Entrepreneurship is quite a buzzword nowadays. It’s the dream of many youngsters, who are preferring the career path of creating a startup over a traditional job. However, it’s not just a buzzword.
Entrepreneurship is actually a skill, a way of thinking that enables people to be risk-takers and innovative thinkers. In fact, a lot of this thinking can be inculcated early in childhood, as we see many business families do for their kids.
As I’ve stepped into the role of a father recently, I’ve also begun to think more about why entrepreneurial thinking is important to impart to my children, and how that can be done.
The Entrepreneur’s Life
A large majority of people are happy doing a job and don’t aspire for an entrepreneurial journey, however, it’s often the circumstances which often lead you to take an entrepreneur route. The point that I’m trying to make is that children should be mentored in such a way that they should solely not depend upon a job for their livelihood. If circumstances arise, they should be confident enough to walk the entrepreneurial path.
Secondly, being an entrepreneur allows for greater flexibility and control over your work-life balance. An entrepreneur creates jobs and contributes significantly to a country’s economy. This can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life overall.
Finally, entrepreneurship fosters creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly faced with new challenges and obstacles that require you to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. This kind of thinking can be valuable not just in business, but in all aspects of life.
Of course, entrepreneurship is a much tougher path compared to a job, and not meant for everyone, and there are risks involved. It requires a lot of hard work and perseverance. However, I believe that encouraging children to explore the possibilities of entrepreneurship can open up a world of opportunities and lead to a more fulfilling, exciting career path.
Why Should Kids Aim to Become an Entrepreneur
The Need of the Post-AI Generation
We’re already seeing a lot of AI tools nowadays, for everything from coding to art to customer service. In the post-AI era, traditional jobs will no longer be the safe career option for the next generation. Gen-Z and Gen Alpha will have to rely on their creativity, flexibility, and innovative skills, whether it is to create their own business or get a job.
The Hard Life Lessons
Raising children to become entrepreneurs is actually a challenging endeavor, especially for non-entrepreneur parents. However, it can help children develop valuable skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Other than career, these skills can also be applied to other areas of life.
When a child starts their own business, they get a sense of independence and responsibility. They have to manage their time, resources, and finances. This can help them develop a sense of accountability, self-discipline, and leadership skills. They also learn how to handle failure and setbacks, which is an important life lesson.
Entrepreneurship offers a path to financial freedom that can be hard to achieve through traditional employment. By creating a business, children can generate income and build wealth. This can provide them with a sense of financial security and independence.
School Life vs. Real World Needs
Schools in our educational system rarely teach or impart knowledge that leads to financial understanding of our society, for example, rarely students are taught topics like income tax, tax saving instruments, citizen rights, etc. In fact, schools are designed to deliver the opposite and teach boring subjects that have little application in the real world. One of the main reasons is that educational institutions are designed to make children confirmative and obedient.
However, out-of-the-box thinking is what gets one rewarded in real life, and out-of-the-box thinking requires operating beyond the boundary wall of “the box”. Parents should thus support their child’s entrepreneurial journey by encouraging their creativity, providing guidance, and being a source of encouragement and inspiration.
Finally, The Confidence, The Fulfillment
Firstly, entrepreneurship offers the potential for unlimited income and personal fulfillment. As an entrepreneur, you have the ability to create something from scratch and see it grow and prosper. While a corporate job may offer stability and a steady paycheck, there is often a limit to how much you can earn, and the work can become stagnant and unfulfilling over time.
One should also realize that a job is not a permanent thing and doesn’t guarantee a steady income as people imagine. A job is great in the short term financially, however in the long run if you have been able to create a business you would be in a much more rewarding position not only in financial terms but also in terms of personal health and satisfaction. This is something that is very difficult for someone to grasp unless one has been on both sides of the grass.
As someone who has experience in both the corporate world and as an entrepreneur, I believe there are compelling reasons why parents should encourage their children to become entrepreneurs rather than pursue a traditional corporate job.
