There is a lot of research on the extent to which parents influence/have a say on a young person’s career decisions. It appears that they do, particularly Mums.

As a parent of university-aged kids, I worry at both ends of the influence continuum. Am I having too much of a say with their learning and work choices, or not enough? This has led to my own rigorous research, in which I have come up with four distinct types of parent-as-career-influencer:

The Tiger Mother: Since Amy Chu’s tongue-in-cheek 2011 parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, that term has entered our lexicon. What it means is the parent pushing you to succeed in all facets of life, no matter the cost. Upside for Junior Tiger: you will probably reach your true potential, and more likely to get good grades and that great job. Downside for Junior Tiger: you may end up exhausted, not doing what you truly want to and avoiding going home for Christmas.

The Dr Evil: The parent who deliberately or inadvertently creates their own career “Mini-Me”. Their children end up doing exactly what they did, either academically or vocationally. Upside for Mini-me: family support and leads in your chosen industry. Downside for Mini-me: you may have missed out on something new and exciting. It’s an ever-changing job market these days.

The Helicopter: That parent that hovers anxiously and follows you to everything before, during and after your formal education, taking notes. Upside for the child: Your Mum will notice if you have spinach between your teeth before that big graduate employment interview. Downside for the child: You don’t get any practice at facing challenges and decision-making for yourself.

The Cool Dad/Mum: We all know one of these. Upside: They try hard to understand your world. Downside: They can be embarrassing.

The Cool Dad/Mum is probably the best type of career parent to be and have. They will seek to understand rather than nag or neglect. The ultimate cool Mum and Dad belong to Bron Batten. Bron, an Australian performance artist has invited both of her parents to be part of her improvised performance art. So her 60 year-old Mum and Dad are part of her act, Mum by Skype and Dad, a retired taxi driver, channeling his extrovert self and joining her onstage. This is so they can both understand why Bron is an artist and not an accountant or a nurse. The results are award-wining, touching and hilarious.

Parents: what career-influencer type are you? Children of parents: what are some creative ways you could use to help your folks understand your career choices?

 

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Wonderful blog post!

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  2. Hi Gill, what a thought-provoking article! Being a student of psychology and a Dad, I can say I have perhaps tried too much to be the parent who can put himself in their shoes, or go back and recall when he was a child in order to better understand his children. As much as I would love to be the Cool Dad at all times, I think a combination of different parenting styles is certainly what works. I know it is a political answer, but how to commit to any given school of thought on raising your children when the very commitment to it may lock the parent into a pattern of behaviour which they may regret. Different situations call for different approaches. I do love what someone said about parents trying to raise their kids to be like them; instead, we should be more like them. It may sound utopian, but the time of their childhood will surely pass and looking back I would love for them to have memories of academic success and achievement, of course, but, above all, I would love my boys to be able to remember how much love and fun they had growing up.

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