Expert: 'Don't push children on careers'

What do you want to be when you grow up?"

It's a question more parents seem to be asking their children earlier and earlier.

Who can blame them, given the high cost of college - and the ever-changing demands of today's workplace?

As a result, some parents seem to be almost hyperactive about ensuring that their kids choose a good career.

Many parents pressure their children to think about the job market well before they can drive. And some even plug their toddlers into activities in the name of rsum-building and networking.

Stop all the pressure, says career counselor and author Barbara Moses. "It's a mistake to force children into premature career choices," says Ms. Moses, who discusses the subject in her recent book "The Good News About Careers" (Jossey-Bass Publishers).

"I worry much more about 17-year-olds who know what they want to do than 20-somethings who don't have any idea what they want to do," says Moses, also the mother of a teenager.

So what should parents tell their children about careers? Here are a few of her tips:

Promote self-knowledge. Encourage children to discover what they do well. "That's different than saying, 'You're really good at solving problems and engaging in debate, therefore you should go into law,' " she says. "Rather, stop before you suggest a profession - just give the feedback."

Avoid the Top 10 syndrome. Don't try to encourage your children to mold themselves to fit the market needs. After all, not everyone wants to be a computer programmer. "The hot jobs that exist today may not exist tomorrow," Moses says. Rather encourage your children to "pursue their personal passion."

Be careful, your children are listening. Many young people are ambivalent about work because of what they've heard their parents say over the years. "Rather, paint for your kids a realistic picture of work - its pleasures as well as its frustrations," says Moses. "Be careful about how much negative stuff you communicate."

"I'm stunned," she adds, "at how many teens don't have a clue what their parents do."

Prepare your children to be good citizens. Think of the kinds of roles you would like your child to play in society, Moses says, and the skills they will need to be effective contributors - not just as workers - but also as leaders, volunteers, and members of the community.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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