01
MAR
2011

Ages 13-20: Choosing a Profession & Building a Correct Attitude to Life

Ages 13-20: Choosing a Profession & Building a Correct Attitude to LifeDuring the teenage years, children naturally transition into a new stage of development from a hormonal and psychological standpoint. This stage begins at ages 12-13 in their early teens, and ends around age 20, when they have become (at least from a physiological perspective) mature human beings. If we have done our job correctly as parents and educators, they will also have the psychological and emotional maturity to be able to step into the world of adults.

In this period of life, we are privileged with our last opportunity to have a significant influence on the children before they begin to manage their life independently. Thus, it is important to prepare them correctly, and cultivate in them a responsibility toward family, society, work, household management, civic responsibility, and so on. At the end of their years of study in school, they should be familiar with all common aspects of life, including family relationships and society. A proper preparation for this during school years is vital. Not only does it help them understand the events in the world which they are about to enter, but it also helps them understand how it can be combined with relationships of trust, respect, and mutual love.

At the end of this phase of maturation, a young man or women should be prepared to lead an independent life, become socially engaged, acquire a profession, and start a family. Don’t be surprised: Our children are ready for this, even if it is difficult for us to accept that they have grown up.

Choosing a Profession

A common characteristic in the youth of our times is lack of patience with societal expectations and a demanding attitude toward self-gratification. The reason for this lies in their desires, which are perpetually growing and making it difficult for them to see how ordinary engagements in our world can fulfill them. They begin to be troubled by questions like “Where should I go? Which profession do I choose? What should I engage in? How can I successfully fulfill myself?”

The youth observe the people which society considers successful, such as doctors, accountants, engineers, and architects – and see that their work day begins early in the morning, and ends at some unspecified time late in the evening. They do not want to work so hard, and do not want to chase the standards of success set for them by the elder generations. It is simply unclear to them why they should do so. From watching us, it is obvious to them that such frantic activity has not resulted in happiness or a sense of fulfillment for those who engage in it.

Therefore, we must create a society for our children in which the choice of a profession, however profitable, does not end with the calculation of making money, but also aims to bring the person emotional [spiritual] satisfaction in the profession. One should be able to enjoy the profession in which he engages. The ten hours of work could and should be creative time, no matter what the profession – a painter, computer expert or welder.

The secret to accomplishing this lies in the extent to which the profession connects the person with others. If the person feels that he contributes to society, helping people of the world connect between them, and that by doing so he is contributing to the general harmony of the world, then the satisfaction he would get from his work would be sublime. This is not related to the type of profession, but the internal psychological attitude we need to develop in the youth during their education.

In fact, by the age of 13, most of the child’s natural tendencies are already established. Thus, at this age the educators in school and the parents can be helping him develop these tendencies. Working together, they can help the young adult find a field of work which will satisfy him in life.

Practically speaking, we recommend allowing teenagers to experiment with several professions, and not direct them into one narrow field. To do this, as part of their school studies, teenagers need to integrate into institutions of higher education, and thus begin to “taste” the different fields. They should be encouraged to attend open lectures on various subjects – physics, chemistry, history, arts, computers, sports – simply everything, so that they possess all the tools to choose a profession for life wholeheartedly.

In practice, this is how the first year in all institutions of higher education should look. Instead of immediately inserting a person into a narrow slot with mandated prerequisites, he should be allowed to experiment with a variety of fields. Also, in an ideal society no money would be charged for education. The country would take the cost of this education upon itself, since its leaders and citizens would understand that a teenage boy or girl should be free to study any subject they choose, in order to contribute to society in return.

As we mentioned above and have discussed in previous articles, in addition to professional courses, at this age we should also combine courses on household management, family relationships and social life. At this age, life at school should be accompanied by constant explanations about how the world they are entering works – how the branches and mechanisms of government function, how the legal system works, how to turn to the police or a lawyer, how to conduct yourself with banks and insurance companies, what our basic rights as citizens are, and more. As opposed to the theoretical and dry manner in which this is done today, these studies should also incorporate actual experience, and be based on a much more practical and relevant approach to life.

We’ll conclude the discussion with the profession that should be the most respected role in society: the person whose goal is to raise happy children: the “teacher.” What does that mean? At the end of the education process, which began immediately upon parents learning of their pregnancy (and even before), and continues through the twenty year education described here, our young men and women have been trained to become educators themselves, and to raise the future generations.

From this, we can see that the profession of “teaching” is not limited to those who receive a salary for doing so (although these teachers would be highly esteemed in society). Instead, every young man and woman newly emerged from this corrected educational system would recognize that their own development and fulfillment is inextricably tied to their investment in the happiness and success of their children, which can only be ensured by building the proper educational framework for the next generation.

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