Entrepreneurial Qualities that can be Inculcated at an Early Age
Entrepreneurship is not just a career choice; it is a mindset that can be developed at an early age. As a parent, it’s important to instill certain qualities in your children that can help them become successful entrepreneurs. Here are some of the entrepreneurial qualities that children should be encouraged to develop:
- Curiosity: Encouraging children to be curious about the world around them can help them develop a keen sense of observation, and the ability to identify problems and opportunities.
- Analytical thinking and ability to challenge the status quo: Children should be encouraged to think critically and question the norms. This can help them identify innovative solutions to problems.
- Asking why: The most strict parents and teachers often tell their kids to not ask questions, which can curb their curiosity. By asking why, children can develop a deeper understanding of the world around them and develop a natural curiosity for learning.
- Risk-taking ability: Encouraging children to take calculated risks and embrace failure can help them build resilience and overcome obstacles.
- Creativity and thinking out of the box: Developing creativity can help children identify innovative solutions to problems and stand out from the crowd.
- Innovation: Encouraging children to think innovatively and explore new ideas can help them identify new opportunities and create value.
- Handling uncertainty: Entrepreneurship is full of uncertainty and children should be encouraged to embrace uncertainty and learn how to handle it effectively.
- Keeping cool under pressure: Being able to keep a cool head in high-pressure situations is an important skill for any entrepreneur. Children can develop this skill through practice and exposure to challenging situations.
- Leadership vs teamwork: Children should be encouraged to develop both leadership and teamwork skills. These skills can help them build strong relationships and work effectively with others.
- First principle thinking: Encouraging children to break down complex problems into their fundamental principles can help them develop a deeper understanding of the problem and identify innovative solutions.
Instilling these qualities in your children, you can help them develop the mindset and skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs. Next, I’ll get into how these qualities can be inculcated in children. Remember, entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business, it’s about developing a mindset that can help children excel in any field they choose to pursue.
How Society Discourages Entrepreneurship
Our society and education system discourage entrepreneurship rather than reward it. Society has a tendency to prioritize conformity and risk avoidance over innovation and entrepreneurship. Parents and schools often perpetuate this mentality by focusing on grades, standardized test scores, and following rules rather than encouraging creativity and risk-taking. Here are some ways in which this mentality is perpetuated and how we can shift our approach:
In many schools and households, mistakes and failures are seen as shameful and should be avoided at all costs. This mentality is problematic as it discourages children from taking risks and trying new things, which is a fundamental aspect of entrepreneurship. Instead, we should reward children for taking risks and trying new things, regardless of the outcome. This way, they will learn that failures are opportunities for growth and learning, rather than a source of shame.
In schools, there is often a rigid curriculum that leaves little room for creativity and innovation. Students are expected to follow a set of rules and learn a specific set of information, rather than being encouraged to think critically and solve problems creatively. A rigid curriculum discourages children to think for themselves. By allowing more flexibility in the curriculum, students will have more opportunities to explore their interests and come up with innovative solutions to problems.
Overemphasis on Testing
Standardized testing has become a central focus in many schools, which means that teachers are often teaching to the test rather than focusing on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This emphasis on testing can stifle creativity and innovation, as students are not encouraged to think beyond the material that will be on the test. Instead, we should be rewarding students for their critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities, even if it does not align with the content that will be tested.
Lack of Exposure to Entrepreneurship
Many students are not exposed to the world of entrepreneurship until later in life. This lack of exposure can lead to a lack of understanding about what it means to be an entrepreneur and the potential benefits of taking risks and starting a business. By providing more opportunities for students to interact with entrepreneurs and learn about entrepreneurship, we can shift the focus from risk avoidance to risk-taking.
It is thus important to shift our approach from punishing risk-taking and failure to rewarding these qualities. By doing so, we can create a culture that values innovation and entrepreneurship, which will benefit our society as a whole.
