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Kevin O’Leary: Shark, Dragon, Dad

🕔07.Feb 2014

Kevin O'LearyWhether he’s in the tank or the den, Kevin O’Leary is hard on wannabe entrepreneurs. So it may come as no surprise to see his stance on parenting is all about tough love.

 

When it comes to parenting, I took a lot of cues from what my own mother taught me about what matters when raising a family. You have to set building blocks within the family for the union to survive long term. I explore a lot of this in my book with anecdotes in my own life. This includes teaching children about money and getting them to value it at a young age. My daughter, Savannah, is now 20 and my son, Trevor, is 18, but when my kids were small, I brought them up with the idea that an invisible family member sits at our table and it’s called “money.” Without it, we have no family. We need it to survive. When they reached their teens, they already had an account that was generating interest because I made them save 10 per cent of whatever they made — be it from gifts, jobs, whichever. Trevor knows that I plan on paying for his existence until his last day of education and then he’s on his own (just as we did with Savannah). That’s what my mother did to me. I have met so many kids that feel entitled because their parents cloak them from the realities of the world. And it doesn’t work.

On not being there
I have to be honest, I was spending so much time building my businesses that the tasks of raising kids went to my wife. I was an absentee parent. I am so thankful for my wife.

We decided early on that I would go out and be the bread-winner and she would raise them. I am old school like that. I never wanted nannies. People tell me that it’s ludicrous to think that way and that everyone should be working but I don’t agree with that. I think it’s very crucial in the early stages to help raise kids with the values consistent with the family unit.

And in the vein of consistency, we still have one rule in place: Every weekend we get the family together wherever we are — be in England, Boston, New York, wherever. Everyone is together for those two days. That’s how we stay a family.

On teen challenges
The key to parenting teens is to decide how much freedom to provide them. You want to make sure you’re not cloaking them from the challenges of real life. So many parents shelter their teens from the realities and toughness of the world, but what they really need is to build callouses to deal with the real world. Parents are too doting and don’t let their kids spend enough time alone to have that balance. You want to have a well-balanced child.

On tough love
I have experienced frustration with my son because I forced him to take 10 per cent of every dollar he makes and put it in a savings account. But he wants to spend it on stuff that I don’t think he needs. We’ve had some interesting dialogue for sure. But he needs to understand that he is going to be thrown out of the nest and he’s either going to fly or isn’t. The day he finishes school, he is kicked out of the house. There’s no more room here for him. He is not going to get any money from me. I have told him, ‘my money is mine and will never be yours.’ People think I’m cruel for this but I think it is absolutely critical to do this.

On learning lessons
Like any parent, I have made mistakes. But you have to think long-term game. Enjoy every moment with them but be mindful that you’re going to launch them into a world that they’ll spend two-thirds in without you. I have made mistakes and have been frustrated like any parent, but I hope I’ve done a good job.

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