Many parents stress about what their children choose to study and/or their career. So much so, that they fail to support their children in making the right career choice.
I didn’t know this was such an issue until my friends heard that my daughter Noff wanted to be an actor. Almost immediately, everyone told me I should talk her out of it. I then realized that what children chose to study was an issue for many parents.
I guess I was lucky. My parents approved of what I chose to study, so no one ever said anything about it. Neither one of my parents had gone to higher education, so I was the first one to study. Everyone was just thrilled about it.
When my sister chose to be a youth worker, it meant she would work afternoons with marginalized kids. For a long time, my mom nagged her big time about the fact that it wasn’t a profession for a mother. Eventually, in the middle of the first semester, my sister switched to Special Education.
It’s interesting to find what puts pressure on us to study something or not.
Before she changed studies, my sister wanted to talk to me about her choice. She said, “Mom is nagging me about my course. It’s true, I guess. I want to be a mother one day, and it will be difficult for me to work afternoons. I want to study special education like you, but I thought everyone will think I did it out of jealousy”.
That was over 31 years ago, and I clearly remember the panic I felt, thinking she would spend money, time and energy doing something she totally didn’t want to do because she didn’t get the right support when choosing her career path. She stayed with us that weekend and both Gal and I told her that we would support her, no matter what she chose to study.
And we did.
My sister ended up completing a degree in Special Education. She was my business partner for two years. We developed and ran the “The Garden of Eden” program together. She was an amazing teacher, and her special education skills were, without a doubt, the basis of her excellence.
Motivation for a career choice
In my work as a life coach, this issue that parents sometimes have with their child’s career choice has come up many times. It’s amazing how many of my clients have studied something they never liked. Or hate the job they have now.
Of course, this really affects their happiness.
Before you continue reading, please participate in the quick polls below about choosing your own career and getting support for your choice. In a while, come back and see how other people have responded.
I work in a career that was my first choice
I'm content and happy with my career choice
My family (and friends) supported my career choice
If I could go back, I would make the same career choice
Over the years, I’ve learned that many people who are unhappy with their career choice were pressured to go into it. With support, and without pressure, they would have chosen differently.
As a mother, I know that we only want the best for our children. And we justify our actions by saying they are “for their own good”. But I think it’s unhealthy for parents to “direct” their kids towards a specific profession. If it’s not their choice, it will backfire. Big time.
Because our teens, regardless of our relationship with them, care about what we think of them. They do stupid things to either please us or defy us. Regardless of whether they do what we want them to do or not, this motivation is wrong.
Motivation and drive need to come from the inside. If the motivation is external, it will not serve them. And once they realize it, they’ll be miserable. As their parents, of course, we want them to be happy.
Walking the walk, not just talking the talk
Back to my daughter.
I was sitting in a restaurant with a big group of my friends and we started talking about our kids. Everyone asked me what she was doing, and I told them she was studying screen acting.
They were so upset. Almost all of them told me that I should tell her to choose something else. They said acting was a hard profession and she should give it up, rather than set herself up to fail.
One friend told me her son had studied acting for over 4 years and was working in retail with 2 kids. She said all of his effort, money and degree had been wasted.
Another friend said a family member of hers worked in the industry, but very few survived the continuous struggle.
The next one told me it was a very dangerous profession for a girl.
The one after said it would be irresponsible for me as a parent to let her pursue an acting career. She said it was my duty to prevent it from happening.
One of them even told me, “Just wait and see. She will give this up eventually”.
Well, I have no intention of raising my daughter to think she needs to choose an easy career. Nor will I let her believe she has a small chance of succeeding in what she chooses. And I would hate for her to think there’s a specific profession that will make me a happy mother, more than any other.
I never want my daughter to sit with a life coach and tell her she chose a profession because she was pressured by her parents!
Motivation comes from within. I want my daughter to make her own choices.
Because she is going to be the only person in the world who has to live with the consequences of her choice.
She will live longer (and more intensely) with herself than she will live with me.
Practice what you preach!
Loving what you do is the best way to overcome the challenges of every profession
I see myself as lucky, because I chose a profession that fills my heart, and I love every minute of it. It’s hard to do what I do, but it’s very fulfilling.
I get up every morning and know that I’m living my purpose. The knowledge that I love what I do motivates me. I feel this fire inside. I want my children to feel the same!
So I asked my friends, “How can I, as a life coach, who helps people find their own path, listen to their gut, live their purpose and be happy, do the opposite to my children?”
Some took my point. Others didn’t.
It’s surprisingly easy to teach others to make choices without pressure, but the real test is teaching your children to do it and letting go of your own worries and desires. Much like in the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, it’s easy to talk the talk, but hard to walk the walk.
I had to practice what I preach.
I asked my friends if they thought I should treat my daughter differently to my son Tsoof, who is 6 years older than she is?
Tsoof is a musician. He has been playing music since he was 4 years old and everyone knows he didn’t choose to be a musician. Music chose him.
When he chose to study music at university, my mom, family and friends told us the same thing. “Music is not a profession. It’s hard. Maybe it’s best to have a ‘Plan B’. All musicians end up working as waiters or in retail”.
With our unconditional support, Tsoof has proved them all wrong!
He is a very successful musician and a financially secure young man. He is successful because he does something he loves! I believe that with our unconditional support, Noff will also prove them wrong!
Support or pressure
We might get a brief sense of reassurance and control when we try to direct our children, but when we realize they either hate what they do, are unmotivated in their studies, and/or feel miserable at work, it will be too late to take it back.
For children, there is a fine line between “supporting” and “pressuring”. When we have a career path in mind for them, that crosses into pressure territory.
When a friend of mine asked me, “What will you do if she invests time and money studying and then finds out she doesn’t want to be an actor?”, I told her I would support that too.
I always say that our children don’t belong to us. We have kids to guide and accompany them on their own journey to happiness, health and life fulfillment. The only way to do our “job” well is with unconditional love and support.
Conditions are a sign of fear. Being afraid of the career choices our children make will not develop or improve their judgment. It will only cloud it.
A career choice made under pressure is not a choice!
I’ve had this quote hanging on my wall at the age of 16, after reading Richard Bach’s book titled Illusions. I think it’s still relevant today, and we need to instill this in our children.
This is my message to Noff, my beautiful daughter (inside and out).
Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. Being true to anyone or anything else is not only impossible, but the mark of a fake messiah.
With unconditional support, we can help our children learn to listen to their heart and find motivation within. Without “directing” them and cluttering their minds with our own choices and worries, we can help them find their purpose and be happy.
Because then, in the calm silence of their heart, they can hear their calling.
Lots of love,