Follow through is a Positive Discipline tool that comes naturally for me for two reasons. The first reason is because my parents—my mom especially led by example. I always knew that if my Mom said it—she meant it! It wasn’t even worth the argument. I believe that as annoyed or frustrated as I was as a kid, I always respected her and knew that what she said she meant. I remember learning this tool at an early age and being able to recite, as she would say it to the many parents in a lecture or in her books,, “If you mean it, say it, and then follow through!”
The second reason I’ve been able to model this tool for my kids is because I heard my mom say, “The tongue in the shoe, is louder than the tongue in the mouth.” In other words, actions speak louder than words.
The most difficult time for me to practice this tool was when my children were around the age of two and it was their daily job to test me. I knew it was important to not make threats I couldn’t keep and more importantly—to follow through on whatever threat I made. I referred this stage as my “mean mommy stage.” My mom simply reminded me that it was my “firm mommy stage.”
It’s often forgotten that Positive Discipline is both Kind and Firm. I am the first one to admit that I am usually too kind until I get completely fed up and flip my lid and then I become this really “firm” mommy. The best part of this “mean mommy stage” was that it didn’t take my kids very long to know, that mommy meant business. And 99% of the time I followed through with what I said I would do.
Here we are over 3-years later and I am still following through. For example this week, my oldest son had a major meltdown at bedtime. It was my fault because I let him stay up later than his bedtime (with no nap) to watch a movie that he had recorded the night before. Well when the movie was finally over, he went ballistic like a crazy man when it was time to brush his teeth and put on pajamas. (He started acting like the character in Shark Boy). The more out of control he got, the more out of control I felt. I “told” him (first PD mess up) if you can’t calm down and get control of your body, I will delete your movie and you won’t watch any TV in the morning. Sure enough he acted more hysterical and in my flipped lid state I marched downstairs and deleted his movie. Naturally this just made the situation worse, but I was so concerned about following through with my threat I didn’t focus on actually helping him calm down. After I waked away and went into my own time out and calmed down, we were able to reconnect give apologies for our behavior and finally go to bed.
The next morning he came downstairs and gave me another big hug and said how sorry he was for the night before. I too apologized and explained that I was equally tired and was acting out of control. Unfortunately it was too late and his movie had already been deleted. Even though I don’t regret deleting the movie, I regretted how, and when I did it. I also made sure to follow though on the rest of my threat and made sure there was no TV in the morning. I needed to kindly remind him why. He wasn’t happy with that decision, but we were able to turn it around with the fun and active morning we had together. Moral of this story, is don’t make threats you can’t keep. Especially because a lot of the threats we make as parents, usually aren’t convenient for us.