While I often feel like my main role as mother is managing my kids’ projects, don’t laugh me off yet. Project Management is skyrocketing as a job description as companies shift to a project-focused way of doing business, and, as I looked into it, actually there’s a lot even young kids can do to grow in this area.
First let’s take a look at what it is. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: managing a project including organizing a team to plan and carry out a specific objective. The hard part is to achieve all the goals of the project within the constraints (like time and budget).
Let’s bring it down to preschool level and specific tools and skills.
First step: define the desired goal. This is actually something I think I use on a daily basis. We are smack dab in the middle of the fun stage in which great ideas abound but there is considerable lack in the know-how to accomplish them. When he comes to me for help with “something fun” or tears of frustration spill over because he can’t bring about his vision, first things first: tell me what you’re trying to do. I can’t help get the desired result if I don’t know what it is we’re trying to accomplish. Today it was building a monorail, and while I love his enthusiasm, I’m pretty sure our many train sets don’t lend themselves to being modified into monorails. I think I might just let that one pass (or pass off to Dad). Look at us, we’re introducing the beginning of successful project management!
Here’s one we run into daily and I could really use some practical tips: time management. How do you teach setting a realistic schedule and keeping to it when they have little to no concept of time? We often face grandiose ideas of what fun activities could take place before bedtime or before we leave, but just getting the toys cleaned up in a time-efficient manner is a challenge! What are your go-to visuals to demonstrate time? How do you introduce efficiency and basic time management? I’m all ears!
I don’t know about you, but my toddler and preschooler struggle with change. Oh yeah, that’s all children. Hence, tantrums. Change in plans is hard. Changing your Duplo creation design because it broke and you can’t remember exactly how it was before? Harder! Talking them through the necessity of change, adaptability, and flexibility, while it is an overwhelming constant in this parenting gig, for some reason it helps me to think of it as teaching project management skills. A good project manager knows how to weigh the pros and cons of initiating a change to the original plan.
We already talked about effective communication but another aspect particularly important to project management is the ability to communicate needs and progress to superiors. Right now, my main goal is to be the superior who asks good questions (What do you need from me to get the job done? What’s your strategy for this project?) to get us moving in that direction, and not whining or making excuses. C’mon, we all know you don’t just outgrow those annoying tendencies. Taking fault graciously, but communicating confidence and new direction, that’s what we’re going for.
Obviously, this is the tip of the iceberg. Obviously, I’m talking about toddlers and preschoolers. We’re dealing with short attention spans. These aren’t big, last-for-months projects. This isn’t to make anyone feel guilty or like there’s one more thing to worry about when it comes to preparing our kids for their future. This is meant to encourage. This is a lot of what we already do (or try to do!) just framed a new way. And perspective makes a big difference! In some ways, raising kids is like a 18+ year long project, and it’s quite a complex one. But the most worthwhile!