Recommended Hobbies for Kids to Inculcate Entrepreneurial Qualities
Encouraging children to pursue useful hobbies and activities that promote an entrepreneurial mindset can have a significant impact on their personal and professional development. Here are some creative thinking exercises, hobbies, and parent-child activities that can help inculcate these entrepreneurial qualities in children:
Let them Create their Own Games
Or bend existing games’ rules. By creating their own small games or projects, children can learn how to identify problems, come up with solutions, and implement their ideas.
Parents can encourage their children to pursue entrepreneurial projects, and participate in a fair by setting up a stall, such as starting a lemonade stand, selling handmade crafts, or launching a small online or offline business. These projects can help children get an early understanding of finance. They will also develop skills such as creativity, problem-solving, risk-taking, and decision-making.
I remember participating in my school fair along with my friends in 6th grade. It’s one of my most memorable experiences of all time since it was for the first time we were responsible for something big. That experience gave me a sense of purpose and courage to take up greater challenges in real life.
Cooking not only helps children develop their culinary skills but also promotes creativity, innovation, and risk-taking. Cooking is all about patience and it’s one of the most important life skills one needs to develop. Parents can encourage their children to experiment with new recipes and ingredients and involve them in meal planning and preparation.
Coding and Robotics
In the times of AI, kids need to be aware of the fundamentals of technology around them. Learning coding and robotics can help children develop analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a mindset of continuous learning. Parents can encourage their children to participate in coding competitions, robotics workshops, and STEM programs. Also try robot kits and robot-building sets.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts activities, such as painting, drawing, sculpting, and knitting, help children develop their creativity, imagination, and fine motor skills. Parents can provide their children with art supplies and encourage them to express their ideas and emotions through art.
For example, my wife started making handmade class magazines in 6th grade by inviting article submissions from her classmates. This became a hobby, and later on, her career, when we created Shilpa Ahuja Media.
Sports activities promote teamwork, leadership, discipline, and perseverance. My biggest learning from competitive sports is that one develops grit in their character. You may lose in a competition, but what is more important is not giving up.
Competitive sports are great teachers, as you learn to accept failure, thus making one mentally stronger. Many times we shy away from competing for fear of failure, and this trait is much more dangerous than losing. Parents thus need to encourage their children to participate in competitive team sports, such as soccer, basketball, and baseball, or individual sports, such as swimming, gymnastics, cycling, and martial arts.
Student Clubs & Team Projects
Let your kids participate in, or start their own student clubs. Encourage them to go for public speaking and do team projects like starting a podcast, planning a school event, etc. This will increase their confidence and let them find useful activities they enjoy.
Appreciate Their Efforts
To reward these entrepreneurial qualities, parents and schools should adopt a growth mindset approach that focuses on effort, learning, and progress rather than achievement and results. Parents can praise their children for taking risks, trying new things, and learning from mistakes, and providing constructive feedback and support.
Schools can design curriculum and assessments that promote critical thinking, creativity, and innovation, and provide opportunities for students to work on real-world problems and projects.
In conclusion, instilling entrepreneurial qualities in children from an early age can benefit them in multiple ways. These qualities can help them become more confident, independent, innovative, and successful in their careers and personal lives. To develop these skills, parents and schools should encourage children to be curious, analytical, risk-takers, and creative thinkers.
Parents can facilitate this process by engaging in activities that promote problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership skills. These activities can include building with Legos, creating a lemonade stand, or participating in a startup weekend. Additionally, extracurricular activities like robotics, coding, and entrepreneurship clubs can help children learn skills like critical thinking, marketing, and financial planning.
Overall, it is essential to remember that developing entrepreneurial skills is not just about starting a business. It is about cultivating a mindset that values innovation, creativity, and taking calculated risks. With the right guidance and support, children can learn to be self-starters and leaders who can make a positive impact on the world. So, start early, be creative, and foster a love for learning and entrepreneurship in your child.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He has extensive experience in international business and currently an independent consultant for steel tube, consumer goods and retail industry.
He is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.