10 things #parents should do to build #enterprising #teenagers

A few weeks ago, I turned to several groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to get some advice. I wanted to know how to help my teenagers become more enterprising. I was curious to check whether I was the only person wondering about that. I was also eager to discover what support exists out there for reaching such objective.

To my greatest pleasure this question sparked some decent interest. My posts in various groups generated an average of 6 replies and many likes. This was not guaranteed at first sight, given the topic! I was also pleased people took the time to post detailed answers and to share very personal stories. This shows how much passionate people are on this subject!

Being a curious person, I decided to follow up personally with those who posted a reply or liked the thread. I had numerous phone calls and exchanges of emails. This has allowed me to build up more knowledge. I decided to recap my findings and to share them further with other parents who want to help their children or teenagers become more enterprising.

My 10 Key findings:

  1. Consider doing this as early as you can
  2. It starts with games and by setting everyday good habits
  3. Develop your kid’s creativity and observation sense
  4. Books and resources are readily available on the internet… but you need to explain them to your teenagers
  5. Kids and teenagers love doing things, put them in real situations so they can learn by doing
  6. Question their motivation and help them find their true passion
  7. You can use external providers that are offering an entrepreneurial initiation
  8. Some coaches offer career training and development workshops
  9. Different education systems can play a role in developing an innovative mind
  10. What entrepreneurs, VC specialists and CEOs say on this

Finding 1: Consider doing this as early as you can

Our research was initially targeting parents of teenagers. In fact, young parents also responded and mentioned they were doing things with their toddlers! Amazing! It is great to see that even at an early age parents come up with ideas to do this! So, we would encourage anyone to start early, even if it sounds silly… in fact, it is not! These young parents convinced us they were doing the right thing!

Finding 2: It starts with games and by setting everyday good habits

Some parents are playing games like “Monopoly” or “Cashflow for Kids” (from RichDad) and are using these to discuss the basics of financial literacy with their children.

Others are using opportunities provided by everyday’s life to explain the main economic concepts. For example, they explain why you need to keep track of money coming in and going out when they are out shopping. They are also seizing opportunities like advertisement in the street to touch on concepts like insurance or banking, when a child asks about a particular company name.

Others still are focusing on skills that they see critical for their child’s future success. They set themselves the habit of demonstrating such skills regularly in front of their child. They also put their child in a position to practice. Speaking at a family reunion is a favourite. But other skills like being polite and respectful, speaking slowly and maintaining eye contact are also important as they are seen as key to effective communication.

Finding 3: Develop your kid’s creativity and observation sense

Many parents said that the current school system put their kids in molds and kills their creativity. It makes them anything but enterprising. That’s why, they think it’s up to parents to instill that creativity spark. They try to develop their child’s curiosity and let them try to answer their own questions and think by themselves, instead of giving them ready-made answers.

Others train them to recognise opportunities. Instead of focusing on problems, they lead them to think of solutions, e.g. when one of their toys is broken, they ask them how they think they could repair it, rather repair it for them. By the way, this also teaches them to be independent and to build confidence in their own skills. This is a smart way to show them they can rely on themselves for their own success.

Finding 4: Books and resources are readily available on the internet… but you need to explain them to your teenagers

Some parents rely on resources found on the internet, be it books or articles. A few references that were given to me include:

  • Barbara Sher – Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want
  • George Samuel Clason – The Richest Man in Babylon
  • Og Mandino – The Greatest Salesman in the World

The issue though is that those books are not necessarily easily accessible to teenagers. They are really useful for people who already accumulated a bit of experience, but more difficult to comprehend for complete “beginners”. Parents who go down that route will find useful to “read” the book with their teenagers, so they can help put things in perspective. It is even better if they manage to translate into situations their children have already experienced.

For those who tend to consider books too close to school teaching, the advice of some other parents is to turn to videos. TED Talks, TEDx, TED-Ed, TEDxTeen are among the most recommended choices. Again watching together is recommended as it will allow parents to explain and draw parallel between what is being discussed and situations which are already known to your teenager.

Finding 5: Kids and teenagers love doing things, put them in real situations so they can learn by doing

Some parents have taken the habit of bringing their kids to their office regularly. This works wonder when parents are independent or run their own start-up. Alternatively, employees can take advantage of the “Nationaler Zukunft Tag / Futur en tous genres” events, to bring their children into their workplace and expand their horizons by allowing them to discover unusual occupations. This is a good start, as often it revolves around observing what the adults do.

