Kids operate from an unrelatable place, often with no logical motivation or rationale for their behavior. Kind of like your boss. Or your clients. Or your annoying coworker Karen.
While nothing you bring from work will help you at home, as a man with a college-degree and almost two decades of experience in the professional world, I believe there are many things you can learn from interacting with your kids to help you at work. I mean, if you can survive dealing with your toddler, you can deal with anyone. So why aren’t there more business tips based on parenting?
Here’s how parenting can make you a better employee:*
1. 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 weekend-itis is setting in, or maybe they had a big lunch and can’t get motivated. 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.
2. 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 co-worker 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.
3. 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 co-workers 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.
When dealing with the bottomless pit of need that is a young child, it’s natural to try to push everything you can off to 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 co-workers 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!
5. Stay Calm
There you have it: proof that herding children can offer you something besides headaches and alcoholism. To paraphrase Fight Club’s 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.
A version of this first appeared on Dad and Buried.