Money has long been considered a key motivator for many children, with parents and educators often using monetary incentives to encourage good behavior, academic success, or completion of chores.

It is easy to think that your children will diligently follow in parents’ footsteps once they see the security, stability, and freedom that some cash on the side can bring.

Or will they? The simple truth is, for many children – unaccustomed to paying bills and providing for others – money is more of an abstract concept than a cold hard limiter on what decisions one can make. The promise of money from a new part-time job or an entrepreneurial venture may not interest your children if money is the only reward.

So how then can we teach our children to strive for success if they aren’t as interested in money (or as knowledgeable about its importance) as we are?

One of the key motivators for children who are interested in starting their own business is a sense of purpose and passion for their idea or product. Children who are passionate about their business idea are more likely to be self-motivated and committed to the long-term success of their venture, which can be a more sustainable form of motivation than external rewards.

Consider intrinsic motivation

When children are motivated primarily by money, they may be more likely to complete business-related tasks solely for the sake of earning a reward, rather than because they are genuinely interested in the business. This can lead to a lack of engagement and interest as well as a decreased sense of intrinsic motivation and personal satisfaction.

Additionally, monetary incentives can also undermine a child’s intrinsic motivation by creating a “payment-for-performance” mentality. When children are rewarded solely for their performance or outcomes, they may begin to view the activity as a means to an end, rather than an enjoyable or meaningful experience in its own right. Children starting a business should be focused on the opportunity for personal growth and development. Starting a business can provide children with opportunities to develop valuable skills such as problem-solving, communication, and leadership, which can be a source of intrinsic motivation and personal satisfaction.

Other incentives

Finally, children who are interested in starting a business may also be motivated by the opportunity to make a positive impact on their community or the world around them. By creating a business that solves a problem or addresses a need, children can develop a sense of purpose and social responsibility, which can be a powerful motivator for many young entrepreneurs. Money may not be an effective motivator for all children because it can create a sense of entitlement or dependency on external rewards. This can lead to decreased independence, self-esteem, and resilience, as children become reliant on external rewards rather than developing their own internal sense of motivation and purpose.

Overall, while monetary rewards can be a motivating factor for children who are interested in starting a business, it’s important to recognize that there are other types of rewards and incentives that may be more effective in promoting a lifelong interest in entrepreneurship. By focusing on intrinsic motivators such as passion, personal growth, and social impact, parents and educators can help to foster a lifelong love of entrepreneurship and innovation in children.

Here are some alternative ways to motivate your children:

Time: Free time is a shockingly simple way to motivate your children. For many kids, the difficulty of work is not a problem; most work was relatively easy. What is more of a problem is that they lose a good chunk of their day doing something. So, rather than pushing a child to complete a project and then expect them to be motivated by the joy of completing the task, couple the project with a reward of extra time to do something they really enjoy. That might be playing a video game, or going someplace fun like the movies or an aquarium. If they put in hard work, they will gain more free time.

Achievement: Praise your kids. This shouldn’t be the only reward you give a child, of course, but simple acknowledgment for a job well done will go a long way towards building their self-esteem and motivating them to keep trying. Consider creating some sort of informal reward – something as simple as a certificate for dedication. (You can easily find fillable certificates online.)

Fun: Make work enjoyable! If you are a parent and your kids are working on a project, gamification can be a great motivator. Make it a friendly contest with rules and rewards. Consider making a game board marking completion of various tasks. At the Dollar Store, you can find noise-making devices that help create a game show atmosphere.

Money is valued for its tangible benefits. But maybe it takes a kid’s perspective to realize that time, achievement and fun are worth all the money in the world.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

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