QUESTION: My best friend is a pharmacist, not because she wanted to be in that vocation, but because from the time she was very young, her father kept telling her that is what he wanted to do and never had the opportunity. She went ahead with the studies to please him. After three years, she’s decided she doesn’t like the work, and would like to be a history teacher instead, which would require education classes. Ancient History was her minor in college. She’s traveled the world to many ancient sites. I can tell she loves the subject by the way she speaks with excitement when we talk about what she knows and where she’s been.
The problem is her father is angered because she really doesn’t want to be a pharmacist any longer. Her mother understands, but is staying out of it. She’s an only child and doesn’t want to disappoint her father and yet she’s emotionally unsettled not doing what she really loves to do.
Do you have any recommendations?
~ Best Friend
Dear Best Friend,
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” We will never find true personal fulfillment by just pleasing others – even if it’s our well-meaning parents. If we do so to the detriment of our own contentment, life will leave us feeling empty and detached from our true selves. In Scripture, Jesus said, “He who loses his life shall find it.” He did not say to stop living, but to stop living in a manner that is lesser so that you can accept the greater. For example, if you want peace, lose your focus on conflict; if you want happiness, stop focusing on the unhappiness in your life. Anything that we focus on expands – in our awareness and our experience. In your friend’s case, her attention is on trying to not disappoint her father and yet trying to be true to herself by choosing a career that would bring her joy. If she lets her father know that she understands that he only wants her success, the focus shifts to success instead of disappointment. If she lets him know that because of his example she has learned how to identify her dream and develop the drive to pursue a career that ignites her enthusiasm for life, the focus is on the joy of fulfillment instead of the unhappiness of being locked in a career that holds no passion for her.
Each individual has a personal journey to undertake and it is through the choices that we make while on that journey that we discover what our gifts are and what we came to offer the world. That discovery is what provides meaning in our lives. If we turn away from what brings us meaning then we’ve settled for a life that is less than we are capable of having. True fulfillment comes from doing what you love to do – it’s Spirit’s way of leading us to our innate gifts, our calling. When we do what we love, success always follows.
Dear Best Friend,
It seems to me that both your friend and her father have something important in common. They both have had a dream that circumstances have made it difficult or impossible to pursue – his to become a pharmacist, hers to become a history teacher. This common ground can provide a foundation for conversations concerning your friend’s future and to help her father understand her dream. I would encourage your friend to ask questions about why her father wanted to be a pharmacist, what prevented him from becoming one and what were his emotions about not being able to follow his dream. Encourage her to listen, really listen to his story. Without arguing, comparing or making demands, she could also share her passion about history. Perhaps even inviting her father to go with her on one of her trips to an historical site. Let him see her passion.
In the meantime, there are many programs designed for working professionals to obtain a master’s in education, (which will enable them to be credentialed) while allowing them to continue in their current career. Azusa Pacific University, for example, has an excellent program. These programs take a couple of years, which would give plenty of opportunities for these discussions with her father to take place.
Hopefully, over time, he’ll begin to see that it is as painful for his daughter not to follow her dream, as it was for him not to follow his. In any case, the couple of years that she is still working as a pharmacist, while pursuing her education, will give him more time to get used to the idea, even if he’s not completely in favor of it.
Finally, it’s very important that she communicate that just because she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life pursuing her father’s dream, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love or respect him.
Pastor Bill Flanders
QUESTION; Is there an effective way to speak to parents who constantly berate and yell at their children? My neighbor is always putting his kids down. They play with my kids and I’ve never had any problems with them. In fact, they are respectful and I enjoy having them in our home. I’m a grammar school teacher who knows well how a child’s self-esteem is affected by parental approval or disapproval. My heart goes out to these little ones and I’d like to be their advocate while at the same time not causing a rift with their father.
Your suggestions are most welcome.
Dear Concerned Neighbor,
Thank you for thinking of your neighbor children and trying to make their lives better. Too many people look away from uncomfortable situations. I’m assuming your neighbor’s actions do not rise to the level of abuse. If they do, he should be reported to the Los Angeles County Dept. of Children and Family Services. I agree a confrontational approach is unlikely to be successful. If you are friends with the children’s mother you might be able to cautiously talk to her about parenting techniques and see if she, too, shares a concern about her husband’s way of dealing with his children. Maybe you can chat with her about changes in societal norms in raising children these days versus when you were growing up. You might gain some insight into family dynamics. It may be that he was raised the way he is behaving and doesn’t recognize the harm he may be doing.
Another possibility is to tell the dad how great his kids are, but that might reinforce his idea that yelling works. You can certainly praise the children in his presence and show them lots of love. By demonstrating positive reinforcement, thoughtful discipline and loving interaction with your children you may be able to teach him by example.
There are plenty of books on raising children, blogs on the subject and parent education programs at local schools and houses of worship. If you have time you could explore some and bring them up with the neighbors. Something like, “I found this to be very interesting, you might like it too.” That way you’re not telling them you are concerned about his parenting but merely sharing your own style.
I wish you the best in this difficult situation.
Dear Concerned Neighbor,
It is refreshing to hear of your concern for the children’s well-being. You apparently know them well. You also may have a pretty good idea of whether this father would be receptive towards your input concerning his treatment of the children. Effectively communicating with him may be found in speaking to him with praising words about his children, giving him credit for how respectful they are and telling him how much you enjoy them in your home. This sincere straight-forward approach may give opportunity for you to inform him as a professional educator how the children respond internally to positive reinforcement as opposed to negative reinforcement. Framing your conversation with him indirectly like this should keep him from being defensive and possibly allow him to acknowledge his yelling and berating to you. Then you could graciously offer him some building blocks to communicate in new and better ways to the children.
Thank you for caring and sharing. We all need to come along side and champion our children. Well done concerned neighbor.
Pastor Mark Yeager