Updated: May 27
Some children are born with an innate drive to succeed but can curiosity and ambition also be learned?
The internet has empowered children to find answers to their questions, explore new subjects and develop connections. It wasn't that way even 25 years ago when parents and schools were the main source of information. With access to information, we find there are kids who wait for information to be given and go-getters who take advantage of available resources.
As a mother of two children, one who seeks out information and the other who waits for it to be taught, I started this research to see if I could find a way to encourage my laid-back child to be more proactive. You might be in the same position, so here's what I found out.
You might be surprised to know that ambition is both an inherited trait and a learned one. Both nature and nurture contribute to the development of ambition in children. Understanding how nurture and nature contribute can help parents, educators, and society in creating an environment that fosters and nurtures ambition in children.
Nature: Genetic traits we inherit Some scientists think that our drive to be ambitious might also have roots in our biology, influenced by things like our genes and personality traits. In fact, some studies have suggested that certain genetic variations might be linked to traits like conscientiousness, curiosity, self-motivation, desire and perseverance, which are closely tied to ambition. So, it's possible that some of us might be born with a natural tendency for ambitious behavior.
Nurture: Influence from all around us Nurture refers to the environmental influences, including upbringing, education, and social interactions, that shape our development. Children's early experiences, the support they receive, and their opportunities play significant roles in how strong their drive will be. Parental influence is a crucial factor in nurturing ambition. Supportive and encouraging parents who set high expectations and provide guidance can positively impact a child's ambition. Parents who emphasize the value of hard work, goal-setting, and perseverance instill these qualities in their children. Exposure to successful role models and mentors can inspire ambition and drive children to aim for greater achievements.
Since 2009, Shark Tank has captivated audiences worldwide with aspiring entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to a panel of seasoned investors. While the show has provided a platform for adult entrepreneurs, it has also inadvertently sparked a surge in kid entrepreneurship. Kidpreneurs have been influenced by inspiring kid role models, such as Moziah Bridges (founder of Mo's Bows) and Mikaila Ulmer (founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade). Their stories showcase the possibilities and motivate other children to pursue their entrepreneurial and STEM dreams.
Educational environments also play a vital role in shaping ambition. Schools that foster a culture of excellence, provide challenging academic programs, and encourage extracurricular participation can fuel children's ambition. Peer interactions and competition within these environments can also motivate children to strive for success.
Rise of young go-getters
It's inspiring to witness the rise of young go-getters—children who possess a remarkable sense of purpose, determination, and a relentless drive to achieve their goals. We see young entrepreneurs as young as seven excited by the opportunity to make money, support a cause or take part in a fun activity. These "kid go-getters" demonstrate qualities and behaviors that set them apart.
1. Passion and Purpose Kid go-getters often have a passion for something that fuels their ambition. Whether it's art, sports, science, or social causes, the lucky ones have found their calling early on. In the beginning children might find that motivation in supporting a cause by volunteering or raising money for charity. Encouraging children to explore different interests and providing opportunities to discover their passions can set them on the path to becoming go-getters.
2. Encouraging a Growth Mindset Encouraging children to embrace challenges, view setbacks as learning opportunities, and become resilient helps foster a growth mindset. By instilling the belief that effort and dedication lead to success, we can empower children to overcome obstacles as they arise. Kids in business need to develop problem solving skills and determination in order to work around obstacles and reach their goals.
3. Goal-Setting and Planning Successful entrepreneurs are skilled at setting clear and achievable goals. They break down their objectives into smaller, manageable steps and create action plans to reach them. Teaching children the importance of goal-setting and providing guidance on effective planning strategies empowers them to take control of their ambitions. By teaching them to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals and encouraging regular progress evaluation, we teach them the value of focused effort, of committing to a project and accountability.
4. Resilience and Perseverance Resilience and perseverance are key traits exhibited by our future business leaders. They understand that success rarely comes without obstacles and setbacks. Encouraging children to overcome obstacles, teaching them problem-solving skills, and giving them your support during tough times helps build their resilience. By reinforcing the idea that failures are stepping stones to success, we equip young minds with the strength to bounce back and continue pursuing their dreams.
5. Supportive Environment Parents, educators, and mentors have a responsibility to provide encouragement, guidance, and resources that fuel learning. A positive and nurturing environment fosters confidence and the courage to take risks. Celebrating their achievements, providing constructive feedback, and surrounding them with like-minded peers can further enhance their drive and determination.
6. Mentorship and Role Models Exposure to mentors and positive role models can significantly impact a child's ambition. Mentors provide guidance, share experiences, and offer valuable insights. Role models inspire and show children what is possible. Encouraging young go-getters to seek out mentors and exposing them to accomplished individuals can provide invaluable experience and inspiration.
While nature contributes innate traits and genetic predispositions, nurture provides the environment, support, and guidance necessary for ambition to flourish in our children. By providing the right opportunities, role models, and support, we can help ambitious kids take a more active approach to achieve their dreams. Entrepreneurship and STEM careers aren't the kind of roles that you fall into. Careers in STEM and entrepreneurship are paths that are fought for. That preparation can start early with small tweaks in environment and parenting.
It's important to celebrate our children's successes, inspire them to keep pushing forward, and give them the guidance they need to make a difference in the world.
About the Author
Suzanne Appel is an experienced marketing executive with a 25-year background in creating and running digital marketing programs for large companies. She founded Young CEO Squad, an educational platform and product line dedicated to inspiring young kids to venture into entrepreneurship.
Witnessing her own children's entrepreneurial prowess, Appel was motivated to simplify and popularize the process of starting a business for kids.