There are so many positive outcomes for children learning the value of volunteerism, it’s almost difficult to know where to start.
Just a few that come to mind:
- Shifting focus from themselves and their own needs to others
- Establishing a life-long habit
- Contributing to the community and society
- Teaching not everyone has access to the same opportunities or resources that they may take for granted
- Performing a task beyond simple chores
Teaching a child the value of volunteerism, helping others and not always being self-focused, will build character and empathy for others.
1. STAGE VOLUNTEERISM AS A REWARD
Don’t make volunteerism sound like a punishment or a burden. Instead, position it as a reward for good behavior or something to which to look forward.
Of course, don’t underestimate your child’s intelligence – they can smell a con game a mile away. So, if you know they are going to push back from helping clean the beach, give them choices.
We can do either this or that. Don’t offer the option not to do anything, but, at least, they will feel somewhat in control.
Depending on your child (you know best), you might lead up to the volunteer activity slowly. Mention how lonely retirees must be at the nearby Retirement Home. Tell a story about running into one and discovering they rarely have visitors.
Wait a day and bring it up again in a different context. Finally, when ready, suggest the idea of going over together to read stories to them.
I am not suggesting lying, by the way. Feel free to actually do some research to make sure you are putting your child into a comfortable environment whether it’s a Retirement Home or a Dog Pound.
This is a very important lesson you are teaching your child and it deserves a little effort.
2. MAKE IT FUN
Fun and age-appropriate. Begin by finding volunteer opportunities that match with your child’s age and interests. For example, if they love animals, find something where they can work with dogs or cats.
There are also horse ranches where rescued horses are used for therapy.
If your child has strong ties to Grandparents, you might consider having them read to retirees in a nearby retirement community. You can always expand into other unrelated areas as they get used to the concept. Start with the familiar.
Consider having them join in the search for where to volunteer next. Allow them to be part of the process.
3. GIVE GREAT FEEDBACK
Don’t forget the basics. Thank them for volunteering, for doing such a great job, and making a difference. Be sure to point out what might have happened if they hadn’t volunteered. “Mr. Smith would have had such a lonely day if you hadn’t showed up to read to him!’ or “Just look at what a mess this park was until you helped clean it up!”
Make it clear that, because of their effort, they made a big difference. This will teach them self-esteem and appreciation.
Don’t lose sight that you are trying to connect how children feel about themselves with their actions.
4. INCORPORATE INTO A FAMILY VACATION
If we agree that volunteerism should be a way of life for all of us, then why not make it a part of your next family vacation? Combine the good feelings created by having fun with the family with helping others.
This is a connection a child will keep for the rest of their lives and, probably, continue with their own family one day.
Volunteering should be considered to be as great a reward as spending the day at Disneyland or on the beach in the Caribbean. In fact, it is particularly appropriate when enjoying an experience that, possibly, others can’t afford or, for other reasons, participate.
The good feelings from making a difference in other people’s live or in the community, in general, will last far longer than the fun spending at an amusement park. The satisfaction of helping others lasts forever.
Make it part of the agenda, just like all the other events, such as a special restaurant or visiting a special tourist site. Pretty soon, it will become part of your family culture and expected.
5. JOIN IN
Children learn from the examples we parents create. Good or bad, they often follow in our footsteps.
Don’t hesitate to jump in and join the fun. Don’t allow yourself to simply observe; participate! It will feel less like a task, and more like a family event.
As parents, we tend to focus only on activities like swimming team, soccer, piano lessons, dance class, karate class and, to an exhausting degree, so much more. Does that sound familiar?
Why isn’t volunteerism included? You may need to sacrifice a lesson here or there, but, in the balance of things, how would you rate learning to help others compared to one of the many activities we usually sign up our children?
Click here for a website that can help you find suitable avenues for volunteering.
Young adults usually find a mentor in life by chance. A favorite teacher, a senior manager at work, or, possibly, a respected relative. For the lucky ones, the right mentor will appear just at the right time to help shape our career or give a nudge in a new and different direction. For me, it was my Psychology Professor at Northwestern, Dr. Camille Wortman.
Coming from a small private High School in New York City, I was shocked by the size of the lecture classes at N.U. in my freshman year. I felt, that morning in Psych 101, like a nameless, insignificant nobody in a group of about 1,500 students. So, at the end of the first 50 minutes of lecture, knowing no better, I approached the stage, looked up at my professor and, pointing to myself, said, “Hi. I’m Mark Feldstein.” and walked out.
