Like a Parent: Worklife Lessons from a Toddler

Angry ToddlerThe phrase like a boss strikes a chord with me as a young professional seeking to up my game. Who wouldn’t want to take control of their career and work life like a boss

But as a father of a toddler, I realize you can’t always act like a boss—sometimes you have to act like a parent. This is certainly the case when you’re caring for a child, but more and more, I’ve found myself applying lessons I’ve learned from my threenager in my work life.

Here’s how I work like a parent:

Embrace the whyToddlers are at a point where they begin to understand the whats in life, but they are curious about the whys. Admittedly this can be annoying (especially coming from the backseat), but I’ve learned to appreciate my daughter’s limitless curiosity. I’m not saying that the next time I have a department planning meeting that I’m going to ask "why?" over and over again while munching on Cheerios, but that is sometimes exactly what is needed to encourage imagination and get a work team thinking beyond the status quo.

Model good behavior: Toddlers are tiny walking, talking mirrors. Whatever you say (and however you say it) is going to be repeated. The first time Lucy yelled at me to “go to my room,” I felt guilty for days. It happens. Parents slip up and have “do as I say, not as I do” moments. However, the more I’m aware of watching not only what—but how—I say things, the better parent I can be. The same is true in my work life. When I take time to consider what I’m going to say as well as how I’m going to say it, I find myself building better relationships and getting more done. 

Encourage independence: There’s nothing quite like the pride you feel as a parent when you see your child accomplish something new. Tying a shoe, writing their name—these little victories help build a toddler’s budding self-esteem and sense of independence. Whenever possible I try to encourage Lucy to do it herself, or at least try before I step in and help. I’m not doing her any good if I continue to do everything for her, and she'll understand the world in terms of her limits instead of her potential. The best bosses I’ve had acted much the same way: they allowed me to act independently, and I grew because of it. I try to foster that attitude among my colleagues, even if we’re all big boys and girls. 

Being a parent has forced me to be more self-aware than ever before—even if just to make sure I don’t curse in front of my kid. It’s a kind of intentionality I could never fully understand before becoming a father, and it’s helped in all of my interpersonal relationships. And really, it’s so easy a toddler could do it.

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