Home » Is It A Parenting Do or Don’t? Giving Kids Career Guidance

Is It A Parenting Do or Don’t? Giving Kids Career Guidance

The other night we were having dinner with the in-laws.

Our oldest niece just started her last year of High School.  Between shoving huge forkfuls of salad into my fat face,  I asked the in-laws if our niece’s post  high school plans included attending the same college as her Father.  (He’s a Virginia Tech Grad and VERY loyal alum. . .Although, EVERY Tech grad I’ve ever met is a VERY LOYAL alum).

They mentioned her plans did not at this point, include Virginia Tech. . .more likely University of Maryland. . .and she wanted to ultimately be a pediatric dentist.

My fork halted midway to mouth.

Pediatric Dentistry?!

What happened to teacher?!

All I’ve ever heard this kid talk about for YEARS was how badly she wanted to be a teacher.  Suddenly, she wants to jam her fingers into cantankerous kids’ mouths?  Most kids hate dentists.  All of a sudden she’s decided it’s acceptable for children – whom she adores, to hate even the THOUGHT of her?  To be scared of her?!


“Grandma had a talk with her,” my father in law chuckled.

I’m certain my eyebrows suddenly moved so far up my forehead, they merged with my hairline.  A talk?

“Grandma explained to her there’s no money in teaching.  So she picked pediatric dentistry instead.”


And that got me thinking:  Is it acceptable to suggest to any kid what they should “be”?  

From a VERY early age, I was encouraged by my Father to be an attorney.  So that’s what I set about to do.  I spent an inordinate amount of time in undergrad struggling through pre-med caliber science classes because I was told by an advisor that “law schools drool over candidates with a scientific background.”

After undergrad, I worked like a dog to put myself through law school in the evenings – even though after the first year, I was quite certain I’d never EVER practice law in the traditional sense. . .I found the course work interesting. . .and kinda’ “easy” once I got the hang of it.  Yet, I knew I didn’t have the passion to become a gun-slinging litigator, I didn’t have the stomach to be a decent State’s Attorney, and transactional work bored me to death.  I just KNEW it wasn’t for me.

But I continued.  Because I  was taught you ALWAYS finish what you start.  AND because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. While I passed the bar, I’ve never set foot in a courtroom as a fully licensed attorney.  And while I can likely still rattle off all 20+ hearsay objections like it’s second nature, it still feels rather WRONG that every month for the next 20 years or so, my Husband will be stroking a check that’s nearly the same amount as our MORTGAGE to my student loan provider.

With the benefit of hindsight, I see that I probably would have had a much more pleasurable undergrad experience if I had taken a few more art or creatively focused classes.  I might have enjoyed high school a little more had I not been so hell-bent on becoming “completely well-rounded” so I was an attractive candidate to private liberal arts colleges. . .My twenties and possibly my entire career path might have been different and possibly more fulfilling, had I allowed myself more flexibility.

Has my entire existence been miserable because I decided at age three I wanted to be a lawyer?  Of course not.  Do I BLAME my Father for years of “brain washing”?   No way.  Just as I don’t blame my mother-in-law for dispensing well-meaning career guidance to my niece.

However, I don’t think this is the path I want to take with my own children.  

It took me quite some time to find my own way as an adult and even after years of experience, I still don’t think I have the wisdom to discuss a career path with others.  I have no idea what the job market might hold in the future.  I have no way of knowing if in their heart, they might prefer less monetary compensation to having say, a more flexible schedule or another non-monetary perk.  I just don’t think I should be offering an opinion about something that is so closely tied to my kids’ ego, personal fulfillment, and happiness.

I can draw a lot of parallels between my oldest niece and myself. . .but I’m hoping ultimately, she wiser and braver than I was at such a young age.  I hope if she decides teaching is one of her greatest passions, she’ll have the courage to pursue it. . .others’ opinions and money be damned. . .

Because if there’s ONE thing I AM CERTAIN about, you CANNOT put a price on personal fulfillment and happiness.

And that’s one piece of advice, my children WILL hear early and often.


Do you think it’s ok to guide your children towards one vocation or another?  Under what circumstances?  How much would you focus on potential compensation when discussing their decisions?  What if the child isn’t YOUR child?  Would you ask the parents permission before offering your advice?  

Too serious of a topic?  This might help . . .





4 Responses to “Is It A Parenting Do or Don’t? Giving Kids Career Guidance”

  1. FacetsofLucy says:

    I led one of my 4 children to his career goal without realizing it. From a fairly young age, he produced incredible cityscapes The detail was incredible and I’d say to him and his grandparents, “He should be an architect”. Through high school, he pursued architecture programs and had an internship at an architecture firm. He went to college and had his first year in a good architecture program in which you were probational the first year before being admitted fully into the program for the next 4 years. At the end of the first year, they were expected to find an architecture internship again. He called me and said that the prospect of a summer like that sounded boring. I said if a summer sounded boring what would a lifetime of doing that be like. It was a light bulb moment for us both. He withdrew from the program the day he found out he was fully admitted, switched to business and has never looked back. I refused to make any “you ought to be” comments for my next two children. One’s an engineer and one is hoping to pursue law.

    Lesson: Being talented at something doesn’t mean its your passion or your life’s work.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comments!

      The lesson you mention is so true! And so nicely stated.

      Our still very young son seems to have an affinity to how lights and things like air conditioning, etc operate. I’ve caught myself saying, without even giving it a thought, quite a few times, “perhaps he’ll be an engineer.” Others have said it too and I’ve agreed with them!

      But after thinking more carefully about my niece and my own personal experiences, I should be more careful with my comments.

      Those comments are always made with the best of intentions but I want to make sure my children know I’ll support their decisions – ultimately what counts is that they feel satisfied with their OWN choices.

      I think it’s AWESOME that you were able to accept the “light bulb” moment with your son and acknowledge that exploring other areas of study might make him more fulfilled long-term. As you know, some parents can be a little more um intense and less flexible. 😉

      Best of luck and a world of happiness to you and all your children!

  2. Rick says:

    No one mentally led me in the career direction I should go, neither did I with my children. And just like me, after a couple of disappointing dead ends, they fell into careers they loved and became very successful at. I am certainly not a parent guidance councilor. This philosophy just happened to work in our family.

    • admin says:

      I’m sure it all works out no matter how you proceed. I mean what are the odds this kid is going to live in our basement well into adulthood? (Don’t answer that! ha). And I’ll probably change my mind about it 2500 times. . .especially during his surly disinterested in everything teen years. . .which hopefully we all get through ALIVE. 🙂