You know those people who think they have all the answers to parenting challenges but they don’t have children? I used to be one of those people. I worked with children with behavioural difficulties and I often wondered to myself why the parents couldn’t just be consistent and follow through. If I could go back in time and slap myself, I totally would.
I was going to be the parent who ALWAYS followed through with the limits and consequences I set for my children. I was going to be so consistent. They would know that if I said something, I meant it. It sounds so simple. Who wouldn’t parent this way?
The truth is, following through is a lot easier said than done. I definitely try to be consistent but I have also made idle threats that I didn’t follow through with, set limits that I didn’t enforce, and given warning after warning without actually giving a consequence. Why?
IT’S EASIER NOT TO (in the short term)
The truth is, following through can take a lot of energy. We know that parenting usually requires more energy than we naturally have, yet somehow we dig deep and make it through the day. Sometimes, it’s just barely though. I admit to ignoring some behaviours in the hopes that they will just stop. Sometimes it works. Usually, it just escalates until I deal with it though.
Following through with a consequence will usually illicit a less-than-pleasant response from the child. It can bring on a loud and lengthy outburst and sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that. Or let’s say the consequence is removing a privilege. It can be tempting just to give it back to avoid hearing the whining and complaining that ensues.
Perhaps you grounded your teenager for a month. Guess who gets to deal with her moodiness over the next four weekends? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just let her go to the sleepover and enjoy some alone time? Tempting. Not effective, but tempting.
LIFE GETS IN THE WAY
You’re busy. You have places you need to be at specific times. Sometimes you can’t just abandon your cart in the grocery store and march your child out of the store because you need those groceries and this is your only chance to get them.
Just so you know, when I see you in the store with your unruly child making a scene, I’m not staring in judgement. I’m just trying to make eye contact to give you a smile and let you know I feel your pain and you got this.
So maybe you still let your child get a treat even though they don’t deserve it because you just can’t take another second of this. I get it. It will come back to haunt you on the next grocery store outing but sometimes you just don’t have it in you.
Just so you know, when I see you in the store with your unruly child making a scene, I’m not staring in judgement.
THEY PULL AT YOUR HEARTSTRINGS
When they’re crying and telling you how sorry they are, it’s hard not to take pity on them and give them another chance. I’m warning you, it’s a trap. You can acknowledge their feelings and still follow through but I have fallen for the puppy dog eyes more than once, I’m not gonna lie.
THEY OUTNUMBER YOU
It can get even harder to follow through when the kids outnumber you. When my youngest was a newborn, I definitely let my oldest get away with stuff he wouldn’t have normally. If I just got the baby to sleep, there was no way I was going to risk having her woken up. I mastered the whisper yell and made threats that I would be dealing with this later. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t.
WE’RE NOT PERFECT PARENTS
I don’t think that’s a surprise but let’s just put that out there. None of us are. I’m not here to make excuses but this is my reality and I know I’m not alone in this. Following through is a hell of a lot harder when you actually have children! Who knew? With that said. I know how important it is to enforce the limits I set because slacking on the follow through has come back to bite me.
Kids absolutely do need routine and consistency. They love to test us and see how much they can get away with but it has been proven that children feel safer and learn trust when parents are consistent. Kids need these boundaries. So I just want to be clear – I’m not saying following through isn’t important, I’m just saying it’s not always easy to do.
If you’ve been struggling with your follow through, it’s not too late to make a change. It does get easier. The first few times can be extra challenging when you’re trying to get back on track. Soon enough, they will realize that you mean what you say and they will be less likely to test you because they will know what to expect.
Kids absolutely do need routine and consistency. They love to test us and see how much they can get away with but it has been proven that children feel safer and learn trust when parents are consistent.
I find it helps to set the expectation ahead of time and have them repeat it back to me. Then when it wasn’t followed, I can say, “What did we agree on about this?” and they (hopefully) have more accountability for their behaviour and the consequence we discussed beforehand.
I also find it helps to remind them of the choices they made that led to the consequence. Their actions are what got them here, despite how they try to find a way to blame us for it. Remind them of that when they’re complaining about how mean you are.
What other tips do you have for following through?
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.