Raise Your Child to be Business-Smart

Are parents training children to handle business transactions – or are most children left to be eaten alive by the sharks of sales? We must prepare the next generation how to speak up and negotiate proper business deals. If not, our offspring will become sitting ducks for the shysters and schemers who are lying in wait for business illiterates.

Much of the book of Proverbs is the wisdom of a father being passed down to his son. In reality, Proverbs is one of the first parenting books. Much of Proverbs offers advice about money and how to handle business. That alone should be a parent’s clue about the importance of teaching children about business.

Intentional training
Generations ago, children grew up working for the family-owned business and learned how to handle the business of the farm or the general store. They had on-the-job training from an early age.

In this world of big corporations, parents might not be able to bring the children into their business world. However, parents can certainly bring business transactions into the world of the family. It is important to teach our children how to negotiate business deals even if they are only parent/child transactions.

Every weekend, my son Robey had the chore of washing his mother’s car. Rosemary and I never paid our children to do chores. Their payment was the fact that they got to eat and had a place to sleep. They were family members and that meant they had to pitch in and help.
However, there were always extra opportunities for our children to make money. When Robey went out to wash his mother’s car, I often asked him if he wanted to make a little money and wash my car.

“After all Robey, you already have the bucket and the hose out.” This is where the training began. “Why not wash my car and make a little  extra money while you’re at it.”  Robey would follow my offer with the same question, “How much, Dad?”  In other words, how much was I offering to pay him to wash my car?

I  always started by offering less than the job was worth. It was not just the car that I wanted washed. I wanted to take care of teaching my son how to negotiate a business deal, how to speak up, and how to ask for what is fair.

The skill of negotiation
There are many people that have not gotten proper pay increases because they do not know how to ask. They deserved a raise and they see other people getting pay raises, but they just do not know how to approach their boss and ask. Business, however, is not all about making money. Much of business is about negotiating.

“Two dollars,” I would answer. I’ll pay you two dollars to wash my car.”
“Dad,” Robey would respond, acting as frustrated as he could, “It costs more than that to get your car washed by a machine at the gas station and they don’t do it by hand.” Then he would begin negotiating. “I think since I’m going to wash your car by hand and even dry it by hand, it’s worth at least five dollars, don’t you?”

That is when we would dicker back-and-forth until we agreed on a specific amount of money. I will never forget the time I had just returned from Orlando and the front of my car was covered with bugs. That was the day he discovered the law of supply and demand. I desperately needed my car washed and he knew it was worth more to me than the usual amount.

Was I mad at him for taking advantage of me? Not at all! He was already washing his mom’s car and doing all his other chores for free. This was a separate business deal and he knew he had me. The moment was training at its best – and it was great.

Many opportunities
Teach your children to speak up and then take advantage of other teaching opportunities. For instance, when their school is selling something, do not do it for them. Teach them how to ask, how to make the sale. Let them learn to speak up when selling Girl Scout cookies or school candy. They will learn to deal with the disappointment of rejection, as well as the elation of making the sale.

At the same time, teach your children to be fair and even generous to the people around them. Years ago a man knocked on our door and offered to pressure clean our walkways and deck for a certain amount of money. I knew the amount he offered was much too low for the job. I accepted his offer, and when he was done, I paid him more than he asked for.

When one of my children asked why I paid him more, I told them that I did it for two reasons. First of all it is the right thing to do to be fair to others. Second, it is good to be generous towards others. Being fair and generous towards others makes for good business.
Children need to learn how to speak up and not only make the sale, but also negotiate the contract. They need to learn to talk in a winning way, look the potential buyer in the eye and be respectful at the same time. These are skills for adults to have, but more important, these are skills for parents to teach their children.

God gives each of us skills to use for His glory and for our own livelihood. It is important to be taught how to be good stewards of what God has given. Business is just one more arena where it is important for a child to be taught how to deal in the world without acting like the world.

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.  To learn more about Pastor Bob Barnes, go to www.sheridanhouse.org.

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