Saying What You Mean and Meaning What you Say

I recently realized how important it is to follow through on what I say I am going to do.  It doesn’t work to threaten something I’m not willing to follow through on, and most of the time this means inconveniencing myself.

The early years are crucial for setting the standard for your child.  If you start by being a push over then it will be hard, in the long run, to convince your child that all of a sudden you’re fed up and serious, and that now you really mean it. Or that if you keep threatening it and say it enough times then they will finally listen (obey)—not likely.

For me it started with naps. My 2-year-old has never been good at taking naps; but after my second child was born I knew I had to switch him into his big boy bed and yet again change our naptime routine, Arrggh.  I was dreading the transition from crib to big boy bed because I knew he would be able to get out whenever he wanted.

The first time that we were all laying in his bed, quieting down for our nap, he was restless and disturbing both his baby brother and me. I told him that if he didn’t lay quietly with his brother and me that he would have to take his nap in his crib.

I don’t think he really understood. He was just barely two, so he was more like a parrot at this age and would just repeat what I would say.  He said something like, “My nap in crib” I repeated, “Okay, Greyson, you want to nap in your crib?”

Yah, so I put him in his crib, and naturally he cried for what I think was half of my 30 minutes nap. But when I woke up he was sleeping.  The next day when he was restless and disturbing us I asked him if he wanted to sleep in his crib and he immediately said NO, put his head on the pillow and closed his eyes.  Since then, naps have been easy—with the exception of a few threats and following through.  Following through, by letting him cry it out and having him sleep in his crib, helped him understand I was serious, meant what I said, and would do what I said. I hope that he continues to believe so—and that I can keep following through.

Notes on Following Through from Jane Nelsen

Why is it so difficult for most parents to follow through—to say what they mean and mean what they say? Let’s count the ways:

  1. Wishful thinking: Parents keep hoping their children will listen to their lectures (which really means “hear and obey”).
  2. Fear that children will be traumatized: Parents are afraid their children might suffer in ways that will affect them for life—for example if they have to cry it out. I believe that parents should not cause suffering (through punishment, blame, and shame), however children can benefit from being allowed to suffer from the choices they make so they can learn resiliency and a sense of capability by learning they can survive disappointment and upset.
  3. Fear that children won’t feel loved: This is related to the above. Of course it is true, that some children may not feel loved, but in most cases I hear about, children are almost “over” loved. Parents over love when they pamper and over-protect—which is not the most loving way to help children develop self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Mary is an example of the many parents I know who love their children so much that it would be very difficult for their children to adopt the belief that they aren’t loved just because they lose patience once in awhile, or when they kindly and firmly follow through and allow their children to have their feelings and work it through.
  5. Lack of confidence: Hopefully, understanding the above concepts will help parents have more faith in themselves. There are two main benefits of confidence:
    • Confidence creates positive energy.
    • It is easier to be both kind and firm when you have confidence that what you are doing has long-term positive benefits for your children.

Notice I use the terms kind and firm over and over. This is the foundation that determines that children are treated with dignity and respect—even when they aren’t getting their own way. Following through is effective when you are kind and firm at the same time.

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