Once, long ago, career paths were simple. You did what your parents did, or you went to school, got a trade or a qualification, and you stuck with it until your working days ended. Futurists say the current generations of children will have at least seven careers in their lifetimes. The ability to adapt, grow and find jobs to meet will be important attributes for all of our children as adults. Plus many will use their skills to start their own business, to ignite a spark, and create an income out of a passion.
While it might be incredible to think about your two or five year old being employed as an adult, it is important to help your child be all they can be, and find ways to support him or her. Many of the skills and qualities beneficial for success in an adult are easiest learned as a child. Entrepreneurs and business starters tend to possess three chief character traits. You can find ways to proactively develop these traits in your children.
Business owners need to be robust, and trust themselves. Owning a business is difficult, especially in the first two years, and it’s very common to receive setbacks and difficulties. Successful business owners know who they are and what skills they have, do not take things personally, and are not swayed by negativity.
Developing self-confidence is not about constantly telling your child they are perfect and fantastic. It’s about balancing loving compliments with fair and balanced age-appropriate feedback. Be the person your child trusts to give a fair response when they ask you how they did. Point out their strengths, and if asked, also illuminate one or two areas they could improve on while offering help to do so. Reward effort, and acknowledge achievement.
The ability to bounce back and deal with obstacles is incredibly important. Linked closely to self-confidence, this attribute helps children to cope with change and the unexpected. Ironically, the majority of children develop resilience through unexpected change in their life including family change, moving, circumstances and health. Some children thrive in the midst of great adversity.
None of us wants to create these circumstances on purpose, but we can help develop resilience by allowing our children to take small risks, and not jumping in to rescue them unless they’ve got no other option than to use our help.
Entrepreneurs need to be able to think outside the square and be able to find low- to no-cost solutions for the challenges of building a business.
Creativity is best bred by providing time, space and an organised environment. You can’t be creative within a jam-packed schedule, or in chaos. Give your child a small space they can create in, such as a desk, a floor space or a spot outside, and organise it so it can be used multiple ways.
Expect them to keep the place ordered and tidy (you need to teach them how) so they can use it whenever they want to. Creators are often daydreamers with great imaginations. Help your thinkers learn to put ideas down on paper – whether you are the pen for them, or they record their ideas in their drawings and words.
If you are an entrepreneur, it’s likely you’ll naturally pass on the skills your child will need via modelling, conversations and expectations. If you’re not, there are a few skills you can help your child develop to give them the readiness to start their own businesses.
Talk about money around them
In your home, make conversations about money a natural part of every day. This isn’t your opportunity as a parent to offload about your financial stresses. Conversations around the value of items, choices when making purchases, savings, interest rates, paying bills on time, budgets and investments all help your child to develop an understanding of the financial world.
If your personal finances are a mess, an alternative is to play board games such as Monopoly, which can help teach children about taking risks and making investments. Do take the time to set up a bank account for your child. Talk about how much things cost, and how long it takes to save.
Get them to set goals early
Goal setting from an early age helps children to learn to place a goal in front of themselves and then work out how to achieve it. For some this may be a simple goal to begin with, such as getting their room cleaned by 3pm, or saving $30 in three months.
Whatever the goal, help children set ones that they can reach. Goals need to have a time limit and some rules/guidelines around them. Children should be rewarded once they reach the goal. Rewards for goals reached help us stay motivated, and help us set bigger and better goals.
Explore crazy ideas and develop imaginations
While some say there is nothing new under the sun, a new way of looking at an old problem or a new way to use an existing idea comes from having a great imagination. Brainstorm a range of ideas with your child. Make up silly stories, and use word play. Draw nonsense animals or machines, and create structures that make no sense. Let them introduce an idea and think it through without trying to put an ‘adult’ way of thinking onto it. Let your child have space and time to think.
It began as ‘Hibiscus Coast’s Cheapest Odd Jobs’ when 16-year-old Tyler Broughton and a few of his mates wanted to earn some cash in the holidays. Now he has a team of six teenage boys and it is growing. Moving away from promoting themselves as a cheapest, and instead focussing on running a business that employs energetic and enthusiastic hard-working teens has helped him grow an ever-stronger customer base.
The ‘we’ll do anything you need us to do’ gang gives Tyler a percentage of monies earned on any job. He runs the team to jobs and works as project manager and marketer. He’s about to attend a marketing boot camp with a range of adult business owners, and is creating a long-term plan for growth.
It’s uncertain if this business is a permanent career move for Tyler, or a stepping stone into other businesses, but there is no doubt he’s developing entrepreneurial skills.
Activities anyone can do to develop entrepreneurial skills
1. Take your children to work, talk work, and involve children in your job
If you are a business owner, get them involved early with simple administrative or cleaning tasks. My children started stuffing envelopes for me as a paid job as preschoolers. They still ask to do it now, in their teens.
2. Let them sell their wares
Help them develop a product that is sellable (so talk about quality control, and standards), and then let them sell it on a roadside stall, or via the Internet. My first stall at the age of 10 sold homemade chocolate. My daughters sold feijoas from the next door neighbour’s tree at the ages of four and six. Artistic children can upload work and sell prints on websites such as society6.com.
3. Make planning part of your life
Structure is important. Introduce the use of lists from an early age. Start with drawing the clothes they need to pack for grandma’s at the age of two for them to follow, and move to getting them to plan meals, do the grocery shopping (under your budget) and beyond. Any planning you can outsource to your children, do.
4. Stop pocket money
Instead of giving your children money for nothing (let’s face it, most of them don’t need it and if they do, what message are we giving them if they learn you just get something for nothing, every week), make lists of age-appropriate chores and if they mention a need or wish, remind them they can earn it by completing the prescribed jobs. Let them decide how much they want to have something, or save towards something.
5. Talk with a wide range of people
Not one of us holds all the answers. Give your child the opportunity to interact with a wide range of different people – different ages, ethnicities, lifestyles and economic backgrounds. Give them the chance to interact with people who will see ideas and concepts differently to you, so that they can enjoy other ways of thinking. Easy ways to do this include taking your children to play groups and community events. Encourage them to initiate discussion to answer their own curiosity.
6. Trade skills, connections and ideas
Your child may be fascinated by how machines work, but you have no idea. Give your child the opportunity to learn from others by finding experts for them to talk to and connect with, and perhaps even help out or work alongside. It is amazing how generous business owners and entrepreneurs can be when offered a keen child who wants to know more about what they do.
Be sure to also trade your skills and connections and ideas with your child for something they have (maybe an ability to do a chore). Teach them the law of return, and help them to develop a work ethic where they work for what they get (with the occasional treat for just the sake of their awesomeness thrown in).
Will doing all of this ensure you raise an entrepreneur? No – in the end we’re raising children who think for themselves, are confident and can solve their own problems, and they may decide working for someone else is best for them. What it will do, is create self-confident, creative and goal-orientated children who dream big, and know they can make their dreams come true themselves, without waiting for someone else to get it all for them. That’s a great gift to give any child.