I Spoke To 70 Parents Who Raised Highly Successful Adults – Here Are 4 Difficult Things They Did Differently

What is a parent’s role in raising smart, confident, and successful children? What matters? What not? Although I am the mother of two happy and driven enterprising sons, these are questions I never thought I would ask.

Looking back, I would have loved to read stories about how entrepreneurs grew up – not just Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but people we could really identify with.

Entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are not just founders of for-profit companies. They are resilient, hardworking people who start things, who come up with ideas and bring them to life, who turn passion into projects.

While researching and writing my book, “Raising an Entrepreneur,” I interviewed 70 parents who raised highly successful adults. Here are their four hard parenting rules that set them apart from most others:

1. Give children extreme independence

2. Cherish active compassion

3. Welcome failures early and often

Nia Batts Co-Founder Detroit blows, an inclusive, non-toxic hair and beauty service. I met Nia about 10 years ago when she was working at Viacom.

When I asked her how she had gathered the courage to quit her regular job and start all over again, she said it was because she learned the merits of early and frequent failure when she was young.

“My mother was a trial lawyer. Most of the time she won, sometimes she lost,” Nia said. “I remember my father often asking me, ‘Where did you fail today?’ He asked me when I was young and he drove me to or from school; he asked me when I was in college; and he asked me more often when I started working.”

I have seen so many parents trying to prevent their children from failing. But Nia’s parents wanted to make sure they created an environment where it was okay to fail. “I think they were excited to see the process unfold as I grew up and learned that lesson. My father taught me that in your wounds are your gifts, and in your failures are your opportunities,” she said.

4. Let go of control and lead by following

Children need time to discover their paths. Many experience periods when it is unclear where they are going. In this situation, some parents may see their children as lost. But parents of children who grow up to be entrepreneurs are more likely to see their children as discovering.

This is the hard part for many parents: If you want to raise an entrepreneur, you have to lead by following no matter where your child wants to go.

Kenneth Ginsburg, author of “Building Resilience in Children and Teens,” offers this advice: “Getting out of the way is a challenge. We want to help, repair and guide children. But we have to remind ourselves that when we let them figure things out for themselves, we’re communicating this: ‘I think you’re capable and wise.'”

In other words, see what your kids want, what their passion is, what they are good at and what makes them happy. Let their gift be revealed. Then support it. Tell them how proud you are of them for succeeding in their chosen path. And then tell them over and over until you’re sure they believe it.

They may not end up with a career you had in mind, but if they are able to pursue their passion, they will be happy and fulfilled. And isn’t that what all parents want for their children?

Margot Machol Bisnow is a writer, mother and parenting expert. She has served in government for 20 years, including as FTC Commissioner and Chief of Staff to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and is the author of “Raising an Entrepreneur: How to Help Your Kids Achieve Their Dream.” Follow her on Instagram @margotbisnow

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