I have been in the teaching profession for over ten years now. One of the recurring heart rending events I have had to endure in my career journey is having to watch helplessly as some children (students) are made to suffer negative consequences, the least of which is total confusion and disarray over the career choices made as a result of their parents’ influences. It is usually very painful to me.
Career is an occupation, profession or vocation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
Every child has strengths, talents, abilities as well as weaknesses. While some children are very good in calculations, others are great in arts/crafts and in exploring things with their hands. Some others may also be great speakers and excellent in languages. These skills are indicative of the different career paths that may be suitable for the students upon proper guidance.
Identifying and Nurturing your Child’s Natural Strengths and Talents:
As a parent/guardian, you can identify the natural strengths and abilities in your children/wards from their childhood through your interaction with them.
As children grow older, these natural/inherent strengths and abilities become more obvious and evident. These raw talents can be nurtured and refined by both the parents at home, and the educational institutions (schools). When a child chooses a career that aligns with his/her natural strengths and abilities, the child’s challenges and limitations in navigating through such careers are highly reduced.
I noticed a great anomaly that has eaten deep into the school system. It is the act of imposing career choices on students that have little or no inherent strengths, abilities and skills to pursue such careers. In many situations, these impositions are done by the parents/guardians or even the society.
I have seen students make a last minute swift from the Arts and Commercials to the Sciences at Senior Secondary 3 (last year) level, or even after attempting the O Level exams (WASSCE/NECO, etc) as Arts/Commercial students.
I have also seen students who, despite being advised by the school to be in either Arts or Commercials classes because of their abilities, spurned such advice and continued attending Science Classes because their parents insisted on their remaining in those classes.
When students are forced or unduly influenced to be in careers or fields in which they have little or no strengths, abilities and skills for, the consequences are enormous. They include:
- Disoriented student: When you force a student into a career path he/she doesn’t have the capacity for, the student becomes disoriented from the outset. Most of the time, such student would be floating in his/her studies and, most likely later in his/her careers without any rooted involvement or commitment.
- Poor performance: Any student forced into a field of study for which he has no strength or ability will usually exhibit obvious and consistent poor performance almost throughout the duration of his/her studies because of lack of the requisite skills and abilities.
- Inferiority complex: As a result of poor performances in studies, the student’s ego and self esteem would be highly affected negatively. The consequence would be loss of confidence in self when he/she realises he/she cannot measure up to average expectations. Such a student would begin to have negative feelings about self and this leads to unhappiness.
- Waste of time and effort: Most of the students who are forced to toe careers paths they are ill equipped intellectually to handle might end up dropping out of school when they get to higher institutions. Some of them that managed to complete the career training course end up with grades that are close to nothing after staying extra years to complete such courses. Others in this category end up not using such careers in their lifetime. All these amount to waste of time, efforts and resources.
- Extra work for teachers: As a teacher, it can be quite frustrating handling students that obviously lack the ability to be in particular classes or field of study. Most times the teacher might be very willing to help but would be facing practically uphill situation as such a teacher may really have no foundational understanding on the part of the student to really build upon. Honestly, you cannot build something on nothing and expect it to stand. In other words, if there is no proper foundation, even the best of teachers acts only in vain. When the basics are lacking, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible to make the required impact on the students.
- Reduced productivity: The climax of all these consequences is a highly reduced level of productivity in the individual and society at large.
Undue Parental Influence:
Most parents have already decided/marshaled out the kind of life they want their children to live and the careers they want them to pursue. In as much as I am not against parents having great dreams and aspirations for their children/wards, however, such dreams, desires and aspirations should be child-centered, not parent-centered. The parents should put the child’s interests, strengths, skills and abilities into consideration before making career decisions/suggestions for the child.
Many parents want to live the lives and dreams they are currently living or couldn’t live for themselves through their children. This leads the child into frustration most of the time.
The Way Forward:
It is always great to guide your child/wards but allow the child to make the final decision by himself based on his interests, strengths, abilities and skills. A child that chooses/pursues a career that aligns with his interests, strengths, abilities and skills has little or no limitations in the pursuit of such careers.