Entrepreneurship | Our Kids’ Future: Six Important Lessons We Need to Teach Them

Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone.

That’s a student every 26 seconds — or 7,000 a day. These dropouts make up nearly half the heads of households on welfare. U.S. high school dropouts also commit about 75 percent of crimes.

There is no question that we need a complete transformation of our public education system so that children can graduate high school and be competitive in the job market. The current system is no longer providing adequate basic life and working skills to our children. Changing this system is a massive undertaking; it is far easier if we bypass it altogether.

It is time to take control of this situation individually. We can make a difference by working with one child at a time.

If you don’t know where to begin looking for a mentor for your child, you can start with a mirror. It should go without saying that parents need to take an active role in their child’s education, but now, it’s more important than ever to be a positive role model for your child as well to inspire them to learn and be creative. By not communicating with your kids, you run the risk of having them struggle in school with grades and behavioral problems. Our kids look up to us as parents, and it’s our job to set the bar.

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes; practically anyone who’s willing can serve as one. As more resources are taken away from our schools, the role of mentors becomes more crucial to a child’s learning and self-esteem. It may take years for true education reform, and even longer to start seeing results. The longer we put education on hold, the greater the achievement gap will grow. Don’t make a wrong turn — seek out a mentor and help a child find the right path.

The next question is, “Should we be educating kids, or preparing them for college?” I think there are a lot of students who aren’t looking to go to college. Teachers and schools shouldn’t be judged on where the kids go to college, but on whether they are helping students with basic life skills or achieving their goals in life, which for some might mean getting into a trade profession after they graduate school.

You may or may not have come across the most watched talk on TEDtalks, which is Ken Robinson, an Englishman, talking about education. It is well worth watching as he is very engaging, but his point is simple and effective: Schools kill creativity. We have a system which suits some people and tries to push people in more or less the same direction.

For example, if you were an “A” student, you most likely succeeded in high school because you delivered what the system wanted. You had good memorization skills. Children are still taught in school to go with the flow and follow the rules. They are programmed to learn and memorize facts instead of becoming independent thinkers. “A” students are often not the type of people to buck the status quo and create something new. They’re not eminent mold-breaker types. Face it, in school you’ve got to do what the teacher tells you, and if you do, then your ability to be compliant gets you a good grade.

If you want to steal a child’s love of a topic, make it mandatory for them to follow precise guidelines of what they have to know and then punish them if they have a different perspective or challenge what is being said and taught. This can result in a child growing up believing that they are not clever, useful or good enough.

Independence creates confident kids. To be successful, everyone needs the same thing — a sense of self-esteem. I think that’s the single most important ingredient, and the one that both teachers and parents can unknowingly steal from their kids.

Independence is a trait that is rarely appreciated in the classroom. Independent children can be stubborn. They can forget details, challenge the teacher, question the rules. They can be disorganized and impulsive. Yet the qualities that drive teachers crazy catapult these children to fantastic heights.

The question we all should be asking ourselves is, “Who is educating our children and are they making a difference?”

With the current breakdown of the educational system, there has never been a more important time for teachers, parents, mentors and coaches to teach life skills such as leadership, entrepreneurship and financial education to our children.

Letting your children be creative, independent thinkers at an early age will result in more income, more opportunities and self-confidence in their lives.

In 1962, John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature, and in his book East of Eden, he said, “Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.”

Decades of research have shown that students are very interested in being their own bosses. In the ’90s, for example, a Kauffman Foundation study found that two-thirds of high school students wanted to become entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, the same study found that more than 80 percent felt they had not learned anything about entrepreneurship in school. In 2011, the National Chamber Foundation and Junior Achievement got essentially the same responses from high school students in a nationwide study.

Entrepreneurship forces children to think “outside of the box,” create unique solutions and lead others. Financial education will give them the confidence necessary for their adult life.

Entrepreneurs and the small business owner are a vital part of the economy. They are well thought of as the “risk takers,” but clearly are the heartbeat of every nation. Without entrepreneurs opening businesses, there is no employment for other people. Every large business started out as a small business.

