Follow Through, Yes, You.
by Dawn Billings, founder of RelationshipHelp.com
“Following-through on your commitments makes you more dependable and reliable. Duh! Failing to follow-through on your commitments will require that you have to face the consequences of your failure. Argh! Lack of follow-through translates into loss of trust that can cause the loss of friendships, and relationships, but what about the time and energy it costs you as a parent? OMG, why me?
When you make a commitment, all people, especially your children, take it as a promise and expect the commitment to be fulfilled in time. They rely and count on you for the follow through to teach them responsibility.
You’ve heard it so many times before: “If you say it, mean it, and if you mean it, follow through. Children know when you mean what you say and when you don't. It is really that simple. Say it; mean it; and follow-through. Parents who say what they mean and mean what they say do not have to use a lot of words.” What they are really are referring to there is that they don’t have to use a lot of begging and pleading words.
We have all felt it, that heavy, desperate, feeling of ‘at your wit’s end’ failure. All we really want is for the crying, arguing, yelling, whining, or tantrum to stop!
When you cave, again, giving in to your exhaustion and child’s screeching protests, doing whatever it is you know will bring a moment’s peace you sadly and solemnly also know the price you are going to ultimately pay for the brief moment of peace, that awful feeling of defeat grows inside you.
You know very well that your lack of follow-through caused and is continuing to cause these problems. We're fairly good at coming up with rules and consequences. The difficulty comes when we have to enforce what we say.
Here are a couple of examples I've heard more than once: Family gets new puppy. Parents make agreement with children that they will feed puppy and clean up after puppy or said puppy will go to the pound. Children nod solemnly when asked if they understand. Children forget to feed puppy or think scooping poop is gross. And parents find themselves unable to follow through: "We can't take the puppy to the pound–it's so cute and we love it!"
Or parents tell children that if they don't pick up their toys, the parents will take them to the Salvation Army. Children nod solemnly when asked if they understand. Toys remain scattered across the floor–and parents just can't make themselves take all the toys to the Salvation Army.
The danger in making rules and not following through is that children quickly figure out: there's a good chance mom and dad won't do what they threatened.
One of the most important ways young children learn trust is when parents provide fair limits with consistent follow through.
So how do we fix the problem? You need to think before you speak, which generally means you should take time to be calm and consider things rationally. (I know, easier said than done. I get it.)
Don't promise or threaten a consequence that you know can’t follow through on. And equally as terrible, don't follow through on a completely unreasonable consequence because you are acting out of anger and frustration.
Remember, discipline is meant to teach. Set consequences in advance. Make sure your child truly understands them, at least best as they can until your follow through teaches them the reality of them. Follow through calmly, with empathy, like you are truly as sorry as you are, that they have chosen this consequence for themselves.
If your child neglects to pick up his/her toys, for example, you can agree that you will pick them up–and put them in a box on a high shelf for two days. (A time limit, incidentally, only needs to be long enough to get her attention and make the point) Yes, there will probably be anger, frustration, pleading and begging but at least it will be them doing it instead of you. When you return the toys, ask clearly and respectfully, "What do you need to do to keep them?"
Your commitments should be based on your values, beliefs, and desires and your words should always be in alignment with your actions and behaviors. In order to teach our children how to live happier more successful lives, follow through is imperative.
How to Develop Follow-Through
1. The way to develop more follow-through is to first of all be careful about your commitments. Consider what it will take to fulfill a commitment before you threaten it, or agree to it.
2. Use technology: If you struggle with remembering things, technology can provide you with multiple ways and tools to keep track of your commitments. It you set a time limit, allow technology to remind you or when time is up.
3. Remember this is not only for you, to make your life easier, but more importantly this is for your children and will ultimately help ensure that they lead happy, fulfilling and successful lives.
Personality and relationship expert Dawn Billings is the author and architect of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools licensed and widely used by relationship experts around the nation. Dawn is the founder of RelationshipHelp.com and the creator of the comprehensive ONLINE relationship programs RelationshipHelpAtHome.com Dawn is the executive director of the RelationshipHelpResort.com in Arizona where she hosts private couples retreats to help people strengthen and heal their broken relationships.