Entrepreneurial kids – parents should lead by example

Researchers have long understood that parental involvement deeply shapes a child’s personal, intellectual, emotional, and academic development. After all, most young children spend an enormous amount of time with their parents and guardians. It probably feels like much more, but in reality, kids spend less than 15% of their time in school.

New research also shows parents play a huge influence in determining a child’s work ethic and habits. This means that how you talk to your kids about your work and job, including your satisfaction (or lack thereof) with it, directly shapes the ideas about work that your children are likely to adopt.

Research also shows that conversation itself gives kids an advantage. Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education found that parental conversation shapes “academic socialization,” setting kids’ expectations, and helping them draw connections between current behaviour and future goals.

In the end, many entrepreneurs say the most important thing that inspired and motivated them to achieve entrepreneurial success is the influence they had from their parents. They learned most of what they know from their parents who led by example.

How to teach:

  • Always practice what you preach. Your kids are looking up to you. When you tell your kids to work hard and learn from their mistakes, show them that you also work hard and learn from your mistakes. When you tell them to be patient and respectful, be patient and respectful yourself. You are your children’s biggest role model and will likely remain so their whole lives.
  • Parents need to be conscious about the messages they send. When you love your work, it doesn’t seem like work.
  • Bring them into your world. Hire your children. If you are an entrepreneur yourself, let your child explore the different areas of your business and develop a genuine interest, but don’t force your vision on your kids and allow them to try something new if they want.
  • Think about all that you wish you knew before you started a business… Now, take this opportunity to empower your child, teen or young adult with all the information, opportunities and skills you wished you had, so that they can bypass the pitfalls and speed up their success!
  • Explain to your kids how your business works—the same way you’d explain other things they don’t understand. Share how and where you find business opportunities. Make a family game of encouraging them to look at situations and imagine what it would take to make improvements.
  • Talk about what you’re learning and why that matters. Demonstrate the importance of never-ending self-education by living it. Let your kids see you reading books, listening to podcasts, taking courses, or doing research, and involve them in it; explain what ideas and skills you’re picking up and why they interest you.
  • Be candid about the reality of the day-to-day journey, no matter what business you’re in. The sexy startup story we often hear about—quick, massive rounds of funding and lucrative exits—can give kids a false impression of the long, incremental, arduous process of starting and running a business. The whole ‘work/making money’ thing might look pretty easy – not the case.
  • Be open and honest with your kids about all the financial decisions or lifestyle changes (age appropriately, of course) that come with pursuing your own ventures. Tell them about personal and financial sacrifices you’ve made, how you decided to make them, and what they’re worth to you.
  • The point isn’t necessarily to encourage kids to become entrepreneurs themselves. It’s to teach them the values that enable it. In any career you need to embrace hard work, creativity, and, above all, passion.
  • Show the kids what bad customers or bad employees look like so they learn the difference in traits between good and bad customers / employees.
  • If you don’t personally identify with the term “entrepreneur,” don’t talk yourself out of facilitating these experiences for your child. Ask for help – we all know someone that has his/her own business. Most entrepreneurs are glad to give advice and share their experiences.