GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–According to many studies done over the past 50 years, parents have the greatest influence on their children’s career decisions. This is true despite any real or presumed generation gap, and it’s true even in today’s society, with the pressures of television, movies, peers, the Internet and broken marriages.
This is the way it should be, because God has given parents a special responsibility to serve as managers or stewards of the children God has given to them. Most Christian parents in America are familiar with the verse, “Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
However, few parents realize that the implications of the verse mean that parents are to dedicate themselves to be good stewards of their children and train them according to their natural abilities and talents. If parents will do this, their children won’t depart from God’s design for them.
The verse further implies that each child is unique and has been given his or her special talents and abilities for service in God’s Kingdom. Parents need to groom their children using biblical principles and help them use their God-given gifts.
Unfortunately, some parents view their role as owners rather than stewards, and this can cause some serious parent-child relationship problems. If parents view themselves as owners, they likely will feel a responsibility — sometimes an acute responsibility — for what their children will do, or become involved with as adults. Those parents who see themselves as owners instead of stewards will apply pressure to mold them into the desired careers or professional roles they have envisioned for their children.
On the other hand, when parents view themselves as stewards, they are more likely to be concerned with helping their children nurture and develop their talents and abilities through sound guidance and encouragement. With this type of approach, children can become what God has equipped them to be.
There are five primary areas in which Christian parents should be very cautious with regard to influencing their children’s career decisions.
First, it’s normal for many Christian parents to want their children to be involved in the work of the Lord. However, it is harmful to children when they are pressured by their parents to enter the ministerial profession to become pastors, evangelists or missionaries just to fulfill their parents’ dreams and desires. Of course, all Christians are called of God to minister, but not all are called into paid ministerial positions. The concern of all parents should be that their children would accept the Lord, use their talents and abilities to serve Him, work in service for Him as He directs, help others to know Him, and help those in need.
The second area can become one of the biggest problems that parents face. It comes from a legitimate and very normal desire to see their children become successful. However, when parents push and manipulate their children toward career fields and professions, because they seem to be more prestigious fields or they will satisfy the pride and ego of their parents, the children could very well find themselves on the road to frustration, depression or career disaster. Parents should never pressure their children to live the parents’ dreams of success.
The third area is one that often finds parents pressuring their children to pursue careers that pay the most money, rather than careers that appeal to and complement their talents and abilities. This attitude by the parents implies that the more money their children make, the more successful they are. And while income certainly is an important consideration, it should not be the dominating focus.
The single most important thing parents can do to help their children prepare for and find careers that complement their abilities, bring peace and contentment, and provide adequate monetary compensation is to make sure that their definition of success is based on biblical truth. “The LORD’s blessing enriches, and struggle adds nothing to it” (Proverbs 10:22).
The fourth area to be careful about is pressuring children because of pride. God has made all of us different for a purpose. Parents need to recognize and accept the fact that their children’s abilities and talents are gifts from God and that these gifts were designed for both practical and eternal purposes. Therefore, parents shouldn’t want their children to be carbon copies of themselves, like the same things they like, or have the same career aspirations as they do. That’s being prideful.
Finally, don’t neglect positive encouragement. Once parents accept the fact that their children are different and unique, it’s much easier to encourage them to pursue a career path that reinforces their children’s desires and maximizes the utilization of their talents.
Parents must not resist their children’s natural attraction to a particular career choice based on their God-given gifts. Rather, they need to find ways to encourage and support their children and help them discover the career choices that are consistent with their gifts and are most complementary to those gifts.
There are many areas of parenting that will affect children’s development into adults. But the one area that could affect them for the remainder of their adult lives is their choice of careers or professions.
Parents are far more influential in regard to their children’s career choices than they realize. So if you’re a parent, get to know your children, try to understand them and be aware of their natural God-given abilities and talents. Then you can give them wise direction based on God’s design, rather than on parental desires or expectations.
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.