Jeff Bezos says he let his four kids play with knives at age 4 and power tools since age 7 or 8.
Because allowing them to take risks and be self-reliant teaches resourcefulness — a key trait both in business and in daily life, says the Amazon founder.
Speaking at a SummitLA panel on November 4, with his brother, Mark Bezos, the CEO says that being resourceful is a skill he learned as kid and one that he and his wife have instilled in their children, ages 12 to 17.
His wife's rationale, Bezos says jokingly, is that she "would much rather have a kid with nine fingers than a resourceless kid," which he the CEO believes is a "fantastic attitude about life."
Bezos learned resourcefulness, early on.
Every summer until he was 16, Bezos visited his grandfather's ranch "in the middle of nowhere." When things around the farm broke down, he says, his grandfather couldn't just call someone to come fix them. Instead, the man would repair the items himself — with the assistance of young Bezos.
Together they fixed heavy machinery, performed veterinary work on his cattle and even built a house one summer.
"He would take on major projects that he didn't know how to do and then figure out how to do them," says Bezos. "As a kid, I got to see him solve all these problems and be a real problem-solver."