Succeeding as a hard-charging entrepreneur or business leader is a tricky match for parenthood. Here are five ways to get the most out of your entrepreneurial reality by giving your kids what they most need from you as a parent.
1. Give them an invitation to learn what you do, and how you do it. No matter how specific and nichey your business pursuits may be, there are ways you go about it that your kids can learn from: how you structure your day, how you deal with disappointment, how you deal with successes--do you claim all the credit yourself, do you share the credit with your team? Regardless of what line of work your children end up in, these are areas where you have a lot to share.
2. Give them permission to fail. It's tricky being a successful entrepreneur. Some percentage of us attribute our successes exclusively to our own awesomeness, with an "I made my own breaks" kind of attitude. The rest of us understand that no success is born alone, and that good luck and serendipity are huge parts of the equation here. Whichever of these groups you fall into, if you are currently succeeding, you may set a daunting example for your kids. Try to de-daunt this as best you can so that your kids feel okay experimenting, halfway succeeding, or, yes, falling on their faces where and when it's necessary to do so.
3. Give them permission to be different. Of course, your kids will turn out different from you with or without your permission. But will they feel good about being different? Quite possibly not, unless you embrace their differences. Including...
4. Give them permission to not go into business. Particularly permission to not go into your family business-what a great gift you are giving a child by giving them their wings in this area.
5. Give them your support. I know this sounds platitudinously obvious, but it's essentially the whole ball game. So let me expand this into a few ways your kids need your support, whether or not they follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps:
• Mental health support. With the crisis of depression and even suicidality, asking down-in-the-dumps kids to "buck up" and "show more grit" isn't necessarily-or even likely-the solution. It's not a failing to call in professional assistance here; it's a sign of good parenting.
• Health insurance. Yo entrepreneurs! I know you're never going to have a sick day in your life-or at least you don't think you will-but that kind of insane optimism is no way to raise a family. Even if you have to keep your day job for years longer than you'd like to otherwise, in order to stay insured, that may be the price to pay here.
• "I'm proud of you" support. Telling them this often is essential. As is "I love you," repeated early and often.
• Listening-to-them support. This is important. Unfortunately, some kids make this feel like pulling teeth, but there are some tricks that make it easier; for example, they may be most gregarious in the car, when they don't have the pressure of looking at you face to face, or when engaged in another activity with you, even something as mundane as watching sports. If so, have your listening ears at the ready for these occasions, so you can make the most of them.