If you’ve been following my LinkedIn pieces, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been really into this new Q&A format. Every now and then a question will come up that I think is so engaging, and has such a valuable answer, that I’ll spin it out into its own piece. This one, sent in by Alicin Christensen prompted some serious thought from me, and so I wanted to give it the airtime it deserves:
What are the Top 3 most effective actions parents can take right now to prepare children for entrepreneurship in the Thank You Economy?
A lot of this comes down to two main ideas: Reacting and forcing. Reacting is the first thing you need to be doing and what that means is giving them rope. If your child is selling Pokemon cards in school, or setting up a lemon-aid stand, or picking flowers and selling them, and they’re only 8 years old, all you need to do is react to the fact that they’re already entrepreneurs and give them a lot of rope. What I mean by that is freedom, support, acknowledgement and building up as much steam behind those actions as you can.
In my situation, I clearly exhibited those tendencies early, and my mom was SUPER on point with her reactions. I got all the support I needed in those early days when she was driving me to baseball card shows and I was able to flourish because of it. Now when I was 14 and my dad pulled me into the family business to bag ice it may LOOK like he wasn’t supporting me, but I was totally aware of what the situation was. First off, I was basically vetted thanks to those early years. Second of all this was our store. I was ok with paying dues. Now I wouldn’t have been ok being sent off to A&P to bag ice, but I was mature enough at that point to understand that the hours I was putting in were going toward the engine that allowed us to eat at night.
On the flip side, if you don’t see those characteristics, first I would tell you to very careful about forcing entrepreneurship on someone who isn’t interested. Like anything else, the ‘body’ may reject the ‘organ’, so to speak. But if you want to expose the idea to them, one of the ways to nurture that spirit is to have them spent time with other entrepreneurs. So if there is a sibling, or cousin, or friend, or neighbor who exhibits those kind of entrepreneurial characteristics, you can encourage them to spend more time together and get involved in those kinds of things. Next, you can storytell around entrepreneurship, meaning you can glorify it. Whether it’s making them watch The Social Network, or reading them stories about lemon-aid stands, it’s all good exposure. Mainly, though, it’s all about reacting. I, as an entrepreneur through and through, have absolutely no intention of imposing entrepreneurship on my children.