Prior to becoming a mom, I went to business school and worked in the corporate world for a while. At first, making the transition from career woman to stay-at-home-mom was really tough. I was always looking for ways to keep my head from getting too fuzzy (which generally just meant drinking a lot of coffee), and I often felt like I should be doing more than just caring for my newborn. It took me a long time before I came to grips with the fact that what I was doing at home was much more important to me than the daily number crunching at my old job. And that taking care of the baby and myself needed to be my priorities.
Then my baby became a toddler and the game changed once again. (Just when you think you have these kids figured out, they go and turn everything upside down.) They certainly know how to keep things interesting. Since my son started walking, resisting food that he previously loved, and throwing tantrums, I knew I was going to have to find some new tricks to keep up. I soon realized that my business training could finally be put to use! Only instead of using the lessons to navigate the corporate world, I would be using them on my toddler. As it turns out, management, marketing and sales techniques also apply to small children.
Welcome to Mommy Management 101:
- Know the personalities of your workers and manage accordingly: Just as you can’t stick a round peg into a square hole, not all approaches to dealing with toddlers apply to every child. You have to be able to read what your toddler is giving you, and respond accordingly. Every parent knows that it’s nearly impossible to pick up a kid who goes limp and flattens himself on the floor. If you can predict this behavior and adjust your approach, you’re better off than trying to give a bath to a flailing maniac.
- Flexibility is an asset: Many parts of the day never go as planned. If you can compromise a little here and there, you will be rewarded in spades. So he flat-out refuses the changing table? A standing diaper change in the middle of the living room it is! (Just cross your fingers that he doesn’t feel the need to “water” the plants (or the dog) while you’re mid-change.)
- Scarcity technique – Act now! You’ll never see a deal this good again! Creating hype around what you’re trying to sell to your toddler can be quite helpful, especially if he thinks the opportunity won’t last. “Quick! We have to get your shoes on now so we can go to music class! If we don’t put shoes on, the teacher won’t let us in!”
- Give fewer options, not more – It is a known fact in the marketing world that people respond better when they aren’t overwhelmed by the options before them. Same goes for kiddos. Too many toys or too many dinner options may result in her shutting down completely. If you have a whole pile of toys for a kid, chances are she prefers to play with the doorstop or rearrange the chairs in the room. But a couple of carefully selected games might make for some real, engaging play.
- Moral hazard isn’t just for economics: A moral hazard is when someone engages in risky behavior basically because he knows that he will not have to deal with the consequences. Babies love to climb and then dive head first off of couches, for example. Most of the time we are there to catch them, and they are therefore not “paying” for their risky behavior. While it is important to create a safe play environment for our kids, we have to teach them that there are consequences for their actions. You have to fail in order to learn, you have to get hurt sometimes to know how to proceed in the future. As a parent, though, it can be just as hard to let go as it is for the kid to learn the lesson. Growing pains for everyone.
- Sit patiently and wait for your mark to speak first, out of discomfort with the silence: This is key for negotiations, and it works with kids, too. Don’t bother getting worked up and yelling when your toddler is being difficult. You lose your authority as a result. Ignoring bad behavior, and waiting quietly will often result in a kid stopping what she’s doing and running back to you. No one likes to be ignored.