We all want our children to be the best they can be. Here’s how you can raise a kid with an entrepreneurial spirit – one that takes guts and a totally different mindset.
WORDS CHERIE TSENG
An entrepreneurial spirit can be loosely understood as the special something that takes a person on a path not quite charted. It is essentially about thinking and doing something not done before, or in the same manner as previously done – in order to achieve the desired outcome. And in some way, all of us have a little bit of that even if we tend to think in terms of famous entrepreneurship successes like Amazon, Dell and Facebook.
How then can we begin to imbue that in our children? Here are several ways we as parents can encourage our children to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset:
Model the Way
Several years ago, I was in the car with my then pretty young sons, and no thanks to an errant car that cut in front of me suddenly, I swore. And, of course, of the many things that I say to them in a day, they remember the contraband word.
Thus it is important for parents to demonstrate the value of entrepreneurship at home. You could book a small charity booth that you can helm with your children over the holidays – it’s a friendly yet meaningful way for your children to experience running a small business. Take a page out of the movies and let older kids run car washes, lemonade stalls and such to try and make money.
If they are passionate about a cause, use that to inspire them to think
of ways to raise funds and keep pace with them.
Inculcate Delayed Gratification
In the famous marshmallow test in self-control and delayed gratification, four-year-old children were informed that they could eat the marshmallow presented in front of them at that moment, or wait 15 minutes and receive an additional marshmallow. Many opted to eat the candy right there and then, and a small number manage to wait the full quarter of the hour earning that extra reward. The longitudinal study found that the latter group fared better in the long run with better emotional coping skills and higher SAT scores.
What most don't realise is that many of those that passed the marshmallow temptation used strategies taught by the researchers leading the team to conclude: (preschoolers) tended to wait longer when they were given effective strategies. In other words: delayed gratification can be taught and learnt.
This can be done using several strategies: first, de-emphasise reward. Instead of saying "if you are quiet, I'd give you a lollipop” where said lollipop is foremost on their minds. Second, teach them positive distraction like showing them how they can otherwise fill their time, so you could say something like "why don't you make up a song about the fruits we see".
Risk and Reward
It is normal for parents to want to minimise risk for our children, yet offer up rewards. This – common with the fewer kids that modern parents have today, is often to blamed for the sense of entitlement and lack of accountability seen in what society calls the "strawberry generation".
Parents, instead, need to learn to help their children develop a healthy sense of realism
and one way is to build the risk and reward link for them.
My sons are Pokemon card players and ever so often they receive brand new booster packs that they would love to rip open right away. We disallow that – of course, and they only get to open a pack after they have fulfilled their chores and they have to beat mummy (an adept player herself) in order to earn a pack. They get as many trial games with me as they want – like warm up rounds and then they get to decide when the "real" game happens. Depending on their risk appetite, they can choose to fight my entry level deck or my high-level deck which have a better booster pack exchange rate.
Encourage Them to be Creative
Tesla, Facebook, Uber and Netflix were not mainstream ideas. In fact, the best entrepreneurial ideas never start out as quite too logical. One of the best things about kids is that they think in outlandish and sometimes downright hilarious terms. And the usual response from parents when our kids bring these ideas to us is to merely patronise them, or dismiss them or "help" them downtune their ideas into something more logical and mainstream because crazy does not quite compute. Instead, be mindful about encouraging them to think of big audacious things. And when they do, do not discourage them. Take their ideas seriously.
Today's children will almost surely need to develop an entrepreneurial mind and spirit in order to stay competitive in the economy of the future. Schools have already hopped on the bandwagon and incorporated entrepreneurship into their school curriculum so children will know the facts of entrepreneurship, but the spirit of entrepreneurship needs to be inculcated at home from a young age for it to be second nature to them indeed.