Later that afternoon, I walked into Dr. Wortman’s office. The professor stopped in her tracks and said, “You’re Mark Feldstein! Do you want to work for me?” I worked for her for my 4 years of undergraduate school, cleaned her house, sold her car and with whom I flew a kite off Lake Michigan (designed by DaVinci which they no longer make, but was awesome).
It doesn’t matter that I only minored in Psychology. My mentor may not have convinced me to pursue psych. My grades weren’t good enough, anyway, to be truthful. Instead, Dr. Wortman taught me other valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day; a strong work ethic, a morale compass and a sense of empathy among many others. It is unpredictable how a mentor can impact your life, but it you keep your mind open to possibilities, I would venture to say that you will benefit and benefit greatly.
When I walked up to that stage, I wasn’t intending to find a mentor. However, I did open a door by being proactive. I further pursued the opportunity by showing up at Dr. Wortman’s office. No matter how I may want to color it, though, I found my mentor by chance.
FIND A MENTOR
Don’t make that mistake. Don’t leave it to chance because chance is a gamble. Find a mentor purposely and methodically. Find one as soon as possible, preferably while still in High School. If you have an idea of your career path, find a professional in that arena. Tell them of your interest and for any suggestions regarding which classes are most helpful beside the required ones. You might be surprised by how an academic curriculum may differ from the one suggested by a professional who is actually working in the field. Of course, you will still have to take the prescribed courses, regardless, but you may find the suggested classes will give you an advantage in not only your resume, but also your perspective. Ask any architect and you will quickly understand what I mean.
Also, you never know how a vested mentor can help you when you need it; an internship, a letter of recommendation or, even, a job one day. Don’t think that this relationship is all one way, with you receiving and the mentor giving. It doesn’t work that way.
People love to share their knowledge, especially with an interested and, possibly, talented young person. Idolatry doesn’t hurt their egos, either. And, if they do grant you an internship, for example, they will work you to the bone. Have no fear; it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. So, take advantage of it.
Find a mentor. Oh, and by the way, you can have more than one.
You probably didn’t realize that children are born with three innate skills. It’s part of their DNA. Not only do these skill sets come natural, but they adapt as the environment changes.
These are survival skills that function better than what any creature possesses in the animal kingdom. For some, at least one or more skills remain primary as the child reaches adulthood and it drive their career path. For others, they may fade.
Regardless of whether the skills continue to develop, they are transparently recognizable in young children to every parent.
The first skill is the Salesperson. Every child, from the moment they can utter their first words, are salespeople. Their primary goal is to sell those around them on satisfying their wants and needs.
They will use every tool at their disposal from a winning toothless smile to a temper tantrum. They will lie,”I didn’t eat the cookie, Rover did.”. They will beg, “Can I have puppy, please, please, please, please, please…”. They will demand, “But I want it, Mommy.”
All of these tactics lead to the same thing. The child is attempting to sell something either because they want something (i.e. a toy) or don’t want something (i.e. to be punished). They quickly learn which tactics work on which audience.
What may work on Mom, doesn’t work on Dad – change selling approach. What works on Mom and Dad is not the way to approach Grandma. Change tactics.
The best adult salespersons are those who have kept these skills strong throughout the years. They know when to switch from educational sales to relationship sales to a combination of both, for example. They read their customer quickly and adapt. It’s Mom, Dad and Grandma all over again.
They began in life trying to close the deal and continue until retirement.
The second skill is negotiation. This is probably the strongest skill because it is an urge children can’t resist, even when it’s not something they really want or in their own best interests.
The negotiator will always push for “more” or “later”.
Not to be confused with the sales skills, which is utilized when no offer has yet been made by the parent, the negotiation skill is simply to increase what has been offered.
More: “Yes, you may have a candy.” “Can I have 2?”
Later: “It’s time for bed.” “Another half hour, puh-lease!”
More: “Ok, Daddy’s tired.” “Just one more piggy-ride, Daddy!”
Later: “Time to go home for dinner.” “I just want five more minutes at the park.”
It’s an instinct so strong, that a child will negotiate a later bedtime even while their face is nodding dangerously close to the mashed potatoes. They can’t help themselves. Negotiation is as strong an involuntary body function as breathing.
The last major skill is the scientist. Children are natural scientists, curious about their surroundings, testing hypothesis, asking endless questions and studying their role models.
To a child, of course, the whole world is filled with new wonders. They, naturally, want to discover the nature of everything around them. Will paint really stick to white walls? Is fire hot or just look pretty? How does dog food actually taste?
It’s an endless array of discovery, testing and questions.
