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29 August 2012


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1. Know your kids
2. Talk WITH your kids about their dreams and ideas about what they want to do with their lives
3. Consider your own hang-ups on the issue
4. Pray with your kids for guidance and balanced decision making
5. Changing your mind is complicated, possibly expensive, and makes things take longer but is not necessarily the end of the world - consider how you'd tackle it if your kid who always wanted to be X decided to change horses halfway and be Y instead - who gets to pay for it for example.

"Exerting pressure" makes me think of the two Asian girls I shared a dorm room with at school. They were allowed to choose whatever profession they wanted as long as it was doctor, dentist or lawyer.


I don't know, I while it's possible to toe the line of undue pressure, education about the difficulties and tradeoffs different paths in life ask of a person is crucially important. If you want to do X, it absolutely affects how you will live. This holds true for wealth or poverty, a 9 to 5 job or a high paced career. Something, somwhere will give, and this is important to understand. Especially for young women. We can't have it all, and so we should discern carefully what we want, why we want it, and for what we are well suited.

I think parental guidance and adult mentorship in this area is chiefly good. I wish I'd had better, honestly. My dad did his best, but I wish that I'd been able to have some honest discussion with other women about careers and life.

As far as undue pressure goes, there are two general categories, overt and covert. A parent influences overtly when parents exert their will for their child's future over the child's. This is what we commonly think of as parental pressure, it's easy to identify, if not always easy to stop doing.

But covert parental pressure is present in general attitues, maybe even unconsciously. Just for example, one that I've watched in action several times: a parent can encourage to a child to follow his dreams... and simultaneously intensely value a certain 'acceptable' level of wealth and dismiss those who live in (relative to them) poverty. Or the one I experienced, when my dad told me "just don't become a nun".

What parents value will unavoidably influence their children. And, like so many other aspects of parenting, the only cure for this is for the parent to work on their own Christian formation.


Interestingly enough, the Catechism doesn't say "exerting undue pressure," it says "exerting pressure."

"Judicious advice" is recommended, but "exerting pressure" is discouraged. Personally, I would say that advice is a sort of pressure, but the Church apparently disagrees.

Questions Mark and I came up with last night:

1) Suppose I am willing to give my child some money toward his or her education, but I don't want to enable a bad decision. Is it 'exerting pressure' to say I would fund such-and-such a path and not another?

2) What if I'm willing to provide different kinds of support for different paths? If you do such-and-such, I'm willing to co-sign a loan* because I think you'll be able to cover it, but there's no way I'll co-sign a loan if you do this other thing? Or: If you get a degree in Field A, I'll give you the money to cover tuition, but if you want a degree in Field B, then instead I'll help you get started in a trade which will enable you to earn enough money to pay your own way through school if that's what you want.

Is that kind of thing "exerting pressure?"

*Just for the record, I'm not planning to co-sign student loans for anybody, ever.


Hmm, you're right, I read that undue right in. Some kids need (or at least would benefit from) a little bit of pressure.

I'd say the answers to these sorts of questions are so deeply rooted in the individual parent/child relationship that it may be impossible to untangle them.


I think the examples you are giving could be perceived as exerting pressure, but that is also choosing a good financial investment. It's another form of giving your opinion. Especially in example 2, giving different forms of support for different paths will illustrate that some career paths will bring more challenges than others. If you really want it enough to show me that you are willing to work and make sacrifices yourself for that path, then I am more likely to extend help even if I have misgivings about the decision.

My first thought of exerting pressure was the example Rebekkah gave, where the parents really push the child into a particular job. But I think sometimes giving advice and helping them to make a good decision can sometimes be a fine line.

I have a cousin who really wanted to be a doctor. Her daughter has a great aptitude for math and science, so she steered her in that direction all through high school and college. The daughter didn't really want to be a doctor but at the end of college my cousin said she should take the MCAT "just in case" she changed her mind later, because her score would be highest then. That's reasonable. But then when the daughter decided to apply to vet schools my cousin said she should apply to a few med schools too, just in case. And then it was, let me drive you to this admission interview, just in case. And it all added up to a lot of pressure, even though I'm sure my cousin felt she was being reasonable in each step and trying to offer judicial advice. (She's starting her 2nd year of vet school now, just in case you were wondering how it turned out.)


I muse: The church documents explicitly say that parents have a responsibility to set a good example for their children when they are educating them. I wrote in the parental-responsibilities post,

"Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children" [CCC2223].  

...They should cultivate "a simple and austere lifestyle" to promote the correct attitude towards material goods [FC37].

 ...Parents must make decisions carefully and wisely for the good of the family:  they must "reckon with both the material and spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life," and they must "consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church," in order to "thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those the future may bring" [GS50]

If a parent is supporting offspring's post secondary education, they are still "educating" them in the above senses, and still owe them all that parental example. You could argue that investing educational funds where the return is poor is setting a bad example. Perhaps distinguishing between good investments and poor ones is not "exerting pressure on children to choose their profession" so much as it is setting a good example of wise financial planning.

Maybe the right message is "You can choose to pursue your vocation, but I urge you not to get yourself into a hole that your vocation won't be able to pull you out of. I won't help you dig the hole deeper than I think you can reasonably handle."

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