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by Claudia Barba
Helping your son or daughter stay “on a straight course” when making life’s big decisions can be a tricky thing, but that doesn’t mean you should just ignore it.
Two Christian teens were talking over the future with their parents.
“I really want to study diesel mechanics,” the son declared. “I love to work on engines, and I’m pretty good at it too!”
“Well, I’m going to be a lawyer,” his younger sister countered.
“Why?” asked her dad.
“I want to help people. I want to make a difference,” she answered.
“Yea, right,” snickered her brother. “You just like to argue!”
Does she “just like to argue”? Is he suited for the life of a mechanic? Are these teens making good decisions or major blunders?
Their parents, knowing them well, could readily answer those questions. Knowing the answers, how should they respond? What is a parent’s role when teens are making career choices? A Bible word picture can help us with the answer.
“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:4–5).
Arrows, providentially placed in family quivers—that’s how God depicts children. We parents are the archers who notch each arrow, aim carefully, and then let go. Letting go is hard. But it’s much easier when we know the arrow is ready to fly, with a sure bearing on the center of God’s will. An arrow lodging solidly there will bring glory to God and joy to the archer. Arrows hit the bull’s-eye only if the archer has set a precise aim. Each arrow is unique in design, with a natural flight pattern, and an archer must know his arrow’s “bent.” Every child is “fearfully and wonderfully made” with a unique set of natural gifts: temperament, intelligence, and abilities. When a child is born again, the Holy Spirit also gives him a tailor-made combination of the speaking and serving gifts listed in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12.
We discover our children’s “bent”—natural abilities and gifts—simply by observing them. As home schoolers, we can know our students well since we spend many hours with them. We learn quickly that, despite our most enthusiastic teaching, some subjects are their delight and some their dread. That’s the arrow’s bent appearing.
The bent is even more obvious in a teenager. Now is the time to set a careful aim, according to that bent. Make a thoughtful plan for the last years at home. Carefully fulfill requirements for college admission. But do allow time (perhaps during the summers) for choice, for diving deeper into favorite subjects and for exploring career options to see if they “fit.”
Offer electives that energize. Suggest creative writing rather than trigonometry (or vice versa). Propose a computer programming or graphics course rather than a second foreign language. Encourage your student’s digging into subjects that he—not his parents or his siblings—genuinely enjoys.
Or create an internship as an alternative to a typical teenage job. Find a trustworthy adult active in a career that interests your child (e.g., technology, law, Christian service, child care, journalism, horticulture, culinary arts, music) and ask for practical training in exchange for work. Your teen will thrive, gaining skills and confidence, or he will soon discover that the occupation is not for him after all—and that’s useful knowledge as well.
After such exploration and experience, he will head into college, vocational training, or work with a clear sense of who he is and what he loves. He will understand his skills and gifts. Only God can reveal His specific calling. But by following this course, your child is much less likely to flounder in college, often changing his major, or to choose a vocation simply because of its popularity or paychecks. He will choose work that fits his bent, and he will enjoy it.
Rather than being a timid, wavering arrow landing short of its goal, he will soar confidently toward the center of the target—God’s best for his life. And you will be a successful, grateful archer!
Claudia Barba (M.A.T., ‘73), a former faculty member of BJU, was a homeschool mom for 18 years. She and her husband Dave Barba (M.A., ‘74) have served in the ministry for 28 years and are now assisting church planters. The Barbas have three children: Stephanie (Shaw), Susannah, and Jeremiah.