You can radically improve your life by getting your children to help your business. For the mompreneur, this may sound impossible. Those of us who work from home while raising children often feel like there is not enough of us to go around. We oscillate between working from our ‘closet office’, getting all dolled up to make an appearance at a networking event, and school pick-up and drop off and after school activities. Oh yeah, there needs to be something for dinner and where is the other ballet shoe?
I’ve been there, done that, and have the sweaty tee-shirt and hat to prove it! I had to find a way to not only survive but thrive and enjoy these precious years with my children. That’s why we’re working from home, right? The suggestions below are tried and true. When you apply a few, you may find they will lower your stress, increase family unity, and help your business to grow. Don’t worry, this doesn’t involve “slave labor!” It does involve partnering with your children, training them to be valued members of your team.
How getting your children to help your business will benefit you:
- Juggling fewer tasks: Ever feel pulled in too many directions? There are all sorts of ways your children can pitch in that will allow you to be more productive in your business.
- Increased family unity: Families that have to work together develop better relationships within the family. This means less squabbling and less family stress.
With the right approach, you can gain back a couple of hours a week, as your kids take on small jobs and free up some of your time. More importantly, you’ll have the satisfaction of watching your children blossom in ways you never would have expected.
How getting your children to help your business will benefit them:
- Higher self-esteem
- Understand teamwork and cooperation
- Greater personal independence
- Learn fiscal responsibility
- Appreciate delayed gratification
- Eliminate victim mentality
Deciding to get your children to help your business can provide them with immeasurable advantages. As they learn responsibility and independence, their self-confidence will increase, and they’ll master life skills that will stick with them forever. Their self-esteem will also receive a valuable boost. Psychologists have proven that adults who are gainfully employed and feel like they’re contributing to society are three times less likely to become depressed than those who don’t work. We often see this when someone gets laid off and can’t find another job: their self-worth plummets. Training your children to be valued members of your team, whether at home or at work, will greatly enhance their self-esteem.
A lesson from my father
My dad was an auto mechanic. Obviously, I couldn’t fix cars and do his job alongside him, but he incorporated me into part of it every year. When I was only eight years old, he recruited me to help prepare for filing his tax return. He brought out this huge pile of papers – receipts and bills – and taught me to sort them by month and day, and by receipts and bills. It wasn’t difficult, but it taught me three valuable lessons:
1. There’s this thing called income tax that I will have to pay every year.
2. I should be honest and accurate in my reporting.
3. I don’t want to wait until the end of the year!
Famous teenagers in history
Alexander the Great was head of the Greek military at eighteen years of age. By age twenty, he had conquered the known world and was ruler of an empire. Three hundred years later, Cleopatra began ruling Egypt at age eighteen, making it a world power again. In contrast, many modern eighteen-year-olds can barely manage their basic responsibilities, much less govern a country! As parents, we desire to raise children who are functioning, productive adults that will succeed in life. Where can we begin?
Dr. Bob Barnes could be a great resource for you. His book Ready for Responsibility is a parenting manual like none other, guiding parents through the process of training their children to become effective citizens. Check out his website Parenting on Purpose.
Ideas for ways to get your kids to help your business
When you first approach your children to help your business, present it as being a part of the family team. Like any team, your family will work together to achieve common goals. When our children were small, we faced overwhelming obstacles. Drowning in medical bills, working long hours, and home schooling the kids kept us stretched very thin. On top of that, over a span of nine years, eleven of our immediate family or close friends past away. Our children saw the challenges we faced, and they knew we had to pull together as a family. We worked together as a team at home and in our business. One of the most important lessons they learned was that, no matter how tough the situation, you can fight through it. When children see their parents fight through impossible odds, they learn that there is always a way out.
2. Age-appropriate tasks
Toddlers can put their tissues in the trash. By the time they’re four, they can empty the bathroom trash cans, match socks, fold washcloths, and more. (Here’s a more comprehensive list…) My children had the opportunity to work a vendor table when they were still in elementary school. It was a safe, familiar environment, at our church bazaar, where they were selling little Christmas ornaments for a dollar or two. They could count that high and make simple change. If someone wanted a lot of ornaments or needed to use a credit card, I handled it, but the kids were really in charge. And they didn’t just stand behind the table: they hawked their wares and called for customers to visit. They were extra-motivated because I paid them a percentage of what they sold!
3. Business education
Teach them how to manage their money. They aren’t too young to learn good money habits like budgeting, saving, and investing. The Baby Billionaire is a great example of someone who developed financial smarts at a young age: she learned about investing in stocks at age seven and had purchased her first stock at age nine.
