Follow Through

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One of the most difficult things about parenting for me is actually following through with what I say I am going to do.  I know the importance of consistency, yet sometimes hear empty threats coming out of my mouth.  If you’re a parent, you probably know the kind I mean.  “If you don’t start listening to me, you will never be allowed to have friends over as long as you live!”  “If you don’t clean up this room, I am going to bag up your stuff and drop it off for kids who would actually appreciate it!”  “If you don’t…I will…forever…never…always”

The thing is, my kids have caught on.  They know that I don’t always follow through with what I say I will do.  They know that I am especially likely to bend the rules if I am on an important phone call for example.  While talking to my publisher or someone work related, I have to literally lock the door to my bedroom, then lock myself in the master bathroom so that they won’t all try to ask me for things that they know I would normally say “no” to.  They know that the rule is not to interrupt me the rare time I am on the phone, but they do anyway because they also know that if they ask me for absurd things like candy, the unopened toy that we are saving for next week’s trip, pop, or playing on the computer in the middle of when they are supposed to be doing schoolwork, I may say “yes” just to get them to stop interrupting my important conversation or to avoid them making a loud scene which the person on the other end of the phone would be able to hear!  What I am saying is that this is totally my fault!  I know this.

So, I have vowed to change this for the sake of my kids.  I will follow through.  Last week was my first big experiment in follow through.  I kept finding Halloween candy wrappers all over the house.  When confronted, everyone would blame it one someone else (one of the benefits for them of living in a big family) and it was a struggle to even get them to pick it up.  I warned them a few times that they needed to pick up their wrappers or they wouldn’t be able to have candy anymore (not a reasonable threat as I am sure that in their lifetime, they will have candy again, so not something I should have said).  Then, I caught myself about to say it and stopped and made a decision to change the outcome of the situation.  I carefully chose my words, made sure that ALL the kids heard me clearly and said, “If I find ONE more wrapper on the floor, ALL of the Halloween candy is going in the garbage”.  Of course, my threats mean nothing to my kids because I have taught them that when it comes to things like this, I rarely follow through.  Within 1/2 an hour of that conversation with them, I found 12 candy wrappers strewn about the house.  I calmly got a garbage bag, went into the room where the Halloween stash was being kept and started filling the trash bag.  I slowly gained an audience of wide-mouthed children, staring at me in disbelief.  Before long, the tears started.  Then, there were pleas and promises.  I very quietly took them on a tour of the house and pointed out all the wrappers that had been left.  I thought that I would feel badly for doing something so “mean”, but I just felt really satisfied.  I knew that next Halloween, they would probably listen at the first warning about picking up their garbage.

It’s a start.  As for the phone thing, I have a plan.  I am going to sit the kids down and re-establish the rules for when mommy is on the phone.  Then I am going to pre-warn a few of my friends and phone them and as soon as I get asked a question or there is screaming or fighting or interrupting me, get off immediately and follow through with giving an appropriate consequence.  Wish me luck!

Whatever your true struggle has been this week: a cluttered house, yelling at your kids, battling your weight, harbouring resentment towards a sister-in-law, taking out your frustrations on your husband, feeling guilt over the unfinished lists, refusal to forgive, distance in your relationship with God, feeling inadequate, feeding your kids cereal for supper, having unmet expectations, wishing for something you can’t have, not teaching your kids, skipping church, cutting someone off in traffic, being choked by anger, ignoring your responsibilities, wearing dirty socks because there’s no clean laundry… join in the Truth Tuesday link up.


  1. Way to go on your follow through!! Good luck with the phone issue, it’s frustrating isn’t it?

  2. Did you write this just for me?? 😉 Because it’s exactly what I needed to hear! I am soooo guilty of doing this. I, too, lock the bedroom and master bath doors when I’m on an important call for the very same reasons. I’ve also wanted to throw away all of the candy or toys…but am hesitant because one child never leaves candy wrappers or toys around, so I feel awful about punishing that child for things that the other children do. It doesn’t seem fair. I do know how quickly my kids picked up on the fact that I won’t follow through on certain things, and they definitely act accordingly.

    • Denise, I have one that doesn’t ever leave his wrappers out either and I felt badly about that and was conflicted, but afterwards, one of the other kids found a lollipop that I had missed throwing out and came to me and asked if she could give it to her brother because she knew that he hadn’t been the one to leave wrappers around and she didn’t want him to miss out. So it was good for me to see that the part about it not being fair actually was kind of good too because it allowed the kids who knew they were the culprits to naturally feel some guilt about how their actions had affected others and allow them to try to make restitution for that.

  3. (Had to repost comment, as my blog address had a typo! 😉
    It’s a cycle isn’t it? You slip… they slip – then you have to crack everyone into shape again. I always try to be very cautious about saying only what I am able to realistically do – it’s just that I too, don’t always follow through. What I love to do is find threats or consequences that benefit me… to make the follow through easy. Like this one particular time when my daughter was acting up at a fair. She had been promised a ride on a pony. I saw from the corner of my eye that the line up was 3 days long… so I warned her if that she had one more whining or crying outbreak, she wouldn’t be able to ride the pony. 2 minutes later, she started again – and let me tell you, it was the easiest consequence to administer and she remembered it for a VERY long time. We got a lot of mileage from that pony! From then on, we just had to mention the pony and she would remember we meant business. Just as your children will remember next Halloween! Good luck!

  4. Way to stay consistent!!! It is so hard somedays. I totally get that. With my hubby working aways somedays it is just easier to give in, but then I have an even bigger fight the next time. Consistent aways wins.
    Great work, it is awesome that they learned not to keep the sucker for themselves but instead to share it. Awesome job parenting!!!!!

  5. I LOVE follow through. My kids often award me ‘Mean Mom of the Year’ award. I totally heard you on feeling satisfied. One thing I did that I first thought might be mean, but had all sorts of side benefits is telling the kids they have five minutes to clean up their toys. After 5 minutes I will start to bag up everything that’s still lying around to get rid of. What it does is: make them clean quickly, and decide what toys are important. I’ve only done this twice, but man does it work!!! And gives me insight into what’s important to them.

  6. Way to follow through! I have to stop myself and think too. I still don’t get it correct or follow through a LOT of the time, but having three more added to our family, I know I have to be far more consistent. I think I can understand your satisfaction on that follow through. I would have been too.

    *Sigh.* Phone conversations are the worst for getting kids to behave. I’m pretty sure they have some sixth sense about when I’m even on the phone.


  7. Go Sharla!

    Another idea – role play. Practice with the kids, so they know what is proper behavior (and improper).

    Also, try having one of the kids call Grandma and be rude and loud, interrupting their conversation.

    Of course, I’m all talk and no action, so I don’t actually know if these ideas will work. 😉

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