The Business of Parenting

I’m not exactly sure what brought me to this conclusion. I have been thinking a lot about entrepreneurism lately, as my son gets closer to graduating from college and has dreams of starting his own business. (I am chalking that up as a parenting success, by the way.) So, in the strange place that is my mind, I realized that starting your own business and parenting have A LOT in common.

1. No instruction manual – Seriously, there are a lot of good books out there on both subjects, parenting and running a business, but there is absolutely no step by step instruction poster (I like those better than the books) on how to parent a child, particularly your first child, or how to run a start-up. Why is that? Well, every single time is different. Different children need different things. Mine were both happy kids that slept through the night relatively soon. Other friends and family have babies that are colicky or have other problems that keep them up all night. Each and every business start-up is different too. Different people, different product or industry, different business climate, different regulations. So, authors can give you some suggestions, but not a definitive “how-to”. A pity, that is.

workingtogether2. Teamwork – As the the head of a business, one of the things you want to do is create a culture of teamwork. “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” and all that. Parenting a family is exactly the same. Only through teamwork between the parents will you create successful kids, and if you do it right, you create great teamwork in your family, everyone working towards shared goals and reaping shared rewards. There are only the three of us, but we make a pretty good team, whether it is getting ready for a family party or working on our events planning and management business. We generally work well together, and are loyal to each other.

3. 24/7 attention – If you would have told me that I would always have my kids on my mind before I had them, I am not sure I would have believed you. Raising a kid is all consuming. When they are young you worry about thumps in the night coming from their bedroom. When they are older you worry about whether they will get home safely, graduate from college, get a job, find someone to love, and a whole host of other things. A business is the same. You are the one at whose feet it all rests. Find the customers, do the work, send out the invoices. If you have a staff, you worry about making the money to keep them employed and the lights on.

4. Negotiation – Holy crap, is parenting a negotiation. I swore before I had kids I would never say the words “because I said so”….um…yeah…not so much. Rebecca probably hadn’t even been talking for a year before I had to pull that one out of the bag. Every single thing is a negotiation. This is a true teachable moment. I am a huge fan of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 4th habit in the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Think Win/win. Teach your kids that from early on, it’ll be a benefit for the whole of their lives. Negotiation is everything. Whether you are parent or business owner, everything starts with negotiation. Incidentally, if you haven’t read “7 Habits”, it isn’t just about being successful in business. It is the greatest self improvement book of all times, I think.

5. It gets easier – I think both parenting and running a business get easier with experience. As we learn from our mistakes and try new things. I certainly wasn’t a perfect parent. There are lots of things I would like a do-over on. I am not the perfect business owner. Every single day I find something else I need to learn. But as I have done things, I learn, and I become more confident in my decisions, both in parenting and as a small business owner. You want evidence of things getting easier? Ask the baby of the family and the oldest  about their experiences. Start with curfew. That’ll generally havea some spirited reactions.

6. You raise your kids to take over for you – My wife and I worked very hard to raise a child who is compassionate, and committed, and community minded. Someone who is a go-to person and who will carry forward some beautiful family traditions. It was important to me that my son be a person who understands the importance of doing his part to make the world a better place. I think I have succeeded in that. In your business, if you are doing it right, you nurture your staff to build the trust that allows them to take things off your plate. I don’t want to be working as hard when I am older as I am not. I want to build a nice business that will allow.

7. Finances – Anyone who is starting a family or is starting a business knows that financially speaking, both are freaking scary. There is never a good time for either. There is never enough money for either. Both take a leap of faith in yourself that you can make it work. My first foray into business ended horribly. It left me uncertain and in debt. It took me a long time before I was confident enough to do it again. My first foray in kids was equally as scary, equally as expensive, and in both cases, we made it work. In addition to having the start-up you need, teaching your kids and your employees about the finances of it all is an excellent way to help make sure your family and your business run well.

Pete-and-Adam-golf8. Rewards – In both cases, raising successful kids and running a successful business, there are really few things as rewarding. Sitting in the audience at your child’s 6th grade band concert or landing that big contract in your business can be equally as exhilarating. If you want your kids to be active in your life after they move out, lead by example and take care of your parents as well as being active in their lives while they are growing up.

When I wrote the first draft of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” I was thinking it was a book for kids. I realized pretty quickly that kids are the least likely demographic to buy a self-improvement book, and I actually thought about scrapping the project. It was later I realized that all of these ideas were ideas that parents could and should instill in their kids from an early age. Teaching your kids these skills will pay rewards for both you and them, for the rest of your lives.

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My Kid Got Accepted To College, so I am Clearly a Great Parent

I was reading this article on Huff Post Parents this morning and I absolutely found myself nodding my head as I read along.

Harvard, Schmarvard; Why Getting Your Kids Into College Should Be the Least of Your Concerns

KidsHaveStressTooPicAfter 20 years in a classroom, I can attest that a lot of parents absolutely measure their own self-worth by the college their kid gets  into AND by the amount of scholarship money that a kid gets to high school or college. In fact, some high schools are rumored to have raised their tuition just so that they can give more scholarship money, because parents like to brag about getting scholarships.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to brag about my son’s accomplishments. I am proud of him every day. And I have done my share of forcing him into a few thnigs he didn’t want to do over the years. I forced him to take AP classes that everyone thought he wasn’t qualified for. When he showed up as a freshman at the school I teach at, he was a solid C student. When he graduated, he was on the honor roll.