On a smaller scale, I once took my grandkids to the Lego Store at Disney Springs. As their starry eyes admired the largest, most expensive Lego sets, one said glumly, “I could never afford one of those.”
“Oh, yes, you can!” I answered. “Start with how much money you have, and figure out a way to make more and save. You could buy one of those all by yourself.” The child’s face lit up as though he’d had an epiphany! I want my kids to understand that they don’t have a money problem, they have an idea problem. When you’re lacking financially, don’t allow yourself to buy into that poverty mindset that you’ll never have enough. You just need an idea for making money and a little gumption, and you can have it. I want to implant that idea into my children at a young age.
Another aspect of business education is interacting with adults. As they helped in our business, my kids met lots of people. I taught them how to shake hands firmly, look people in the eye, and say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Since they both hated it so much, I paid them a dollar per handshake! Fifteen years later, my daughter competed in the Junior Miss program and finished first runner-up for the entire state of Florida. We were so proud! As we were driving home, she said, “Mom, remember when I was little and you made me shake everybody’s hand?… Thanks.”
Even young children can do simple things. My grandchildren love shredding papers! They’ll happily feed papers into that thing for an hour, a service for which I pay them. They also keep my printer loaded with paper. As your little “digital natives” grow up, they can help you with your social media platforms, defrag your computer, and teach you new technology. They can work vendor tables, greeting people and making change. Manual tasks like loading and labeling CD cases, stuffing and stamping envelopes, or filing can be a great way for your kids to earn some cash while sparing you the drudgery.
4. To pay or not to pay?
Children should be expected to clean up after themselves, so I don’t pay them for things like clearing their dishes from the table, making their beds, or sorting their own clothes. However, I will pay them for doing tasks that help me, like watering the garden, washing the car, or doing extra cleaning. When they help with business tasks like running a vendor table, I’ll pay them a percentage of what they sell.
5. Give back
It’s important to teach children not only that they can make money, but also give back to their community. At age eleven, our son began volunteering with a local organization for a couple of hours once a week. My granddaughter has been volunteering at a community theater as an usher since she was five years old. Experiences like these teach children the value of participating in the larger world and adding value to it.
Tips for helping at home
By age five, I had assigned my children the job of making Thanksgiving dinner. Obviously, I was involved, but every week during the month of November, we made a different dish and froze it. So on the big day, all we had to do was put the turkey in the oven and heat everything else. By the time they were in middle school, they could cook dinner. If I was running late getting home, I knew they could take care of it. Cooking helped to make them very self-sufficient, and their skills gave them healthier options than ordering pizza. Today my adult children both love to cook. My daughter is a gourmet chef, and my son is the barbecue master of Central Florida!
As they turned six, I began teaching them how to sew by hand, which improves small muscle coordination in the fingers. They became skilled enough to sew on their own missing buttons and hem their own pants and skirts. During our town parade for Founder’s Day, my kids designed and sewed their own costumes. Now my grandkids and I make sock puppets, and I taught them how to sew on buttons for the eyes and nose. When my grandson complained that only girls do this, I explained, “Oh, no. That’s not true. This is an important survival skill!”
Both of these next ideas were taken from the book Sidetracked Home Executives, which I highly recommend.
3. Trading jobs
Let’s say it’s five o’clock in the afternoon and you’re trying to get dinner on the table. Your child suddenly remembers to tell you he has a poster project due tomorrow, and asks you to take him to the store. Rather than scolding him or grumbling during the entire hour it takes to run the errand, say, “Sure, no problem. You’ll trade jobs with me. Later on this week, you’ll do an hour of my work.” Then work out a trade like washing the car, or doing some laundry, or cleaning bathrooms. He probably won’t like the extra work, and this will teach him to plan ahead better.
4. Butler Box
As an exhausting day winds down, you’re amazed at how your once-tidy house has become so cluttered: shoes in the hallway, jacket over a chair, snacks still on the counter, and homework spread out on the table. Rather than nagging, you calmly announce that in ten minutes, the Butler Box is coming through. After ten minutes has passed, you put any remaining out-of-place items in the box and close it up. The kids can’t get them out again until they do fifteen minutes of your work to redeem their item. This will take some training, but if you stick to it, just watch the flurry of tidying that will erupt when you announce the eminent arrival of the Butler Box!
It’s great to get your children to help your business. They may gripe and complain at first, but the benefits to you and to them are incalculable. Develop at plan and stick to it. You’ll be so glad you did.