Parental entrepreneurship is the single strongest predictor of entrepreneurship in children. Having an entrepreneur for a parent increases the probability by 60% that children become entrepreneurs. Second generation entrepreneurs are two-to-three times more likely to work in the same occupation as their parent, and often choosing the same industry.
Taylor Fischer, an Applied Mathematics major at UCLA, and the daughter of this entrepreneurial mother, echoes the research: “Growing up with an entrepreneurial mom taught me that dreams are accomplished by executing a plan. I learned that I can do most anything, build most anything, and accomplish most anything. Knowing how to get things done has been an invaluable life lesson.”
Your relationship with your child is not only the most important part of parenting, it’s what makes it possible to parent effectively. By drawing your child near, your child experiences being a valued member of your family, and also your entrepreneurial team. That extra interconnectedness with your business, enables your child to feel included, to have commonality and to cultivate a healthy relationship to the work that shares so much of your time, energy and attention.
As a result, the family bond is strengthened, and the conflicts that naturally arise between work and family are mitigated. Kids of entrepreneurs learn life skills that translate into business skills; and none more important than learning how to maintain, manage and grow relationships. When your child feels connected to you, your home becomes a living laboratory for experimenting and learning about life, love and business.
Here are some activities to create a connection between the entrepreneurial side of you and your child:
Birth to Three Years Old
• Keep baby by your side if possible. Those first years are critical to every aspect of your child’s development
• Lean on your village. Surround yourself with trustworthy hands to help
• Book appointments and meetings during baby’s nap times if possible
• Recognize there is no such thing as work-life balance — your baby’s needs come first. Establish clear, realistic expectations with others, and include a bit more padding in your schedule to plan for the unexpected
• Allow life to switch gears. Savor every minute of these important years with your new baby. You and your business will be better off as a result of your full and happy life
Four to Six Years Old
• Start to talk with your child about your work
• Build excitement through storytelling. Similar to reading a good story from a book, introduce real life characters and situations that arise at work. Talk about how people create new things, solve big problems or are a positive force for good. Make it fun. Keep the story going. Build upon your child’s imagination and interest
• Read aloud to your child often — great biographies, historical fiction — any books that help to unveil your world, your industry and you. Snuggle up with pillows, blankets and popcorn. Make it a cozy and loving time
• Introduce early readers for your child to read to you, about subjects that the both of you can discuss
• Get your child drawing — ignite the child’s imagination from your stories, or the books you read together
Seven to Ten Years Old
• Take your child to the office on occasion and begin to introduce him/her to different aspects of business
• Create bridges to others by fostering short conversations. Have people you work with explain what they do and why it’s important work
• Notice what aspects of business catch your child’s interest and expound on those at home through playful activities. Build. Pretend. Make great memories
• If it seems appropriate, give your child some simple work assignments in his/her areas of interest. Reward work accomplished with meaningful appreciation
Eleven to Thirteen Years Old
• Begin to give your child hands-on business experience with real work and real pay. School and rest take precedence but the introduction of real work pays big dividends in character, work ethics, independence and self-esteem
• Instill confidence. When a teen struggles with a work assignment, come alongside with thoughtful questions that enable your teen to participate in discovering their own solutions
• Instruct your teen in the life skills that create successful accomplishment and recognize his/her understanding and mastery of those skills
• Ask your teen for his/her opinion often and applaud creativity and logic. It doesn’t need to be a perfect or complete thought, just cheer-on their attempts
• Choose more challenging books, keep reading aloud and keep discovering and learning together
Fourteen to Eighteen Years Old
• As if a journeyman, expose your teen to increasing responsibility and new business skills
• Make opportunities for them to explore and diversify interests. Create pathways for deeper learning experiences
• Seek out opportunities for your teen to fly on their own whether it be projects or a new business idea
• Keep a routine such as eating breakfast and dinner together to maintain engagement and connection
• Heap appreciation for your teen’s opinions, ideas and solutions
Entrepreneurship education has proven to be effective in primary school and to a lesser extent, in secondary school, and not so much with older students or adults. The significance of early education is critical to shaping the next generation of entrepreneurs. What you do at home matters.
The next time you pour milk into a sippy cup for your little one, you might just be serving the next Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos.
Lindquist, M J, J Sol and M van Praag (2015) “Why do entrepreneurial parents have entrepreneurial children?”, Journal of Labor Economics, 33(2): 269-296.
About The Author
Cynthia Mitchell is a serial entrepreneur, consultant and speaker specializing in start-ups. With more than 30 years experience in media, technology and education, Cynthia has worked with leading brands including Time Warner, ABC/Cap Cities, Maclean Hunter, Times Mirror, Meredith Corporation, Mutual of Omaha and Kaiser Permanente among many others. With a customer-centric ethos, Cynthia’s depth of expertise across business disciplines is an exemplary and unique skill set for new ventures. Contact Cynthia at cyndimitchell.com.