Raising Business-Smart Children

I’m all for raising the future entrepreneurs of America, and these points of advice range from unobjectionable to canny, but can someone explain to me how following this list of rules, which so many folks have shared so enthusiastically of late, will make our children “business-smart”?

The World Wide Web, along with the ten “flatteners” that Thomas Friedman laid out in The World is Flat, opened and brought together global markets, ushering in an exciting new era of innovation and entrepreneurship. The result? One could argue that we and the generation after us are doing just fine.

But what about the generation after that? The future business leaders who have yet to hit puberty or even start walking? If we are to raise the next group of leaders and entrepreneurs — or at least adults with the skills to succeed — I believe we must look closely at how we instill the traits necessary to survive and thrive in the new global business environment.

Parents must step up. Here are six things they need to do — or not do — to ensure we raise the next generation of business leaders properly.

The author’s nuggets of wisdom include 1) Stop Hovering; 2) Stop Defaulting to Electronics; 3) Stop Giving Ribbons For Everything; 4) Stop Saying ‘No’ to Everything; 5) Stop Teaching That Failure Is Bad; and 6) Stop Blaming Everyone Else For Your Children’s Shortcomings.

It sounds like tough love for people raising children, so I understand how some holier-than-thou types may have found it fun to share. But doesn’t this amount merely to good parenting and the passing on of important life skills, like how to ride a bike? It doesn’t begin to explain how limiting your kid’s screen-time make her more “business-smart.”

The bit I agree with most, especially in context, is #5. Failure isn’t bad. It’s important, and that’s something we don’t stress enough in our culture. People aren’t born winners; they’re born willing to try, maybe, and then encouraged to get back up when they fall down. If you’re never scared to lose money, you’ll never make any. Just as importantly, though, if you don’t have a good sense of your own fallibility and limitations, the world will do its best to teach you in its own time.

Two teaspoons of humility, then, mixed with three tablespoons of resilience. That’s the combination business leaders need. How can parents teach that? Well, they can start by trying to model it.

Likewise, they can consider maybe not throwing such an enormous hissy fit about their kid going to a newly integrated school. Children having to learn how to, first, adapt to, and then succeed in a new academic environment will actually be better for their entrepreneurial spirit in the long run. It will build character. It will help them know that they can thrive even in less cosseted environments. Now that would really help make children ready for a future as described in The World Is Flat.

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