adolescents, their parents, ‘career’ choices, ‘counseling’ & life – some suggestions & notes

May 7, 2022

I am not a great/grand advisor to parents/kids nor claim to be a repository of virtues – nor pretend to have achieved anything fantastically significant/useful in my life so far – though I have some plans for the future, oh the hope lies eternal in the human breast; however, I do have some ideas & suggestions that I give based on my (of course limited, but continuously updated) understanding of the Universe, that too, only when approached by forever worried & hassled parents – sometimes directly by the Child even… (initially I was very tentative & reluctant about this coaching/guiding/advising/whatever – but not anymore so, as apparently my attempts seem to be helpful to some of the folks at least!)


Since I prefer to do my homework & prior preparation – I usually make some notes before chatting with kids & parents based on what I ‘know’ about them – and over a period of time (some 20+ years? with some 160+ engagements??), my template (or a checklist, if you will) for guiding/steering the discussions & for eliciting opinions has grown/shrunk/etc that – lately, I have started versioning it.


1) Since these ‘advice seeking’ numbers are growing (not exponentially or anything – but definitely ~5 cases per quarter at least, on an average, lately) 2) I believe in recording things that are useful perhaps, and sharing them openly for whatever they are worth 3) I have learnt so much from the Internet (as also from that small part of it, called Social Media) and therefore some contribution, FWIW, is in order 4) I believe in DIY (& Opensource) and I feel that any ‘advice’ should also be enabled for others (who are interested) to repackage & fold-in their own ‘advice’ to their wards etc 5) I really wish someone had driven some sense in to me when I was a teen needing it AND because 6) my dear young (& bright) friend Chandra,an Auteur of a technical book, goaded me share it wildly… (actually he advised to host it on github, FWIW; earlier I had a version up on the blog – but I think it got deleted advertently a while ago)

…here it is…


Before I talk to the child in detail, I would like to chat with him/her as somewhat of a freewheeling discussion for some half-an-hour – um, it is more like me listening to the child, actually doing a lot of it – and perhaps giving a puzzle or two for the kid to solve (in the realm of the specific kid’s experience & interest) – usually the solution for which is NOT easily, available on the Web. After the kid gets back to me with the solution or a possible approach, I spend one more hour on the Child, and sometimes along with the parents.

The template I use for a longer discussion, is a mindmap. Depending on the interest (and the basic capability) of the parents/kids, I would share a subset of ideas based on some of the nodes. For each pointer, I will not spend more than 2-3 mins, unless the child and/or parents is/are interested in dealing with it a bit more. During the sessions, normally, I encourage the asking of questions, and attempt to answer them, as long as the SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) is high.

The map is meant for working with adolescent kids – say of 12-18 years age-band. They are all my points of view – PoV, of course limited by my own exposure to the world. You can disagree with me. Of course, your mileage may vary – YMMV.

The top node is ‘the lay of the land’ for a smart adolescent kid: notes for parents

The sub-nodes are:

What matters in the long-run – a bunch of pointers about looking at life from the PoV of an earnest, normal Homo sapiens sapiens

Motivating factors (combos); no value judgements – a bunch of pointers about the basic motivating factors that we tend to have in general

Emergent world – a bunch of pointers dealing with the ‘Brave New World’ that is unfolding – for which the child needs to attune itself. And, be prepared

Academic Vs/& Professional practice – a bunch of pointers about various ‘career’ options and my rabid comments thereof; this sub-node is further split into four subsub-nodes: The Sciences, Performing Arts, Social ‘Studies’ & Etc, also-rans – and then each of them with specific pointers

Questions – a bunch of pointers about the kind of questions to ask oneself, while trying to figure out what to pursue/study

Thoughts & Tools – a long listing of pointers about various tools/questions that would help one to deal with the rest five sub-nodes


Segments of mindmap / branches below – in the order in which I deal with, typically – sometimes the order may vary, depending on the path taken during the discussion… (click on images to see them ‘larger’ in a separate tab/window)


