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Raising Entrepreneurs: What to Do When Your Kid is Born to Think Differently
Adolescence brings with it many challenges - for both parents and kids. Young people, still new to the world, are embarking on a journey to discover their passions, joys, and authentic self-images. More often than not, however, their journey more closely resembles an elongated stampede of enraged elephants than it does an innocent soul-searching endeavor. But no one said growing up would be easy.
And there are young entrepreneurs out there who see the world in a truly positive light. Sure, they have their ups and downs like most teenagers, but they are motivated, focused, and want to make a difference.
Who are these kids? How were they raised? What do they have in common with one another? At the risk of making some sweeping generalizations, I will paint the picture of the young, confident entrepreneur - with the knowledge that this over-idealized portrait often comes in many colors and hues.
While entrepreneurship was never common in my family, many young entrepreneurs had experiences early on in life that lead them towards an entrepreneurial path. In general, there are two possible ways young people feel compelled towards entrepreneurship: inspiration and avoidance. Both can act as powerful catalysts for taking action.
In the case of inspired action, the young entrepreneur most likely grew up in an environment where individuality, responsibility, and financial literacy were encouraged. Even if the parent made little money to support his or her child, the underlying message often centered around taking initiative and following one's own path.
On the other hand, in the instances where avoidance is the primary motivator, the child usually wants to avoid becoming like their primary caregiver, who was most likely a negative influence. Friends of mind who have exhibited this type of motivation often have a very strong drive to succeed, yet, in part, base their motivation on what they don't want to become - and must overcome even greater adversity in life.
In order to facilitate the spirit of entrepreneurship in your family, there are many steps you can take. While these steps are particularly geared towards entrepreneurship, they apply toward creating any harmonious relationship between parent and child:
-Teach your child in creative, 'outside-the-box' ways. In a recent article with 19 year-old CEO Cameron Johnson, he told a story about how his parents gave him stocks - literally, shares in a company - in his stockings for Christmas. There are many ways you can teach your child about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and individuality.
-Make self-awareness and wealth consciousness the highest priorities. This entails a significant amount of soul-searching. And while many adults are adverse to the concept of change, often letting go of fear and facing your demons can be the most inspirational model for your child. I have a friend who, after years of living in a fear-based reality, she learned to let go and allow herself to forgive and love others. She has never enjoyed better relationships with her children.
-If your kid acts up, stand in your truth. Don't beat around the bush or overreact. Of course, you want to be sensitive to your child's feelings and come from a place of authentic compassion. But when it comes down to it, tell it like it is - they'll appreciate it in the end.
-Give your child ample opportunity to discover independence for him or herself. It's critically important that your child learns the process of creating one's own experience of reality from a first-hand perspective. Sometimes this requires being more firm or lenient than one would like. Yet remember that you grew through making mistakes, and so will your child.
If you see your child exhibiting entrepreneurial behaviors, make sure you show your support throughout his or her growth process. And if your kid is struggling to find motivation, don't worry - as long as you follow the guidelines above, you will instill the characteristics of greatness and, in due time, inspire the leader within.
Sam Rosen is a full-time college student at the University of Pennsylvania, entrepreneur, and author of the Succeed Young Total Success System, available at email@example.com.
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