On a more practical level, some parents I have talked to have founded a club for children and teens, where they can come and experience innovation first hand. One of the sessions that worked best was a session during which they learned to build robots.

Others are encouraging their teenagers to try new projects while they are still living at their parents’. This alleviates the pressure while providing opportunities to get feed-back and support, and to share their experience. One example is where a parent helped his son set-up a course to teach senior citizens how to use a table (ipad/samsung). They went together through the various stages of creating the business: finding a room, marketing the service, signing customers up, developing a curriculum, delivering the course and convincing clients to sign up for the follow-up course. A short video explaining the process is available (watch it here).

Finding 6: Question their motivation and help them find their true passion

As much as parents want their teenagers to become enterprising, we have to admit that it has to come from the teenagers themselves, and not from the adults only!

Some parents recommended discussing with the teenagers their true passion. Then they advise to leverage your network to put them in touch with people working in that field. Your teenager will be able to ask questions to them: what do they do, what do they like, what are the challenges… and will get better answers.

They also highlighted that the most important point it to understand what their motivations are. All successful entrepreneurs started because they had a passion about something and wanted to make a positive impact in the world.

Motivation and passion come first. Necessary skills and tools can be learned later.

Finding 7: You can use external providers that are offering an entrepreneurial initiation

Some parents have enrolled their children in entrepreneurial summer camps or initiation days. A number of providers were mentioned. The experiences have been mixed, as it is difficult to really provide for each teenager’s specific situation.

Finding 8: Some coaches offer career training and development workshops

One coach gracefully shared an 8-steps process she is using during development workshops with teenagers and young adults. She recommends that in order for the process to be effective, it is very important to create a safe space first. Teenagers need to know it is ok to just set thoughts and dreams free. After each step, you should observe a short pause and “what else” questions can support the flow:

  • Step 1. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Step 2. What are the top 3 skills you would need to master in order to get there?
  • Step 3. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest) how would you rate yourself today for each of those skills?
  • Step 4. For each skill: what works well already? (If rated higher than 1 there must be some development already that is to be appreciated)
  • Step 5. For each skill: what would you need to develop even further?
  • Step 6. What are the opportunities in your current environment to do it (e.g. training, networking, volunteering, …)
  • Step 7. What concrete action will you take next?
  • Step 8. How will you commit to that, monitor progress and celebrate success?

She claims this process helps teenagers establish clearer ideas on what they want and become more confident on how to get there.

Finding 9: Different education systems can play a role in developing an innovative mind

Some parents have also recommended that children follow a Montessori educational programme. They believe such programme helps children and teenagers become agile and able to change fast. As the world is moving faster and faster, learning how to adapt to change fast is a necessity. They particularly like the fact that many innovators have had a Montessori education (Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergei Brin among others). Studies show that there is a 80% overlap between competences required to be innovator and the skills acquired through a Montessori education.

They cited the key benefits of the Montessori education. Children have higher self-confidence to challenge the status quo and take risks. They have better control over daily situations and can build much faster on these. They have developed essential skills like:

  • Observation
  • Challenge and questioning
  • Networking and leveraging the group to learn faster
  • Experimenting

Finding 10: What entrepreneurs, VC specialists and CEOs say on this

Other contributors mentioned some interesting thoughts from “experts”:

Paul Graham, entrepreneur and co-founder of the Y Combinator seed capital firm, explains in one of his essays why he thinks that learning about start-ups / independent businesses as a teenager / student won’t help that young person become a successful entrepreneur. The ultimate advice for young would-be start-up founders, according to Paul Graham, boils down to two words: just learn.

Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft, in a recent interview mentioned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s best-selling book, Mindset and said: “I was reading it not in the context of business or work culture, but in the context of my children’s education. The author describes the simple metaphor of kids at school. One of them is a ‘know-it-all’ and the other is a ‘learn-it-all,’ and the ‘learn-it-all’ always will do better than the other one even if the ‘know-it-all’ kid starts with much more innate capability. […] Going back to business: if that applies to boys and girls at school, I think it also applies to CEOs like me, and entire organizations, like Microsoft.”
His advice could be summarize as: don’t be a know-it-all, be a learn-it-all.

Laurent Haug, a Swiss entrepreneur turned VC, who sold his start-up (CoComment) to Swisscom in 2006 and started the famous Lift Conference (#1 innovation conference in Switzerland), created a presentation. about the lessons he learned in 20 years as an entrepreneur.
He called it “Things i will tell things my kids if they become entrepreneurs”.

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