Choosing your child's major

One of the goals of parenting is to encourage your child to leverage their talents in following their dream. You just can't let on that you are doing it.

Choosing your child's major

One of the iron clad rules of parenting is that you can't encourage your child to pursue an interest or choose a major because they'll either fail at it and blame you or pick something completely different to spite you. This rule is well documented in parenting books and also by veteran teachers in gifted and talented programs.

An inspiring teacher will hook your child on the wonder of whatever topic they teach, be it science, reading, history, or math. If a parent tries this with any topic, that topic is immediately branded as lame and the parent is pressuring the child, in the eyes of the child, to follow someone else's dream.

Is it possible for the parent to stay out of their child's choices, even if they've known about the above advice for the last 9 years? Not in my case. I've been able to refrain from sending my child to a space camp because they've shown an interest in space, but when my child shows an obvious talent, I can't not point this out in an encouraging way.

First it was math

My first foray into gifted giftedness was to help my 5 year old conquer Every Day Math Grade 2 before 1st grade. At school, he was branded the math guy. Great, I have a math guy. You're the math guy, I said.

It was at this time that he developed a strong interest in advertising and media, specifically the ability to make people do things they don't want to do, like spend a lot of money on a dubious product. 'Look dad, in this commercial teenagers are playing with a toy for 6 year olds and they are pretending to be really excited about it.' Why are they doing this? 'To make the 6 year olds buy this stupid toy!'

Want to do some math? I asked. 'No', he replied, 'I hate it.'

Then it was advertising

There is an ad crafter down the street who is spellbinding when he comments on the weather, his word choice is amazing. My son turned down my offer to go down the street and talk about crafting copy. One friend makes about $1.5 million each year designing a few ad campaigns. Not bad for a few weeks of work. So my wife offered to broker a meeting.

'I'm not really interested in advertising. I say I am because it's more interesting than my real interest.' What is your real interest? 'I want to dedicate my life to finding the galaxy that is shaped like Yoda,' he said. And pass up a rewarding and lucrative career making kids buy toys they don't want? Not on my watch. My response was to switch from math to the daily writing exercise for this child.

We're back to math

Recently, I offered to do my son's math homework for him. Really. I think it's a great plan. The 5th grader refuses to take me up on the offer to get D's in 5th grade in preparation for 6th grade. I'll write an article on why next month. That got me thinking. My older son is going to be a writer of some type in some media, but he's currently working on passing out of Algebra II before high school and now is thinking that he might knock off Geometry as well. That would put him in Trig as a freshman. I could do his homework for him, we'd have father and son time, he'd get good grades, pass AP exams in BC calculus, then ignore math for the rest of his life. Everyone wins.

'But every field now needs math in college, you said so yourself'. I was talking about statistics. Statistics drive advertising and political thought.

Yeah, but astronomers need physics, and physics is based on math, so I'm going to need math.'

A career in politics

I should have paid more attention when he told me he joined the competitive math team at his school. But I see a way forward.

Between our arguments about Kanye West and Trump (see related article), I see some opportunities in politics, especially for a child with a talent for manipulating social settings. Yeah, you need statistics for that, but not trig. I'll have to encourage the astronomy thing until it becomes lame. Or, more likely, I'll make him run for a school office and arrange some casual lunches with politicians until he signs up for summer trig to get it out of the way before high school.

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