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Elementary business
Teach child more than dollars and sense
 
Published Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:03 am
by Wesley Carter

I have noticed that my children appear to be unaware of how to conduct even the most basic business transactions. How can I prepare them for the complexities of adulthood, and when should I start?

Wesley Carter


Your assessment is correct. According to current demographic data, young adults are taking longer to graduate, establish careers, and become financially independent. It is a long-standing myth that children are incapable of comprehending and synthesizing adult concepts.


In the United States, formal education typically starts at five years of age with rote learning and recitation. By the age of ten, children possess the cognitive ability to learn sophisticated skills. Yet, we still do not generally teach business principals or life skills until children are much older.


Watching the confused look on the face of a sales clerk fumbling to make change without the aid of a cash register is sad. Moreover, most college students carry an average of $3,000 in credit card debt, and more than 60 percent of them are unaware of the interest rates associated with this debt. According to Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman, most children are financially illiterate. Perhaps it is time to take a more aggressive approach to building business competencies at an earlier age.


With the proper scaffolding, children can master complex concepts. Children are perfectly capable of beginning to learn how to navigate the complexities of life. There are five fundamental business competencies that every elementary school student should master: financial literacy, ordering from a menu, returning or exchanging merchandise, making introductions, and shaking hands.


• Financial literacy: While most children master the concept of spending at an early age, few possess the concept of saving, donating, and investing. Children form attitudes toward money from their parents. In a 2003 survey by Northwestern Mutual, 71 percent of parents felt that children should begin to learn about financial literacy by the first grade.

Requiring children to save helps them establish financial rituals of saving, investing, donating, and spending. Open a joint savings account with your children and establish the ritual of saving at an early age.


• Ordering from the menu: Most children are perfectly satisfied asking their parents to request more ketchup from the waiter or waitress. Unfortunately, this strategy deprives children of the opportunity to practice public speaking and making cooperative inquiries. Ordering from the menu instills confidence and responsibility in children. Requiring children to interact with the waiter or waitress to order the family’s meals from the menu builds awareness of the plethora of available options. Discourage children from ordering from the child’s menu in favor of the more healthy options offered on the adult menu.

Additionally, establish the dinner budget before ordering and hold your child accountable for negotiating with each family member to stay within the budget and order the dinner.


• Returning or exchanging merchandise: Top universities no longer rely exclusively on test scores for admission. Instead, they look for students with leadership ability. Further, most scholarship finalists are required to participate in interviews. Requesting a store return on a defective or improperly fitting item is an excellent strategy to develop the reasoning and problem-solving skills necessary to conduct a successful interview. In fact, the cognitive challenge inherent in conducting a store return hones creative thinking, literacy and mathematical skills. Accompany your elementary school student to the retailer and coach them through the process. 


• Introductions: Children who learn to make introduction early grow into adults who make introductions with confidence and finesse. Teach your child to shake hands and address strangers by Mr., Ms., or Dr. and their last name. If you approve of using first names, be sure to require your child to still preface the name with the appropriate title: Mr., Ms., or Dr. If they are seated, children should be trained to stand and greet strangers and introduce themselves.


• Shaking hands: Every child should be trained to shake hands. A proper handshake is an indication of exposure, training, and goodwill. The correct way to shake hands involves extending the right hand, thumb pointing up, and fingers together.


WESLEY CARTER D.Mgt., provides parenting guidance to committed parents. Visit www.kidsbycarter.com and follow on Twitter @kidsbydrcarter.

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