Whole mindmap printable on A4 – this is slightly difficult to read, but compact; however, if you want some eye-exercises, be my guest: (A4)TheLayOfTheLand-ForParents-of-AdolescentsVer8.2Of4thMay2022 –

Whole mindmap printable/viewable in A3, bigger size: (A3)TheLayOfTheLand-ForParents-of-AdolescentsVer8.2Of4thMay2022 –

Clickable XHTML – a text file that contains all the pointers: (or it that does not work, you can download a zip file containing this file & its resources from here, unzip it and view etc)

Source/Raw mindmap that you can download and edit/share to your heart’s content: – (I use a tool called FreeMind, but googledrive itself has associated tools with which you can edit the file)

(FWIW let me mention that, there is no copyright claim whatsoever on anything from this Othisaivu blog; feel free.)



I sincerely attempt to learnt from my interactions with anyone (occasionally, including with my dear Dravidians and Tamil Supremacists) but there are some puzzling observations about these ‘sessions’ that I want to share:

  1. I enjoy being with youth and adolescent kids in general – but folks are almost never punctual; they always have some excuses, nor do they inform me promptly about the sometimes understandable hiccups & slippages; the recent one is about the moan on ‘connectivity.’
  2. Many do NOT come prepared with a bunch of questions and/or pointers – but expect some grand revelations to happen etc. Also, many have NO idea of practice – practicing anything formally towards habit-forming. (sometimes I get the feeling that, ‘their body has done time, while their brains were out taking a leisurely walk.’
  3. Many adults, do not even know as to how to ask a well formatted question! (many would be in the realm of ‘tell me something about yourself’ kinda routine interview question shit)
  4. I do these sessions for free, to whoever that requests for it – even to those strangers and their kids – who come referred to me via this blog or via friends/acquaintances. But, for a 30 min chat, I prepare for an hour thinking about what would be useful to the interaction, given what I would know about the targets. (our lifetimes are limited)
  5. But for a handful of ‘mentees’ so-called, not many try to keep me posted about the progress or how efficacious, the discussions/suggestions had been. (but a few do, my gratitude to them – because they help me improve on my efforts)
  6. Folks eagerly ask for the mindmap, with the passionate fervor of a new-convert and I send it off; in quite a few cases – I had even printed it out in A3 size and couriered it out to them, but I do not know whether they even used them – some do not even acknowledge the receipt of it! (leave alone giving any useful feedback)
  7. Some parents would want me to coach for ‘academics’ or IIT-JEE prep or for KVPY! (this, in spite of my clearly telling them initially itself that, I work for different long-term outcomes, though I am all for Competitions and Excellence!)
  8. Sometimes, some parents (well endowed ones, with both spouse-gumasthas earning good salaries, mostly in feckless IT industries, I may add) would want some extra sessions and/or something specific (like some stuff in Electronics or Riddling times+) for their kids, that would demand more time & commitment from me. At that point (only if the Parents could afford it), I would clearly say that, though the first couple of sessions will be ‘free,’ I would charge an hourly rate subsequently, because there are opportunity costs for me. In those cases wherein am not clear about the financial capacities of the parents, I would also clearly suggest that, ‘if you can’t afford it for some reason – then tell me and let us look at it…’ …And then, barring a few cases, one of the following will result:
    • Thundering silence. (I could never understand these guys! Tamassic detritus… what else)
    • “You are not charging your village kids, and anyway, you can batch our child with the those other free-groups that you may have.” (sirs and madams – nice try; hope you enjoyed your latest pleasure trip to Thailand)
    • “This is too high. I cannot afford it.” (Actually, my professional (if I choose to earn) hourly rates would be in the range of a few thousands per hour – but for ‘special mentoring/tuition’ it would only be a small fraction of it – and in any case, I would not use the funds that I generate via these kinds of ‘education’ for my personal/familial use, but only to assist some Schools that I am associated with; OTOH, am not into any bleddy social service but merely do things that I meaningfully can, sometimes only as a basic duty)
    • The following kind of responses were not aired to me directly – but to common friends/referrers: (and their sense of entitlement of these jokers is galling, bleddy, to say the least!)
      1. “Your Ram is greedy, why is he pretending that he is doing a social service, when he wants to charge for it?” (well sirs and madams, I never actually call it a service, leave alone a ‘social service!’ I like doing certain things for pleasure and/or because I consider them my duty and therefore I go ahead & do them – end of story)
      2. “What else is he doing anyway? Why can’t he do this free?” (sirs and madams, thanks for the free advice, much appreciated!)
      3. “Brahmins are suppose to be teaching for free, vidhyadhaanam and all that, why cheapen oneself by asking for it?” (sirs and madams – while thanking you for reminding me about my varna related duties, I would like to remind you that, you approached me first, I did NOT. BTW, when did you EVER work for free at anything? Have you ever NOT taken a salary for even one year from your employers, while continuing to work conscientiously? (So far I have not said it, but am saying it: For 15+ years I have been more than a full-time teacher in various schools, completely voluntarily, without getting compensated monetarily at all – however, I would not say stupid things like ‘money is not everything,’ though!)
      4. “My son loved his introductory sessions and wants to learn Electronics. But from ‘Brahmin to Brahmin’ can’t he lower his fee?” (sirs and madams, a resounding NO… You are no Archakas and/or poor Brahmins eking out a living. OTOH, I would give a one hour test each for both of you, on A) RgVeda, AbhinavaGupta, Mahabharata (BORI edition), PV Kane’s ‘History of Dharmashastra’ B) Tiruvalluvar, Tolkappiyam, Saiva/Vaishnava literatures (thirumurais/prabadhams); of course you can choose to answer them in Tamil / Hindi / English- and if both of you score > 90% in both tests, then let us see…)
      5. “He is doing it free for his friends, but is asking for money from us.” (sirs and madams, quick answer: you folks are NOT my friends. You do NOT deserve me. Go get a life. Of course, you are free to go to some other bloke, by encashing your frequent flier miles and credit card loyalty points, whatever. Thanks!)


