Cultivating Entrepreneurial Skills In Your Children

The other day, a CEO I coach was dismayed by the lack of gratefulness his son displayed when he opened his gifts. The son told his father that he wanted the latest and most expensive pair of sneakers made by Nike and these gifts were not good enough. Shaking his head in sadness, my client asked me, “how do I teach my 10-year-old son to be grateful for what he receives?”

Instead of answering this question, I chose a different tactic. I decided that his son has the malady of many of our youth. The illness I am speaking of is a belief that they do not have to work for what they receive and that they expect to be given whatever they want. So our session turned into an exploration of helping his child develop an entrepreneurial mindset, which could ultimately open the door to being gracious for whatever he receives because he learned to work hard and earn his own way.

My client was interested yet skeptical. He looked at me asking, “Can you really teach your child the skills to become an entrepreneur?” The answer is yes. It is just a matter of how. I began by sharing with him my own story because stories are a good way to teach, piquing interest in both children and adults.

When I was five, I asked my father if I could have such and such, (I cannot recall what I wanted). He replied, “Well, what are you going to do to earn the money to purchase it?” I stared at him, and my mind became fired up trying to think of what it was I could do to make money. I was at a loss but kept trying to think of something.

One Saturday evening, I was sitting on the counter watching my father shine his shoes as he did every Saturday night. While he was rubbing, and brushing, I asked him if he could teach me how to shine his shoes. While teaching me, I asked him, “Will you pay me to shine your shoes every Saturday night?” He said yes, 25 cents a pair. I bargained with him and from that night on, I was paid 50 cents a pair.

Lesson and step number one: the first step towards becoming an entrepreneur is to be observant and see a need or a way to lessen a burden.   The second malaise afflicting most children hinders step one. They have their eyes downward with their noses in their smartphones playing games or texting rather than looking around and observing their surroundings, preventing them from finding a need.

The next story I shared was about another clients’ son who at the age of 10 began a dog walking business. His child wanted something rather expensive and my client told his son to find a way to earn it much like my father. Working with our children, we need them to struggle to come up with an idea themselves first and if at a loss, make suggestions that can help lead them to an idea. Children can create naturally and freely and challenging them to come up with their own solution exercises creative thinking.

In working with this son, it seemed everyone in the neighborhood had a dog. The child put up signs on every corner, offering dog-walking services. He made it easy by having his name and number written on the edge of his ad so that people could tear it off. His endeavor started off slow. He had to use some innovative thinking on how to acquire more business. He started asking for referrals. While building trust and respect, he then inquired if his current clients would like for him to let the dog out during the day and check on their food and water.

This youngster grew his business and services to such a degree that he opened a checking account and with the card reader, began taking credit cards making it easy for his clients to pay. A year later, his father told me that his son never asked for much, instead, he enjoyed earning money and being self-sufficient to purchase items he wanted or needed.

At the same time, this young entrepreneur declined many invitations to play-dates because of his successful endeavor. Becoming successful requires commitment, discipline, letting go of wants, and involves some form of suffering. The online dictionary defines suffering as the bearing of pain, inconvenience, or loss; pain endured; distress; suffering by want or by wrongs.

From these stories, we can outline the steps to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in our children:

  1. Questions fire up the creative mind. Challenge your child. Ask them what they can do to earn money for the items they want.
  2. Give guidance on becoming observant so they can discover a need.
  3. Instead of telling the child what to do, let them try to come up with an idea themselves. Let them struggle.
  4. If at a loss, lead them to an idea. We need their minds to be fired up and creative. Innovative thinking starts from a blank sheet, pondering, listening, observing, and waiting for inspiration.
  5. Teach them patience, encouraging more creative thinking to grow the business.
  6. Allow them to endure some form of suffering through discipline and being committed.
  7. Be encouraging and celebrate their successes.

We need to look at the origin of the two maladies that I have mentioned. As with any illness, there is a source and that source is the adults. From my perspective, the adults can prevent these afflictions by engaging more with children, sparking their active imagination and innovative thinking. Shifting their focus away from their smartphones enables them to be observant, moving them in the direction towards success and being self-sufficient. When they can think on their own and learn to work hard, then gratitude should naturally fall into place.

Contact me today for a complimentary one and a half hour powerful coaching session. And remember, Success Starts With You.

Please share your thoughts and comments to deepen the exploration of this topic. Thank you.

Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda is a select Columnist & Featured Contributor for BIZCATALYST 360° and a Member of the Forbes Coaches Council (comprised of Top coaches offering insights on leadership development & careers). Prior to executive coaching and leadership development, Melinda has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for almost 20 years. She leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness. Owner and founder of Success Starts with You, is based upon the premise that you are already successful. Increasing self-awareness to increase emotional intelligence and unlocking blind spots are paramount to continued success. Melinda uses assessments to help bring more awareness. Whether you are a leader or manager in transition, need a thought partner, or need to improve your professional presence, Melinda has developed unique and innovative techniques from her background to help you reach higher heights. Melinda received her Ph.D. in Jungian Psychology from Saybrook University and her Masters in Psychology from Pacifica University. Melinda has worked as a consultant with executives and businesses for over 20 years. As a result of her experience and studies, she has developed a unique craft to fine-tune leadership development for peak performance. She lives in Colorado with her big, beautiful dog, Stryder.
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Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

Melinda: I had a similar learning experience. There was this top of the line bike in the window of Montgomery Ward. I really wanted that bike. My dad said he would pay for half, but I had to earn the other half. I got a job setting pins in the local bowling alley and in due time I had my half. I proudly marched in to buy the bike of my dreams, only to find that I was 3 cents short due to miscalculating the sales tax.

The salesman smiled at me and said, “Young man, I’ve seen you looking in the window at that bike for weeks. I’ll put in the 3 cents. I rode my prize home and told my parents about the 3 cents. They said that when I got paid next week I must give the salesman his 3 cents back. “One must always pay one’s debts” was the second lesson.

Far to few kids have been taught those lessons in recent times. Sad.

Jane Anderson

This article is a goldmine for parents and other adults brave enough to ask the right questions and present the challenges while not backing down when the child objects. As parents we know the value of training our children (grandchildren), but we don’t have the courage to enforce the ideas and stay the course.

Chris Pehura
Chris Pehura

Kids, unless they had to make and spend their own money, are not used to making the choice to get one thing over another, or sacrifice one thing over another. Getting them to make that choice when getting toys, choosing movies, or things they want to do and they’ll be more ready to make those serious choices.

Larry Tyler

Very Powerful article. I fear our children walk a much different path. I can only hope that we can learn new ways to teach them.

Yvonne A. Jones

These are excellent lessons that would help in removing the attitude of entitlement so many young ones have today. The sad truth is that by failing to instill these values in children when they’re young, they grow up thinking that everything should come easy, and so they’re unprepared to deal with the challenges that arise in the ‘real’ world.

Thank you for an excellent article.



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