Keys to Parenting: Follow Up and Follow Through

The day I became a mom was life-changing. When they placed that tiny infant in my arms, I remember looking into her eyes and falling in love instantly. However, as she grew up, loving her wasn’t so effortless. My love for my daughter needed action to back it up. It required me to get up, follow up and follow through. I will always love my daughter, no matter what, so I will always follow up on what she needs.

Anyone can claim they love someone. But love needs to be demonstrated to be proved. As parents, we demonstrate just how much we care about our kids by how involved we are in their upbringing. If you want your kids to feel safe, secure and loved, then show it by showing up.

Loving my child means I check in with them.

When I reserve a hotel room, in order to access the room, I have to check in. I need to go to the front desk and tell them I have a reservation. They usually ask me for some kind of ID to prove I am who I say I am.  There’s information that must be exchanged before I get into the hotel room I’m paying for.

Checking in with your kids is similar to checking into the hotel. You have to show up, in your role as their parent. You need to get and give information. Parenting check-ins means we must connect, in person.

What this will look like is different for every family. You probably already do something like this with your kids, anyway. If you’ve ever asked your son “How was soccer practice?”, you checked in with him. Checking in doesn’t have to be a big deal. It just has to happen regularly and frequently.

Loving my child means I check up on them.

Usually, we hear “check up” and we think about seeing a doctor. Getting a physical check up is important for our physical health. Medical check ups measure and examine all the parts of our bodies, for growth, healthiness and well-being. Doctors ask us if we are doing the right things to maintain our health — things like eating right, getting enough exercise, and taking any medication we’re supposed to.

Parenting check ups are similar. We check up on our kids to make sure they are growing in the character and values that we want them to have. You check up  on them to measure how well they are doing — whether its homework, chores, or relationships. Like doctors, parents need to measure and examine all the aspects of their children’s lives, so they know what adjustments need to be made for their kids’ well-being.

Check up parenting is a lot of work. 

How do you check up on your kids? It means you need to go check their work. If you’ve assigned a chore, you check to make sure that it was done, and done well. It means you sign off on homework, only after you’ve actually seen it, not scribbling signatures down last minute as you race out the door.

Checking up also means looking at what they’re doing. How are they treating friends, when they think you aren’t around? What are they saying on social media? Be a nosy parent.

Loving my child means I follow through.

Follow through is a golf term. It’s the portion of the swing that happens after the club hits the ball. While to the novice, the follow through is meaningless, how you follow through on your swing can change where your ball goes.

Parenting follow throughs are similar. It may not seem like much, but empty threats undermine your ability to parent. If you don’t follow through on what you said, you won’t be able to enforce your rules, teach your values or even have your kids’ respect.

Follow through means saying only what I mean.

Kids know when someone is lying. It seems almost instinctive. They know when you say something you don’t mean. If you ever find yourself having to yell to get your kids to do what you told them to, it’s because they don’t know you mean it until you yell.

The best way to prevent this is to say what you mean, every time. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t understate. Be matter-of-fact, and say exactly what you mean.

Good parents set boundaries for their kids. Part of setting a boundary means stating what will happen when that boundary is crossed. If your kids know you mean what you say, those boundaries will be a lot more firm. They will believe you when you tell them that if they don’t turn off the video games now, you will take it for the next week.

Follow through means I don’t punish myself.

Don’t punish yourself with your follow through.  It’s easy to threaten to take away the trip to the ice cream store if your child continues to misbehave. But if you really wanted ice cream, you may be tempted to not follow through on that threat. Or you’ll be overly harsh with your child because you really wanted it, and their poor choices means you are punished.

First of all, a good follow through will mean threats aren’t necessary. (You shouldn’t be threatening your kids anyway!!) Instead, you’ll have clear boundaries, and stated consequences when those boundaries are crossed.

Second, a good follow through will mean less consequences. When you mean what you say, your kids will take you seriously.

Third, knowing that you follow through with stated consequences means that you’ll know ahead of time what those consequences are. So you can make your consequences fit the circumstances.

Loving my child means I don’t protect them from natural consequences.

Part of our job as parents is to protect our kids. We protect them, as much as we can, from hurting themselves. We keep medications, cleaners and other harmful substances out of their reach. And we warn them about tall steps, about hot surfaces, and tripping hazards. But sometimes, we can’t protect them.

And sometimes we shouldn’t protect them. Tough love is a thing. Our kids need the freedom to make choices, and the ability to feel the results of those choices. Sheltering them from all the consequences will do them a disservice.

Natural consequences are some of the best ways to learn. If your child chooses to disobey your stated time for bed, the fact that they will be tired the next morning when they have to get up at the regular time is a great natural consequence. Don’t protect them from it by letting them sleep in.  Not only will they feel the effects all day, but they will be tired that night, and probably end up asleep before bedtime.

Loving parents follow up and follow through.

It takes more work to follow up and follow through. But our kids need us to be nosy, involved parents. They will feel so much more safe and secure if they know that mom and dad will be checking in on them, and checking up on their work. They will feel so much more loved if they know that their parents mean what they say, every time. So love your kids. Learn to check in and check up on them. Practice your follow through. Do the work of parenting.

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