Despite a whole world to discover, though, children will study with the most attention, by far, their role models. These might include parents, grandparents older siblings, etc..
They will notice every twitch, hear every word and note every inflection.
My daughter, for example, notices when my hand is balled while driving. This is my sign of stress by something that is happening in my life. I didn’t even notice this habit. She did because she is a scientist.
Having a scientist in our home who is studying us during every waking moment can be disconcerting for one simple reason. Despite everything we say, every rule we set and every good intention we have, we are always teaching our children by example.
They are learning from us by watching and studying us. We are setting the example when we stare at our phones during dinner. Or when we eat foods we know are not good for us. Or when we don’t live by the same rules we set for the child, such as how we treat other people.
Even though, at times, we may think that nothing we say to a child makes a difference, you must know that they are watching and learning, good or bad. They may pretend to not hear what we say at times, but they do. They are absorbing every word, nuance and example we set. The time will come when all the life lessons will come back to them to be applied to their lives and to their children.
It’s not easy living with a super-salesperson, a relentless negotiator and an observant scientist but it’s just a part of the job we accepted when we agreed to become a parent.
How many of us created our resumes just before needing it the first time? Was it the night prior to that big interview? How about when faced with that discouraging “upload resume” button on a job search website?
It’s a mad scramble to desperately cobble something together attempting to recall all those names and dates. It is not expected from applicants looking for summer jobs, therefore, it is put off until “after graduation” when it is really needed.
AN ALTERNATIVE PHILOSOPHY
Build your resume as soon as something eventful occurs in your life; an award, a summer job or some special recognition.
You may be surprised how easy it is to forget your accomplishments. What was the name of your supervisor at Starbucks? Phone number? What was that writing award in 9th grade? Which committee in High School did you join and what were your major accomplishments? Where did you volunteer last summer and what did it teach you?
Get it all on your resume from the smallest accomplishments to the big ones. Include all the details – you can always edit it down later. Of course, you may remove entire items from your resume as you continue growing your list of accomplishments and job experience. It’s much easier to remove an item than to add one a year later when the details are hazy.
Building a resume can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. What is a resume? It’s a reflection of what you have achieved as your life and career marches along. It’s a mirror that a potential employer holds up to their job description and company culture to receive a first impression.
If your resume appears to not be a good fit, offer enough information or reflect adequate experience, you may never get to the interview step in your application process where, you think, you truly shine. It doesn’t matter how good an interviewee you are if the HR department never calls.
The job hunt is a competition and you may need to purposely make the effort to gain specific experience in order to qualify to meet your goals.
For example, if you want to become a doctor, you should consider volunteering at a hospital. Keep your eye on your resume as a gauge of whether you are achieving our goals in order to maximize your chances of success; self-fulfilling prophesy.
Take a look at a college application (future blog) and you will what activities are expected from you during High School. They should all be on your resume.
Even if you are planning on becoming an entrepreneur, a resume may be helpful, someday, when you are sitting across the desk from a banking loan officer. They like to see experience in the field in which you are planning to begin your business.
Let’s face it, not all of us are the right fit for running our own business. Plans change – having an up-to-date resume may help to get that “temporary” job until you can figure it all out. Hedge your bets.
STUDY (RESUME) GROUPS
Consider applying the value of study groups to building a resume. Get together a few friends and build your resumes together. Check in with each other during your High School and College careers and compare. This may motivate you to shore up some areas that may be too light (such as volunteerism).
Imagine how much faster and easier it will be to complete job applications when you have all the information at your fingertips?. Applications are required, in most cases, even if you have a resume.
Finally, how much better will you look applying for that summer job when you are one of the very few applicants with a resume? You’ve just given yourself that much better chance to get that job!
I visited an amazing place yesterday. It’s called Pretend City and it’s located in Irvine, CA. If you are lucky enough to be within driving distance and have little ones between the ages of 2 to 8, go there! You and the children will have a fantastic time, I promise.
Pretend City reminded me what it was like being a child again. Of course, in my day we would pretend a box was a rocket ship to take us to the moon, a blanket was a cape that helped us fly and a bunk bed was a dark and scary cave.
At least, those are examples from my youth. I’m sure you have your own.
Even though, “pretend” has become more sophisticated since my day, the basics haven’t changed; the importance of fantasy in child development.
I’m talking about a child who constructs a fantasy world using their own imagination rather than one constructed for them via video games. Living in a world of fantasy (vis a vis video games) is not the same as creating your own whether it’s from something as inconsequential as a cardboard box or as elaborate as what children find at Pretend City.
