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It was the entrepreneurial skills instilled in me by my grandfather at an early age that not only shaped my future path to success as an entrepreneur, but also built the parameters for my mindset and my life. When I became a father I knew I wanted to install those same values in my children, regardless of their chosen career path as adults, because whether your kids grow to be entrepreneurs or not, they’ll grow into better people for knowing the skills of an entrepreneur.
Despite there being so many entrepreneurs in the world and plenty of tremendous resources for entrepreneurship in adults, I struggled to find any guides on how to teach these important skills to kids. That’s when my brother Adam and I decided if we couldn’t find a guide, we’d write it. We created our Kidpreneurs website, book and program to help teachers and parents with ways to foster the values of entrepreneurship in the bright, young minds of future generations.
Sharing the values of entrepreneurship with your children can be a great way to teach them some very important character tools they’ll need and use for a lifetime ahead. So here are three character traits that entrepreneurship will help instill in your children and how to teach them.
A belief in yourself and your ability to get through life’s challenges is the building block of adult success and a huge component to children’s healthy growth into adolescence and young adulthood.
According to Jennifer Crocker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, kids with a strong sense of self through internal motivation develop into adolescents who are less likely to engage in dangerous social activities such as drugs and alcohol and perform better in school.
Entrepreneurship embodies self-confidence based on your own internal motivating factors better than perhaps any other activity. It taught me the importance of believing in my ideas and believing in my ability to find solutions. It taught me how crucial good and honest relationships are. Those are values I want my children to have and that you can teach your kids, too.
How? When you foster entrepreneurship in your kids, you have to let them make decisions and support them through those choices. Even when you know they may not be the right decisions from your adult perspective, allow your kids to think up their own ideas and start to take the steps to see them through.
If you child wants to start a lemonade stand or paper route, work with them as a parental partner, but not necessarily as an authority figure.
When you give your kids the space to learn and make decisions, it increases their confidence in themselves and in their own decision-making. They already know you know the answers, encourage them to find their own that don’t involve you making the choices for them when and where it’s appropriate.
When my kids ask me questions I like to challenge them by asking right back, “I’m not sure, what do you think?” This encourages them to think through problems, builds their own sense of self and develops their voice.
No matter how much you want to protect your children from feeling pain, disappointment or failure — they will. It’s a certainty for them like it was for you. Teaching your children the values of entrepreneurship will help them to learn about failure and not to fear it. More important, they'll learn how to recover from it.
It’s all in your mindset. Wouldn’t you feel better sending your children out of the house knowing you’ve prepped them with the durable spirit they’ll need to handle all the lessons life sends their way?
How? Allow your kids to fail. That’s probably one of the hardest things to do as a parent, but they need to know it’s okay to fail at something even if they tried hard. The important role for you is to help coach them toward solutions for their own recovery after failure.
Don’t solve the problem for them or blame the world or external circumstances. You aren’t doing them a service.
Did their science project fail? Sympathize then ask them how they might have changed the outcome? Didn’t make the soccer team? Allow them to be upset but the next morning ask them how they plan to make the team next year.
This doesn’t come from a place of pressure, but from prompts. Prompt them to think how they can approach “problems” differently for success. Encourage them to look for solutions and lessons from failures.
The world is evolving and the workplaces of our generation are already drastically different than that of our parents and their parents. Rare is the millennial who thinks today that they will start with a good company out of college, stay there to retirement and earn the gold watch. The economic culture of today simply doesn’t reward that kind of behavior and you shouldn’t want your children to settle for that.
Entrepreneurs have to be creative. They solve problems by finding creative solutions. That’s a skill that will help them their entire lives regardless of whether they end up working in a corporate environment or for themselves. Creativity is an essential job skill today. Teach your children young to create the space for their creative solutions and endeavors.
How? Structure time for creativity and ideas with your children. How could they do a school project better than just the way it was assigned? What have they complained about that’s a problem that they could find a solution for instead of being unhappy about?
Help to coach them into being creative about ideas. Write lists of solutions together. Map out potential answers together. Make time to create with your child. Creativity is a skill that will always serve them in life.