by Zeynep Ilgaz
When I was a child, the most valuable lessons my mom taught me involved running a business. During the summer months, she made me responsible for manning the cash register at her toy store, driving sales, and even overseeing staff.
The experience nurtured my passion for running a business, managing people, and building something out of nothing. If it weren’t for this experience, I don’t know if I would have ever developed the love of entrepreneurship I have today.
Yes, imagining your child running a business is terrifying, but it’s never too early to start learning entrepreneurial skills. In fact, in a June 2009 report, nearly half of employers surveyed felt grades K-12 presented the best time to learn entrepreneurship, rather than in college or on the job.
Teaching your children about goal setting, innovation, and smart money management at a young age can set them up for success in the future, no matter what path they choose.
8 Ways You Can Nurture Your Child’s Entrepreneurial Mind
There are infinite ways to begin planting the seeds of entrepreneurship in your children’s minds that don’t involve pulling them out of summer camp to attend a hackathon. Here are a few ideas:
1. Setting Goals
Goal setting is important at every stage of our lives — especially for entrepreneurs. Teaching your children how to set and accomplish goals is not only constructive, but fun, too.
Every morning at the breakfast table, our family talks about our goals for the day. For our 10-year-old, it could be preparing for a test or performing an act of kindness. One of my 5-year-old’s goals this morning was to learn how to count to 100. Then, at dinner, we tell each other about the goals we were able to accomplish that day. It’s a great way to stay connected and motivate each other.
2. Spotting Opportunities
Failing to recognize opportunities as they arise stops many of us from reaching our full potential. Entrepreneurship is all about finding the right opportunity at the right time and acting on it.
The best way to teach children to identify and seize opportunities is to praise and encourage them when they try new things. It’s a skill that will benefit them for years to come.
This skill is relevant to so many industries and careers. From selling products and services to customers to raising capital to presenting your brand and personality, you can’t get far in business without the power of persuasion.
Participating in fun, low-pressure activities, such as running a lemonade stand or selling Girl Scout cookies, will get kids in the practice of selling in a way they’ll really enjoy.
4. Learning Teamwork
Working and collaborating with others is one of the most critical skills for running a successful business. Teamwork brings diversity of experience and knowledge that helps you achieve business goals that much faster.
Teamwork can be learned and enjoyed at a very early age. Team sports, like soccer and baseball, and group projects for school are excellent activities to encourage. Your family should also be a team, working as a unit to accomplish shared goals.
Good communication is essential in entrepreneurship and personal relationships.
Encourage your children to keep eye contact when speaking, speak clearly rather than mumble, and express what they need instead of throwing tantrums or pouting. Make sure you set a good example by letting them talk without interrupting and expressing your needs openly and honestly.
6. Giving Back
Giving back to those less fortunate is something I value in business. Giving kids the opportunity to give back at an early age helps them stay humble in the face of success and appreciate what they have.
As a family, we try to contribute by donating clothes and toys to homeless shelters. You can also inspire your children by familiarizing them with successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who have devoted time and money to helping others.
7. Managing Money
Entrepreneurs must be able to manage money effectively. Cash is king. It’s what keeps the door open. If you teach your kids to manage their own money from an early age, you will help them develop financial wisdom that will benefit them for years.
I recommend opening a savings account for your children and helping them add to their savings. Every week, my son comes with me to make a deposit. He loves seeing the amount of money he’s saved.
Innovation and creativity are serious competitive advantages in business, and they can be taught at an early age. Whether it’s a piece of artwork or a science project, let your kids experiment and express their creativity.
Take them to meet local business owners, as well as to museums, the theater, and other fun outings that let them observe new things. Kids are sponges, and absorbing these new experiences early in life will make them more well-rounded and creative in the future.
Cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset can help your children in so many areas of their lives. By teaching them good communication, money smarts, and other important life skills at an early age, they’ll grow up ready to hit the ground running in the workforce or start their own business. You never know: Today’s knee-high lemonade stand proprietor could be tomorrow’s Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg.