“Dad, I’ve decided I want to be a footballer”. “Really?” answered his dad; “I think you should support that football dream with a Law degree o” This was a snippet from the conversation my friend had with his teenage son some time ago.
Back in the day, the careers of choice that our parents shepherded us towards were along the lines of Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer or other close alternatives. These days however with the emergence of so many “fancy” careers with the prospect of living the life of their dreams, much wisdom is required to get our children to take a long-term holistic view of their career choice rather than being enticed merely by the glitz and glam of these swanky careers.
A strong desire and joy of most parents is to see their children turn out to be happy, successful individuals and a key factor believed to influence this is one’s vocation. This explains why parents try to sway their children to follow career paths that in their opinion would firmly place them on the success platform for the long haul. While this is a very valid gesture, the method used may turn what started out with very good intentions, into a nightmare producing the exact opposite – unhappy, unfulfilled, resentful individuals.
I remember when my son was in his senior years of secondary school and we had the talk about his career. His dad and I asked what he wanted to study and he said “Law”. I knew he like watching NYPD, Law & Order and Boston Legal. He also loved a good argument but I had my concerns about his willingness and preparation to read the volumes of material required of Lawyers. I tried to discourage him – I told him that the “Law and Order” he watched on TV was very different from what obtained in Nigerian courts. Anyway, he insisted that his first choice was Law, second choice Law and told me in very clear terms that I shouldn’t bother trying to dissuade him. He’s currently in his 2nd year studying Law. Yes, there is plenty of reading involved but since it was his choice, he can’t whine too much about it! Before he commenced the course, we got him to intern at a couple of Law firms so he could get a feel of what the profession entailed.
Psalm 32: 8. (NLT – paraphrased by me) says – “The LORD says, He will guide my children along the best pathway for their lives. He advises them and watches over them.”
Having raised confident young boys and girls who we’ve encouraged to be independent; speak-up, and follow their passion, It’s kind of contradictory when we try to insist that they follow a particular career path that we want. We should learn to hand our children over to God completely and trust Him to do as he has promised in His word – guide them along the best pathway for their lives…Does this mean we should then just fold our hands and do nothing? Definitely not!
Teach our children to recognize the voice of the Lord and promptings of the Spirit. Remember the story of Samuel (1st Samuel 3). Initially, he didn’t know it was God who was calling him but with the guidance of his father figure – Eli, he was able to respond appropriately. According to Jewish history, Samuel was about 12 years old at that time so our children can actually recognize the voice of the Lord from a young age.
Be observant – note their strengths and interests.
Encourage them to get as much information about their preferred career choice. They should research the pro and cons; the capabilities required; work requirement; life style / societal implications; financial potential etc. of the options they are considering. Resist the temptation to carry out the research for them. There is a benefit to them doing it on their own.
Arrange for them to intern and do holiday jobs. This allows them to get a practical feel of what their chosen career would entail.
Support and love your children unconditionally even when their choices aren’t exactly what you expected. Research shows that when children enjoy support from their parents, they have more confidence and develop relatively stronger decision-making skills.
Keep the lines of communication open. Avoid belittling their ideas and dreams for their future career. Do not use manipulation, shame, threats and emotional blackmail to get them to conform to what you want.
So what should our role be as parents? Communicate; Get involved; Guide; Advice; Support but let the child make his / her decision.
This article by Charity Babatunde was originally written for and published in The Woman Leader Magazine, a publication of The Woman Leader Outreach, Lagos.