Friday, July 14, 2006

Today's parents are partners in the career growth of children

Akshita is a fine painter, who passed her both grades of drawing exams easily. It was obvious that she would be choosing fine arts/commercial arts. For single-edged individuals like Akshita, the choice is not difficult to make because one of their skill dominates over other skills. But despite that, they have many choices.

Here were the questions she faced. The first choice of fine arts was obviously J.J. College of Mumbai. Every 'art' students dreams to join that college. But if she does not get admission in that college, what option she has? Preparing back-up plan is an important part of decision making.

The second question was: should she choose fine arts or commercial arts? A course in commercial art is better to get good jobs. The difference between commercial arts and fine arts is like a difference between training for a light music singer and classical singer. Everyone knows that ‘fine arts’ is the foundation of painting (like classical singing is foundation of singing), making a career in classical singing entails different challenges. A classical singer makes his/her career after 40, so too is the fine arts person. A fine arts person depicts ‘life’, therefore he/she has to be a well ‘developed’ person to become a good painter. I told Akshita about the challenges on these two paths.

What would Akshita, or any other person, do after hearing this? One chooses a path of least resistance. She chose ‘commercial arts’. And this is where the role of teachers and parents is important.

Only a long period of observation of Akshita can make one understand Akshita? What does she read? What are her other interests? Has she grown emotionally more than her colleagues in the class? Only if her other ‘behaviours’ are observed, can one truly guide Akshita? Because, unlike men, Akshita had no pressure of making a career, and could have easily chosen course of ‘fine arts’.

In such a situation, where the path of least resistance is not the best choice, support of parents is very important in helping the child to make the right choice? Parents cannot leave the choice in the student’s hand by saying ‘the choice is ultimately yours’. The child is just not mature enough to make the choice of ‘high resistance’. Parents need to display ‘tough love’, as the famous child psychologist, Haim Ginnott says.

Infact parents have to negotiate many such points of high resistance for the child. Should a child study in Mumbai or Pune? If a child was not staying in Mumbai, a child will always choose Pune, because that is the path of least resistance. The child needs a support of her parent to choose the path of high resistance. The parent’s responsibility, in such situations, is to reduce the risk of staying in Mumbai and help the kid to reduce the ‘resistance’, and not scare the child by saying ‘it is your decision’.

Parents cannot absolve their role in decision making of their children’s career choices. They need to make up back-up plans for the chosen decisions. They need to identify the ‘high resistance’ points and support the child in negotiating them. They need to ‘control’ their emotional biases and fears and not let them influence the children. They need to understand the challenges of career-making in 21st century and help their children develop those career-proofing skills.
Today's parents, unlike our parents, have to be partners in their children's career growth.

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