I am the founder and managing partner of an international PR firm and my brother is an artist, writer and naturalist. We both became entrepreneurs in our early 20s. People often ask if our parents did anything special in raising us. When I had my daughter in 2007, the question took on new meaning—I wanted to know if parents could influence their kids’ entrepreneurial skills.
To help answer the question, I reached out to Richard Rende, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist, and together we identified a number of areas where parents can have a great impact.
Why does it matter? Helping children develop entrepreneurial traits and skills may give them a solid foundation for defining, pursuing and achieving their own success.
Entrepreneurial skills to teach kids
Here are seven entrepreneurial skills you should teach your kids:
1. Openness to experience
Babies and children are naturally curious about the world around them. Encouraging learning through play is a proven way to benefit learning and skill development. Let your kids follow their instincts and discover, and reinforce that with enthusiasm and wonder.
2. An innovator’s perspective
Innovation isn’t just for people who will create new technologies or businesses. Kids today may benefit from developing their innovation and creative thinking skills. Permit kids to devise new solutions and approaches to problems, and to test out their ideas when playing or doing schoolwork (without critique). Coming up with their own solutions helps kids develop entrepreneurial skills that may benefit them in their future careers. However, make sure to cultivate an environment where failure is tolerated. True innovators know that you must fail in order to succeed.
If there’s one trait that benefits entrepreneurs and their businesses, it’s optimism. Being optimistic confers real-life career and health advantages. To encourage optimism, try framing the day in a positive way, modeling optimistic thinking.
Whether they’re children or adults, successful people get their hands dirty, sometimes literally. To help kids develop a strong work ethic, they need to learn the intrinsic rewards of a job well done. Parents should resist the urge to smooth their child’s path or do for them what they can do for themselves. One time-tested way to teach your kids entrepreneurial skills and traits is by assigning your kids chores. A study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics found that regular completion of chores “in kindergarten was positively associated with a child’s perception of social, academic and life satisfaction competencies in the third grade, independent of sex, family income and parent education…. Performing chores with any frequency in kindergarten was associated with improved math scores in the third grade.”
Another study, this one published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, found that completing self-care and family care chores “significantly predicted working memory and inhibition.”
5. Opportunity seeking
Children should feel comfortable seeking out opportunities—academic, social, personal and physical—without fear of negative consequences. Encouraging and supporting your children, and helping them to develop their self-confidence and the ability to trust their judgment and instincts, may allow them to embrace opportunity when they see it.
This entrepreneurial skill for kids may lead to success and influence in the workplace. It’s important to note that being likeable is not the same as being popular—though it may be a part of it. To be likable is to “[have] qualities that bring about a favorable regard,” according to Merriam-Webster. Parents and lifestyle play a big role in helping kids develop social proficiency. They can help them negotiate conflicts, model how to collaborate with others and boost their communication skills.
Kids today can have extraordinary “résumés,” but having a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy can ultimately hinder their future careers. Talk about your emotions and help your child understand that the feelings of others matter. Compassion and empathy will change their lives—and the lives of the people around them—for the better.
Not every child will grow up to be an entrepreneur, but many kids may benefit from parents teaching them entrepreneurial skills to help navigate our complex world. As traditional career paths disappear, children will have to be able to adapt and learn at every stage of life. Like entrepreneurs, they must make their way in the world with no roadmap to guide them. Parents can help set them on a path to use their talents and skills to create success for themselves and others.
This article was updated June 2023. Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock
Jen Prosek is the owner of Prosek Partners, an international public relations firm, and the author, with Richard Rende, Ph.D., of Raising Can-Do Kids: Giving Children the Tools to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World.