3 Mistakes We Make With Our Kids

Stand Out from the Crowd. Be Different.

I was at a negotiating training session last weekend as part of the Hothouse course. It was given by the excellent Dermot McConkey. He gave us great tips on selling, negotiating and promoting our business. Lots of good stuff.

He’s also really good at telling stories and one point he made was that as adults we have an inherent aversion of selling to people we don’t know. This originates from our childhood when our parents constantly told us “don’t talk to strangers!”.

This got me thinking about what other things we teach our kids that makes it difficult for them to succeed in business later on in life. Here’s my top three:

1. Don’t Talk To Strangers

Like I mentioned above, as children we were constantly told not to talk to strangers. This teaches us that engaging in a conversation with someone we don’t know is wrong. For a kid, this is a perfectly good piece of advice. Child abductions are rising and talking to strangers significantly increases the risk.

But what about later in life? This lesson is a sticky one and often proves hard to forget the older we become. This is the reason we often feel uncomfortable while trying to sell. We’re going against our parents advice! The ‘don’t talk to strangers’ lesson is still inside us pushing against us when we’re making those all important sales calls. It’s the little voice inside our heads that shouts out ‘No! Don’t do it! It’s wrong!’.

But this is real life and as business owners we have to get over this and go through the hard slog of picking up the phone, or knocking on that door, or going to that networking event, even if it goes against what our parents taught us as children.

2. It’s Important To Fit In

As business owners the one thing we don’t want to do is to look exactly the same as our competition. We want to be noticed, to stand out, to be at the forefront of people’s minds when they think of companies in our industry.

This behavour goes against everything we’ve learned as children. All I wanted to do when I was in school was ‘fit in’. Someone who fitted in didn’t get picked on or bullied or discriminated against. Life went smoothly. If you managed to fit in really well then you might have even been the cool kid in the class. Even better!

But this sort of reward for meeting the status quo doesn’t transfer to adults in business. In fact, the complete opposite is true. To be noticed we need to stand out from the crowd, go against the grain and be different in as many ways as possible. We should be aiming to behave just like the bold screaming child at the back of the classroom, stamping on top of his desk waiving his school bag over his head. Now that’s what we should be doing to get noticed.

3. Expect Gifts Often

As kids we learned to expect gifts. Every time our parents arrived home we looked at them expectantly, asking the all important question ‘did you get me a present?’. This is the natural innocent behavour of a child, but yet again it doesn’t translate to adulthood, especially during business negotiations.

In a negotiation we must never expect a gift. We have to fight tooth and nail for every concession, and these often come at a price. In other words, the opposition will concede something if we concede something. Unfortunately though, this lesson is something we’ve had to relearn as adults because as children we expect things for free and we expect to give nothing in return. Obviously though, this is not an accurate reflection of the real world.

Reteaching Ourselves and Our Children

These three small points show that while we think we’re helping our children, we’re actually making life more difficult for them in the long run! But despite this I would definitely not recommend you start telling your kids to go out and talk to strangers or to ask to be picked on in the classrooms. No, nothing like that, but I really do think it’s a shame that the skills we used to succeed as children actually may prevent us in some ways to succeed as adults.


2 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Gita says:

    I completely agree with first two points however third seems strange.
    I never expect anything for free in negations. It’s not something you would expect 🙂

    Anyway I’m happy that my kid have no problems approaching strangers (of course in our supervision) and that she knows not to follow any of them. And I always teach her that she is special and she don’t have to be like others. I want her to be leader not follower. Very good post indeed!

    Jan 21, 2009
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    Hi Gita, thanks for the comment. The 3rd point I was trying to make is that as children we expect free gifts, but that as negotiating adults it’s a rare event and should never be expected.

    Jan 22, 2009

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