Learning to Say "Go Ahead!"

I have a confession to make — I don’t pay my kids an allowance.  I know this may sound surprising given that something like 80% of kids in this country earn allowances for doing chores. This doesn’t mean that my boys are off the hook, though — they do daily chores, too, and are experts at setting the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher, sorting laundry, taking out the trash.  I just don’t pay them for it.  My philosophy is that we are all part of the family and, as such, have a role in taking care of our house. 

Without an allowance, the logical assumption would be that my husband and I buy everything for them.  Well, not so much.  We certainly provide everything they need and, for birthdays and holidays, some of what they want.  But otherwise, they cover most of their own expenses now.  Cool new Nerf gun? Ninja t-shirt? Mats for their “warrior training” space?  It’s all on them.  For something expensive, like a new bike or the Trackers’ Earth apprenticeship program that Sam is interested in, we negotiate a cost-sharing split — sometimes it’s 50/50, sometimes it’s 80/20. 

So how do they come up with the money to pay for these things?  They have their own business.  Last year, when Sam was 10, he started asking questions about jobs and how people earn money.  We explained that most people work for someone else, but that some people start their own businesses.  Around that same time the opportunity came up to participate in an Entrepreneur’s Fair through our homeschooling group, so we signed both boys up immediately, thinking this would give them a deeper understanding of business concepts.  They each decided what they wanted to make, purchased their own materials (with a loan from their parents), made their own products (holiday decorations), and sold them at the fair.  They learned first-hand about cost of goods sold, labor, marketing and sales, loan debt (yes, we charged them interest!), and profit.  But surprisingly, what they really came away with, was an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.  In fact, we barely made it to the car after the fair before both boys were brainstorming other businesses they could start!

Now, I should pause here for a moment because, if you know anything about our family, you’re probably guessing that my husband and I had a significant role in encouraging this idea of starting a business, given that we’ve both have a history of starting our own businesses.  You’ll just have to take my word for it — the idea never crossed my mind.  Yes, I wanted them to learn about business, and apply some math concepts in the process, and Dave wanted them to see what it’s like to really work. But neither of us had any ideas about an ongoing venture.  

So, we followed their lead, and helped them brainstorm ideas for a couple of weeks, until we finally landed on the idea that is now the company called “The Can Men”. Every Tuesday night the boys take their clients’ trash and recycling cans to the curb, and then return them to their original places the next day after the trash trucks have come through the neighborhood. To start, they had to figure out their own pricing, develop their own flyer, and then knock on doors to find clients.  Most of the people in our neighborhood signed on, and now the boys make a nice monthly income.  Sam is technically the business owner, which means he took the lead on the sales, does the monthly invoicing, and earns 60% of the revenue.  Tips (which they get regularly) are split 50/50.  And best of all, there were no start-up costs!

Now that “The Can Men” has been in business for about six months, I know that what they’re learning is immeasurable — there’s absolutely nothing I could teach them, or that a teacher in a classroom could teach them, that would compare.  And whatever they choose to do professionally in their lives, whether they work for someone else or not, there’s no doubt that they’re forming the foundation for their choices now.  If your kids have entrepreneurial leanings, or even if you’re not sure, I highly encourage you to consider and explore the possibilities with them.  There’s no doubt that you’ll be opening new doors into their future.  Still not sure?  Take five minutes to check out this video of young entrepreneurs talking about their families:  Entrepreneurs Love Their Parents 

Getting started may be as simple as just learning to say “Go ahead!”


About Lori Dunlap

Lori Dunlap worked for almost twenty years in the corporate world, first as a management consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and then at a large research university as a program director and adjunct faculty member. In addition to homeschooling her two sons, she writes regularly about education and parenting issues. You can read her blog at www.teachyourown.org, or connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeachYourOwn

Posted on October 24, 2012, in Character Development, Education, Entrepreneurship, Parenting. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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