Another One Flew Over the . . . Chicken Coop! (Steps for Instilling an Entrepreneurial Spirit in Your Children)
Well, the name of our website is “just a family thing,” and as you may have guessed, sometimes “family things” happen . . . all in the process of wanting our blog to go out. So, here I am, running a little behind. But hey, that’s real life around here, and I would be amiss not to be honest about that!! Soooo, all of that said, I hope today’s post is worth the wait. 🙂
Looking back, I wish I had a few pictures to show you how rough a start we had with our son’s earliest projects, who, by the way, built this chicken coop. I remember hearing his dad, over and over, asking him to clean up his mess in our old garage. When I say “mess,” I do mean “boy, was it a mess!” He took everything apart, left parts all over the floor, and scattered his dad’s tools (though I can’t tell you his dad used his tools very often! More on that later.) And when all of the children you have are in the mess-making mode, you think it will never end! It’s hard to see any purpose in it at all. I truly had no idea how Nathaniel’s mess-making time was literally catapulting him into his God-given ability to build and create. Looking back, we actually helped him out immensely, without realizing it. Just allowing him to “make his mess” was the beginning of an amazing and fruitful process.
I hesitate to give you ideas based on certain ages, because all children are different and they all learn on different timetables. I cannot stress that enough! Lorenzo and I joke that if we have proven anything with our big crew, it’s the fact that every single one of them are uniquely and wonderfully different. I would say the source of most of the worry parents experience during the childhood years is based on expecting a child to do something when and how some other child is doing it. Nope, not gonna happen!! So, these age groupings are just a guide, not a rigid rule.
1. Ages 0-5: This is the time for mess-making. At this stage, children are “wet cement.” I read somewhere when we first began this big adventure that a child’s character is formed by the age of five. This really made an impression on me. Lorenzo and I began to see that in order for anything else to work with these little ones, we had to teach them how to obey. It’s impossible to do anything with a screaming two year-old in the grocery store if he has no experience or training in the word “no.” I would spend days on end doing the “trench work-type” stuff (diapers, food, laundry, read books, sing songs) and feel like I wasn’t doing anything important. But all of the moments between the supposedly mundane were spent constantly training the children to obey. Some of the most beneficial areas to work on were “come here,” “no touch,” “sit still,” “please and thank you,” and of course, “no.” Over and over, using the same words, we would practice like it was a game. (By the way, the training part needs back-up with the discipline part, more on that later, too.) We memorized a song about “obeying the first time.” It really is life and death at this point when you think about a little one going towards a busy street. They must know our voice and obey quickly. (Sometime I’ll write about the similarities of dog obedience training to child training . . . won’t want to miss that one 🙂 Let me just say this. It has paid off. (And I’m still knee-deep in training with the little ones!) It comes in handy to know a sixteen year-old understands obeying instructions when we say, “Make sure you are wearing your eye goggles when you are using the table saw. . .
2. Ages 5-10: This is the time for tactile interaction with responsibility. Now (or really even earlier) is the prime time to include your children in your tasks. If you can think of it like this, it’s a way to “work yourself out of a job.” No, they won’t do it like you do it, and here’s where the rub comes in. It’s a bit ouchy to watch a child shut his dresser drawer with underwear and socks folded the wrong way, inside out, or mismatched. But really, who cares?? You can always patiently teach them again, and they will get it. Eventually. And you will turn around and they will teach a younger sibling, and bingo! You are working yourself out of a job! You can very feasibly show this age group how to help in the kitchen (rinse and dry dishes, load the dishwasher, sweep, take out trash, wipe the table, etc.), help with the laundry (fold and put away clothes, get on a step stool and help load the washer, put dirty clothes away in the right spot, etc.), along with chores for a pet or in the garden. And guess what? They love helping out!! It makes them feel important and part of the team. I’ll never forget my grandma showing me how to wash dishes one summer when they took me to Ruidoso, New Mexico. I thought I was so big, getting to do a grown-up job! Of course, now as an adult, it’s not really my favorite thing to do, but the habit is there. If you wait until your children are “old enough” to help do basic chores, they won’t like it one bit, and it’s an uphill battle from there. And as I said before, this all comes in handy when you tell the sixteen year-old to please clean up his chicken coop mess in the barn . .
3. Ages 10-13: This is the time to start identifying your child’s “bent” and helping supply it with tools and finances. Finally! I know you’ve been thinking, “Okay, we haven’t taught them anything about a small business! They’ve just been obeying, cleaning, and working hard! (Hopefully!) Well, it’s like the Karate Kid and waxing the car. (Hope you’re old enough to remember that movie.) Here’s the age that all of these habits start to make sense. And I say “bent” because of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” In this scripture, “train” in the Hebrew implies taking into consideration his individual gifts or “bent.” Each child has their own “spiritual DNA” and God is able to give us wisdom concerning each and every turn in the road. When Nathaniel was still in the destruction stage, I was standing at the kitchen sink one day looking at the screen on the window that was broken. I was complaining to myself about my husband’s lack of interest in “fixing things.” (I know, not a nice thing for a wife to do, just the truth!) In the midst of my whining, I felt God nudge my heart with these words: “You don’t need your husband to be a fix-it guy, he has other gifts. You are raising a fix-it guy!” Wow. Gulp! I got the message. Ok, God, I’m trusting you that my little mess-maker will grow up and fulfill his calling. This is when we started buying Nathaniel his own tools and giving him small projects. We watched for opportunities for him to hone his skills that were underneath the surface. His grandparents got him an Erector set (a complicated model car), we got him plenty of wooden blocks, hammer and nails, etc. Slowly, but surely, it has all come in handy . . .
4. Ages 14-18: Around this time, we set up Nathaniel’s checking account for his small business. He now has his own workshop and has an ongoing list of projects. He’s had an endless stream of conversations with his Dad about every aspect of his business, which he has named Young American Craftsman. He makes paracord bracelets and has been filling orders for picture frames and other items. At sixteen, he is definitely making progress towards an entrepreneurial mindset. Though I haven’t mentioned his 17 year-old sister, she is several steps ahead of him with her homemade bread business (You can check out her and her 14 year-old sister’s work at homemadehelpers.com). She built her own website and did most of the work for this website. Nathaniel is hoping Hannah will help him with a website as well. As he has said, “I’m not a software guy, I’m a hardware guy.” Wow, we know . . . and that sure has come in handy!
P.S. I have no idea what to say about anything to do with parenting after the age of 18. More on that after we get there. 🙂