We all want what is best for our children. We guide them as best we can to help them develop and make good life choices. It's not always easy, though, because we can sometimes let our own interests and desires cloud our judgment. In other words, we guide our children toward goals that we like rather than goals based on our children's abilities and interests. One career that many parents steer their children away from is a military one. Is a military career right for your son or daughter?
Some of the reasons a military career might be a good choice for gifted kids are based on some of common traits we see in gifted kids, but other reasons apply to everyone.
- The military provides a structured environment which is ideal for some people. It can provide discipline and guidance for those who are disorganized and lack self-discipline or are easily side tracked. Service members don't need to worry about what to do and when. Procrastination and lack of motivation can often lead to underachievement with gifted kids, but these aren't options in the military. Members of the military have a job to do and they are required to do it.
- The military can appeal to the sense of honor, duty, and service to others that many gifted kids have. Principles of freedom and liberty can be important to these kids and being in the military allows them to act on those principles. Being in the military can also appeal to their pride in their country.
- The military provides training for more than 100 different jobs, which have civilian counterparts. This training makes it possible for a post-military career when a military member's enlistment term is up. These careers include those in law and law enforcement, computers and technology, medicine, construction (including electricians), mechanics, transportation, and intelligence. The military also offers arts oriented careers as well, such as those with music bands and choirs. You can get an idea of these occupations by visiting the Army careers and jobs page.
- The military will pay for post-secondary education. This is in addition to the job training a men and women get as a member of the military. Those in the National Guard or the Reserves can attend college, paid for by the military, during their term of service, since they are generally required to spend just one weekend a month and two weeks a summer to meet their military obligations.
- The military offers excellent benefits and pensions for people who choose to make the military a long-term career.
- Basic training can build self-confidence and help a young man or woman become more independent and resilient. It can also help a them learn self-discipline and the essentials of team work.
- The military has a long history full of traditions. Those traditions and being a part of them can also appeal to gifted kids. The National Guard, for instance, has a tradition going back to 1636, when the first unit was created by the Massachusetts Bay Colony as the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia. The blue dress uniform of the Army is another example. The color was determined by George Washington as a contrast to the British "Redcoat" uniform.
- The military allows its members to build strong relationships with other members and their families. Service members and their families get and receive a great deal of support from others in the military, which can provide the feeling of having one very large family.
- Enlisting in the military is not like being hired for a civilian job. Service members can't quit any time they want to as an employee can in the civilian sector. They need to wait until their enlistment period is up or they could suffer serious consequences that can affect not just their military but also their civilian life.
- The military decides where soldiers go and for how long they go there. This means that someone in the military may need to relocate fairly often, whether they want to or not and to places where they may or may not want to go. For those with families, the moves can be even more stressful as it means the kids need to leave friends, change schools and make new friends.
- The military has regulations on dress and hair styles. For more free spirited individuals who relish being different this can be difficult since there can be no purple hair or nose rings. While there is some leeway on hair and clothing styles when service members are off duty, there is virtually none when on duty. For instance, women with long hair must wear it tied back when on duty, but can wear it down when off duty. Men can't have long hair at all, so their options are more limited.
- Basic training can be very difficult for some to adjust to. There is little contact with friends and family, there is almost no freedom, and virtually no privacy. On top of that, the physical, mental, and emotional demands placed on new recruits can be quite stressful (although successful completion of basic training contributes to a sense of pride and accomplishment).
- Service members may be placed in literal life and death situations. They are well trained for combat and can find themselves in combat situations where they may need to kill an enemy. They may also see friends die or may be injured or even killed themselves. No one should consider joining the military in any capacity without seriously considering this possibility.
No parent wishes to see her child put in harm's way. We want our children to be safe. However, some of our children grow up and become those who help to keep others safe. It's not a career for everyone, but it can be excellent option for many gifted children. Is your child one of them?