Nurturing a child's enterprising skills will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life, whatever they choose to do, author and businesswoman Lorraine Allman tells Lisa Salmon.
By Lisa Salmon
In today's competitive world, some parents might like to think their bright and curious child is destined to become the next Sir Richard Branson.
While such thoughts may be overly ambitious to say the least, there is perhaps no harm in hoping that one day your child might run his/her own business, or at the very least display some entrepreneurial skills.
Such skills are unlikely to lead to fame, fortune and world domination - but there's no doubt they could help today's children lead a happy and successful adult life, says businesswoman Lorraine Allman, who has just written the book Enterprising Child to help parents develop their child's entrepreneurial potential.
The mother-of-one firmly believes that encouraging entrepreneurial traits is the greatest gift parents can give to children, as it can help them succeed in both work and life.
But she insists: "This isn't about creating mini-Richard Bransons or Deborah Meadens.
"While some children may go on to do wondrous things, entrepreneurial skills, attitudes and characteristics are of equal value in an employment setting, travelling - whatever a young person decides to do.
"It's not just about teaching business skills to children. Most people wouldn't argue with the fact that communication skills, problem solving, teamwork and commercial awareness are all of benefit in a very broad sense."
Aimed at children from four to 14 years, the book identifies five key entrepreneurial characteristics, and goes on to suggest numerous activities for specific age groups to help develop these attributes.
The characteristics are: :: Perceptions of possibilities: seeing the unrealised potential in situations and exploring and exploiting it.
:: Ambition: wanting to do things better and achieve more.
:: Risk and resolve: embracing risks as part of challenges, and demonstrating resolve in the way those risks are managed.
:: Teamwork: inspiring others and working in and leading teams.
:: Value: focusing on the end game and monitoring results.
Emphasising the value of such traits, Allman, who runs a business mentoring firm, explains: "I'm not suggesting that every child should start their own business or become an entrepreneur.
"I do believe, however, that encouraging, supporting and nurturing your child to think and behave in an entrepreneurial way will have a significant impact on the way they view themselves, the world they live in and the opportunities and challenges they will inevitably face in the years ahead."
To help parents nurture these traits, she suggests numerous activities, generally linked to simple everyday experiences, such as shopping, making things, storytelling and even gardening.
All the activities are in age sections and relate to at least one of the five key entrepreneurial characteristics, so parents can see which skill their child is learning.
One example, for children aged four to six years, is to turn queueing into a learning experience. To do this, a parent in a long queue with their child can ask them why they think the queue is so long, and what could be done to make the queue move faster.
This encourages the child to think about possible solutions to the queueing problem, and stops them getting bored in the queue by taking their mind off it and encouraging them to think creatively.
Another idea is for parents of children aged nine to 11 years to let them be Top Dog for the day. In this activity, the child decides which household chores need to be done, what equipment is needed for each task, and who does each one.
It needs to be fun, says Allman, and the child will learn that efficient teamwork needs someone in charge. They will also find out more about effective communication, negotiation and dealing with conflict (such as a younger sibling who doesn't want to do the chores he/she has been allocated).
Allman points out that many of the activities are play-based, and stresses: "This isn't about making children grow up before their time.
"I'm trying to support parents and help them to notice what sparks their children's interest, and help them uncover their child's passions and talents by exposing them to new experiences and ideas.
"It's just looking at what your child does in a slightly different way."
She gives the example of a young child involved in role play, for example playing at shops.
Parents should try to notice what part of the role play their child enjoys most - is it setting up shop, or the selling, planning, or presentation?
Allman points out that Young Enterprise research in 2009 found that 59% of the UK's 'most important and influential companies' thought the education system was poor at developing young people's entrepreneurial skills, and 75% said British education wasn't equipping youngsters with the right skills to enter the workforce.
"The feedback from employers is that they want these skills and schools aren't producing them. There are fundamental gaps that are being missed for our children.
"This isn't about facts and figures, it's about characteristics, and that's why it can be nurtured in children from such a young age and why parents play such a pivotal role."
She adds: "Every parent wants the best for their child, and this is simply trying to uncover and explore with your child their natural passions and talents, at a pace that's right for them."
:: Enterprising Child is published by Bookshaker, priced £13.95. Available now.
Ask the expert Q: "My seven-year-old son has fallen and hit his head hard on concrete, and while it's only grazed, he's got a bad headache and I don't know whether I should take him to hospital. What should I look out for to help me decide what to do?"
A: Consultant paediatrician Dr Robert Scott-Jupp, spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says: "This is a common query for GPs and emergency departments. Not every child with this sort of injury needs to be seen by a doctor.
"The important questions are: Did he lose consciousness at all, either immediately after the injury or since?
"Did he have any sort of fit or seizure?
"Has he vomited more than two or three times?
"Has he become confused; e.g. doesn't know where he is, or who familiar people are?
"Is there any double vision or loss of vision?
"Is there any weakness down one side of his body or his face?
"Is any fluid or blood leaking from his ears or nose?
"If he has any of these, then he should be taken straight to an emergency department.
"If the answers to all these questions are no, then he could safely be kept at home, but he will need close watching, and the things to watch out for are the development of any of the symptoms listed above over the 24 hours following the injury.
"The graze can be treated like any graze, and the headache can be treated with simple paracetamol (e.g. Calpol).
"It's fine to let him sleep normally, and he doesn't need to be kept awake, but he should be woken a couple of times during the night to check that he can still be roused."
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