My generation, Generation X, was widely believed to be the first in U.S. history to not do as well as our parents’ generation had. There were many reasons for this, but the primary one was the speculation that everything “good” that could be invented had already been invented. How could we possibly do any better?
Then came the Internet.
The World Wide Web, along with the ten "flatteners" that Thomas Friedman laid out in The World is Flat, opened and brought together global markets, ushering in an exciting new era of innovation and entrepreneurship. The result? One could argue that we and the generation after us are doing just fine.
But what about the generation after that? The future business leaders who have yet to hit puberty or even start walking? If we are to raise the next group of leaders and entrepreneurs -- or at least adults with the skills to succeed -- I believe we must look closely at how we instill the traits necessary to survive and thrive in the new global business environment.
Parents must step up. Here are six things they need to do -- or not do -- to ensure we raise the next generation of business leaders properly.
1. Stop hovering.
Helicopter parents are everywhere. It's gotten to the point that children on leashes is a sight I see more often than I care to admit. I even see the implications of "hovering" around my own kids, in the evil eyes and subtle gasps I get as I let my daughter climb a jungle gym with no harness, helmet or safety rope.
The problem with hovering parents, however, is that with no space, children never learn to embrace and appreciate independence, a vital variable in building and developing confidence at an early age.
So, give your children some space. Allow them to fall and scrape their knees once in a while. Just remember that they will inevitably fall and get "scraped up" (figuratively speaking) someday, so it is far better to be around when they do than when they venture out and experience failure for the first time alone.
2. Stop defaulting to electronics.
OK, I get it. Sometimes the utter joy of silence after answering to "Mommy, Mommy" or "Daddy, Daddy" for the hundredth time can be an incredible incentive for putting your kids in front of a tablet or the television. But television and many children’s apps are stifling our children's imagination. Today, we get toys with prepackaged characters and television shows that provide everything from the character’s voice to any number of plots.
Gone are the days when children had to rely on their imaginations as they played.
While some screen time on television, electronics or games, can be useful -- assuming the right programs/apps are provided and consumed in moderation -- time with physical toys that encourage imaginative play, build creative skills and require critical thinking is important for children. Simple toys like building blocks, coloring books, play sets and even just household items can go a long way in this regard.
It is amazing what you can do with an oversized cardboard box and a fresh set of markers.
While parents play an important role in moderating play, they should allow and encourage their children to engage in unstructured free play as often as possible.
3. Stop giving ribbons for everything.
My daughter brings home a ribbon every day after gymnastics class -- even though she still hasn’t mastered the forward straddle roll. Of course, I understand why: She is 4 years old, and her teachers are trying to instill confidence and a sense of achievement.
The problem is that when she finally reaches that point in her life when she is not rewarded for doing exactly what is expected of her, she might lose the confidence we as a society spent so much time and so many ribbons trying to build.
In the end, ribbons are the lazy way of dealing with the issue of losing.
We need to understand that for many people motivation is based on a drive to be the best. Take out "the best" from the equation, and motivation is lost. Granted, I understand that a win-lose environment may hurt more people than it helps, but I would argue that when only a few people are allowed to win, we either learn to deal with the disappointment or we strive to get better. If we want to raise well-rounded kids, parents need to instill the latter goal.
4. Stop saying "no" to everything.
I love going to the homes of new parents, with their pristine floors, wine racks at ground level and clean white couches. Inevitably I am told that the house is safe because their children "aren't going to be like other kids."
That may be true, but in fact children need to be like other kids. They need to explore and engage their imagination, follow adventurous insights and dabble in new interests and hobbies. Often, these activities come in the form of permanent markers on a clean wall, a new toy in the bathtub or a spilled bag of flour in the living room. Our children need the creativity and critical thinking that these valuable experiences and lessons encourage at a young age and ultimately translate into valuable adult skills.
5. Stop teaching that failure is bad.
We strive for our children to be the best. Achieving high marks in school, earning first place in a club sport or winning at a science fair are all important and admirable goals. More important, however, is how we teach our children to fail, because they will fail at some point. And, as most business leaders will tell you, failure is common and indeed necessary on the road to success.
In times of failure, it is parents' responsibility to pick up our kids, dust them off and turn those failures into teachable moments. We need to instill in them the ability to see lessons through these failures, mistakes and errors. We need to promote risk-taking and allow our kids to take chances, fail and move on.
Instead of teaching our children to always strive for perfection, we should encourage them to strive for improvement.
6. Stop blaming everyone else for your children's shortcomings.
Finally, we should stop looking at our children as perfect little bundles of DNA. Children are by default illiterate, uncoordinated and generally ignorant; and while that may sometimes make them insufferable, it is our responsibility as parents to deal with it.
Instead of blaming society, culture, media, teachers, doctors or the weather for when our children misbehave or underperform, stop for a second and consider the level of responsibility you have as a parent. Remember, parents are the number one influence on a child's development, so before you blame someone else for an imperfect child, consider making changes at home.
Do you agree or disagree? Please share your valuable thoughts and insights in the comments below.