How I'm Preparing My Kids For Indie Business Ownership
Yesterday, I Twittered about my 4-year old son scrambling his own eggs. A few people thought that was a little young. I used to think so, but now that I have children, I am constantly amazed at the things they can do when we give them a chance. A few private conversations started on the topic so I thought I'd share my motivation for making sure my kids, ages 4 and 6, learn good home management skills while they are young. As you can see, that includes doing some of their own laundry.
But first, I have to tell you about my homeschooling mom friend and mother of 3 boys, Beverly Lucas. Beverly and I have known each other since 1998. At one time, we met by phone on Monday mornings to encourage each other and talk about the week ahead. Toward the end of our time together, every Monday, her boys knocked on her bedroom door and I heard them say, "Mom, we finished our chores. Is there anything else we can do for you?"
Her oldest son was 6 at the time.
I was astonished. Did they even make kids like that anymore? Of course, as a mom now, I know that kids like that aren't made. They're trained.
Over the years, I have looked to Beverly for all kinds of mom encouragement and parenting advice One of the things Beverly helped me do is start teaching my kids solid home management skills as soon as they could walk. I have been amazed at the things they can do, even starting as young as 2 years old.
Like transferring trash from a small trash can into a bigger one, putting their plates on the counter after they finish a meal, sweeping the floor and picking out clean underwear from a pile of laundry and putting it away. These are things a child can do at a very young age. I would never have known had Beverly not taught me.
It's a challenge, I admit. I can sweep the floor much faster and better than my 6-year old daughter. Instead of asking my 4-year old son to take out the recyclables, I or my husband could do it. I could also sort all of the laundry in less than half the time it takes them to do it. I let them do it, and takes much longer. But I do it because I want my kids to have more than just book smarts.
Home Management Skills Are Easily Transferred To Business
I know lots of grown folks with plenty of book smarts, who are incapable of managing a home. I don't want that for my children, and I don't want it for my future kid-in-laws either. My friends and I laugh when I say that I don't want some sad new bride calling me up in the middle of the night in 20 years, complaining that the man I raised can't scramble her an egg. But I digress.
Because I tend to be on the impatient side, it can be painful to supervise my childrens' chore progress. My son always walks through the pile of trash my daughter is sweeping, inevitably starting a fight. He also hates making two trips to do anything, so becomes especially frustrated when he can't carry all of the recyclables at one time. And I'll never forget the time when me and his sister were busy cleaning up the kitchen, and when I reminded him he was supposed to be helping, he said, "But it's just not fun enough for me." (By the way, that was the last time his father ever left me and his daughter in the kitchen to clean it up by ourselves. Sorry, hon. I have to tell it like it is.)
When they load the dishwasher, I always have to go back and re-load it (without them knowing) so more dishes can be washed at one time.
All the while, I praise their achievements, keeping my eye on the ultimate prize of children who are equipped to be leaders in a 21st century world that will not be nearly as welcoming as the 20th century one in which I came of age.
They'll need more than a good resume, a good education and a few summers of volunteer work. They'll need skills. They'll need to demonstrate multi-tasking abilities and be able to engage in quick deductive reasoning under pressure.
And whether or not they have a traditional job, they will need to have at least one income stream of their very own. They will need to be Indie, so their father and I work hard to ensure that they master both home management and business ownership skills.
Three guiding principles help us do it.
1. Home Management First, Then Business Management
When you're Indie, especially if you're also a mom like me, your heart must be in your home first. That doesn't mean that I always choose giving a bath over signing a speaking contract, but it does mean that I check my heart daily to make sure that my home has first place.
Sometimes, this is a tough juggling act. I have to admit that it's often made easier by the fact that my husband is here with me all day and we can trade off on work and business. But as in most homes in America, I am the one managing the home day to day. I decide where and how the money will be spent and I make most of the scheduling decisions. I want both of my children, not just my daughter, to be able to do that when the time comes. I want both of them to be capable of leading a home and a business. And I want them to understand that, if home and family don't come first, then ultimately there may be little to show for your efforts as a business owner.
2. You Get Paid For Business Management, Not For Home Management
Most families these days have some kind of small business at home. When my kids were just 2, they started emptying the trash in the home office for a quarter. This money goes into their money jar right away. I make the chores age appropriate, but remember that they don't really have to accomplish much to teach the lesson.
If my son empties a trash can with 2 sheets of balled up paper in it, or my daughter does something as simple as wipe off the window sills or put all the pens in the pen holder, they still get paid. This teaches them that they have to work for money. If you connect the task to your business, it also teaches them a little about entrepreneurship. (You may also be able to deduct these payments on your taxes. Check with an accountant first.)
We do not compensate our children for doing chores around the house, because life doesn't work that way. Chores are a part of your contribution to the family. Mommy doesn't get paid for sorting the laundry, and neither will you.
But mommy does get paid in her business, and you can too.
3. Because I Said So
Not enough parents say that these days. At ages 4 and 6, my kids are too young to understand everything their father and I have to deal with as we co-lead our home. Yes, you have to clean up your room to my satisfaction before you go outside to play, and yes, the reason is because I said so. I don't have to make my son understand that taking care of his home before he plays with his friends builds character and instills responsibility. He doesn't care anyway at age 4. All he wants to do is ride his bike.
But he can understand unwelcome consequences if he doesn't do what I say he needs to do. That may sound strict and I suppose it is. But we feel that it prepares him for a life where each day starts at zero, and where he and he alone is responsible for whether or not he makes any money.
There will come a time when he will be able to comprehend the big picture. But for now, go take care of business. And yes, because I said so.
My children will not have the job options I had when I finished college and law school. They won't be able to rely as much as I did on a good resume to launch their parachute. They'll need good home management skills.
If you can manage a home, you can do anything, right?!!
What say you?
I'm sure you have some good tips to share to help me and others do a better job of preparing our kids for Indie Business ownership. Please share yours in the comments section below.
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