Cultivating Self Starter Skills
Many of us dream of raising a child who is a self starter.
Someone who thinks outside the box, creatively solves problems and can stand on their own two feet: emotionally, socially and financially.
Entrepreneurs have been having their moment in the sun for decades now, and as the member of a family of serial entrepreneurs, I’ve been lucky enough to have front row seats to some of the qualities that are embodied by this group of people.
I’ve given some thought to what can encourage these characteristics in kids but I do need to make a disclaimer here:
- I believe in following the child. I believe children have the right to their own path, their own dreams and their own fulfillment, so none of this is designed to manipulate children into a particular lifestyle or career choice.
- I believe all children are creative. This is about supporting their own process, not inflicting our needs or living vicariously.
- This isn’t just for entrepreneurs. These qualities are important, regardless of the career path the child eventually chooses. Entrepreneurial spirit, to me, is about resilience, creativity, resourcefulness (and hopefully compassion!) – this is necessary for all of our salaried friends in equal measure, even if these qualities are less emphasized in that way of life.
- This is not about making money (although no shame in that!) it’s about so much more. It’s about a can-do approach to life and fulfillment. It’s about seeing a vision through to actualization and feeling empowered in our ability to make things happen.
8 Ways to Support Your Little Entrepreneurs
- Encourage a wide range of curiosity and lifelong learning. Entrepreneurs are always learning. They’re usually the kinds of people who will be heart-and-soul invested in what they care about, and flunk the subjects that don’t hold their attention. While grit is a quality that’s important to all human endeavors, grit can only take hold where there’s passion. So allow your children to explore a wide range of interests, to dabble, to experiment and to quit what doesn’t strike their fancy. When they’re truly interested in something – and you’ll know when they are – it’s time to get gritty and overcome obstacles. This is where the life-long-learning comes in. Entrepreneurs don’t let hurdles stop them, they overcome them through learning new skills and stretching their capacity.
- Rethink your approach to failure and mistakes. Any entrepreneur worth her weight in power point decks will tell you, she learned more from her failures than from her successes. Failure is an important step to any creative process. Our best lessons are from mistakes. Use failures as a learning opportunity… what went wrong? What might we do differently? See them as sketches, as drafts, as rehearsals for the next breakthrough. Don’t praise them for just showing up (you don’t need to coddle their self esteem, failure doesn’t detract from your worth). Rather, deconstruct what wasn’t working with them.
- Get comfortable with risk. Entrepreneurs are called upon to take social, emotional, and financial risks and be comfortable putting important things on the line… such as their pride, privacy or savings. Childhood is the perfect time to take low-stakes risks – educational, physical or social – and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Encourage them to climb that tree, to speak to the kid they never met, to ask a question that sounds dumb. The only failure is in never having tried.
- Focus on effective problem solving. Entrepreneurs find their callings through the problems they want to solve, and their confidence in their ability to solve those problems. So whenever a problem arises, big or small, here’s your chance to practice problem solving skills. Sibling rivalry? Hmmmm… what can be done? We’re running late in the morning? Huh, how might you solve this problem? No dumb answers, just brainstorm freely and exercise that thinking cap.
- Focus on kindness. Entrepreneurs are out to change the world. They’re driven by ambition, drive and an urge to make change and see success. But those who channel these extraordinary energies to do good in the world are the ones who really make a positive difference. Starting a business is the perfect place to embody your values and how you want to see people (and the earth) treated. Teach your kids that it’s awesome to make money, and it’s also awesome to give money. That it’s wonderful to design new things and that how those things are produces matters.
- Find creative business opportunities. Unfortunately it’s increasingly difficult to find business opportunities for children in many parts of the world (North America, you know who you are!). But get creative and let your kids know that working for money is an option! Deliver newspapers, feed/walk dogs, create and sell jewelry, teach private lessons, photograph events… the sky is the limit but they need adult support. Even within your own home you might find extra jobs like cleaning the car or fixing household items that you may be willing to pay for (doesn’t have to be market value, family gets a discount ;).
- Learn responsibility. Starting a business is a way to learn to take ownership of many different moving parts. Help them own the entire process, from buying the materials, keeping them in good order, remembering their bag, to marketing their product, counting their change, and customer service. This is, of course, a great opportunity to learn real life math as well… budgeting, pricing and change.
- Find apprenticeship ops. It’s sad that this is no longer the modus operandi of learning, but learning from shadowing and watching an experienced adult is one of the best ways to learn (sorry, textbooks). So if you can find opportunities to show your children the behind-the-scenes of work, any work, do it!
I’d love to hear your tips for encouraging our little entrepreneurial spirits! Let me know in the comments below.