Lil’ Business Kids

July is National Making a Difference to Children Month! The Chelsea Foundation is thrilled to share this post from Ballooning Nest Eggs, which highlights 10 surprising signs of entrepreneurial spirit in children and ways in which you can empower your children and motivate them to believe in themselves.

By Teresa Palagano,

With a healthy dose of creativity, drive and pluck, kids of all ages are making a difference or at least dreaming about it—with kid-initiated start-ups, family businesses and charitable giving. From innovative ideas to the twists and turns of real-life experiences, we seek to motivate all kids—from those who’ve already taken the leap to kids who don’t yet have it on their radar. The very traits that label children as “trouble” are often the same ones that spur success throughout their life.

Do you find your child has a rebellious streak? Is she a regular in the principal’s office? Does she chide the teachers, get bored in classes and refuse to play according to the rules? Congratulations, you may have a budding entrepreneur on your hands. Now all you have to do is avoid squashing the very qualities that may help her launch a jaw-dropping start-up a decade or two down the road.

Parents often work very hard to erase traits in children that might serve to propel them forward as successful entrepreneurs, says Grant Cardone, a New York Times bestselling author who has studied entrepreneurs for 25 years. What others see as liabilities are actually assets, he says. Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs didn’t rise to the top of their industries because they played nicely with everyone and adhered to social norms, he says. They succeeded because they didn’t.

If you see entrepreneurial traits in your kids, Cardone cautions against traditional assumptions about what makes “good behavior” and recommends trying alternative thoughts and actions when parenting. “Why not leave them alone and see what happens?” asks Cardone. “Your child might invent something, or change the world or make something big happen.”

Here, Cardone lists the traits. Your child might be an entrepreneur in the making if she…

1. Hates the Status Quo

Your child doesn’t just follow the pack and do something one-way because that’s the way it’s always been done.

2. Is Easily Bored

If your child isn’t challenged, she’s not paying attention. This is why Bill Gates dropped out of college.

3. Gets Fired a Lot

Which really translates into getting pushed out of play groups, kicked off teams or asked to leave the Taekwondo class. Again, following another leader and going with the flow just isn’t her thing.

4. Is Labeled a Rebel

Your child believes laws, rules and policies are simply suggested guidelines.

5. Resists Authority

“You are not the boss of me” is your child’s personal mantra.

6. Is Ready to Improve Everything

In your house, gaming systems are pulled apart in the name of building a better Wii.

7. Doesn’t Believe in Small Talk

“Why would anyone want to talk about the weather?” your kid wonders.

8. Gets Bullied

Other kids tend to pick on anyone who is different.

9. Is Obsessive

When our little one gets started on something or picks up an interest, she doesn’t stop until she’s mastered it.

10. Has Difficulty Relaxing

Bedtime doesn’t usually translate to sleep as your child remains consumed with thoughts and ideas from the day.

Socially, parents often feel a lot of pressure to raise bubbly, rule-abiding children. And while you want to reinforce concepts like cooperation and respect, you don’t want to smother your child’s independent nature. “We should all learn to avoid negative judgment,” Cardone says, “because socially unattractive traits are often useful in forging a future. For instance, there’s a negative connotation when a kid is obsessed with something. But I have yet to meet or read about a successful entrepreneur who was not obsessed—Steve Jobs, Ben Franklin, John F. Kennedy. This attribute may have caused problems in one area of their lives but look at their contributions.”

“You don’t know what’s sitting underneath. Just because it is not your way does not mean this person will not be brilliant,” says Cardone. “Instead of trying to divert their attention when they’re fixated on something, let them feed that insatiable appetite from whatever their interest is. Let them completely lose themselves in that because it might be their purpose in life.” Mr. Cardone feels children know their purpose in life well before they begin to attend school. “There is a single purpose for every individual. I’ve known I was a writer since I was five years old, but I didn’t write my first book until I was 51.”

Now that Cardone is a father himself, he says he’s constantly empowering his 3-year-old daughter. He admires her interests even when that interest is in dramatics. “She’s going through a crying phase. I tell her I love the way she cries. Some day, she may be a movie star who makes $25 million a picture.” He doesn’t find the crying valuable. “But maybe she’s preparing for a movie career, so I tell her ‘keep practicing.’ As a parent, it is my job to create a safe environment where she can learn what she needs for her life. I don’t control her destiny.”

Parents also don’t have to win every argument. Children resist authority to get to a point in the future where they believe in their own authority. Try to win every time and a parent gets beaten down. The important and not-so-important become the same thing. “But if there is a conversation, you can remind a child that she has some control and a lot of choices within the boundaries of safety.”

Slapping labels on children, and adults for that matter, causes us to make assumptions that just aren’t true. “I know a man who is beyond shy but runs a multi-billion dollar company,” says Cardone. His silence is often mistaken for arrogance. “When he’s quiet, I know he’s taking it all in. That’s just the way he does things.”

If parents would teach their children not to “believe in what others say about yourself; believe in yourself,” Cardone is convinced the world would be filled with more extraordinary people—rebels and entrepreneurs alike.

Now that you know some of the traits that make for entrepreneurs, what might you change about the way you parent? Join our discussion on Facebook.

The co-author of The Working Mom Survival Guide, Teresa concocts and tests her parenting theories on her 8-year-old son and is totally enjoying examining Ballooning Nest Eggs’ principals through the prism of his boundless imagination. When Teresa is not writing, editing or consulting, she finds refuge on the Hudson River aboard her family’s boat and taking in the endlessly spectacular New York City skyline.

Photo: stockimages


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