The goal is exercising creativity. At Pretend City, a child can pretend to catch a fish, sell it to a restaurant and use pretend money to buy a pretend hamburger at the cafe for their Mom.
In one poignant example, a young child who proclaimed himself to be the Assistant Cafe Manager, asked a stranger how her lunch was. When she said excellent and pointed out her daughter who had pretended to prepare and serve it, the young boy gave pretend money to the girl as a raise for doing such a great job.
A manager in the making? Communication skills exercised? Understanding of work/reward? It’s all there and more.
Pretending is learning. Sometimes it might be hard lessons such as that capes really don’t help you fly off a brick wall (I’m not saying that was me). Sometimes, it’s so subtle that the child may not even recognize it as learning, but it is learning nevertheless.
Not only do we need to encourage our children to engage in pretend play, but we need to join them. By being part of the process, we can learn what most interests our children, how they learn and spend some quality and fun time with them.
Pretending can also serve as a refuge for children when life gets stressful. A safe place. Sometimes, it’s not easy being a kid. Ask any kid.
As with everything in life, balance is key.
I feel that The Storytelling Box is a great game to encourage nonverbal children to communicate. I would love to give away a few boxes for free to families with an autistic child to see if it helps. If you have a child you think it could help or know of one, please let me know.
Let’s face it. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.
That’s why so many fail – they are not prepared for the challenges, financial as well as emotional. Just because you may have invented a better mousetrap, doesn’t mean you are the right person to sell it. Before committing to the long and arduous path ahead, be certain you have time and resources needed for the long haul.
In every business, there are three basics to be successful; the Mad Inventor, the Super Salesperson and the Businessperson. Think of this as a three-legged stool. Without all three legs, the stool is going to fall.
The Mad Inventor is the one who comes up with the new ideas. The core idea that is worth starting a business. The Mad Inventory also needs to keep coming up with ideas to grow the product line or scope of service. Very few business survive long term on a single idea.
Strengths: Creative, visionary, inventive
Weaknesses: May not understand costs, challenges to get product to market, how to run a business
The Super Salesperson can sell anything. This person understands selling and marketing and knows how to ask for the deal. Just give the Super Salesperson a great product and get out of his or her way.
Strengths: People-person, great communicator, persistent
Weaknesses: Laser-focus on closing the deal despite possible constraints on delivery challenges, fights budget constraints
The Businessperson is the one who holds it all together. Understands the importance of proper pricing, accounting, logistics of setting up a business. Also, vendor supply chain management as well as inventory.
Strengths: Will keep an eye out for possible growth balanced by working capital as well as cash flow. Knows how to run a company.
Weaknesses: Will have the least amount of entrepreneurial spirit of the three so may dampen enthusiasm on new ideas.
Of course, the above list of strengths and weaknesses is not complete, but this should give you a good sense of some of the characteristics needed in a successful company.
ENTREPRENEUR VS. ESTABLISHED COMPANY
The difference between an entrepreneur and an established company is that while a company will, more than likely, have three different people (and more) fulfill those requirements, an entrepreneur may need to be all three.
Let’s step back for a moment and examine the difference between an entrepreneur and an established business. There is no difference.
An established business was begun by an entrepreneur, at some point. It then simply grew. Hired more help, divided up responsibilities, established more resources, etc.. When does an entrepreneurial business move beyond that label? Does it matter? Probably when the owner stops referring to him or herself as an “entrepreneur” and changes that to “CEO” or “President”.
YOU NEED ALL THREE LEGS
The challenge is that the entrepreneur must encompass all three; the Mad Inventor, the Super Salesperson and the Businessperson. If not, then they must have partners that have different strengths and weaknesses to take on one or two of those roles.
If you are just the Mad Inventor, you will end up with 5,000 widgets in your garage (been there, done that). If you are just the Super Salesperson, but nothing awesome to sell, you will lose interest quickly because you won’t be closing deals. If you are the Businessperson with no company, you go start sending out your resume.
Being all 3 of the legs of that stool can be exhausting, frustrating and relentless. It’s not a 9 to 5 job when you work for yourself. And it’s not weeks or a month of working 80 hour weeks. It’s months and months, if not years.
Be realistic. Be sure you are ready to dedicate 100% of yourself to your vision. If not, you will probably not succeed, or, at least, not to the degree you are probably dreaming.
HERE IS ONE TRICK
Celebrate the successes, no matter how small they are. Entrepreneur’s tend to beat themselves up a lot. A lot. The costs are higher than expected, a design correct is going to eat more capital, marketing costs much more than predicted, etc. A lot of head banging on the wall.
