As the CEO of a growing technology company, I have a lot of responsibility placed on my shoulders. I’m accountable to my team, clients, and investors, and I work hard every day to ensure that I’m looking out for their best interests.
However, these responsibilities pale in comparison to my role as a father. We all have a vocation in life, and mine is to care for and raise my family.
My number one job in life is to ensure that my son grows into an honest, faithful, and courageous man. In today’s world, this is easier said than done.
The times are a changin’
The world has changed dramatically since I was a child in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Our society is more connected, contentious, and confusing than ever before.
For past generations, the path to an upright and comfortable life seemed straightforward. You worked hard in school, went to college, and got a good job at a company that took care of you for the long-haul. Of course, this is no longer the case.
Parents can no longer assume that if you raise a decent child, he or she will be able to make their way in the world without too much trouble. In order to be successful in today’s competitive and often chaotic environment, you have to have a grit, intelligence, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
Cultivating these values in children from an early age will give them a strong advantage in years to come. Here are a few ways parents can encourage their children to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset.
Set the right example
I remember my mother use to remark that “little pitchers have big ears” whenever my siblings or I blurted out something that wasn’t necessarily age appropriate. The saying, of course, served as a reminder to herself and my father that kids pick up on everything.
That’s why it is so important that parents today demonstrate the value of entrepreneurship at home.
As an entrepreneur myself, I’m amazed at how much of my own behavior my son picks up on and emulates. He’s just six-year-old, but he comes up with “business plans” designed to solve problems he encounters. He knows how to negotiate, and always tries to trade value in exchange for the things he wants.
It’s important to note, however, that you don’t have to be a startup founder or small business owner to set a good example for your children; after all, entrepreneurship is an attitude, not an occupation.
Hard work, creativity, and grit are the key elements of the entrepreneurial spirit. Parents looking to instill these values in their children must demonstrate them in their actions by seeking creative solutions to problems, staying positive in the face of failure, and being a self-starter.
Introduce the concept of risk and reward early on
I’ve always believed that in order to understand the value of hard work, you must first have a fundamental understanding of risk and reward.
As modern parents, there is a temptation to shield children from risk but still offer up rewards. This, of course, is the essence of the much-maligned “helicopter parenting” style that is often to blame for the sense of entitlement and lack of accountability seen in many young people.
Parents must learn to resist the urge to shelter and instead help their children embrace a sense of realism. That’s why my wife and I have always worked to reinforce the relationship between risk and reward in our son.
Accomplishing this can by tricky. After all, there is a subtle yet important distinction between entrepreneurial risk and general risky behavior.
In order to make this distinction, we use the term “initiative” instead of risk. For our son, this means getting creative and taking proactive steps in order to get what he desires. It’s a risk, of course, because there’s no guarantee that it will pan out.
Encourage creativity and take ideas seriously
If you take the steps to build a solid entrepreneurial foundation for you child, they will start to come up with unique ideas of their own. More often than not, these ideas will be outlandish and hilarious.
Whatever you do, don’t discourage them. Take their ideas seriously, no matter how silly they may be.
My son once saw a homeless man on the street corner and asked my wife why he was just standing there. After learning what it meant to be homeless, he came up with an idea for a business called “Homeless Feeders.”
His grand idea was to raise money and provide food and shelter to the homeless in his area. Specifically, he wanted to provide them with “100 bananas, a rollaway bed, and $1 million.”
It was as adorable as it was nonsensical, but my wife and I were careful not to laugh. For a young mind, such a plan seems perfectly reasonable. We encouraged him to pursue the idea, and think through what he would need in order to accomplish it.
Of course, he quickly realized that it was a lot easier to give out bananas than it was million-dollar checks.
Today’s children will have to be entrepreneurial if they want to succeed in the economy of the future. And while the facts of entrepreneurship can be taught in school, the entrepreneurial spirit must be forged early on in order for it to take hold.