Managing People (Hint: Kids are People, Too)

(photo credit: Brymo)

While I was in grad school at the University of Pennsylvania, I took a course with a professor from the Wharton School of Business called Managing People. Apparently the folks who designed my master’s program in psychological services felt that being able to manipulate my mental health clients might come in handy, and the chance to take a course with such a prestigious professor was an exciting opportunity.

It turns out that everything he taught I had already learned from my dad.

Some of these techniques were useful during my years of teaching – both in dealing with the students and the parents – but what has been really surprising is how well they work on my pre-school aged children!

Would you like your kids to do what you want them to do, succumb to your every whim and wish? Good luck with that. In the meantime, here are a couple of tricks that may get you on your way…

1. The Wharton Way – “Ask for Help”/ The Lupold Way – “Play Dumb”: Either way you look at it, this trick is the same song and dance wrapped in a different package. I watched my incredibly intelligent dad feign confusion on many occasions to get what he wanted for his two kids. It’s amazing how suddenly seats closer to a stage can appear and how quickly you can be ushered to the front of a line. The next time you’ve got something that you want your kids to do, pretend that you really can’t do it without them.

“Emma, I just don’t know what to do with all of these socks. I know they have matches, but there are just so many. I’m never going to get this done.”

“Oh, mom, don’t worry. I can help you! Look, here’s a match right now…”

Could you just ask your child to sort the socks? Sure. But like Dr. Phil says….”How’s that workin’ for ya?”

2. The Wharton Way – “Don’t Share Too Much”/ The Lupold Way – “People Can’t Be Trusted”: Long before the internet existed and identity theft occurred outside of top secret government circles and Tom Clancy novels, my dad was sure that every knock on the door or ringing phone ushered in a pitch, a lie, or some other trickery. Perhaps this was just a takes-one-to-know-one scenario, but never the less I grew up expecting the unexpected and spotting every con from a mile away. My dad’s favorite trick was to just sit back and let people expose themselves. Most deceptive pitches require correct answer along the way to lead the victim into a trap. And so it is with children…

“Mom, is it a weekend?”

“You tell me.”

“Well, I think it may be a weekend. And you know, we play Wii on the weekend.”

“Do we?”

“Yeah, so I was thinking that if you say it’s a weekend, then we can play Wii right now….”

And the plot is foiled.

3. The Wharton Way – “Admit When You’re Wrong”/ The Lupold Way – “Admit When You’re Wrong”: There’s no way around this one. The power of an apology is universal and often missed. My freshman year of college I took a Calculus course that, well, bored me out of my mind. I got into the habit of skipping every third class, but felt that having fun on the quad was a little out of the question. Instead, I holed up in my room with the school newspaper, The Eagle, and did what any snarky teenager without the help of PhotoShop, Flickr, or Blogger would do – I cut and pasted by hand, writing new copy on my Brother Word Processor for the headlines and photos. My creation was called The Pigeon, and with the help of our campus Kinkos I had about 100 readers each week. Until I was caught. It turns out that using The Eagle’s photographs was a little something called copyright infringement, and with my academic scholarship and place in the Honors Program on the line, I called my dad in a panic. Without pausing he advised, “Say you’re sorry. Just walk into that office and apologize.” It worked for me, and it can work for you, too.

“Mom, I hate that you are working so much, and now you want me to clean my room by myself?”

“I’m sorry. I wish I could help you right now, but I can’t, and I’m really very sorry.”

“Okay, mom. I’ll try to get started on my own…”

There’s very little chance that I’ll be brokering deals with Fortune 500 companies any time soon, but if I can get my kids on my side, these business lessons will pay dividends over and over again.

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