How to raise a doctor

An excerpt from How to Raise a Doctor: Wisdom From Parents Who Did It!

I know what you’re thinking, I thought this book was about how to raise a doctor, and now this guy is telling me not to raise a doctor! That’s exactly right. I’m telling you to not raise a doctor. Instead, raise a leader, and let that leader become a doctor, lawyer, author, president, or whatever he or she dreams to be. Let that leader change the world for the better! Hone in on your child’s gifts and nurture them to full development. This is what all parents should want for their children.

Would you believe me if I told you most parents I spoke with didn’t set out to raise a doctor? Well, it’s true. Only 22 percent of the doctors’ parents surveyed reported that they intentionally raised their child to become a doctor. This means that the clear majority, 78 percent, did not.

At this juncture, your question is (or should be): Should I intentionally raise my child to become a medical doctor? The fact that you’re reading this book would suggest you might be leaning that way already. I can help you answer the question right now with one finding from my survey. Among the 22 percent of parents who intentionally raised their children to become doctors, 71 percent of the children wanted to be doctors throughout their childhood. So, to answer your question, you should intentionally raise your child to become a doctor if he or she wants to be a doctor.

The power of suggestion

Seventy-one percent of the children who were intentionally raised to become doctors wanted to be doctors since childhood. With this finding in mind, the question then arises: Was it the influence of the parents that led these children to dream of careers in medicine, or did the desire truly belong to the child?

It’s true that parents can influence their children to pursue medicine. Mine did. The power of suggestion is a real phenomenon that can change behaviors, beliefs, and desires. To show you just how real it is, I’ll share the work of Dr. Julia Shaw. Dr. Shaw is a psychologist who has done extensive work in the field of memory and suggestion. Her research has shown the world how easy it is to influence the beliefs of other people. In a ground-breaking study, Dr. Shaw interviewed parents of college students to learn about their children’s upbringing. Next, she identified sixty of these students who had never committed a crime, then held a series of three interviews with each of them. The students were under the impression that the study was simply about their childhood memories.  The true objective, however, was to see whether or not they could be influenced to believe lies about their past.

During interview one, Dr. Shaw initially discussed true events that had happened to the student. Once they felt comfortable, she introduced a lie pertaining to a crime the student had committed. Initially, students tended to deny the crime, but Shaw used social manipulation techniques such as a childhood friend’s name to make the situation seem real. By the third interview a few weeks later, 70 percent of the students had admitted they committed a crime that never happened. Amazing!

If Dr. Shaw could use the power of suggestion to convince 70 percent of her research subjects that they committed a crime that never even happened, then, of course, a parent can use this same power of suggestion to influence a child to pursue a career in medicine. The real question is whether or not it matters. Is it a bad thing to influence your children to chase dreams that you believe are magnificent? I don’t think so at all. The desire to achieve anything in life has to come from somewhere.

My daughter is an infant and is unable to plant her own tree. If I take her out to our backyard and plant a seed for her, then let her water and nurture it as she grows older, who does that tree belong to? I’d say it’s hers. By the same token, dreams planted by parents, but developed by children, belong to the children. This is the most important aspect to grasp in this book: the dream must belong to the child.

So, should you use the power of suggestion as a parenting tactic? Absolutely! Doing so would be responsible of you. Expose your children to good things and suggest they consider learning more about them. Remember, I said that you should intentionally raise your child to become a doctor only if he or she wants to become a doctor. The challenge then arises in knowing if your child wants to pursue that path. The only way to find out is for someone to suggest it along the way. What better someone than you?

“Dr. Dale” is a physician who blogs at PreMed StAR and is the author of How to Raise a Doctor: Wisdom From Parents Who Did It!

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