Leadership (Abuja)

16 February 2013

Nigeria: Future Careers for Children and the Role of Parents

opinion

In Nigeria, and indeed most black nations, children are considered the personal properties of their parents, and so do not have the liberty to choose, especially when it comes to issues of career development. They are considered as infants with toddler-minds who should not be allowed on their own to make choices based on their desire.

Those parents drop veiled hints that the child is somehow failing to please them. If only the child would do this or be that, then mom or dad would be happy. These parents make it seem like the child is responsible for their happiness. What they make less clear is how to make the child happy. They set some unreasonable expectations which makes the child crazy with anxiety, trying to please, to be good enough and to be worthy of their love.

The persistent quests by parents to attempt to change the destiny of their ward is sometimes born out of the desire to make quick money after training or the quest to secure lucrative jobs for their children that would place them over and above their mates. That is precisely what prompted some fundamental questions as to: - What does your child feel passionately about? Drawing? Trekking? Photography? Or Cartooning?

Most parents push their children to attend extra classes for Science and Mathematics, so that they could take up in Engineering college and embrace the dream of their parents. By the time the child realises that this is not what he/she wants to do in life, many precious years would have gone-by pressurised by parents. After all, what is life if you can't live it happily? The brain-washing by parents needs to stop, and parents should also start thinking more openly.

In today's world, there are many other disciplines to choose from such as: Food styling, Chef, Photography, Fashion, Jewellery, Shoe Designing etc. It's a huge wide world out there for the creative mind. So, why restrict children to a pre-planned robotic lifestyle?

These professions are certainly not bad pay-masters. They are in greater demand now. Many people prefer to wear dresses, bags, shoes, jewellery designed specifically for them. However, I am not of the view that engineering, medicine, architecture, banking and a host of other lucrative areas should not be allowed to be specialised in. If the desire to do something comes from within, then there is no need to prevent the children, instead support them to imbibe such virtues. It would definitely shape their future for the better which of cause is the firm desire of every parent.

It's the parent's responsibility to identify this desire and help the child to shape it. This is possible, only if there is open conversation between the child and the parents. Parents are the single greatest influence on their child's education and career decision, but sometimes parents make mistakes in an effort to help their children navigate the world of desire to achieve success by ignoring the children's passion, and when parents deny a child the listening ear for suggestions or conversations, it will lead to serious regret, not only on the part of the child, but even to the parents and the society at large.

It is therefore necessary to help children understand your point of view but never force your decision on them, it will certainly be detrimental to their future. Listening to the child, taking their suggestions, sometimes sheepishly admitting a fault will make a huge difference in their behavior. Make them feel that parents are human too. Let them come to it on their own after realising it.

Unfortunately, it is a scenario where, unless a child aspires to be an engineer, doctor or opt for Computer Science or IT, their choice is not considered good enough. The peer pressure is crazy. We might have lots of Engineers or Doctors, but are they really all we need? It is pertinent to allow kids to follow their own obsession that is good for them.

It is however imperative for parents to proffer advice and suggestions to their children, but forcing careers on them is as good as denying them the right to choose what is proper for them in life. Remember, duty make us do things well, but our love for it make us do it even better.

In many households in Nigeria, parents are not wealthy and the best bet they have is to direct their children to reach a proven, well established career, which in olden days was a government job or a bank job. This has changed over the years to engineering and medicine. Those areas guarantee jobs with a minimum level of living standards. There are many families in northern Nigeria where the daughter becomes a nurse; she earns money and improves her family back home. If that path was not followed, their living standards might not be better. I am in splits on this point of view, especially in situations where improvement in living standard is needed.

It is important that children should choose their choice of study and they should not be forced. If they are forced to do so, they may never do justice to their job, when they go for it. Many unskilled engineers, impatient doctors, impolite nurses, ruthless police/soldiers etc ... are such examples for this. If they don't love and don't have a passion for their jobs they will not be happy nor would they satisfy others. It is better to be a successful agriculturist than an engineer or a doctor for the name sake.

Let children choose something they love. It does not matter what the salary is or how much money they make; eventually they will make enough money. What is important is the job satisfaction. Living happily doing what they like best is such a joy that money cannot stand in comparison.

In general, being compassionate helps us to be happier individuals. Parenting is no different. Showing compassion promotes better relationships with our children, as we enjoy them and steer them in the right direction, and of course learn from them!

There are many specific benefits in the form of cultivating cooperative children, building their self-esteem and confidence, while lowering their tendency towards negative behavior. Best of all, children with compassionate parents grow up to be emotionally strong and happy.

Compassion is not about allowing children to do whatever they want. It is not about letting them get away with anything they do. What it does mean is getting deeper into the child's behavior to understand what prompted a certain behavior. Naturally, one might argue that this is not the most perfect way to parent but then, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Happily, children are quite immune to the mistakes we make, because they love their parents unconditionally.

Anything that is said in a positive way brings on the desired outcome. That does not mean it is wrong to get angry, irritated, annoyed or mad. After all, even parents are human! We calm down, control ourselves and practise being calm. The important thing is the way we express ourselves. In our houses, we do not shout, it is a conscious decision we remind ourselves of, whenever we feel like raising our voices. Oh yes, we feel like shouting, but we don't. Over time, this will become a habit and the excellent side-benefit is less stress.

Being a loving parent is not difficult. I like to compare it to smiling. A smile is the curve that sets everything straight. When we smile, people involuntarily smile back. When we're kind and loving, our children find us easier to approach.

If a student joins a course which he/she is passionate about then his/her desire, dedication, enthusiasm and effort will be of the highest order and he/she will be successful in it. Be it as it may, teachers should try to unearth the hidden talents in the students and motivate them to develop those talents and success. This will mean a lot for the students.

On a final note, I wish that more of our current generation of parents open up to the many opportunities provided by other career options. They should not insist that whatever they resort to doing as a means of livelihood must be inherited by their wards. If they are destined to be teachers, technicians, bankers, journalists, lawyers and a host of other discipline, then so be it. It will be great to see parents joining hands with their children to explore newer career options.

Usman Mohammed is a Mass Communication student, Taraba State University, Jalingo.

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