Who doesn’t want their children to be independent and successful?
The truth is that the traditional model of getting a university degree followed by a stable job and a steady progression up the career ladder doesn’t always happen these days. Population increase, economic crises, globalization, decreased earning power, dynamic employment markets mean today’s generation really has a daunting task in the job market and the future doesn’t seem too rosy as well.
Students are graduating from top universities and struggling for months (or even years) to find a decent job. Unpaid internships are common worldwide and often yield nothing even after the six-month sacrifice. How can we help young people cope in this harsh environment? The answer is to teach kids about entrepreneurship early on so that they can create their own opportunities when the time comes.
Entrepreneurship turns children into leaders. It transforms them into employers rather than employees and helps them create successful, independent lives through purposeful enterprise. It gives children viable options to earn a decent living in a crowded, harsh world.
There are crucial attributes every entrepreneur needs to succeed, and it is your responsibility as a parent to help your kids develop them. Here’re some of those attributes—and how you can foster them in your kids.
1. Inculcate financial literacy from the get-go.
Financial literacy is something that all children need to have today. Unfortunately, schools often don’t give enough attention to this area in your child’s education. Don’t leave this area to chance. Teach your kids about money from an early age to give them a solid grounding in finance.
Educate your children about saving and investing and show them how money can be used to make more money. If you see them throwing away coins, tell them to pick them up. Kids need to understand that every coin counts. When discussing with your partner or with yourself about how to spend your money, how much to save for a particular thing, say vacation, and things like that, let your kids in on it.
For example, ask your kids for advice on what you should save for. Giving them this level of trust and responsibility helps them develop good money sense and nurtures their entrepreneurial mind.
2. Inform a keen sense of observation and self-drive.
Help your kids recognize that the world around them is full of business opportunities, and finding them just requires some careful observation, self-drive and creativity. They really don’t have to be employed. So the next time your children ask for money to buy a favorite gadget, ask them to look around and brainstorm ways to create the money through entrepreneurship.
Cameron Herold, in his inspiring TedTalk about how he was raised as an entrepreneur as a child, and does the same for his children, reveals he tells his kids to find things that need to be done around the house and tell him. After which, they negotiate how much doing that chore should cost.
You can also encourage entrepreneurship by asking your kids to start small projects like a lemonade stand or sell their old toys online through sites like Craigslist. That will teach them how to fix prices, market well, spot scammers etc., which will bring your kids in the fray of the real world.
3. Encourage an attitude of exploration and inquisitiveness.
In addition to urging your kids to explore their environment, urge them to develop an inquisitive mind and constantly ask questions. Don’t let them get too comfortable with the same solutions for problems. They should study a lot of things and be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay Inc., agrees that exploration and inquiry are crucial lessons. “Our kids seem to thrive in situations that engage their curiosity and allow them to explore and discover the world around them on their own terms,” Mr. Omidyar says.
In his own childhood, Omidyar was immersed in both Persian and French culture thanks to his parents’ backgrounds. “Being exposed to and learning about these cultures taught me early on that there are different ways to think about any single situation, and that you don’t always have to do things the way they’ve always been done,” he says.
Let your kids walk around their community and engage with people from all walks of life within obvious considerations and safety precautions. You never know what opportunities they might find out there.
4. Teach goal setting and planning.
Goal setting and planning are an integral part to entrepreneurial success. These are positive habits that will come in handy when ingrained in your child’s psychic. The sooner your child learns how to plan, set realistic goals and follow laid down procedures to completion, the better.
Teach kids to set S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals and accomplish those goals. Ask them to define and write down their top five goals or objectives. Studies show that written goals are over 80% more likely to be achieved.
Next ask them to consider carefully and write down five actions necessary to accomplish these goals. Encourage and support them throughout to reach their defined goals. This will enhance your child’s self-worth, self-drive and overall feeling of personal accomplishment.
5. Urge team work.
No one is completely self-sufficient. We all need help sometimes to reach our goals. The most successful entrepreneurs outsource heavy workloads and team up with others whose opinions they value to stay on track and succeed. Your child also needs to learn how to play well with others in order to reach common goals.
