Managing People Who Act Like Children Without Losing Sight of Your Goals


Children playing tug of war

Choices have consequences when managing people. Even if you decide not to choose, there is still a consequence. A good manager, just like a parent, presented with a problem can either attempt to solve the problem by working with the person to identify what needs to be corrected, or you can let the person continue, knowing that it is not in keeping with your overall objectives.

Managing a home is like managing a business. Everyone has responsibility. If one person neglects his duties the whole family is affected by the choice. It works the same in business, ministry, or sports.

My grandson was struggling with 9th grade math, failing tests . . . frustrated. My husband and I offered to help but he would not ask for help, he chose to continue struggling. The failing grades kept coming. We thought, “Maybe it’s pride,” so we suggested he talk to his teacher about tutoring options. The struggle continued . . . more failed tests.

“Why won’t he ask for help?” I thought. Help is available but he does not want to ask, even though the teacher kept sending us notes saying, “I’m here to help. I can tutor.” We wanted to encourage his independence, so we waited for him to decide.

The weeks that passed were wrought with conversations about the problem and what else can we do to help him to overcome this hurdle. I remember our prayers morning, noon and night: “What should we do? He hasn’t asked for help.”

One evening we were sitting at the dinner table, I said, “Son, tomorrow when you go to school let your teacher know you will be staying after school for tutoring. You get to pick what day you will attend twice a week.”

Where did that come from? That was divine guidance. He made his choice of days and immediately with the extra help his math scores, even on testing, jumped from F’s to A’s and B’s.

He was not holding up his end. He is a part of the home and one of his responsibilities is to go to school. That is his contribution to the smooth working of the family unit. At the point he had struggles and was unwilling to help himself, we could have said, “Well, if he doesn’t want to help himself, that’s on him.” We did say that initially out of frustration but quickly recognized he does not get to decide just yet what is good for him and what he can quit on. We were use to managing people, we were in business.

Adults can sometimes act like children. We know they have the skills but we often overlook personalities. How quickly we learn, managing people, that what we have employed are little children in grown up bodies, don’t we?

Do you find yourself repeating yourself over and over? Employees are trained and hired but as managers we are constantly re-teaching something that has already been taught. How frustrating! It feels like you are spending more time in meetings with the person, trying to encourage them to correct their ways but it just doesn’t work, or it works for a little while and then they grow slack.

Why are you frustrated? Do you want more for them than they want for themselves? It starts from childhood, and then they grow up. We think that if I push and prod a little more it might spark interests that could lead to success. Success for whom? Haven’t you realized yet what message they are sending? No, we don’t because we don’t want to give up, we want to help them. Or is it because their lack of performance means you failed? No, you have not failed.

There are some people that as hard as you might try, they have made up their mind not to get on board with you. They are in your life to challenge you. It could be a spouse, a child, an employee, church member, or neighbor.

My grandson chose to fall in line and attend tutoring because he did not want to challenge our authority. So he submitted. Some adults have that same mindset in the workplace and exhibit childish behaviors. Someone has to stand over them to perform, otherwise they slack off. Think about it: you say don’t text during working hours and what do they do? What you say seem to go in one ear out the other.

So what do you do? Here are four tips from my personal experiences of managing people that have helped me to make those tough decisions and agonize less:

1. Acknowledge there is a problem.
2. Assess what you have done to work it out (discussions,
prayer, etc.)
3. Is it interfering with your outcome?
4. Make a decision

Let me know what you think.

Keep the faith