

    I encourage my kiddos by doing lots of different activities with them to foster a love of trying new things! I also sign them up for classes to help them learn and grow and find undiscovered talents!

  22. Stephanie Larison says

    I tell her anything that’s going to be important to her is worth fighting for. Don’t give up just because something gets a bit hard.

  23. Jessie C. says

    I encourage and support them to experience all they like, enjoy the process of trial and error. It was not always pleasant and smooth, however I do believe you got to give them chances to grow.
    tcarolinep at gmail dot com

  24. rachel travis says

    By talking about their dreams and helping to focus on how to get there!

    rachelmarietravis at gmail dot com

  25. Merle M says

    I tell them I’m proud of them. Encourage them to spend their time doing things at which they feel competent and valued

  26. Denise S says

    I try to expose my kids to a variety of activities so they’ll discover what they like and I encourage them to believe they can do anything they want to do.

  27. kolpin says

    i think the key is to have them try many things, whether it’s in the arts, sports, or intellectual pursuits, and see what they spark to or are good at–even if it’s not necessarily what you desire. it’s best that they find something that they’re passionate about, not what they feel pushed into doing!

    kolpin4680 at gmail dot com

  28. joni says

    Luckily my daughter loves trying new things. I introduced her to music by going to many concerts. I encourage her by doing things with her.

  29. Terra Heck says

    I challenge my children to follow their dreams by giving positive reinforcement, motivating them often, and enrolling them in classes or teams that help make those dreams become more a reality. Thanks.

  30. Ellie W says

    I always encouraged my boys to follow their dreams, but to get a good education also. If there was anything they wanted to try, I let them as long as their education didn’t suffer in the process.

  31. Jennifer Matt says

    when my children share their hopes and dreams, I’m always realistic, but I point them in the right direction to achieve those goals. Help them find information they need to make smart decisions

  32. judy gardner says

    i try to lead by example. if there is something i am nervous about doing i show the kids that i can do it anyway, like taking the glass elivator even tho i am afraid of heights.

  33. says

    I try to do new things with them whenever possible. During the summer we try to go on all sorts of different adventures.

  34. Michele C says

    I tell my kids to finish strong. It is not how you start the race but how you finish it.

  35. steve weber says

    support them no matter what, tell them to dream big, don’t listen to any negative feedback.

  36. Jennifer says

    I sit with my kids once a month to make a schedule, and I love when they have tons of feedback! IT’s something to look forward to every month, even if it is as small as a trip to the library or learning a new sport!
    I also show my kids that hard work pays off, my husband and I are in the process of opening our own business, so the kids really see how things can happen if you really try!

  37. Brittney House says

    I encourage my kids by being their biggest and loudest cheerleader! I always let them know that anything can be accomplished if you work hard enough at it and I support them every step of the way!!
    Brittney House

  38. samantha s says

    I encourage my kids to try new things by doing it with them sometimes. I build them up and I recognize that sometimes fear is just not knowing what will happen. I always positively encourage my kids to at least try something once because they never know it might be fun! Helping them set small personal goals helps them towards following their dreams.

  39. clynsg says

    Since my kids are older, my encouragement generally consists now of being a sounding board while they are discussing ideas, and sometimes pointing out things they may not have thought of, as well as the pros and cons of things.

  40. Erica C. says

    We give them small tasks that they can complete so they feel confident.

  41. Erica Best says

    i do not have kids but i live when my nephew learn somehing new and trying to find his way in the world

  42. Pauline M says

    I help my kids by opening them up to new opportunities. For example, my son loves playing video games which would sometimes drive me crazy since I would have to yell to get him off of the PS3. So this summer, instead of yelling, I signed him up for a summer computer programming camp for kids at our local University and it’s been awesome! He’s programmed his own ninja video game and has found something that he truly loves and wants to continue learning about!

  43. Betty C says

    My children are adults now but I always tried to find ways to let them achieve small steps on the way to a big goal.

  44. Mary Jensen says

    I encourage them to tell me anything. And when they do, I never ever talk them down.

    jbodawg at outlook dot com

  45. tracy p. says

    I encourage my kids to follow their dreams by praising them when they do good and when they aren’t feeling so happy tell them to never give up.

  46. justin p says

    I encourage them to overcome their fears, celebrate their successes & walk with them through their failures

  47. Mihaela D. says

    I encourage my children to achieve their goals by supporting them and by encouraging creativity and confidence

  48. susan smoaks says

    I encourage our kids to reach for their goals by asking them how they are doing, what they want to do and how they plan to do it!

    susansmoaks at gmail dot com

  49. ashley says

    I don’t have kids but if I did I would encourage them to be themselves, try new things, work hard and no matter what I will always be proud of them,

  50. Tabathia B says

    By encouraging them to follow their dreams, try different things and to challenge themselves

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  51. tina reynolds says

    I make sure all three of them know how important, special and unique they are. I also encourage them with lots of positives.

  52. Amanda Sakovitz says

    I always tell them to believe in themselves and that you wont know if you like something or not unless you try it!
    pokergrl8 at

  53. Melinda says

    I encourage him to try new things and expose him to many new things – granted he’s only 8 months, but new book, new toys, new textures, rain on his skin, puddles after the warm summer storms, sandy beaches etc
    You never know what you’ll want to be or do in life until you know what’s out there!