Career choice: How to deal with parent-child clash



Failure to agree with your child on career path can be a source of conflict in the family. / Net photo.

Last week, the Ministry of Education released the 2017 A-Level results. Out of 40,753 candidates who sat A-level exams in 2017, 89.55 per cent passed. This implies that a big number of candidates are now set to pursue a specific career path at tertiary level. However, the career choice often tends to put parents and their children on a collision path.

Usually, some parents want their children to opt for the ‘highly prized’ professions such as medicine, law, architecture, engineering and accountancy, among others, contrary to their children’s interests. For example a child might be interested in studying arts such as drama, music or modeling, yet their parent abhors this field to the point of threatening not to pay the tuition fees if the child sticks to their choice.

Well, several experts have weighed in on this subject and advise as follows;

Where it all starts

Divin Lione Dushimimana, a student at Green Hills Academy, says when he was aged six, he yearned so much to be a footballer or soldier in the future. However, his father didn’t like the idea and tried to explain to him that the two professions never paid much.

Though he thought he would earn a lot like renowned footballers like Messi and Ronaldo, his father advised him not to take that football path because he will never be like such great footballers.

Fortunately, his father tabled another good idea of being a physician, which Dushimimana has since embraced and is now doing his best to excel in sciences to fulfill his new dream.

“Whereas parents need to guide their children on what career path to pursue, they should not dictate. Rather, they should first listen to their children, and use experiences to convince them why career A is better than career B in the current world,” he says.

For, Collins Odhiambo, a teacher and counselor, it is not right for a parent to force their child to take a course because it matches their interests and not the child’s.

“Sometimes a child may want to do what they can manage which might not be the case with you. You (parent) could be a banker and your child is not good at calculations and instead decides to do a course like fashion because they believe they can do a perfect job in that area. It would, therefore, be wrong to simply tell them off without carefully taking into account their side of the argument,” he says.

Odhiambo further says children need counselling and guidance when they are still young so that they grow up on the right track knowing which career to pursue and reasons why they should go for it.

“For example, if you want your child to be a pilot, guide them when they are still little so that they put more effort on subjects that will lead them to that profession. Telling them when they are old, for instance, after their A-Level, may be undesirable as they could have made up their minds on which fields to go into,” he says.

Odhiambo advises parents to do everything possible to expose their children to numerous career choices as they grow up so that when the ripe time of making decisions knocks they will have many alternatives to choose from instead of dictating to them what to study.

“The role of parents in choosing the career of their children must follow a bottom-up approach. For example, they should first have a chat with their children about their career choice, and advise them accordingly. If a parent and child don’t agree on the same choice, parents must respect the choice of the children,” says Dr Celestin Hategekimana, a lecturer at University of Kibungo.

He adds that experience has proven that a top-down approach by parents frustrates children and affects their studies negatively.

Odhiambo urges parents to watch their children keenly as they grow because they keep developing different talents over time.

Nevertheless, Hategekimana explains that it is naivety for some parents to think that the choice of a career for their children is their personal matter; children always need direction from parents.

He recommends that government sets up professional boards that can help children in the process of making career choices because this strategy has worked successfully in some countries.

How to resolve the conflict

Valens Safari, an educationist, states that career is the progress, actions and occupation undertaken throughout a person’s life time since career is connected to the whole person’s life, the reason parents play a big role in career choice for their children.

“When in conflict, parents should find a way to guide their children which career is good for them and why. However, parents should know that children also have a say in the choice; they should not impose their ideas but rather ask questions and provide examples to clarify their positions objectively,” he says.

Safari adds that children should be taken to career and skills clinics in order to be exposed to different possibilities so that they have a wider picture of the world before choosing the best one.

According to Emmy Ntigurirwa, the Swahili and English teacher at GS Rurambo, parents should be aware of career resources, as well as education and training opportunities so that they support their children to utilise every chance in order to be the best they can even in a profession of their choice.

He calls upon parents not to shoot down their children’s career choices because if they do not show interest, this will impact negatively on their overall performance.

“If parents act harshly, it may affect the whole exploration process. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open, and encourage their child to gather as much information as possible on their career interest,” he says.

Ntigurirwa notes that parents must know that their role is to facilitate their children’s career journeys, and therefore accept independent career choices for children because they are a big step into adulthood.

What others say

“Knowing whether your child has the required skills for a particular profession is important. For example, a child could have failed science subjects, yet he or she wants to be a doctor or a nurse; get ways of convincing them to do what matches with the grades and skills without hurting their feelings,” says Alyson Umutoni, a mother and businesswoman in Remera, Kigali.

She also suggests that parents should look for successful role models in the areas their children are interested in so that they know how they managed to be triumphant. For example, if a child is interested in becoming a lawyer, a parent should do research to know how that lawyer managed to be where they are and the experiences they passed through so that they can encourage the child get focused regardless of the challenges they might meet on the way.

Umutoni, however, says sometimes children might want a course that is so expensive for their parents to afford, but if a child and parents discussed the career while the former is still in lower class, it allows a parent time to save enough money for tuition.

“Another alternative is for a student to excel so that they have more chances of winning s scholarship,” she adds.

Jane Rukundo, a student, explains that children should know why they are choosing certain careers.

“They should not pursue careers just for the sake or for show-off. They should also know that their parents mean well for them, and if they advise them about a career choice, they shouldn’t resist without giving it due attention,” she says.


Written by Loknath Das