Not only do you want to be a leader in business, but you also want to raise children capable of doing the same—or better—for themselves. The problem is, of course, that when you’re working the 16-hour days that your business sometimes demands of you, family time can end up taking second place.
It’s natural, but it’s not healthy. Think about it: You only have so long to appreciate time with your kids. In the blink of an eye, they’re grown with lives of their own, and you’ve missed a lot if you weren’t actively participating. The trick is figuring out ways to include your family in your whole life, even when dedicating yourself to your business. When I look back on raising my children, I recognize four key strategies in my parenting that helped them become the responsible, successful (and entrepreneurial) adults they are today.
1. Keep Your Word
If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t make empty threats or promises that you’re not going to carry out. Kids like stability, not wondering how their mom or dad will react in new situations. Don’t tell them you’re going to take away their toys and then only take the fire truck; tell them instead that they won’t have playtime—they’ll be helping mom with laundry instead. Don’t tell them that if they don’t clean their room, they’ll spend all of Saturday stuck in there until it’s clean. That penalizes you too! Only threaten penalties you are willing to enforce. In fact, sometimes it’s better not to threaten at all, just be consistent and give a predictable consequence. Do what you say and say what you mean, every time. When they know what to expect from you as a parent, you’ll see your children are more comfortable approaching you with honesty and respect. It gives them stability and teaches them that keeping your word is important, even when it is difficult.
Also, be dependable when it comes to having time with you, like making family dinner a priority. Making the effort to join your family for the evening meal gives you one reliable hour or so to catch up with everyone. Take advantage of this scheduled daily time together. Being present for dinner also teaches your children honor and integrity because they’ll recognize that you keep your promises. And it offers them an even greater bonus: predictability.
2. Take Them to Work With You
If your business is pulling you away from your children, get your children more involved in your business. Let them push a broom, put boxes together, clean tables, or put stickers on things. If they can handle more responsibility, up the ante—let them pack orders or do some data entry. Start this when they’re little, and by the time they graduate high school, they’ll have experience in shipping, receiving, the production line, office administration, computers—a huge number of different jobs.
How do you learn to answer the common question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” if you haven’t tried anything yet? When I was young, my mom had a salon, and I would help her set appointments and sell products to her customers, an experience that taught me I was good at dealing with people. I did the same for my kids, and now, as adults, there’s no failure in the bunch. Not because they never fail, but because there are at least 10 other jobs they can do, and they adapt to failure without skipping a beat.
3. Give Them Responsibilities Outside of Work Too
Trying to get a child to do something that’s not his or her passion is like forcing a square peg into a round hole. Instead, let children find their passions by giving them responsibility around the house. Let them help you change a tire or wash the car. They may not do it exactly how you want, but the point is for them to get the experience and let their talents emerge naturally. If they like the skill, they’ll ask to do it again the next day.
The more you nurture their desire to expand in an area, the more skills they’ll develop. Once you find out what they love to do, let them really dig into it. Maybe they love helping you bag groceries when you go to the supermarket, so ask the manager if they might consider hiring your child to help with bagging. It’s not the most glamorous position, but it may lead him or her to run the grocery store one day. If he or she doesn’t like it after a month, no problem—on to the next task. There are many different skills to learn along the way, each one helping your child figure out what he or she likes to do and how to do it best.
4. Help Them Learn The Value of Lending Their Effort
Putting kids to work is great, but this is only half the job. You need to reward them for their input. This teaches them that their work is valuable, and it can come in many forms—money, yes, but also prizes, trips to the store, or promises to engage in favorite activities with them. Of course, with predictability in mind, the most important aspect for you as a parent is following through on your commitment, even when you would rather not.
Take my granddaughter for example. She loves to ride on my motorcycle more than anything. After a few days of bad behavior, I promised her a motorcycle ride if she behaved well for the whole day, and she showed up with perfect behavior for the next three days in a row. I was tired by the third, but I followed through on my promise. Even buying your kid a $3 toy that ends up breaking anyway recognizes his or her effort and will mean the world to him or her. Kids who learn the value of their investments grow up into adults who know how to make good ones.
The Bottom Line
It’s never too early to start teaching your kids the value of hard work. Give them the tools they need to be successful as soon as they’re able to handle them. They will surely make mistakes, but each failure will bring them closer to success as they keep working to achieve whatever they set out to do. When children learn these lessons at a young age, they’re more likely to remember them and carry them into adulthood and their careers.
Don’t just throw these tools at your children either. Take the time to demonstrate how to use them. Set an example. Then, let them try to use what they’ve learned from you. Even when it feels inconvenient or like things would get done more quickly if you just did them yourself, you need to curb that selfish tendency to do away with your child’s contribution just so you can accomplish something more efficiently.
If your child does the dishes and they’re still dirty afterward, re-wash them later when your child isn’t watching. If your child is taking too long to change a tire, let him or her see the task through anyway. Children who feel as though they are allowed to contribute will have the confidence and willingness to contribute to society as adults. The more you encourage those contributions, provide them with opportunities to help and teach them how to be successful by modeling the right values and behaviors yourself, the further your children are going to go in whatever careers they choose down the road.