Decide what you will do and—follow through! The most important part of this tool is the follow through. Children know when you mean it and when you don’t.
After all, isn’t that their job is to test you and their limits? Of course it is! This is why it is so important to only make promises (not threats) that you’re willing to keep.
I think we’ve all learned the hard way at least once. For example, you are so mad in the moment—in the flipped lid state—and you’re feeling desperate and totally defeated. Therefore, in the heat of the moment you make a threat you’re never going to follow through on and your child continues to do what they’re doing—probably because they know you’re not going to follow through. Listed are some of my personal favorites:
- Turn the TV off NOW or you won’t watch it for an entire week.
- You and your brother better stop fighting in this car, or I’m going to turn around and we’ll go home.
- If you don’t start sharing, and being kind to your fiends—then we’re going to leave our play-date.
- If you don’t brush your teeth right now—then you can forget about any sweets ever again.
- If you don’t change your attitude—then you can forget about going to the_________!
- If you can’t take better care of your bike, baseball glove, toys etc., then I’ll take them away from you and you won’t be able to use them.
- If you don’t stop asking me for everything in the store and start behaving—then we’re leaving this.
Of course my oldest son had to test me—and I was just as sad as he was when I needed to follow through. We had “taken time for training” (another tool card) and I had explained to him that we were going to our friends house for a play-date and I went over the rules, e.g., no hitting, sharing, taking turns, using nice words etc. I then went on to explain that if we didn’t follow these rules, we would need to leave. Naturally, it was with one of my good friends and I wanted to be at the play-date as much as my son. Needless to say they also lived 45-minutes away.
Sure enough, less than an hour after being there—he hit his friend and called him a name. (I want to note that the play-date before this one, I had done plenty of redirecting, connecting before correcting, validating feelings as well as the many other tools my son was accustomed to.)
Sometimes, using the kind and firm tool of follow through is the most effective. I wasn’t trying to make him “pay” for his behavior but was simply tired of having each play-date so consumed with using so many other tools. Deep down I knew it would be a painful lesson for both of us as well as a lot of gas and time wasted. (He cried himself to sleep on the way home.)
It wasn’t a total waste, because he never forgot it, knew that I meant it, and honestly, I feel like I forever earned his trust of knowing that when I said it, I meant it, and I followed through.
Unfortunately, your children are going to test you— and believe me it will be at the most inconvenient time. But just think of the valuable lesson you’ll be teaching and the reputation you’ll be earning. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard THAT Mother saying, “I’m not going to tell you again”, and then says, “This is the last time I’m going to tell you.” Then their kid just continues to ignore her and do whatever it is they were doing.
I’ll always remember my mom saying, “The tongue in the shoe speaks louder than the tongue in the mouth.” In other words, if you say it, mean it, and if you mean it, follow through.
I promise you that it will only take a few times of inconvenience usually accompanied by total humiliation and embarrassment (as their screaming at you telling you that you’re the worst Mother ever and that they hate you). In the end, it ‘s totally worth it!!!!