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Parents: Encourage your child to dream BIG!

Kids are more capable than we give them credit for. That's the way it is.

It was only a few dozen years ago that children were expected to carry their weight on the family farm. From the time they could walk, children were helping Mom and Dad with the farm work. As soon as they could hold a pitchfork, they were shoveling hay for the horses and cows. The human species hasn't so far down the evolutionary chain as to make them incapable of physical work now.

Today, it seems that all children are capable of is sitting in front of a computer screen. Or maybe that's all parents expect of them. I believe something very different: I say show kids the world and encourage them to live their dreams - and they will.

There have been a number of kids in the news lately for having achieved great things. Jessica Watson recently became the youngest person to sail solo around the world - at age 16. Jordan Romero just summited Everest at age 13. I commend these kids - and their parents for encouraging their children and believing in them.

Yes, I know the parents of those kids have come under fire - a lot of it. I know because we've been condemned too. We have dealt with our share of criticism from do-gooders accusing us of all sorts of abuse. We've read extraordinarily hurtful things written about us as we ride our bike from Alaska to Argentina with our 12-year-old sons.

And yet - even in the face of the criticism, when I look into my sons' eyes and see the determination they have to reach the end of the world, I know we're doing them right. I'm sure Jessica's and Jordan's parents saw the same thing. We know we are on the right track by allowing our children to reach for the stars - even if those stars appear to be impossible to reach and are most certainly difficult to attain.

The message here is this: for you kids reading this - reach for the stars. Dream the impossible dream. Figure out what you want to do and go for it. The worst that can happen is that you will miss your star and land in the heavens.

And to parents: Let them do it. Allow your children to dream the impossible dream. Allow them to take risks and overcome obstacles. Encourage them to do the things you never did, but always dreamed of doing. And mostly - believe in them. Believe in your children and know they are more capable than you might think.

Nancy Sathre-Vogel has been traveling with children since her children were kneehigh to a grasshopper. She shares tips and hints on family travel on her website www.familyonbikes.org

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