According to many studies done over the past 50 years, parents have the greatest influence on their children’s career decisions. This is true despite any real or presumed generation gap, and it’s true even in today’s society, with the pressures of television, movies, peers, the Internet and broken marriages.

This is the way it should be, because God has given parents a special responsibility to serve as managers or stewards of the children God has given to them. Most Christian parents in America are familiar with the verse, "Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

However, few parents realize that the implications of the verse mean that parents are to dedicate themselves to be good stewards of their children and train them according to their natural abilities and talents. If parents will do this, their children won’t depart from God’s design for them.

The verse further implies that each child is unique and has been given his or her special talents and abilities for service in God’s Kingdom. Parents need to groom their children using biblical principles and help them use their God-given gifts.

Unfortunately, some parents view their role as owners rather than stewards, and this can cause some serious parent-child relationship problems. If parents view themselves as owners, they likely will feel a responsibility -- sometimes an acute responsibility -- for what their children will do, or become involved with as adults. Those parents who see themselves as owners instead of stewards will apply pressure to mold them into the desired careers or professional roles they have envisioned for their children.

On the other hand, when parents view themselves as stewards, they are more likely to be concerned with helping their children nurture and develop their talents and abilities through sound guidance and encouragement. With this type of approach, children can become what God has equipped them to be.

There are five primary areas in which Christian parents should be very cautious with regard to influencing their children’s career decisions.

First, it’s normal for many Christian parents to want their children to be involved in the work of the Lord. However, it is harmful to children when they are pressured by their parents to enter the ministerial profession to become pastors, evangelists or missionaries just to fulfill their parents’ dreams and desires. Of course, all Christians are called of God to minister, but not all are called into paid ministerial positions. The concern of all parents should be that their children would accept the Lord, use their talents and abilities to serve Him, work in service for Him as He directs, help others to know Him, and help those in need.

The second area can become one of the biggest problems that parents face. It comes from a legitimate and very normal desire to see their children become successful. However, when parents push and manipulate their children toward career fields and professions, because they seem to be more prestigious fields or they will satisfy the pride and ego of their parents, the children could very well find themselves on the road to frustration, depression or career disaster. Parents should never pressure their children to live the parents’ dreams of success.

The third area is one that often finds parents pressuring their children to pursue careers that pay the most money, rather than careers that appeal to and complement their talents and abilities. This attitude by the parents implies that the more money their children make, the more successful they are. And while income certainly is an important consideration, it should not be the dominating focus.