“When I grow up, I’m going to be an ice cream lady.” My four year-old daughter’s words caught me off guard. “You want to do what?” I inquired. “Daddy,” Taylor said impatiently, “I’m going to be an ice cream lady when I’m older.” My first thought was “great…unless she plans on becoming Ben or Jerry, I’ll be supporting her for years.”

Who knows what Taylor will be when she grows up. Whether it’s an ice cream server or a physician, I can have a tremendous impact in her life when I get excited about her dreams. What happens when you get involved in your child’s future dreams? Amazing things.

“I Believe in You!”

There are many positive things that can happen when you are enthusiastic about your child’s future dreams. First, it increases their self-esteem. When a child has at least one adult who “believes” in him, it typically makes the child feel that who he is and what he wants to do is important. In turn, this has a positive effect upon the way he feels about himself. Having someone value who you are and what you do is momentous. For example, at our monthly marriage seminar, we asked over 10,000 adults to list their top relational needs—having one’s mate value who we are and what we do ranked near the top of the needs list.

Secondly, as you get involved in a child’s dreams, it allows him to learn new skills. For example, when I was young, my father realized how excited I was about airplanes. I would tell him, “I’m going to be a pilot someday.” Although he knew I probably would change my mind a hundred times, he bought me books and magazines about airplanes, introduced me to pilots, built airplane models with me, and gave me flying lessons. In turn, these activities gave me self-confidence, new skills, deepened my fund of knowledge, and promoted learning. Research has demonstrated that kids with goals tend to do better in school, act in less rebellious ways, and have lower levels of sexual activity.

This leads right into the third benefit. As you get involved in your child’s dreams, it bonds you closer together. In other words, any time you do activities with someone your relationship strengthens and deepens. Noted research on healthy families found that having “shared activities” is one of the most important things you can do as a family.

Over time, I’ve thought about Taylor’s dream of becoming an ice cream lady. At first, I tried to gently “encourage” her toward more prestigious careers such as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, or psychologist. However, my ultimate goal for Taylor is to serve God and others. Each time Taylor and I have ice cream together, the pure enjoyment we experience deepens our relationship. If creating joy, fun memories, and togetherness is what an ice cream lady does, I will be the proudest father in the world.