Hope some of you readers find the pointers useful. Happy parenting, happy sending out your progeny to the future. Happy confusions. Happy future. Fortune favours the Prepared.

If anyone is interested (at all!) in exploring ‘what the heck it is’ of for the annotation of one of the pointers – contact me via email. (but do your homework before rushing off to me, use the Internet to understand the backgrounders – it is a lovely, dear, giving friend, really!)

’nuff said.

20 Responses to “adolescents, their parents, ‘career’ choices, ‘counseling’ & life – some suggestions & notes”

  1. Note: Some speeling mushtakes have crept in. Bleddy rotters. Will fix them in the next release of the mindmap. grr

  2. From a ‘friend;’ and my response.

    >> Good one Sir.
    >> They ask for TIPS and you give them TRIZ and quote Mr. Ma from the Last Samurai… poor bastards :)
    >> I would probably add :
    >> Choosing to know deeply about a subset of things also implies choosing to forego knowing about a whole bunch of others i.e. No man can know everything. So don’t diffuse your efforts. Also, not everything is worth knowing.
    >> The Road not taken is a road that does not exist for you, so don’t ponder about it.
    >> Learn from the Masters. The Canon exists despite what flim-flam dipshits say. Know the Canon
    >> Avoid the trap of Self-pity.
    >> I am assuming Co-opperatively is working together with Mallus ? :)

    Sir, thanks for the kind words, inputs and unkind hits below the belt, propperly on the scrotum, actually.

    Pardon me for the spulling mushtakes, I was under someone’s spell, what else. :-(

    Will anonymize and publish it on the blog. Would be useful.

  3. Another response from another ‘friend:’

    >> Happy to see that you continue to be arrogant and so full of yourself.

    >> My son is modeling you, hero worships you, the tragedy.

    >> Lage raho ramjeebhai.

    Sir, I thought I had reformed myself. :-(

    Am appalled that I continue to be ‘like that only.’ And feel sorry for your sonnyboy – hope suitable course corrections are happening in stonybrook.

    However, I must point out that, the autocorrect failed to perform its duty, it should have been corrected to zero. I kinda know myself and my limitations. Thanks!