One of the best ways to promote team work from an early age is to urge your kids to participate in sports. Sports can be a great classroom for entrepreneurial principles and values. Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot Inc. and owner of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, agrees and says, “Sports teach how important teamwork is.”
Arthur’s six children, who have all played a variety of sports, have had to learn how to deal with setbacks and how to move past losses. One of his sons, Joshua, is captain of his eighth-grade soccer team—a role Blank says will help the boy learn about leadership and inspiring others, as well as playing his own position. “Not winning every game and teamwork—these are all good lessons for entrepreneurship,” he explains.
6. Reward personal initiative and high quality work.
Insist that your kids take personal initiative and deliver high quality work each time, whether it is on homework, house chores or extracurricular activities. Giving their best in everything they do means kids are responsible and dependable and it contributes to their overall success.
Even exemplary solitary pursuits or passions like hiking for older kids can help them become self-driven and dependable without needing supervision. Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., says he found climbing mountains a good building block in becoming an entrepreneur.
“Climbers are a lot like entrepreneurs,” he says. “They are willing to put themselves in a risky situation then once there they become careful and cautious and try to reduce and eliminate the risk.” Reward your kids with monetary incentives or small treats for taking initiative to encourage good work.
7. Impress on kids to learn when failing.
In school, children learn that failure is bad. But, in the entrepreneurial arena, failure can be good if a positive lesson is learned. It was Napoleon Hill, author of Think And Grow Rich who said that, “Every failure carries with it a seed of equal or greater benefit.”
Instead of scolding or punishing your kids for failing at something, try discussing with them the factors that lead to the failure and brainstorm ways to prevent it from happening again in the future. Tell them failure is not entirely bad because it provides an opportunity to learn from mistakes and create new ways to accomplish goals.
Insist that they NEVER just give up, but to always find a lesson in every adverse situation. This way they will not dread failure or wallowing in self-pity and defeat when things don’t work out. People who have achieved have also failed at something. Patience and persistence is key for success.
8. Bolster effective communication skills.
This is a very important skill that every young person needs to learn. Communicating effectively allows kids to articulate their ideas and speak their mind in a way that what they say is clearly understood. This gives them a winning edge in their personal and professional lives.
Instruct your kids to be polite and respectful always. Tell them to speak boldly and support their points convincingly. Most importantly, show them how to maintain eye contact when speaking in person. And when speaking on the telephone, teach them to speak slowly, clearly and confidently.
When it comes to written communication, encourage your kids to write grammatically correct sentences that flow logically, and to avoid abbreviated words and phrases that might cause misunderstandings. These will be extremely useful in the future as adults and business owners.
9. Support giving back to society.
The most successful and happy people on earth give back to society. Why start a business if it doesn’t support a greater cause? Teach your kids the value of helping others. Life is not always about you, your needs and your comfort. Life is also about leaving the world a better place than you found it.
Remind your kids constantly that successful businesses provide benefits to more than just their owners. Tell them people who contribute to the success of others contribute to their own success and live a happy, more fulfilled life.
Ask them to choose a charity or special cause to support with a portion of the income they generate. And support them wholeheartedly when they find volunteer activities to participate in society. This way your kids will lead a contented life—full of meaning and service to humanity.
10. Lead by example.
In the end, many entrepreneurs say the most important thing that inspired and motivated them to achieve entrepreneurial success is the influence they had from their parents. They learned most of what they know from their parents who led by example. For Mr. Blank, for example, his parents were his biggest influence on his becoming an entrepreneur.
“I saw living examples of entrepreneurs,” he says. “My dad was 39 years old when he started a pharmacy wholesale business. He passed away at 44 when I was 15. My mother, who was 37 at the time, had no business experience but was a risk taker in her own way. She grew the business and later sold it to a larger pharmaceutical firm.”
Lead by example and always practice what you preach. Your kids are looking up to you. When you tell your kids to work hard and learn from their mistakes, show them that you also work hard and learn from your mistakes. When you tell them to be patient and respectful, be patient and respectful yourself. You are your children’s biggest role model and will likely remain so their whole lives.
Featured photo credit: Brad Flickinger via flickr.com