Children are full of creativity and ambition. As parents, we can easily stifle these features if we aren’t careful. So if your child comes to you wanting to start a business, it’s important that you take a step back and look at the big picture.
The Benefits of Entrepreneurship for Kids
Entrepreneurship is one of those things that every child should be exposed to from a young age. It offers a number of well-rounded and practical benefits, such as:
- Better work ethic. While most kids are sprawled out on the sofa playing video games, kids who start businesses are learning the value of hard work (and the rewards of putting energy and effort into something constructive).
- Appreciation for money. It’s impossible to have a realistic appreciation for money if you aren’t the one earning it. When a child starts a business, they realize how much work goes into earning a dollar. As a result, they’re more likely to be responsible stewards of the money they have.
- Improved people skills. You can’t run a business without interacting with different people. Whether it’s selling something door-to-door, partnering with other businesses to sell a product, or hiring people to work for you, running a business nurtures people skills in ways that most children aren’t exposed to until young adulthood.
- Greater creativity. There’s nothing easy about starting and growing a business, particularly in the early stages. Not only do you have to come up with a product idea, but you also have to deal with setbacks and learn to pivot. This forces children to think creatively about problems that most kids would just move on from.
These are just a few of the benefits. Truth be told, learning entrepreneurship from a young age teaches you to be a better balanced person and professional. It teaches you success and failure, which pushes you to be better in every area of life. And the younger a child learns this, the more likely they are to be successful in the future.
How to Help Without Getting in the Way
Most parents are totally fine letting their children start a little business. The problem is that well-intentioned parents often feel the need to step in and control things. And before they know it, they’re taking over the business and telling the kid what to do. This sucks the fun and creativity out of the venture, which could actually turn the kid away from ever wanting to start a business in the future.
It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’d never do that!” But it happens pretty quickly. One minute you go from helping, and the next minute you’re calling the shots and telling your child what is and isn’t possible.
The challenge lies in steering your child in a good direction, while still giving them room to succeed or fail on their own. Here are several tips:
- Let Your Child Lead. Your child is calling the shots, not you. Unless it’s illegal, immoral, or harmful to their health, let them pursue it. And here’s the toughest part: You have to let them do it, even if you know they’re destined for failure.
- Come Up With an Action Plan. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban suggests children and parents come up with an “action plan” together. This action plan lays out key details like how many hours you’ll work per week, what the product is, potential costs, etc. It’s basically an unofficial business plan.
- Encourage Creativity. Kids are more creative than most adults. If you let them, they can thrive with things like product innovation and marketing. For example, kids can easily design a cheap booklet and print a few copies to hand out to neighbors and other potential customers when starting a brand new business (such as selling baked goods, lawn care, or dog sitting services).
- Ask Good Questions. Try to avoid being the “no” person who is constantly shutting down ideas and stifling their creative energy. Instead, ask lots of questions until the child has enough clarity to make wise choices.
Give Your Child a Running Start
Your number one goal in all of this is to give your child a running start so that they have every chance to be successful. However, you are not responsible for their “success” – nor should you try to force it. By holding their hand and encouraging them to lead the way, you’ll teach them all of the lessons they need. It’s rarely about making this business idea successful.
Instead, look through a 10-, 20-, or 30-year lens. This perspective will change everything.