  4. Balaji Sundararajan Says:


    The MM is absolutely commendable and full if insights for a life-time learning. THANK YOU for that. Its very consoling (with my own kit and thinking I’m a loser!) encouraging to see lot of things I’m doing/following. Will PM you for the rest.

    BTW, the XTML and .mm formats are not accessible now.


  5. Rajmohanbabu Mani Says:

    Ram thanks for the wonderful Mind map. Have one question. What is way take this mind map to kid. Should i discuss each pointer with them and make it understand. Ram are you doing online sessions

    • Sir, thanks for the kind words.

      1. Most of it is meant for parents with some portions for the children; when you can, try to understand the pointers (thinking about them, websearch, talk to your friends/spouse etc) and when the kids are in a position to understand some of them, please do share your thoughts to them. (Like most of the things in life, instructions are best given in terms of ‘indirect presentations’ – wherein the adults involved naturally act/behave in a way the Child would emulate. Like: if the adults want the kids to NOT watch TV, adults watch no TV etc – though there are exceptions)

      1.1 The mindmap is a ‘master list’ from which I take and present what is relevant to parents and kids – so not all are presented to everyone, it is not necessary either. So, only a subset is dealt with.

      1.2 Typically I try to veer away children/parents from etc/also-ran ‘professions’ because I have an agenda. But some kids DO want to pursue them, in which case, I will still be encouraging (will never belittle the children) and point to great souls in those professions – so that they can learn from the masters. (like john-pilger & christopher-hitchens in the case of journalism)

      2. I do online sessions, as and when needed.

      Thanks for asking.

  6. RC Says:

    அன்புள்ள ஐயா,

    நீங்கள் முன்னர் ஒருமுறை பதிவில் உள்ள வரைபடம் பகிர்ந்த பொழுதும் வாசித்ததுண்டு.மகளும் பத்து முடிக்கப்போகிறாள்.மேலும் சில உறவினர்கள், நண்பர்களின் குழந்தைகளோடு (தமிழகம் தான்) பேசிய அனுபவமும் உண்டு.

    1) பிள்ளைகள் எது வேண்டாம் என்பதில் தெளிவாக இருப்பது போல், எது வேண்டும் என்பது சொல்லத்தெரியாமல் தான் இருக்கிறார்கள்.

    2) ‘பிடித்து படிப்பது’ என்பதை விட தேர்வுக்கு படிக்கவேண்டும் என்பதே பிரதானம்.

    3) உங்களுக்குத் தெரியாததல்ல .. நீங்கள் வரைபடத்தில் சொல்லும் அறிவியல், பொறியியல் IIT தேர்வு எழுதி படிப்பதற்கு ஏற்ற மிகச்சிறந்த இடங்கள் என்னவோ இந்திய அளவில் <25000 சீட்டுகள் தாம்.

    4) IIT தேர்வு எழுதுவோர் எண்ணிக்கையோ 12 லட்சத்திற்கும் மேல்.30% சரியாகச் செய்தால் போதுமானது முதல் படி தாண்டிவிடலாம் என்று சொல்கிறார்கள். ஆனால் அப்படித் தாண்டுபவர்கள் வெறும் 10% மட்டுமே.மேலும் 70% மதிப்பெண்கள் எடுத்தால் சிறந்த IIT இல் பிடித்த படிப்பிற்கு இடம் கிடைக்க வாய்ப்புண்டு.

    2018 தேர்வு தரவுகள் படி 70% தாண்டியவர்கள் வெறும் <1500 மாணவர்கள் தான். (இதில் பயிற்றுவிக்கும் மையங்கள் சேர்ந்து படித்தவர்கள் மிகுதியாக இருக்க வாய்ப்புண்டு..ஒரு யூகம் தான்).

