[rev_slider alias=”nice-and-clean-menu32″][/rev_slider]It seems like everywhere you go, more and more people who work at home are starting to include their children. And not just for taking cute pictures…
I’ve seen parents haul their children with them to business trips, vendor events, client meetings, photoshoots, and more. And let me tell you, there are several opinions on this. Some parents think these activities piles on too much responsibility too soon — and children never get the chance to be children. Others think it’s the best way to spend time with children and teach them anything (and get a little free help, to boot).
Let me tell you something…
They’re both wrong.
And they’re both right.
The truth is, working with you can help your children learn some amazing things — about themselves, about you, and about life in general. And who wouldn’t want that for their children? But, playtime is just as important to a child’s well-being and development. It’s all about balance.
Allow your child the choice.
Forcing your child to work in your business can have dire consequences for you, your child, and your relationship with each other. Whether or not the child works your business should be up to him or her. Most children will jump at the chance to work alongside to mom or dad, especially younger children (under the age of 10 or so), but this shouldn’t be assumed. Even if your child does choose not to work with you, he or she can learn some valuable lessons. Allowing the children to choose, and expressing happiness in their choice, will accomplish several things no matter their answer:
- Teach your children decision-making skills (and to trust in their ability to make decisions),
- Give your children a sense of autonomy and empowerment, and
- Teach your children that you respect them enough to respect their choice.
Don’t use work as a substitute for quality time.
Believe me. I understand busy schedules. And I understand how stressful it is to work from home as a mother. Try working, and you feel like you’re missing things, or ignoring your child. Take time off of work, and you feel like you’re being lazy and not making the money you could be (or that you need to be). I get it. Nevermind the mommy-battles happening across the nation, you’re having one of your own just by choosing to try to work from home.
So I understand how easy it can be to think “if my child works with me, then I can spend quality time with him or her.” And the answer to that is yes, yes you can use some of that time working as quality time with your children. After all, we get to know coworkers at traditional jobs, right? So of course we can get to know our children while at work. Additionally, they get to know us.
But that can’t be it. If your only conversations with your child happen while you’re working, you child will learn some very odd lessons which, if taken to extremes, can be very unhealthy, such as:
- Work always comes first,
- They are only important while they are working,
I know what you’re thinking, that you can just explain things to your children so that they will understand. But it doesn’t quite work out that way. Children are amazing observers. They see and hear and imitate everything. But they suck at interpreting those things. Even with your explanations, they will have trouble reconciling your words if they contradict your actions.
So, the best way to make sure your children don’t make these associations is to spend quality time with them outside of working the business. Continue to try to get to know them even while you’re not working. And learn to put them before your clients.
Don’t use your children as substitutes for employees.
You don’t have to pay your nine year old acting as your assistant the same as you would need to pay a professional assistant. However, if the work you are assigning your nine year old requires the same care and experience as a professional assistant — then hire the assistant.
Keep the jobs and tasks assigned to your children age appropriate. The job should be just hard enough to challenge them and help them grow without drowning them under the pressure normally given to an adult who is prepared for it. They should not be handling anything with possible legal ramifications or confidentiality concerns. You and your child will know best what he or she can handle, and what will be over his or her head. Make these decisions together.
Additionally, do not give them tasks that cannot afford mistakes. Children have not trained for the workforce — they are bound to make mistakes. And they will look to you to teach them how to learn from those mistakes. If they believe they lost you money, lost you clients, or otherwise “ruined” your business, it will be much harder to convince them otherwise, especially if you’re upset about the mistake.
Spend time teaching your child about other parts of the business.
While your children might be excited to help you hand out brochures at a vendor event, teaching them why those brochures are important to the business will help them understand the bigger picture:
- They will develop their own set of entrepreneurial skills,
- They will value their job, even if it is low on the overall pole,
- They will learn how to start connecting different points together to form a bigger picture, and
- They will gain a better understanding (and appreciation) for what you do.
Help your children separate work from home.
Separating work from home as a work at home parent is hard; trying to do it as a child is even harder. If your child makes a mistake at work, he or she will carry that guilt right on home. This kind of goes back to that whole “children suck at interpreting things” I spoke about earlier. The best way to teach your children to separate work from home is to keep them separate yourself. If you’re upset about a mistake that was made at work, stop being upset when the work day is over.
Set up a regular schedule and stick with it.
Although this is good advice for work at home parents even without children, with children it becomes much more important. Children, especially younger children, thrive on routines and schedules — something that tends to go right out the window once we start working at home. We seem to have no problems checking that email that our phone just binged even though it’s midnight and everyone is already asleep.
For children who work with you, watching you work 24 hours a day will program them to need to work the same way. It’s fine when you’re an adult, but children have other lessons they should be learning first before “never not working” becomes their life’s mantra. Lessons such as how to take care of themselves, how to eat healthy, how to prepare for (and recover from) burnout. Teaching them to work constantly without some of these other lessons may have serious health and well-being consequences for them later on when they need a break but don’t know how to take one.
Above all, keep things fun for your child.
My little one loves it when I do her nails. And she loves getting her picture taken. For her, it’s all a game. But, she’s also three. She’s made of blurs and smiles. Getting her to sit still so I can do her nails — hey, even getting her to sit still so I can take her picture, sometimes — is exhausting and stressful for me. Which means I have to pay special attention to how I am reacting to her at those times.
The last thing I want is for her to decide that these things are no longer fun, or that getting her nails done needs to be a traumatic or stressful experience.
Having your children working with you can be a huge benefit — to you and to them. They can learn some valuable life-lessons that will stay with them for years, even decades, to come. If you do allow your child to work at home with you, take some time to ensure you’re teaching the right lessons, and maximize the bonuses to you both.