So, celebrate the successes. Give yourself a pat on the back once in a while. Step back and relish the moment. Take what motivation you can to keep your engine running.
I am an entrepreneur and have had my share of mis-steps along the way. I’ve redesigned The Storytelling box 3 times already and paid for samples from all over the world that turned out to be useless.
Yet when I received an e-mail like this, it reminds me that it’s all worth the effort.
Earlier this week, I read the article in the OC Register about you and your boxes. I taught Kdg and First grade in Fountain Valley for 38 years, so early literacy is near and dear to my heart. I’ve told so many mermaid stories and stories with character building themes [to my granddaughters] that I’m running out of creative juices. So I was thrilled to read that article!
I’ve checked [The Storytelling Box] out and organized the story starters according to her interests. I can’t wait to start next week! Joy, my granddaughter, is quite artistic so I may have a drawing or two to submit to you.
I love the ongoing value of this product! When a child is ready for writing, these story starters provide a great writing prompt. Words Inspiration seems like it can be used effectively for drawing, story telling or writing.
I hope you are very successful with these boxes. Parents really need alternatives to “screens”.
PURSUE YOUR DREAM
I now it’s a cliche, but I can’t resist reminding you that our country was built by entrepreneurs. Don’t let anything or anyone, even me, scare you away from going after your dream.
Just be realistic and prepared. Plan, plan, plan. If you are not a planner, then find someone who is and ask for help.
Even though you may not encompass all the needed characteristics today, you can still be successful by learning as you go. It is, however, much easier if you start out with all three legs of the stool. Consider bringing in somebody to help.
No stool or company can successfully stand without all three legs, eventually.
This is an interesting article on what NOT to do when you have a child prodigy if you want your child to also be creative. A child prodigy is not creative? Not according to the research – geniuses tend to perfect knowledge of available information, but rarely invent new systems. For example, geniuses on the keyboard may play perfect Mozart, but won’t create their own compositions.
This is related to rules imposed on children by parents and children wanting to please authority figures like teachers.
If you would like to raise a creative child, take a look at this article and how it may change a parent’s behavior as much as the child’s.
When is the right time to print a college application? Most would say when you are ready to apply – probably, junior year. I propose that is way too late.
You should consider printing the application in your Freshman Year. The sooner, the better.
The reason is simple – a college application is a very clear list of goals you should aspire to accomplish in your first three years of High School. This is exactly what the colleges and universities are expecting from you – why not print it out and post it to your bulletin board, vision board or where you will see it on a regular basis?
Aside from an essay, college applications are going to want to see school groups you joined, teams you were on, community service you performed and where you volunteered. If you print the application early, you still have time to achieve these goals instead of scrambling when it will be almost too late. A worse possibility is thinking you are doing all the right things, only to discover at the 11th hour that you overlooked that one thing which might have been the key differentiation to get you accepted to the college of your choice.
You can print from any college website – the website will require you to setup an account – it only takes a few minutes. If you have an idea of your top choices, then print from those. Compare the applications and look for any differences. Hedge your bets by fulfilling ALL the requirements you see – leave your options open.
Use a highlighter and mark those items upon which you need to focus your energies in the next few years. As you accomplish each goal, fill it in on the application – this way you keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do. Also, when the time comes to actually print out the current applications for submittal, it will only take minutes to complete instead of days.
TAKE IT UP A NOTCH
If you really want to be organized, create a calendar schedule of when you plan to reach each goal. If you think that these kinds of goals should simply “happen” when they “happen”, that’s not real life. Achieving your goals in life takes planning, foresight and organization. Those are some of the skills of successful people, whether they work in a company or for themselves. You might as well begin developing those skills as early as possible – they never go away and will help carry you through your life.
WHY ARE THE APPLICATIONS SO SIMILAR?
There is a reason why colleges look for the same achievements. That list is a clear description of well-rounded development as a person. Participating in clubs teaches confidence and responsibility. Volunteering teaches how to appreciate other’s needs, not just your own. Each item from the application will help you become a better you. Even if you are not planning on going to college, you will benefit from the experience.
Aside from gaining experience and confidence by putting yourself out there and pushing beyond your comfort zone, you will have the story you will need to write a much better essay on the application. It’s difficult to answer an essay question about how you have grown as a person, if you haven’t.
We are happy to announce that the OC Register wrote an article about AEO Boxes. It was an exciting experience being interviewed by a reporter and having my photograph taken by a professional. It took 2-1/2 hours and was a whole lot of fun. You can read all about it by click the link below.