    என் கேள்வியெல்லாம் 'சாதாரண' சூழ்நிலையில் வளரும் குழந்தைகள் இத்தேர்வை அணுகுவது எப்படி?
    (சாதாரண' – சிறந்த பள்ளி அல்லது தேர்வு பயிற்றுவிக்கும் மையம் வாய்ப்பில்லாத+ இதுகுறித்த அனுபவமில்லா பெற்றோர் வாய்க்கப்பெற்ற ++).
    உங்கள் வரைபடம் அனைத்து மாணவர்களுக்குமானதுதாம்.ஆனால் அறிவியல்,பொறியியலுக்கு சிறந்த இடங்கள் (தோராயமாக 50,000 வைக்கலாம் வாதத்திற்கு) இருப்பதுபோல பிறருக்கு இருக்கிறதா என்ன?

    அப்படி இல்லாத பட்சத்தில் பிள்ளைகளிடம் என்ன பேசுவது? மேற்சொன்ன தரவை பிள்ளைகளிடம் பகிர முடிந்தால் நான் அந்த 50,000 உள்ளேயே இல்லை என்றுதான் சொல்ல வாய்ப்புகள் அதிகம் :-(
    பெற்றோர் சொன்னா கேட்கிற பிள்ளைகளா இப்ப?

    தேர்வு பயிற்றுவிக்கும் மையங்களின் கதைகள் தனி..
    மிடில சார்.

    • ஐயா, நன்றி.
      இதற்குக் கொஞ்சம் விஸ்தாரமாகவே பதிலளிக்கவேண்டும் (ஹ்ம்ம் – கறார் பதில் என்று இல்லை, ஆனால் அனுபவத்தில் உணர்ந்த சில விஷயங்களைக் குறிப்பிடுகிறேன்…)

      பின்னர் பார்க்கலாம்.

      ஆனால் ஒரு குறிப்பு: ஐஐடி போன்ற அமைப்புகளின் மூலமாகத் தான் ‘தரமான’ படிப்பு கிடைக்கும் என்றில்லை – பிள்ளைகளே படித்துக்கொண்டு,  தொழில்முனைந்து கை நிறையவும் சம்பாதிக்கலாம் என்பதையும் நாம் புரிந்துகொள்ளவேண்டும் என்பது என் கோரிக்கை.
      நம் பிள்ளைகளுக்கு அப்படியாப்பட்ட முனைவுகளை + சாத்தியக்கூறுகளைக் குறித்துத் தெளிவுபடுத்துவது நம் கடமையென்பதும்…

    • Rajmohanbabu Mani Says:

      RC என்னுடைய மகளும் 10 ல் இந்த வருடம் நுழைகிறார். இந்த வரைபடத்தில் உள்ள pointers ஐ குறித்து விரிவாக படித்து வருகிறேன். அதில் முக்கியமான சில pointers மகளுடன் விவாதிக்கவும் செய்கிறேன். இந்த Pointers கல்விக்கு மட்டும் அல்ல. அதிகம் அவர்களுடைய வாழ்க்கைக்கும் பயன்படும். என்னுடைய எண் 889 110 1760 நேரம் இருக்கும் போது அணுகவும் நாம் விவாதிப்போம்

      • RC Says:

        நன்றி🙏.பதிவு புரிகிறது.
        ஆனால் பள்ளி/கல்லூரி என்ற அமைப்புக்குள் இருப்பவர்கள்(விருப்பப்பட்டோ/விருப்பமின்றியோ) தேர்வு,rankings தாண்டி யோசிப்பது கடினம் என்பதே எனது புரிதல்.

      • ஐயா, உங்களுக்குப் புரியவில்லை எனச் சொல்லவரவில்லை, ஆனால், நான் என்ன சொல்லவந்தேன் என்பதைக் கொஞ்சமேனும் தெளிவு படுத்தியெடுக்க முயற்சி செய்தேன், அவ்வளவுதான.

        பிரச்சினை என்னவென்றால், நம்மில் பலப்பலர் – குடும்ப/உறவினர் சூழலின் காரணமாகவும் நம் கற்பிதங்களினூடேயும் –  தொழில்முனைவுகளில் ஈடுபடுவதையும்,  ‘சொந்தக் காலில்’ அடிபட்டோ படாமலோ நிற்பதையும் – நம் இளம் வயதில் வாய்க்கப் பெறுவதில்லை.

