Kids need permission to seize their freedom to create!

Lean Kids Need Permission First

Lean. Not when it comes to eating right but making right. Not health conscious but business conscious.

How do we teach kids the basics of business. Of starting something? Of launching a thing? Of building something? How do we teach kids to adopt the lean startup method of making? Let’s not get crazy technical here; these are kids. A lot of doing business today, even the Lean Startup method, can be a bit over-complicated and formal. Let’s get simple.

Scary simple. Lean simple. I mean like really lean:

  1. Think. (Idea)
  2. Make. (Build/Launch)
  3. Discover. (Learn)
  4. Understand. (Measure/Interpret)
  5. Repeat.

Kids understand these 5 easy steps. It’s like teaching a kid at age 5 (ahem, hint hint parents) to wash their own clothes. Never too early. Wash, rinse, spin, dry repeat. Kids can do that because it’s simple and repeatable. They can listen, learn, launch on their own and then lead others to do the same. In fact, those are 4 great L’s to teach kids the basics of becoming a LEADER: Listen, Learn, Launch and Lead (I love alliterations. Also, we’ll have to save the 4 L’s of Leadership for Kids for another Medium post).

I’ve got two girls: age 8 and 6. Great ages for lots of learning and launching. My 8-year-old is creative when it comes to making things with her hands. She has been building her own logo creations for nearly two years now. She starts with the instruction manual. Then after she’s built it she gets bored. So, she gives herself permission to let her creativity run wild. This is key. Not to get too philosophical and deep here, but this is important to point out. Kids won’t give themselves permission to create if their parents don’t first.

Kids won’t give themselves permission to create if their parents don’t first.

Kids need permission to create. It sounds a bit scandalous right? Almost dictatorial? But it’s true. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. Those first few moments of creativity as a baby and they look up as if to ask, “is this okay? Am I allowed to explore this idea some more?” It’s important to notice this and file it away for future permission moments.

My 6-year-old on the other hand is more creative when it comes to playing pretend and make believe. She makes believe with her mind. I’m sure some if it is a common growth stage in kids and especially little girls. But regardless, she expresses her creativity in her own beautiful, unique way. I celebrate both their different expressions equally. And, most importantly I freely give them permission to create. But even more crucial than that, I give them permission to give themselves permission. Freedom to explore their own freedom. It’s very empowering.


Where am I going with all this? I started talking about teaching kids to think and make lean when it comes to building something great. Then I ended up at parenting philosophy 101. The two are intimately linked, trust me.

In order for our kids to learn to be creative and build things in lean ways, we as parents have to give them permission to give themselves permission.

Permission to trust their idea instincts.

Permission to try it. Build it. Ship it. No matter what.

Permission to discover and explore what they’ve built and how they and others enjoy it.

Permission to learn about what they discover. To ask questions. To seek answers. To seek to truly understand.

And permission to take everything they have learned and start all over again. Whether that means adapting slightly what they’ve made or pivoting completely and going in a different direction altogether.

Kids create. They need some grownup permission to create. And then some guidance to do so in a lean way: having ideas, building them, discovering, understanding and starting again.

Are your kids lean? Do you give them permission to create? Are they afraid to try? Are you holding them back or empowering them? What are they stuck on? Is it fear? Shame? Guilt? The impostor syndrome? Or do they simply need some encouraging guidance?

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