Wouldn’t it be nice if your son grew up to be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are not just for-profit business founders. They are resilient, hardworking people who start something, come up with ideas and bring them to life, and turn passion into projects.
As research for my book Raising an Entrepreneur, I interviewed 70 parents who raised highly successful adults about how they helped their children achieve their dreams.
What I have found is that communication plays a huge role in sparking a child’s future entrepreneurship. Here are four phrases these parents never used when their children were young:
1. “I don’t trust you, so I checked your homework and fixed it for you.”
All parents emphasized the importance of responsibility and accountability. They wanted their children to take ownership, fix problems, learn from mistakes, and be more confident as they got older.
But it’s not just about homework. Jon Arrow dropped out of college a few credits before graduating to start Mutual Mobile, a technology company that has generated more than $200 million in revenue.
When he was in fifth grade, he and his friends wrote a school newspaper that sold out on the spot. But they failed to verify the facts. The director was furious, and his friends got involved with their parents. But John’s parents laughed and ordered him to fix his mistakes.
“Knowing that my parents would support me, even when the power was against me,” said John, “has made me double the work and work hard to show them that they are right to believe in me.”
2. “We increase your benefits so you can buy whatever you want.”
One of the fathers told me, “Never give out the money for free.”
The parents I spoke to came from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and they taught their children the value of money. Even the wealthiest kids had to work to spend the money.
Nyla Rodgers is Mama Hope, a nonprofit organization that funds and advocates for community organizations. When Nella was in high school, she wanted to travel abroad with her French class.
But instead of paying the full amount, her mother said she should earn half the cost of the trip. With no other choice, Nyla’s sitter, mowed the lawn, walked the dogs, taught swimming and entered the data.
“I worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week to raise money. By the end of the summer, I had collected enough to go. And that started my journey in business,” she said.
3. “There are no after-school activities until your grades improve.”
Many of the parents I spoke to didn’t understand their children’s passion, but they all gave it a go Tear Time to dive in.
Some kids have pursued their passion as well as being great students. Others put all their energy into their passion and weren’t great at school. Parents support them regardless.
John Cho, the director of hits like “Crazy Rich Asians”, has been passionate about making films since he was in the second grade. His immigrant parents ran a restaurant, and they hoped he’d make the American dream come true through hard work, but it never occurred to them that he could be in a movie.
In high school, John’s mother was upset one night when she found him working on a video instead of his homework. He began to cry: “But that’s what I love!” I want to do that all my life.”
When he picked him up at school the next day, she had the filmmaking books she got from the library. “If you want to do this,” she said, “study it, be the best at it.”
4. “I’ll give you money if you get good grades.”
Growing up, future entrepreneurs were never taught that the purpose of life is to be rich. Instead, you were meant to succeed, do better, get better, and do something great.
Parents realized that their children would never be happy if they slack off something they didn’t enjoy, that they would never excel at something if they didn’t work at it non-stop, and that they would never work non-stop. Stop – stop if they don’t like it.
So they raised kids who put their passion into their business and made better products and services. The kids trusted, in all likelihood, that the money would come. And even if it doesn’t, it’s still better than working hard at something they hate.
As a result, they grew up with a sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference in the world.
Margot McCall Besno Writer, mother and child-rearing expert. She spent 20 years in government, including as a Federal Trade Commission commissioner and chief of staff to the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and is the author of Raising an Entrepreneur: How to Help Your Children Achieve Their Dreams. Follow her on Instagram Tweet embed.
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