When you’re in a country like the Philippines, passing on some sort of family legacy is almost a requirement. Sometimes it’s naming your kids with a certain letter, turning over a business, or choosing to continue your parents’ career. We’ve all seen it too many times.
How Children Start Inheriting Preferences
As children, we ask our kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They tell us all sorts of answers from scientists to singing dentists to answers that take us by surprise. Like a jungle king of sorts.
Though these answers amuse us, we forget that our reactions already start shaping their worldview. When our kids are as young as 3 years old, we, as parents, contribute to the self-image they create. The conception of their self-image is based on two things: nature and nurture. Nature, meaning what they inherit, and nurture, meaning what they acquire.
During their younger years, the time we spend with them at home hones the “nature” aspect of their self-image. The examples we show allows them to mirror our habits, traits, values, and even interests which they bring with them growing up.
Later on, our kids grow up and start forming their own opinions through various experiences outside the comforts of home. The more experiences they gain, the better understanding they get about themselves. They soon understand and learn about their own preferences, passions, and non-negotiables.
Sometimes they realize how silly it was to be a jungle king. Sometimes these experiences solidify their dream to become a scientist. That’s what growing up is all about. This is when the “nurture” aspect of their self-image is built.
As they go through these life-changing experiences, it’s our job as parents to guide them but also not to make decisions for them. As much as we want to keep them sheltered, we have to trust that we did our part the best we could by modeling good values.
The Breakfast Table Effect
A big factor to why many children pursue career paths in the same industry as their parents is the The Breakfast Table Effect. There are certain topics that revolve within daily family conversations which then become familiar or second nature among family members.
Sometimes its effects are very clear-cut. Like how children of lawyers have been familiar with the law since they were 10—often without even knowing. It could also be something more subliminal, like how someone with artist parents may acquire an artistic approach to problem-solving and a burning passion for everything they choose to take on.
Often it’s artists, lawyers, legislators, and other professions that put a high value on legacy. They have children who follow their parents’ examples. A lot of that is due to the connections previous family members have already worked on, or the prospect of a business to inherit altogether.
But even with these advantages, ultimately, we should support and encourage our children to chase their own goals.
But what if even they don’t know what they want to do? Here’s what we can do to guide them.
How Can We Help?
We want to call this the Triple-A Method. Attention, Awareness, and Assets!
Attention To Interests
We have the privilege to watch our kids grow and see how their interests change through time.
With this viewpoint, we can help by supporting them when they show passion towards a certain hobby or interest. Our support allows them to have a better vision of what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing. With a great support system behind them, chances are children will be more willing to clock in the hours day in and day out.
Once we’ve helped them lock that down, we push for that confidence they’ll need to keep getting better at it every time.
Awareness of their personal long-term goals
The moment they realize what they actually enjoy, it’ll be easier to identify what they want to become.
It could be helpful if breakfast table conversations start including thoughts for the future. This way, they could have a better vision of where they see themselves. Do they see themselves living in the city or in the countryside? Working at an office or working remotely? Climbing the corporate ladder or being in the arts?
More importantly, where do they see themselves in 20 years? Inspiring them allows them to determine whether or not they want to follow in our footsteps. At the end of the day, their time and effort should go to the building blocks of their personal goals.
Become an Asset!
You know you’ve successfully raised an empowered individual once they figure out their strengths and have decided on a destination.
Being in this position allows them to use those strengths and turn them into assets. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Choosing a different career is a bit easier to support. Still, sometimes someone just really has to take over all the years, blood, sweat, and tears generations have put into a family business. How then can we be supportive parents in this case? Compromise is key.
If it’s almost necessary that a certain heir takes over the family business, don’t force it. Instead of forcing your child to run it the way you have or the generation before you has, ask what they think they can offer. How can they use their strengths to add value to the family business? Doing this not only gets your child’s buy-in, but it also impacts the growth of your business!
Children are not clones
Yes, the family should always be a priority. But let’s not forget that a legacy is never worth letting our children’s health and happiness suffer for.
We should instead empower them to be their own people. Not because there’s no other choice but to be a replica of a family member. No matter how important family is to them, odds are your child will end up burning out if they are unhappy. It’s important that we guide them in choosing a career that inspires them. Not only will they be spending most of their time in this career, but the choices they make will be the foundation of values they’ll build for their children.
At the end of the day, we should not be laser-focused on shaping our children into a certain kind of professional. If anything, we should focus on shaping them into good people before anything else. The only way to show them that is to lead by example.