How to Raise Children That Become Entrepreneurs
By Lauren Hidden
Ever since my kids can remember, I’ve worked from home. Sometimes I have to remind them that I’m not sitting home playing with their toys or eating bon-bons when they’re at the babysitter or at school, but for the most part they “get it”. As they get older and are able to comprehend dinner table conversations, they are developing a business vocabulary: tax write-off, clients, firing clients, blogs, podcasts, etc. Now I’m starting to get hammered with questions like, “Why do you have clients and Daddy has co-workers? Why does Daddy work in an office and you work at home?”
At 4 and 6 years old, my sons are already noticing the differences between employees and entrepreneurs. I can’t help but wonder if they too will become entrepreneurs several years from now. Certainly they see some of the benefits–more flexible schedules (Mommy can get them on and off the bus in the morning and afternoon), no commuting costs (mommy doesn’t complain about the price of gas), mommy can watch school plays, help with kidwriting at kindergarten, chauffer them to doctor appointments and speech therapy sessions, and stay home with them if they’re sick without it being a major inconvenience.
I hope that as they grow up, they’ll be able to see the hard work and rewards that come with being an entrepreneur. I’d like them to be able to spend more time doing activities they enjoy, spend time with their family and friends and spend their working hours doing something they love. So how do we, as entrepreneurs, encourage our children to take the path of entrepreneurial freedom?
Entrepreneurial Lesson Number One: Have Your Kids Help with Your Business: Even young kids can help you with very simple business tasks. A 3 or 4 year old can put some outgoing letters in the mailbox and raise the flag. A 5 or 6 year old can help you weigh a package on a home scale and tell you the reading (be sure to double-check for accuracy). Young kids can help pick up the house before a client stops by your home, accompany you on trips to the office supply store and post office. Be sure to tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Older children can help with filing and fulfilling orders, responsible teenagers can be taught to screen and respond to customer email or answer your business phone. If they have a knack for numbers, they could even help you with balancing your books.
Entrepreneurial Lesson Number Two: Encourage Children to Take Risks: I’m not talking about allowing your children to jump off a 20 foot wall just to see what happens. But “no” should not be the most common word in your vocabulary. If your child wants to try something new, let them try it, even if you think it will fail. It doesn’t matter if your child is the shortest one in the class and wants to try out for the basketball team, or wants to make a peanut butter and bologna sandwich that will definitely taste awful. Let them try and learn from their own efforts.
Haven’t you had some failed experiments in your business? I have. These periodic failures may knock you down, but don’t you get back up and try again? Teach your kids to do the same, and they will be on their way to developing an entrepreneurial spirit.
Entrepreneurial Lesson Number Three: Give Your Kids a Financial Education: As soon as your kids are old enough, start teaching them about money. Let them know that as employees, they can pretty much expect the same paycheck week after week with modest increases until they retire. But as an entrepreneur, they are in control of their own financial future. How hard and smart they work will directly affect their immediate income and their long-term wealth.
Teach your kids the amazing power of residual income. Whether it’s a photo they take for a stock photography website or a book they write and sell 10,000 copies of, they can learn that they don’t have to trade an hour of their time for an hour’s worth of pay. They can do something once, and reap the rewards for years to come.
Teach your kids that there is profit and loss in business. Not every dollar you make can be spent. Some needs to be invested back into your business, some goes to taxes, and some needs to go to your employees’ salaries (if applicable). Show them your quarterly statements. Show them the difference between your gross and net income. All these money lessons will serve them well over the years, even if they choose not to be entrepreneurs.
Despite your best efforts, your kids still might decide to become corporate drones. You’ll love them anyway. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll have an extra sense of satisfaction if they take control of their own destiny and become entrepreneurs or business owners just like mom or pop. So while they’re young, answer their questions, teach them the vocabulary, get them involved, and encourage them to take appropriate risks and not be afraid of failure. You’ll both be glad you did.
Lauren Hidden is an author, blogger, and owner of The Hidden Helper, an editorial services firm. To read her blog, visit www.hiddenhelper.com.