I’m fairly well-educated. I went to college. I have almost two decades of experience in the professional world, and while I’m used to dealing with arrogant superiors and lazy peers and rude clients, nothing prepared me for dealing with a child.
Kids operate from an unrelatable place, often with no logical motivation or rationale for their behavior. They’re like something out of a horror movie; indefatigable, rarely-sated, and conscience-free. Kind of like your boss…or your clients…or your annoying coworker Karen!
I don’t care if you’re great at your job, and neither do your kids. Nothing you bring from work will help you at home. You can’t manage your children; they’re too unpredictable for that. But you can learn how to be a better manager from them.
All a parent can do is survive. Wait out the terrible twos and the threenage wasteland and the fourror show and hope something resembling a civilized human being emerges from the wreckage, like a butterfly from a cocoon, or a shoe from the carcass of a dead shark.
As a professional, however, there are many things you can learn from interacting with your kids. If you can survive dealing with your toddler, you can deal with anyone. Even your boss. Even the dreaded Karen. Here’s how parenting can make you a better employee.
Five Parenting Tactics to Try at Work*
- Focus Up – It’s hard to get children to listen, particularly at the dinner table, or when it’s time to get dressed, or when it’s time to clean up, or basically when there is any urgency on your part at all. The same thing can happen at work. You need something done so you can get out of there and everyone is slagging. Maybe it’s Friday afternoon and weekenditis is setting in, or maybe they had a big lunch and can’t motivate. How do you get them in gear? The same way I do at home: yell REALLY loudly and threaten their livelihoods. Once everyone has stopped crying, give them all hugs and promise them some candy, but only after they finish their work. BOOM! PROMOTION IMMINENT.
- Blind Them With Science – Sometimes you need a few minutes to yourself, to get something done or just to decompress. At home, when there’s an attention-hungry kid constantly pawing at you, it can be a challenge; I’ve learned to distract my son with a TV show, or an app on my tablet, or look, a squirrel! Turns out it’s just as effective at work. When you’re on deadline and that annoying coworker won’t stop popping his head into your cube? Shoot him a Buzzfeed quiz and let him find out what kind of sandwich he is. Or send the annoying Karen back to her desk to check out Seth Myers’ spot-on Aaron Sorkin parody on YouTube. And then put some headphones on and finish your work.
- Handle Unreasonable Demands – At least when your toddler makes unreasonable demands, it’s because he doesn’t understand how the world works. He doesn’t know why you can’t produce a Transformer out of thin air; he just wants one like his friend at school! Thankfully, even the most incompetent bosses and coworkers have a rudimentary grasp on physics and the time-space continuum… and yet they too make ridiculous demands. How to combat this? The same way in both scenarios: ignore them. Even better? Repeat their request back to them in a baby voice until they realize how unreasonable they’re being. Or until you get fired. Either way: PROBLEM SOLVED.
- Delegate – When dealing with the bottomless pit of need that is a young child, it’s natural to try to push everything you can off on the nearest available adult if only to get a break. But if your spouse sees through the ruse? You’re fired. It’s the same at work. If you need to get some work off your plate so you can make happy hour with your old college roommate, you’ve got to dump some work on someone else, without rocking the boat. How? Make them think it’s their idea. Now, you probably can’t trick most coworkers into thinking it’s a game (“I’ll time you!”), but you can make it valuable to them. Present it as a learning experience (“You’ve got to know HTML; give it a shot!”) Failing that, promise to return the favor. That way when your boss suspects you’re off-loading work, your colleague won’t rat you out. Not if he expects payback. Bribery: fun for all ages!
- Stay Calm – Both children and bosses have a tendency to occasionally fly off the handle. How you respond goes a long way towards forging a successful long-term relationship. Yell back? Your kid will fear you and your boss will go Donald Trump on you. Cower and you lose their respect. It’s a tough one, but after weathering countless barrages from my son, I’ve found the solution: don’t react at all, not even a little bit. Just let them finish. Eventually, your boss, like your kid, will either tire himself out or realize he’s become a spectacle. When he’s done? Deliver the coup de grace: your total agreement. Don’t capitulate, just acknowledge their concerns. This will either appease or confuse them. Either way, they’ll be stymied, and probably need a nap. WIN!
There you have it: proof that herding children can offer you something besides headaches and alcoholism. To paraphrase Tyler Durden: the things you teach, end up teaching you. A word of warning: not every trick you use on your toddler will translate at work. Do NOT try to give your boss a time-out.
And remember, whether you’re at work or at home, it’s mostly about surviving until happy hour.
*Please Note: These are all tactics** I’ve used on my son.
**Please Note: None of these tactics have actually work on my son.