Raising kids to be entrepreneurs

Posted at 03/23/11 5:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - It has often been said that the Chinese rear their children to have a business someday, saying, "When you grow up and have your own business..."

In contrast, Filipinos are said to bring up their children to be good employees, saying, "Study well so you can have a good job."

This is the reason, some people say, why a lot of businesses in the Philippines are owned by Filipino-Chinese. In fact, the country's tycoons such as Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, and Lucio Tan all have Chinese roots.

"It's our culture in general," said Mary Joy Canon Abaquin, author of the recently released book 8 Simple Secrets to Raising Entrepreneurs, on the ANC show "Shop Talk" recently.

But there is a need to change the mindset and teach entrepreneurship skills to young Filipino children as "the demands of children [now] are very different," noted Abaquin.

"The kind of mind that would be needed for the 21st century is very different. It has to be a mind that is innovative, a mind that could problem-solve," added Abaquin, referring to skills most entrepreneurs possess.

Noting that Asian countries are surpassing the Philippines in many ways, she said teaching entrepreneurship is "a way to prepare our kids globally."

"I believe the Filipino child is very talented. They just are not given opportunities given to other kids," said Abaquin, also the founding directress of Multiple Intelligence International School, a progressive school in Quezon City.

Know your child's strength

Raising a child to be entrepreneurial, or to be successful in whatever he or she may do, starts with knowing the child and his strengths or intelligence.

Mary Joy Canon Abaquin, author of '8 Simple Secrets to Raising Entrepreneurs'

 Abaquin said there are 8 different types of intelligence (or multiple intelligences as espoused by Harvard educator Dr. Howard Gardner). "Everyone has an aspect of each of the intelligences in varying degrees," said Abaquin, but there is one intelligence that is more dominant.

These are:

1. linguistic or word smart: The child keeps on asking questions and always tells stories.

2. logical-mathematical or numbers smart: The child is good in numbers. "This intelligence is usually associated with being good entrepreneurs because of the ability to think in terms of cause and effect," said Abaquin. She added, however, that "We don't box kids, and say those who are number smart can be entrepreneurs."

3. spatial or picture smart: The child is visual, is good in arts, and needs something visual to learn.

4. musical or music smart: The child learns faster through music, even lessons such as the multiplication table.

5. body-kinesthetic or body smart: The child is good in sports and loves movement.

6. naturalist or nature smart: The child likes science, is always asking for a pet, and can often be found in the playground exploring.

7. intrapersonal or self smart: The child is quiet in class but has a very good understanding of himself.

8. interpersonal or people smart: The child interacts well with other people and can easily get other people to follow them.

"The challenge is to find in the child his strength. Children understand what their passion is," she said.

Give opportunities

It's crucial to know a child's strength or intelligence since this will guide parents and teachers in knowing what opportunities to give the child so he or she will build on that strength, explained Abaquin.

Determining a child's intelligence and his or her interests will also pinpoint an idea the child can pursue.

Abaquin spelled out this equation as: "I + I = I (Intelligence + Interest = Idea). It has to be a combination of both so they find their passion."

She explained this further: "Some are strong in intelligence but they are not interested in it...Sometimes you're a doctor but your passion is photography. You're a so-so doctor but you're a great photographer."

Building a child's strength can also boost a child's self-esteem. "I really want to build children's strength. That's where they're most comfortable with and that's where you can really build a lot of confidence and self-esteem. When you are aware of your strengths, you can use it to overcome your weaknesses," Abaquin stressed.

She also advised parents and teachers to look at what kids are capable of doing.

"Instead of looking at what kids can't do, look at what they can do. Once we focus on strengths, it becomes so easy, it's a language for kids and they discover that, 'Oh wow, I'm so interested in this.' It's effortless and they develop an entrepreneurial mind about it," Abaquin explained.

Encourage creativity

When kids' creativity is encouraged, children become empowered, added Abaquin.

"Allow kids to have a voice. Let kids be creative and innovative. Allow mistakes -- that's how they learn," she said.

Kids are also brimming with ideas so listen to them, she said. "They can be very good ideas once you try to guide them, translating these ideas into action."

Students apply entrepreneurship lessons at the annual school bazaar. Photo courtesy of Multiple Intelligence International School

At the Multiple Intelligence International School, an annual bazaar is held where students from prep to high school are given the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition.

The kids brainstorm and choose products they can sell at the bazaar. Among the products that have been sold in the past are body scrubs, lotions, cookies, hair accessories, and Christmas decors.

With the help of a mentor, the students create the products themselves. Then they think of ways to market the products during the bazaar.

During the bazaar itself, kids are grouped and assume certain roles. "Some kids become cashiers or baggers or marketers."

The high school students are given an additional requirement: make a business plan complete with cash flow statement and other documents.

The bazaar is also an opportunity for kids to learn that entrepreneurship can be used to help others as proceeds go to a charity. Past bazaar proceeds have gone to Bahay Mapagmahal, a foundation that helps give paraplegic kids an education.

"Being in the Philippines, we feel that future Filipino leaders should think about entrepreneurship not as simply a money-making thing but a way to change lives. We tell them you have to be an entrepreneur with heart. Make a difference," Abaquin said.

Abaquin's book, 8 Simple Secrets to Raising Entrepreneurs, details other ways parents can help encourage entrepreneurship in kids. The book is available at National Bookstore.