Every parent’s dream is to see their child soar and succeed in life. who wouldn’t? To ensure the continuation of our race, bearing and raising children has become a significant part of human function. The parent’s role comprises not only of raising kids but nurturing them as well; nurturing their body, spirit and mind so that the future generation can bring our society to greater heights.
Things start to go wrong only when some parents become so involved with their role that they don’t know how to detach themselves from their children. In the worst case scenario, their child becomes part of their identity.This situation is all the more prevalent in an Asian society like ours. We value kinship and ties more than any other community in the world.
We are no strangers to the stereotypical parent in Singapore: Kiasu Parents, who are constantly fearful that their children might lose out to their peers. Depending on the background and intention of the parents, this kiasu way of thinking may sometimes go out of hand. This may include charting their children’s entire course of life, including their career path.
So the question still remains ‘Should YOU let your parents choose your University course?’ or simply put your future? Well, the answer to that is YES and NO. In deciding whether to follow your parents’ choice of major for you, you need to be aware of where they come from and their personal biases.
Information Asymmetry between Generations
One thing you have to bear in mind is that your parents come from a very different generation from yours. To them, work is work. You work and earn money so that you can provide a life for yourself and your family. It is ingrained in them that work has to be a chore. Decision making is simple. You choose a major that has the best job prospects. The idea of passion-based work is as far-fetched to them as making a trip to the sun(one day, it may just be done). However, the world has changed dramatically over the few years, enabling possibilities that mainkind has never seen in history. Conventional jobs and businesses are breaking down, giving rise to new ones each day, created by people. One example being Jolly Good Fellow(held by an NTU graduate!) You can now really pursue your dreams and live your passion, while still making a comfortable living. Possibilities are limitless. So go ahead and do so!
One of six human’s fundamental needs is certainty, according to peak performance coach, Tony Robbins. To meet that need, humans resort to controlling all aspects of their lives. Being an extension of someone else’s ego, you too, will be subjected to influence and pressure, whether conscious or unconscious on their part. In other words, your parents are not going to be totally objective in providing advice for you. There is a possibility whereby they will make you go a certain route because they are in it or they didn’t get to be in it. However, as an autonomous individual, you want to be living your own life, not someone else’s. It is therefore wise to seek advice from a variety of seniors and elders who are not personally invested in your life.
They’ve watched you grown up. They keep you clothed and cushioned from all the dangers of the world- the harsh weather, the bacteria, everything. When you jumped around at the playground, unknown to you, they were keeping a close watch, preventing you from falling. Over the years, they have conditioned themselves into protecting you and keeping you safe.
When it comes time for you to choose your major, you can’t expect them to let go everything at once. Their protective parental instincts take over. Browsing the list of courses, their fingers uncontrollably point towards the most stable and safest of courses- medicine, law and the like. It is not where your heart is leaning towards, but that does not matter to them, because their job is to keep you safe, not necessarily fulfilled (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
The famous author Paulo Coelho who wrote the book titled The Alchemist was very determined to be a writer on an early age but his parents disapproved and discouraged him, for they saw no future in the profession. This spurred rebellious adolescence which forced his parents to commit him to a mental asylum… for three times! (on a mental asylum imagine that). There was miscommunication on both sides and they all end up hurting each other. But Paulo had forgiven his parents, saying “It happens with love, all the time – when you have this love towards someone else, but you want this person to change, to be like you. And then love can be very destructive.”
Now there’s another variable in that equation of choosing a course truly meant for you; which is you. Yes, you. Enlightened parents can let go, but can you take over? That’s the question. When you follow the advice of your elders blindly , is it out of respect? or is it because you want to relinquish responsibility ? You have to be true to yourself. Is it because you have not grown up ? Unconsciously, you are thinking that you do not have to bear responsibility over the consequences of a wrongly chosen course, if it is not chosen by you ! Lets face it, it is easier to have your parents choose your course for you. But a mature person will take over the responsibility. Time to grow up. Understand that it is okay to make a mistake. With all the information that you have, make the best decision and live with it. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, you learn a lesson from it. You will then be better prepared for bigger challenges in your life.
That does not mean that you become an all-knowing, self-conceited and arrogant young person. Recognize that your parents and other elders have eaten more salt than you have eaten rice. Their experience and what they have to say is tremendously valuable. Take it all in. Ask for advice. It takes a wise and mature person to have the sensibility to ask questions. You need all these information to make a good decision. You may spend one thousand hours researching or figuring it out by yourself on what is the job scope of a private banker, but a 15minutes conversation with a senior/elder may just provide you with the answer. You can also ask them for suggestions based on their experience in the market. Stay open to options. If you are really not sure, then don’t be afraid to even work first before starting university.
Parental-children relationship is extremely important. Please don’t be an ingrate and dismiss everything coming from the very people who brought you up. Parents are not perfect and they may unknowingly exert certain influence on you that is not for your best interest(though they claim otherwise). Understand that intention is more important than impact. Their intentions are good. When you make your decision, communicate to them that you have taken their advice into account and arrive at your own decision. Thank them. They will be very proud of their children. They will then trust you into making many of your own decisions in the future.
What should I do
Take a long walk by yourself, spend a few days in quiet reflection or meet a few close friends to have a heart-to-heart talk. Basically, do what you can to facilitate the flow of thoughts. Yes, a degree is important in Singapore, but considering its time and cost investment, it is better to not take a degree for the sake of it. Strive to go for the cross section of what you like, what you can do well in and what has good prospects (Read our about choosing a major. ) and your next 3 to 4 years will be infinitely fulfilling.