I knew that my son needed good role models, and there were really good, hard working kids in those AP classes. Most importantly, I could stop harping on him about studying and homework because the kids pushed each other to get the work done. When the grades came in, if he didn’t do well on the AP test, so what? I didn’t care about the college credit. He was going to college for college credit. (He did end up getting some college credit in some of the classes he took.)

That’s a success story, I am happy to report. It isn’t always the case. College is so expensive now that parents start pushing their kids at a young age so that they can get into a good college and try to pay for it through athletic scholarships. And, if we think it isn’t taking a toll on our kids, we’re sadly mistaken.

From the article:

We have strangled the creativity out of our children by forcing them to do things they may not want to do, but as good parents we have to check the box that reads competitive sports — check! We have robbed them of their childhood so that we can feel good about their chances at college entrance. Many of our kids don’t even know what it is they like to do because we have been telling them what to like for their whole lives. Our children are riddled with anxiety and we are medicating them more now than ever.

Too often in our society, kids are forced to grow up too quickly. They are forced to help raise younger siblings in single parent households, or take care of aging grandparents, or work and contribute to household expenses. All of those forms of responsibility are not bad in and of themselves, but they do have a tendency to force kids to grow up too soon.

In addition to that, our kids don’t learn independence if we are micromanaging their lives. College professors tend to agree that kids are lacking in indepenedence and time management skills when they arrive on campus.

A parent’s goal should be to raise kids who are independent, creative thinkers, who care about people and society and who can approach life’s challenges in a stress free way. There is plenty of time for stress and anxiety in the 2/3rds of our lives that we will spend working. Why not let our kids enjoy their younger years and in doing so, develop some creativity and independence that will make them a valuable employee when they finally hit the workplace?

Again, from the article:

You know what does speak volumes about your parenting? Ask yourself the following questions:
                    Does your child have a compassionate soul?
                    Does your child have a healthy dose of intellectual curiosity?
                    Is your child resourceful and independent?
                    Is your child happy with who she is?
                    Can your child creatively problem-solve?
                    Is your child passionate about anything?
                    Can your child sit with himself and enjoy his own company?

What are some things you do to raise your kids as independent and creative thinkers?

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“10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”

Labor Day Reminds Us Hard Work is Key to Success

early steel workerHappy Labor Day 2014. For many it is the last official day of summer. Tomorrow some kids or at least a bunch of teachers (I’m one) return to school. Established in 1887 as a federal holiday to  commemorate the labor movement, Labor Day should serve as a reminder of all the strong backs that went into forging the great United States of America. Take a moment and think of the actual back breaking work that was required to build highways and railroads and skyscrapers, in a time before modern machinery. That is what is celebrated by both America and our Canadian friends who celebrate their own hard working ancestors today.

I am going to take a moment to remember something else today, using that history as a backdrop. I’m going to remember that the US reached the greatness it achieved because of hard work. Success is absolutely only made possible through hard work. Luckily, most of us don’t have to break stone in the noonday sun anymore for our jobs, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work any less hard to achieve real success.

So, while you are hopefully celebrating Labor Day at some backyard barbecue or local fair today, take a moment to reflect on the hard work you do every day. Be proud, and use that to fuel future hard work, and future success.

Parenting for Success – Also as you celebrate today, think about all that you can do to help your kids learn the value of hard work as they move forward in a new school year, or just generally in life. Here’s three things you can do to instill in your kids the value of hard work.

workingtogether1. Lead by Example – Your kids may not listen to everything (anything) you say, but they sure as heck learn from watching what you do. If you preach hard work, but don’t work, which message do you think they will pick up? When you work hard, in front of your kids, they learn from watching.

2. Work together – When you work together, not only do your kids see the hard work, but “many hands make light work”. Kids get the benefit of three lessons when you work together – seeing that hard work is necessary, team work, and finishing the job more quickly. Three pretty powerful lessons. This doesn’t just apply to work around the house. You can do some of your work (pay bills, projects from work, writing thank you letters) while your kids are doing their school work. It sets a tone about work, it allows for you to be present if they need help on homework, and you get to serve as the watchful eye as homework is getting done.

3. Reward yourselves – We live in a capitalist society. The benefit of hard work is a reward. When you work together and get a hard job done, reward yourself. Go grab some ice cream or throw a favorite food on the grill. Maybe you can all go and see a movie you wanted to see. Or, maybe you give your kids some money so that they can learn how to budget and save for the things that they want.

Hard work is a skill that kids need to learn. I hear often “kids don’t know how to work these days”. As a parent, that’s on you. When it comes to work ethic, you are the person your kids learn from.

Happy Labor Day to all.

What’s something you have done to help instill work ethic in your kids, your siblings, or your students? Leave a comment below so we can all see some great ideas.

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“10 Things We Should Teach You in High School”