Parents push kids to become doctors
We must try for medicine first. Durban educational psychologist Anand Ramphal writes about why so many parents have this desire for their children
VIRTUALLY all parents want the best for their children and that often entails having a secure job. They don’t want their children to experience the kind of pain they had in their early years.
They want to protect their offspring as much as possible from the anxieties, fears, worries, struggle, and disappointment that characterise today’s highly competitive world of work.
In my umhlanga-based educational psychology practice (career counselling division), about half of parents, given the choice, say they would like to choose medicine as a career for their child, followed by engineering and law.
Why is there this leaning to medicine? Some discreet probing provided me with a variety of interesting answers.
Doctors are seen by many parents as highly respected and admired professionals with secure jobs. Medicine is often seen as a profession “where the money is”, making possible “a good lifestyle”.
Among relatives and friends and on social media, parents share their children’s success story and bask in the reflected glory of their youngsters’ achievement. In this way they showcase, silently or sometimes openly, the high quality of their parenting.
Some follow the family tradition – X,Y, Z in the family are doctors, so our youngster should also become a doctor. A similar “herd mentality’’ is evident when peer examples are slavishly followed – that’s what everyone else is doing, so our daughter should do the same.
Then there are those parents who like to be remembered as having been very supportive and doing everything they could to ensure a “good life” for their children.
In the end, these parents derive great personal satisfaction from thinking “look at what a great job we’ve done as parents”.
Other less-cited reasons parents offer to support their wish that their youngsters should study to become a doctor are: “We’d like to see her become financially independent and be her own boss; he/she can keep working beyond the mandatory retirement age; she would get great job satisfaction because she is, by nature, a very caring person.”
The points presented above are generally understandable, even though not entirely convincing.
A big problem can arise when parents try to live out their dreams vicariously through their children – especially to the point where the youngster is left with no freedom to choose a career which would be more in keeping with his/her aptitude and interest.
Extensive research in psychology and psychiatry repeatedly shows that when they get older, a significant number of these dissatisfied individuals begin to rebel because of their subconscious feelings of resentment.
Their earlier desire to please their parents at all costs is now replaced by a strong desire to frustrate and disappoint them. The parents are left perplexed.
This is where the value of a full career assessment comes in. Mistakes can be costly, not only in terms of money but also in terms of a battered self-esteem and lowered motivational levels.