Encouraging Entrepreneurship in Children
If you’re into reading business blogs, flicking through the pages of a business mag or generally just like to keep updated with the latest from the business world, you will have, no doubt, read countless times that entrepreneurship is the future of the global economy. And, even if you’ve never read a business article, you’re likely to have been exposed to the word ‘entrepreneur’ – and increasingly more frequently, at that – and the positive effects those people seem to have on the local community and beyond.
It is a commonly held belief that entrepreneurs are born, not made. And, whilst I somewhat believe this, I also believe that exposure to entrepreneurialism, and the related skills, is essential for both nurturing the spirit of a budding entrepreneur and teaching non-entrepreneurial children valuable transferable skills that can be taken to any career they choose.
Here are seven things that I believe entrepreneurialism teaches children.
- Respect of Money
Most of us know how to earn and spend money, but it’s important to teach children the value of making money. Talk to children about what you have to do to earn money. I like to break it down into hours, so if I work for one hour, I could buy a $20 toy, or if I save that money, and work four hours then I can buy the family dinner out. This helps children know that parents have to work to earn money to pay for the stuff we want to enjoy in life and, when they break it down into how hard they have to work to get something, it makes them think about spending their, or your, hard-earned money.
Investing money to make it grow is another important thing to teach our children. Putting money in the bank is the most obvious choice here but for a more entrepreneurial option try investing in something like soil and pots, potting some plants and selling it to make a profit. I also like the tidy metaphor with the plants – you’re literally watching your money grow and this analogy can really help your children understand.
I like to take it a step further and teach about growing money many times from one thing. This is called residual income and it’s something easy to show your kids how to do, and to encourage them to think like this. For example, one Yucka plant, if you look after it and nurture it, could produce many Yucka plants that you make money from over and over again. This is what song writers, book writers, and software developers to name a few do. They create one great product, and sell it numerous times. This is a really great skill to teach your child, as then the sky is the limit on how much they can earn if it’s a great product.
- The Value of Hard Work and Persistence
“Adulting” is hard, so it’s important that children are resilient and can ride through the storm, which means we can’t always come to their rescue. Entrepreneurship is a ten-year overnight success most of the time and your children need to know that nothing good comes easy. Talk to them about your ups and downs at work and the show them that you don’t give up. Teach them to reflect on what they can do better, and encourage them to fail. Sara Blakely designed Spanx in America. She is the youngest self-made billionaire in our history. Each day as a child her father would ask, “So, what did you fail at today”. And if there were no failures, her father would be disappointed. She learnt that failure is not really failing, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. If more children learnt this and were taught how to use failures to their advantage, I think the world would have many more people who a lot harder than they do.
- Delaying Gratification
Children need to know that they can get rewarded for effort and reprimanded for poor effort. We have a “Monkey Dollar System” in our house. It starts with the boys picking an activity or object that they really want. It could be going bowling or it could be a Lego set. This gets put up on the wall as a reward – I liken it to a vision board – and it has a certain amount of Monkey Dollars attached to it, determined by the value of the item. You can then earn Monkey Dollars for being kind, helping, showing initiative and doing your bit to help the household. You lose Monkey Dollars for unacceptable behavior, not doing what you were asked and and fighting.
It has made the boys learn to earn what they want from the age of three, and its certainly a great way to warn children, “If you keep up this behavior, you will lose a Monkey Dollar”. Learning that there are rewards and repercussions is something that all children need to learn. This is a valuable lesson for a budding entrepreneur that if they work hard, they will be rewarded – and being lazy, making bad choices or just not putting the work in will delay their success.
I highly recommend coming up with a reward system for your children – one that is a long-term reward (family holiday that you are all working towards), and one that is a short-term reward (activity or object) is also a great idea so that they learn about delayed gratification.
To get the Monkey Dollar template go to www.pakmag.com.au
- Encourages Learning and Growth
Encourage your children to read books and articles about other kids and even adults who are entrepreneurs. Talk to them about amazing kids that have done things like the little boy in Memphis who started selling handmade ties at the age of nine, he has sold over $200,000 worth of bow ties! Google these stories, look for Ted Talks on YouTube, you may just find you get inspired too. I know it gives me a kick up the bottom to try harder!
- Solution Based Thinking
Most of us are trained to look for problems. Any time your child comes to you with a problem, ask them, “How do you think we can solve this?” and let them solve it, or help them work out how to solve it. We need more solution finders in this world, then things improve. If your child just looks for problems and hopes someone else solves it for them, it’s time to change that thinking.
- Negotiation Skills
Ok, this one is seriously annoying and I have to catch myself every time the words just do what I say are about to come out of my mouth. We are raising adults. Teaching children to ask what they want, and negotiate for things to be better for them is a really great skill – don’t beat it out of them. If your child is asking for something and you don’t know which way to go after they have presented their argument to you, ask for more time to think about it. The child is heard, they feel better and you can think about it more objectively. My boys have become really great negotiators but they also know that when I say no, it is no and why, and they accept that.
- It’s ok to Push their Comfort Zone
My dad did this to me all the time. Sometimes, it was quite embarrassing and challenging, but I am really grateful for it now. My dad’s band played at my Year 10 School Formal, no one at school knew that I played in the band and had done so since Year Eight. He announced over the microphone for me to come up on stage, he had my saxophone and a mic set up and I had to sing and play in front of the whole grade, I nearly died! But, it gave me confidence to continue on that journey in life.
The more confident we are, the more likely we are to do things, so help your children find their courage, or do what my dad did and force it (obviously, be reasonable with this one!). There are certain things you can encourage your child to do that puts them out of their comfort zone that as parents we should maximize. Think: selling school raffle tickets to neighbours, show and tell sessions at school or joining the school choir or band. All of these experiences teach your children confidence and should be valued as much as learning mathematics.
Whatever your child decides for their career in life, the above skills will help them. I wish you all the best in raising your children with some entrepreneurial spirit.
10 Signs your child could be an entrepreneur.
- They often don’t fit in with other children at school as they think differently.
- They are often creating things out of nothing, like boxes into go karts.
- They want to earn money from a young age.
- Money is attracted to them; they often find money somewhere every time you are out and about.
- They think about money, saving it, spending it, and making it grow.
- They are self-motivated, jump out of bed and get stuck into their day and are quite organised.
- They negotiate everything with you.
- They are not usually an A-grade student, but if they want to apply themselves they do really well.
- They are stubborn, and want things their way.
- They are solutions based thinkers, always coming up with ways to make things better.
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