Keep in mind that these are parenting thoughts from a less than 25 years old who doesn’t have kids yet!
The primary “wish” that parents have for kids is that kids will be successful, happy, and satisfied with their lives. (and perhaps rich so they can send their parents on an all inclusive boat trip for the rest of the parents lives :) The question then becomes: if my kid is successful and happy in his/her own way, will I be OK with that? Example: your kid is an artist who doesn’t make a lot of money – actually, she doesn’t make much money and on occasion doesn’t make ends meet. But she’s generally happy with her work and her lifestyle and she would not rather do anything else in the world but be an artist. This is vastly different than the sit-on-your-ass-all-day-to-watch-tv-and-facebooking kinda kids whose parents only wish is “if you would just get off your ass and get a job, any job!”
Or do you, the parents, have a picture in your mind of the perfect life your kids should have? Nice house, nice car, stable job, lots of grandchildren… I can safely assume that my parents want the latter, even though they won’t admit or even be aware of this secret wish.
There are two choices when it comes to parenting styles, finely put in Ben’s post:
If you want to guarantee your kid is not a fuck up and leads a productive and “successful” life, be totally overbearing and induce lots of stress early on. If you want to give your kid a chance to end up in the history books, give him a long leash and excessive freedom to explore, but be aware that with freedom comes risk — he could more easily get into drugs and alcohol, for example.
The primary “duty” of parents (aside from providing food & shelter) is “nurturing” in its purest sense. That is, helping your kids realize their fullest “potential”. Until kids have explored their own boundaries and experiences, nobody knows kids better than parents. The question to ask yourself as a parent is this:
Have I provided, directed, helped influence my kids to be the best they can be, given their abilities, circumstances, and life aspirations?
For example, there is a worldly difference between “You need to become a lawyer/doctor/engineer” (insert an adult Asian face here) vs “What do you want to become when you grow up” (I don’t think I was ever asked this question :|). Actually, the more important question for parents is this:
Have I done enough to give room, to encourage, and to enable my kids to fully explore their interests? Have I really instilled in my kids the sense that they really can be who they WANT to be? And furthermore, have I done enough to motivate my kids to want to be who they want to be?
Example: One day you realized that your kid is 20 and you say this to your fellow parent friends:
He’s 20 years old and he’s playing games all day, doesn’t have a job, has no desire to get a job, and has no clue what to do with his life. Heck, he doesn’t even have the need to think about what to do with his life.
Then have you, the parents, been gently nudging your kids all his life toward this self-exploring process? Do your kids even know this is one of the most important things to do as a human-being? Do your kids even know there is a process?
So if your kid is for real 20 and in this situation, the safe thing to do is to tell your kids to pick a program at a university that he MIGHT be good at. Something safe, something stable and well-paying: nursing, doctor, lawyer, banker, teacher, etc.
Or you could tell your kid about the process of exploration. Heck, I wish my parents did this – I found it AFTER graduating from college!