It is now widely accepted that effective entrepreneurship education must be built around real-world experiences, not textbooks. The problem is that teachers rarely have entrepreneurial experience — or the right mindset, anyway. Even if they could, K-12 curriculum is tied to government funding. It has always been difficult for individual teachers to make changes to curriculum in any discipline, and it is especially hard to do so now because of state and federal requirements.

This is where we all come in. This is a group fix. You may have heard the phrase, “it takes a community to raise a child.” Well, I am urging you to step up in your own family or your local community. We can all pitch in by helping others. It does take a village, to work with the family, to raise a child and weather the storms of life. If we want that kind of support, the place to begin is with ourselves. Community, like charity, begins at home.

The entrepreneurial mindset causes kids to depend on themselves for their own success, which leads to well-rounded adults and future leaders.

Here Are Six Things That We Should Be Teaching Every Kid:

1. Teach failure
In school we were all taught that failure is bad. In the entrepreneurial arena, failure can be a great thing if a positive lesson is learned. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, states that, “Every failure carries with it a seed of equal or greater benefit.” Allowing your children to fail will force them to create new ways to accomplish their goals and learn from their mistakes. This will lead to confident children who know how to persevere when times are tough.

2. Teach financial literacy
Teaching children about money at an early age will instill a financial foundation that schools often fail to teach. Give your children the opportunity to earn their own money through their own small business, and by helping you in your business, if applicable. Teach them about paying themselves first and then giving back. Educate them about investing in assets verses liabilities and how their money could be used to create more money in the future. Teach them about investing for cash flow verses capital gains. Help them set up a bank account and learn about how to budget their income. Teach them about interest rates, inflation and savings rates.

3. Teach financial independence
The next time your children ask for money to buy their next favorite thing, this is your opportunity to ask them to brainstorm ways to create the money through entrepreneurship. This will inspire creative thinking and it will cause the entrepreneurial juices to flow. Help them come up with ideas for a new business. This worked well with my two boys, Kyle and Kade, ages 14 and 11. They are on their third business today. What I quickly realized is that if they earn their own money, they spend it wisely.

4. Teach them how to sell
Encourage your children to start with small projects like selling their old toys on Ebay or Craigslist, setting up a lemonade stand, or selling handmade goods. Let them price their products, sell to customers and facilitate the transactions when sales are made. Rejection is part of life. If they can learn to sell, then they can and will express their ideas and beliefs as adults. This one ability will last a lifetime because it is applied to all types of businesses and careers. From selling products and services to customers, to raising capital from investors, this skill is vital to the success of any business.

5. Teach kids how to recognize opportunities
Many people never meet their full potential because they fail to recognize opportunity. Teaching your children to seek out opportunities and take action on them will directly contribute to their level of future success. Praise your children for pointing out small problems or setbacks and teach them to look for solutions. Brainstorm solutions on how to resolve their troubles. This will teach them to focus on creating positive solutions, instead of focusing on the problem itself. This habit will allow them to create profitable ideas in their future business.

6. Teach kids to give back
We call this social entrepreneurship. Why start a business if it doesn’t support a greater cause? It is important for your children to develop the characteristic of helping others. This attribute will allow your children to stay humble during periods of great success and it will give them the insight that a successful business provides benefits to more than just its owner. People that contribute to the success of others live happy and content lives. When brainstorming business ideas with your children, ask them to choose a charity or special cause to support with a portion of the income that they generate. Explain the concept that all great businesses contribute to something bigger than themselves.

A child might be bored and unmotivated in class, but once he discovers something that fires him up, he will work so hard that he becomes a resounding success.

About The Author

Ken McElroy is the co-partner of MC Companies in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is the author of the best-selling books, The ABC's of Real Estate Investing, The Advanced Guide to Real Estate Investing, and The ABC's of Property Management. McElroy is also a contributor for The Real Book of Real Estate by Robert Kioysaki, and The Midas Touch by Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki. McElroy's fourth book, The Sleeping Giant, is dedicated to the new class of entrepreneurs who are emerging in today's economy. For editorial consideration please contact editor@jetsetmag(dot)com.

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