How to Nurture Your Child’s Passion – Advice for Parents

12 Oct

Image Credit: Takver, CC BY 2.0

Image Credit: Takver, CC BY 2.0

Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan is Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer of Knowledge Enterprise Development at Arizona State University. He is also a parent. As part of a conversation with BrainGain Magazine, he discussed the unique path his daughter took while deciding what she wanted to do with her life. He also talked about the important role that parents and teachers play in helping children succeed.

It is important for parents to make sure that they are providing the environment for their children to exercise their passion and their intellectual spirit. [When] we make plans for the children, then right there you have curbed the creativity of that child.

I understand that as a parent you want to make sure of the fact that they have gainful employment, a good quality of life. All of that is important and I’m not taking that away from parents. All parents worry about that. But, it doesn’t mean that therefore they have to do X,Y, or Z.

Instead, I have found that when you let your child express their creativity and passion in whatever discipline they want to pursue. . . believe me, no matter what, they will be successful.

Success is about how best you’re able to take your talents and express them. Success is about being happy with [your talents]. Those are the two measures of success, not financial success, but success in life, which is about being happy.

I will tell you the story of my daughter. [She] came to me when she was in grade 8 or 9. I asked her the question, “So, what do you want to do with your life?” And she said to me, “Well, I want to be a videographer. I want to go to USC.” I said, “That’s great.”

In grade 10, she got to meet more friends. One of her friends’ moms was a psychologist. So she went and saw her at work. She thought, “Wow! She’s doing amazing work. I want to be child psychologist.” I said, “That’s fantastic. You can help people.”

And then, in grade 11, she came to me and she said. “Dad, you know I’m excited by nursing – [it] is a great profession. They help make people feel better.” I said, “Fantastic! You’re going to help people. You should do that!”

And then, in grade 12, when you have to make choices, she said, “I like nutrition. I think it’s a good way for people to be healthy, and so on. I want to be a part of that. By the way, my teacher in Economics inspired me so much. I like Economics.” I said, “That’s fantastic. You can do great things.”

When she was applying for her undergraduate degree, she asked me, “Dad, you’ve been asking me all these things. What do you want me to do?” I said, “I only want one thing from you and that is – I want you to be happy all your life.” So she chose Economics because she was inspired by her Economics teacher.

That is the message – teachers inspire our students, parents inspire our students. It is a humongous responsibility on us, as a teacher myself, to inspire the next generation. So this is also a shout out to the teachers who do an amazing job.

As I said, at the beginning of the interview, I’m so grateful to all my teachers who inspired me.

I found that once she got inspired by the Economics teacher and took that path – guess what happened? She told me, “I don’t want to get into medicine at all.” That’s what she told me because my wife is a physician. She said, “I’m not going to go into medicine.”

And then it turned out that the Haiti earthquake happened. My wife went to do some volunteer work to help children there. [My daughter] tagged along with her. [There] she was completely blown away by the opportunity to help people. So she came back and said, “I want to go to medical school.” She finished her economics degree, finished her pre-health minor, and then went back to medical school.

I appreciate that she took that pathway to medical school. She saw her passion. She saw how she could help people. Now she’s all excited about that journey. That’s what I would say to parents, you know. Not that they have to do what I did. Everyone has their own journey.

But, keep in mind that every child has the intellectual prowess, creativity and passion. See what best meets that and expose them to a lot of things. Instead of just sending them to a coaching of this, or this, or that.

As told to BrainGain magazine.

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