Don’t force your child to be who they are not

Written by Nivedita Garg
Published: November 5, 2022

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Founder of Joyful Parenting, NLP practisioner, YALE, Harvard & UC San Diego certified personal coach with over 10 Years of experience in helping individuals beat stress and lead joyful lives

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“Don’t force someone to make time for you, if they really want to they will”. This quote hits quite hard when we stop to analyse its meaning. 

You often complain to your loved ones that they don’t have time for you, and sometimes force them to spend time with you. They are physically present because they are scared of hurting you or starting a fight, but are they mentally present too? And is it possible to control it? IMPOSSIBLE. 

Just like that, parents sometimes do not realise and step over the line and force children to be someone who they are not, and choose a career path that they think is right. Maybe the children on the surface show you that they are listening to you, but will they follow that? More importantly, will they be successful at it?

Understanding what not to do

As parents, you can guide them, but cannot train them to think in a particular way. Imagine wanting to change an apple to be a pear, is it scientifically possible?

You would be wondering what a silly question. But when you try to force your child, you are doing the same. Yes, as parents it’s important to push them a bit, make them accept challenges they normally would not, for their growth. But there is a very thin line between making them step out of their comfort zone and changing them for who they are. This line has to be understood. 

Children feel emotionally disconnected from parents who force them and tend to get emotionally aggressive. It’s like a person whose a L size, is trying to fit into an S. The child would feel suffocated and want to stay as far away as possible, thereby hampering the relationship. When as parents you feel you are superior to them, or know more, or are in the relationship to CHANGE THEM, it is not a healthy relationship. 

Consider educating yourself about the nine types of intelligences i.e. multiple intelligences (MI). Once you learn about your child’s nature of intelligence, it’ll be easier to map out their interest areas and possible career options.

Spot your child’s strengths via the concept of multiple intelligences

1. Logical Intelligence

Here the children have the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and discern logical or numerical patterns.

Skillsets: Problem-solving (logical & math), performing experiments.

Career choices: Scientists, engineers, accountants, mathematicians

2. Linguistic Intelligence

Here the children have well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words.

Skillsets: Listening, speaking, writing, teaching.

Career choices: Poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, translator

3. Visual Intelligence

Here the children have the capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly.

Skillsets: Puzzle building, painting, constructing, fixing, designing objects

Career choices: Sculptor, artist, inventor, architect, mechanic, engineer

4. Musical Intelligence

Here the children have the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber.

Skillsets: Singing, playing instruments, composing music

Career choices: Musician, disc jockey, singer, composer

5. Kinaesthetic Intelligence

Here the children have the ability to control their body movements and to handle objects skillfully.

Skillsets: Dancing, sports, hands-on experiments, acting

Career choices: Athlete, PE teacher, dancer, actor, firefighter

6. Intrapersonal Intelligence 

Here the children have the capacity to be self-aware and are in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes.

Skillsets: Reflective, aware of inner feelings

Career choices: Researchers, theorists, philosophers

7. Interpersonal Intelligence 

Here the children have the capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.

Skillsets: Seeing from other perspectives, empathy, counselling, co-operating

Career choices: Counselor, salesperson, politician, business person, minister

8. Naturalistic Intelligence 

Here the children have the ability to recognize and categorise plants, animals and other objects in nature.

Skillsets: Recognize one’s connection to nature, apply science theory to life

Career choices: Scientist, naturalist, landscape architect, Maritime studies

9. Existential Intelligence 

Here the children hsve the sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why we die, and how we get here.

Skillsets: Reflective and deep thinking, design abstract theories

Career choices: Scientist, philosopher, theologian.

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As parents, the stereotypical career choices that you will decide, will not help your child enhance their lives. Instead, observe the innate traits your child has. Every child has two or three of these intelligences in the highest value, and that would be the ideal way to decide their career.

A career counsellor can help a child understand which career options are the right choice for them, by analysing and understanding their needs. 

Let them walk their own path

When you understand your child and allow them to pursue a profession and career based on their intelligence, you will see they are happy, successful and passionate as well. The more you force the child, they move away from their intelligence and feel a sense of disconnect.

How you can help?

Imagine, if you got to learn about your profession from a younger age, or at least the skills required in professions from your childhood, you would have an advantage of time and learn so much more. In fact, career exploration should start at a much younger age. The atmosphere at home impacts and influences children, and they tend to take it more seriously. This way they can be more prone to thinking and dreaming big, understand the importance of setting goals and skilful decision-making. Therefore, helping them choose the right career automatically when the time comes. 

Also, an important point to remember is that when these discussions occur, make sure they are dialogues and not lectures. Share your experience of how you reached where you are, what you learnt from it, and let them just think about it. Don’t try to impose your views on them. 

Start reading more about the new age career choices available, so you are also updated about what’s going on. This will help you have healthier discussions and children will also believe that their parents are aware and open to new ideas. 

The most important thing is to trust them and have confidence in children. Ask them questions about what interests them, what they like or dislike, what they see in the future, about the work culture etc. Actively “LISTENING” to what they are saying is the key. Do not have pre-determined ideas or answers and be open to what they have to say. This way when you truly listen, it can lead to empowering situations and you’ll be surprised how much children have to offer. 

When you change with time and adapt to how things are, you will automatically guide your children towards what’s best for them. JUST BE OPEN TO CHANGE.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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