        என் ‘இளமை’யிலும் அப்படித்தான் – குடும்பத்தினரிடம் இருந்து ஆதரவு இருப்பதில்லை; ‘ஸெட்டில் ஆகி விடவேண்டும்’ எனவொரு விருப்பமே நம்மை உந்துகிறது. வசதி + கல்வி + வேலை வாய்ப்புகளும் குறைவு. ‘தவறு செய்வது’ என்பதற்கு நாம் கொடுத்த விலை அதிகம்.

        (நீங்கள் என்னை விட வயதில் மிகவும் குறைந்தவர் என்றாலும் 2000 வாக்கில் தான் விஷயங்கள் சுளுவான நிகழ்வுகள் நடந்தன என்பதால் உங்களையும் சேர்த்து ‘நாம்’ என்கிறேன், மன்னியுங்கள்)

        …ஆனால் இக்காலங்களில் அப்படி இல்லை. பல விஷயங்கள் நல்லவிதமாகவே மாறிக் கொண்டிருக்கின்றன. அவற்றை நம் பிள்ளைகள் உணர்ந்து, தங்களைச் செழுமை படுத்திக்கொண்டு உச்சாணிக்கிளைகளுக்குப் போக மகத்தான சாத்தியக் கூறுகள் இருக்கின்றன – உச்சாணிக் கிளைகளுக்கும் பஞ்சமே இல்லை எனத்தான் உணர்கிறேன். சொல்லப் போனால் அளவுக்கு அதிகமாகவே அவை இருக்கின்றனதாம்.

        அந்தச் சித்திரங்களில் நான் சொல்ல வந்தது – இம்மாதிரி மாறிவரும் தன்மைகளையும், (நம் உயிரியல், பரிணாம, அறவுணர்ச்சி எழுச்சிகளின் பாற்பட்டு) மானுடத்தின் குறிக்கோட்கள் என்னவாக இருக்கலாம் எனும் அனுமானங்களையும் குறித்துத்தான்.

        மற்றபடி தேர்வு / க்ரிடென்ஷியல்ஸ் எல்லாம் எனக்குப் புரியாமலில்லை. அவற்றுக்கும் ஒரு பங்கு இருக்கிறது.
        ஆனாலும், நம் இளம் சமுதாயத்தைப் பற்றி நாம் மிகவும் கவலைப் படத் தேவையில்லை. அவர்களிலும் சிலர் (ஒருவேளை அதே பழைய விழுக்காடோ? விகிதமோ??) ஜொலிக்கிறார்கள் – என் கோரிக்கை என்னவென்றால், இந்த விகிதம் வெகுவாக முன்னேற வேண்டும்; வேகமய்யா வேகம் என்பதுதான்…

        அதைவிட முக்கியமானது: நம் இளைய சமுதாயத்துக்கு நாம் எம்மாதிரி (நேரடி அல்லது மறைமுக) எடுத்துக்காட்டுகளாக விளங்குகிறோம் என்பதும்தான்.

  7. While this post is an pincer attack on both my pedigree as well as my interest areas, I relate to it quite a bit.

    Nice unpacking.

    Let me comment the aesthetic choices:
    – the overall bubbly single-colour theme of the first charthas been carefully chosen to contrast against- the sharp cornered quadrilaterals, appealing multicoloured second chart

    This subliminal reinforcing of the latter as ‘rigorous’ is noted.Now, how does this seemingly self-evident fact get ‘proven’ in theory?Ay!

    There’s the rub.

    This is where there is a problem (அதாவது எனக்கு)There is much ‘truth’ outside the realm of நிரூபணவாதம்.By very structure they fall outside the realm of repeatability.What standards of falsification should we have (simply as readers) to assure ourselves that we are asking the question right, and not simply connecting the dots as we please.

    There is no easy answer to this.

    But I’d be hard-pressed to dismiss it en masse as nonsubstantive hand-waving.

    Which makes reading so many of the fields in slide 1 (where nearly all my interests lie) tough to read beyond with the perpetual nagging in the back of my head the validity of one claim on top of which another is made and so on.

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s