Lessons from toddlers

By Caroline Woffenden, managing director.

When I’m not cutting through the challenges (and delights) of running a regional PR agency, I’m doing the far harder role of managing two young children. And I mean that. Managing a business is tough – and often lonely – but nothing compared to the true responsibility of bringing up children. Stay at home mums, hear this: you’re amazing. I regrade what I balance, as a working mum, as an easy option (well, easier, perhaps).

In all honesty my 14 week old is a doddle… the torture of sleep deprivation and endless colic aside… thank goodness for pro plus and coffee, for me that is – infacol for him, the poor mite – but I was signed up to that from day one: standard baby stuff. It’s the trials and tribulations of living with and loving a two year old that gives me more of a challenge than any client ever has (and there’s been a few….).

While recently negotiating (ok, begging) with my daughter in Sainsbury’s (other reputable supermarkets are available) to put down the Peppa Pig toy she was refusing to part with (surely you don’t need a 5th… and my house has more pink toys and luminous plastic than is mentally acceptable), I reflected how much we could all probably learn from our toddlers.

They know their mind. That’s for sure. Decisions are never a problem. No, I do not like broccoli, and yes I do love ham sandwiches (although generally the food of the Gods becomes the work of the devil the following day… my dogs have never had it so good). How very refreshing. I’m always striving to be decisive. Nobody likes uncertainty.

And they speak their mind. Not that I struggle particularly with this myself, my family and colleagues with concur.

No mind games, no politics, no agendas. You never need worry if a toddler is only telling you what you want to hear. Collecting my daughter from nursery once she told me, loudly and to the point, that one of her teachers was ‘very round’… cue nervous, embarrassed giggles all round – while she looked at me and merely repeated her observations again (cringe). But it was true (and who doesn’t want a round, cuddly teacher). Honesty is probably the quality I admire most in business. Everything feeds from an open and transparent foundation – so ship in the toddlers, I say.

Self-well-being is fundamental to any toddler. They take care of themselves. If they don’t want to do it, they don’t. If they need something, they ask. If they want to wear the pink ballet costume to see the vices, they do. If they need a nap, they take it. No questions, no issues – they put themselves first. A flexible, work-life balance is essential to empower, and drive, the best performances, and many businesses would benefit from a more people focused approach. Get that right and the results will follow.

They don’t bow to pressure. I was staggered, and saddened to hear earlier this week that millions of us are impacted by anxiety at work. Granted, the result of the frenetic 24/7 culture we have generated I’m sure – but you don’t find a toddler who lacks the balls to say no, or dribble out feeble excuses. Good on them.

And a final thought is they don’t dwell. They don’t over analyse and turn things over (and over). They move on. And there’s never a grudge. I can be the worst human on the planet for cutting the chocolate button supply (I should have shares in them); or for putting a soggy bit of cardboard in the bin which she deemed her latest artistic creation – or attempting to wrestle a pair of wellies onto her (it’s a workout in itself) – but ten minutes later I’m the only person in the world she wants to sit and watch Peppa Pig with, or jump in muddy puddles with. No regrets, no worries, no obligations. They live in the moment. And there should be more of that, I say.