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One of the great things about having kids is you get to experience things (good things) that you didn’t get to experience in your own childhood. You get to see the world through your child’s eyes. And this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

So it’s important to stay open to whatever your child chooses for her hobbies, school courses, college major and career goals. Not every happy, successful adult is a prestigious physician or attorney. In fact, neither satisfaction in life nor financial success are related to being the top student in high school. Most millionaires in America run Mom-and-Pop businesses like gas stations and mini-marts. A lot of millionaires were high school dropouts.

One of your jobs as a parent, then, is to figure out what your kid’s talents and natural inclinations are. You can then provide extra-curricular experiences to develop those talents. Extra-curricular experiences can be classes or organized activities, but also they can be just your interest and support.

Much of the American educational system is focused on only a couple abilities: language arts and math. Kids who have natural talent in these areas excel in school. Kids whose natural talents lie in other areas, like art, athletics, or music, for example, might have more trouble in school or might feel that school isn’t right for them.

Obviously, every child needs to learn to read, write and do math. It’s hard to function without these skills. But clearly not every school child is going to be an A student. This doesn’t mean the C students are hopelessly mediocre. It just means that school’s focus doesn’t match the C student’s talents.

So, while of course you want your kid to stay in school, you also want him to follow his own path to success. Try not to steer him too forcefully into the way you’d like him to go. Your dreams may not be his dreams.

In addition, remember that people these days have serial careers. Most adults do not work in fields directly related to their college majors. Many adults wind up in careers that no one could’ve predicted from what they did for their first jobs.

As you help your child figure out how to spend the coming summer months, keep in mind what talents she’d like to develop. As you consider with your teenager what courses to take next year or what college major to focus on, remember that what your child enjoys doing is a good indicator of what he’s good at doing. Every major has value.

We parents get to see the world through our child’s eyes but we don’t get to run our child’s world. It’s more interesting and fun to let your child’s future unfold in accordance with her hopes and wishes instead of in compliance to yours.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved.