Teaching Entrepreneurship

by Mia Cronan

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With all of the attention, both national and international, that our country and its government are getting at the moment, one gets a strong sense of what our country is really all about. As Americans, we are guaranteed through our Constitution to have opportunities...not necessarily outcome, but opportunities.

I find it interesting that in this day and age, many people no longer regard the American dream as the house, the car, and the picket fence. Now, the American dream represents, for some folks, the chance to start a company and a business, oftentimes, in the comfort of one's own home.

My parents were not entrepreneurs, in the usual sense of the word. My father did the 9 to 5 thing for a large corporation with occasional out-of-town travel, while my mother cared for us at home full-time. I give them both a lot of credit for the hard work that they exhibited on a daily routine, unfailingly. However, when I think about the term "entrepreneur," they actually had an entrepreneurial spirit, which not everyone has. They had to think of innovative ways to save money as our family grew. They had to offer innovative ways to "sell" us on things that were good for us, even if we wanted to turn our noses up at them (i.e. vegetables.) My mother had to adjust accordingly to growing appetites and growing bodies, steering her to mass production of food and clothing, which she hand-sewed or hand-knit for the most part.

So what is it that we can do to teach our children these values, if we so choose? How do we show our children that sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, to use an old cliche? Is it possible to foster the drive to make something out of nothing and feel great about it, even if failure impedes the path at times? Here are some things to consider.

  1. It's OK to stumble, and everyone does it. Just pick yourself up and start over. Remember, if you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting. Take a moment to stop and think before acting. Plan your work, and work your plan. These are all good phrases that pop up in life periodically, and they really do mean something. This teaches determination.
  2. When something breaks, the answer is not always to run out a buy a new one. Sometimes the solution lies in pulling up a chair at the kitchen table, taking it apart to see how it works, then fixing it with new parts, if at all possible. This teaches resourcefulness.
  3. Talking prices and value with children at an early age show them that money is not to be worshipped, but instead respected. Wasting our many resources and blessings is wrong and irresponsible. This teaches frugality.
  4. Discussing how you handled a situation when you felt you were treated inappropriately by a business or store is a good way to help your child understand the nature of the customer/business relationship. Oftentimes, the customer is right, but sometimes that's not the case. Humanity plays a role, as well as treating others how you would like to be treated. That goes for both the customer and the business. This teaches professional relations.
  5. Children usually come home from school with loads of papers and projects that need to go somewhere other than your kitchen table or counter. Help them find a suitable place to file these things so that they can put them away without your assistance, they know where they are, they can get their hands on them easily, and they are out of the way of everyday living. This teaches organization.
  6. Every child has a talent. You may not know what that talent is, for a long time. Allow your child to try his hand at as many things in which he shows an interest as he can. Encourage him and tell him you see some talent there if he masters something. Look for projects that encourage the use of that talent. And take him seriously when he says at the age of three that he wants to be a rocket scientist. He just might! This teaches confidence.

These are all very simple concepts, but they all matter to our children so they can grow up feeling secure and ready to face the world. They may accept positions in large companies, small companies, educational institutions, the medical field, the law field, etc... They may want to start something on their own. Whatever they choose, a lot of what they can accomplish sits on our shoulders today as loving parents.

Mia Cronan is a married full-time mother of three girls, ages 5, 3, and 1, living in Pennsylvania.

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