I was minding my own business, scrolling through some racks of dresses at my favorite boutique.
And it was whilst browing said frocks at said store that I heard a mom and her young son in a perplexing dialog. The little boy was whining and fussing. The mom was keeping her voice low and melodic. Score points for mom for keeping her cool.
But her content?
“You don’t want me to just leave you here at the store, do you? Do you think someone else might want you if I just left you here because you’re being so whiny?”
Her son continued to sniffle and grouse.
“I guess I’m just going to have to leave you here,” Mom sweetly said.
Newbie, I thought.
For this reason. She was abdicating a parenting superpower. Forfeiting a formidable force.
Of course, I managed to engage in a little abdication of my own a few hours later. And I don’t have the newbie excuse.
What does abdicating a parenting superpower look like?
When you make a parenting maxim that you don’t follow through on or that you later reverse.
Young mom at Target? She wasn’t going to leave her little boy behind. Nope. Wasn’t going to happen. And yet she told him she would if he didn’t straighten up.
He didn’t straighten up.
She didn’t leave him.
I watched to make sure.
Later that afternoon, I told one of mine that if they didn’t stop bickering with their sibling, they wouldn’t be attending a birthday party later in the week.
Which I had no intention of them missing, particularly because it would have punished the innocent birthday honoree.
But in the wages of parental battles, we often go there. We make the threat, utter the sentence, declare the consequence that we won’t complete.
And we give away that parenting power known as ‘Follow Thru’.
It’s a magical thing, the power of the Follow Thru. When we set a consequence that is real and we’re willing to maintain. When we say if a behavior doesn’t stop, this will be the result. And then we do it.
I watch parents over and over again bluster big time but then follow through with a whimper.
So how do we retain our Parenting Superpower? How do we not relinquish it in the fatigue of battle?
1. Commit to the Consequence
So often, we spout off a dramatic consequence in the hope that such a dire threat will shut down whiny, pouting, belligerent behavior. But unless you’re really willing to cancel Christmas, cancel the birthday party, put the iPod in the trash, don’t spout it. If you put a two-week grounding on a behavior, don’t bail at day four when you realize how inconvenient grounding can be for you.
2. Leave Some Mystery
We often lay out a consequence, even a big one, only to discover that our kid is willing to take the chance. I’ve learned with some of my kids, leaving an air of mystery as to what might happen if they don’t straighten up and fly right yields a better result.
3. Parent in Honesty
I’m pointing the finger at myself first, so don’t feel like I’m being all judgy. When I utter a consequence that I know at the time of saying I have no intention of committing, I’m not walking in honesty with my kids. And that’s an integrity issue that’s more important to fix than if I can get my kid to stop throwing a fit in the mall.
4. Be Willing to Extend Grace…But Stand Firm
Believe me, when one of my kiddos circles back after receiving a consequence and apologizes and apologizes and apologizes, it takes everything I’ve got to stay the course. On a rare occasion Michael and I will commute a sentence. But generally, we maintain the judgement. It’s important for our kids to be able to believe us when we issue a consequence for behavior. Just like the Lord parents us, our kids’ heartfelt repentance is beautiful and appreciated and celebrated. But consequences still remain when we make bad choices in our lives, and we want our kids to know that grace means they are forgiven, not necessarily that they’re going to get that iPod back or be able to go to that slumber party.
So put that Follow Thru cape back on. Take back up that superpower. And find a level of integrity with your kids that allows them to trust and believe you…even when they don’t like it.