Your Word is Your Everything

keep-calm-and-follow-throughWe can boil down the ability to follow-through to one word: Action.

In today’s day and age, where everyone is on the go and over-scheduled, following-through with commitments can be a tall order. As a parent, however, your ability to follow-through must be Priority #1 if you want your child to respect and trust you.

From a simple request such as, “Mom, can we get Jamba Juice after school?” to a complex one like, “Mom, can we go to Italy for my birthday?”, your answer should always be truthful and intentional. Why am I harping on this need to stay committed?

Three reasons:

1. Sometimes parents have a tough time saying no to the their child because they really do want to give them everything they can and more. I get it! It’s hard to look into those cute, little faces and hear their puppy dog whimper while explaining that what they want to do is just not gonna happen right now. (My little students use this tactic on me all the time. Sorry kids, but you still gotta do your homework; I’ll help you write the first paragraph though ūüôā ) By promising something that’s unrealistic, however, you’re giving your cute, little mini-you unrealistic expectations and creating unnecessary roller-coaster emotions. Little ones have not yet learned the highly developed reasoning skills of processing information in context and understanding the concept of time. Little kids are literal creatures and will take you at your word. So when you promise something, you better deliver. For example, if you promise that the family is going for ice cream after dinner with the condition that little Harper eats all of her broccoli, Harper is going to attempt to rise to your level of expectation and swallow all of those little trees. If Harper holds up her end of the bargain and you fail to do the same, Harper loses some trust in your word. If this happens frequently, she begins to doubt the value of your commitments in general.

2. By following-through with things promised, you are teaching your child to do the same. The value of your word– saying what you’re going to do and then actually doing it– is far more worthy than fancy trips or expensive toys. Children really don’t care about how much they have or don’t have– what they really want to earn is your approval. So make sure your word is a valued asset.

3. Same goes for a consequence. If Harper doesn’t eat her broccoli, there will be no ice cream for dessert no matter how much she whines or breaks down in tears. Stick to your commitment. By doing so, you are teaching Harper that you mean business and your word is truth. She’ll respect you and honor your approach once she realizes you have no intention of caving. And if you learn not to cave over the little things, you’ll be ready to make sure not to cave over the big things. That’s when it really matters.

Your child wants to trust and respect you and their actions often act-out their desire for these boundaries. So help your child learn to trust and respect you by simply sticking to your word. It’s the best gift you can give them.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

The Reasonable Choices Method

choicesI have these friends who are really excellent parents. To observe them is to learn. One of the methods they use with their young children is what I like to call The Reasonable Choices Method, a¬†simple idea but one that requires a lot of¬†internal patience even when things are just pure chaos around you.¬†As a prerequisite you must be on your way to mastering the 3C’s in a parenting crisis: Calm, Cool, and Collected.

Here’s how it’s done: Two-year-old Ben is playing with his toys in the playroom and you notice it’s now 7:00 pm, thirty-minutes before bedtime, and you still need to give him a bath to wash off the sand from all of his sandbox adventures today,¬†his sidewalk chalk mishaps, and the milk that spilled when he attempted to grab the cup from the counter but sadly missed. You give Ben a heads up that it will be time to take a bath in¬†5 minutes and you set the timer for 5 minutes, making sure to show him (as evidence) on your phone, kitchen timer, or even those little sand timers found in a board game. When there’s one minute left of playtime¬†you give him¬†a¬†courtesy warning. By giving him this courtesy warning you’re really allowing him to prepare himself to¬†switch tasks. Remember that¬†a toddler’s brain is developing the¬†ability to process information at¬†a faster rate and¬†creating those memory synapses so he needs a little more time to prepare himself to do something else. Emotionally, he’s also learning to assert his independence and this is a good thing. However, it’s still important to rein¬†it in, molding his ability to make decisions within the confines of safe parameter.

When the timer has gone off you announce again that it’s time to clean-up and take a bath. If Ben is like most two-year-olds he will resist,¬†explaining that he needs more time because he’s not¬†finished¬†playing.¬†If you really think about¬†his argument¬†it is easy to understand. We all run behind at times:¬†finishing a paper at the last-minute, remembering a birthday card on the way to the party, not realizing that dinner will take a little longer tonight because we’re trying a new dish. Although his request for more time is understandable toddlers are notorious for saying one thing and doing another. Remember that this is not a negotiation, this is a teaching moment–an example of how you are¬†helping him learn to sustain a commitment and begin to make the right decisions.¬†An assertive yet loving response should outline the fact that you understand his wants but you have given him a specific set of tasks to complete for the next part of the evening: “I understand that you want more time to finish playing but the timer has gone off and it is now time to clean-up, go upstairs, and take a bath”. It is likely he will still resist and so at this moment, while you’re helping to clean-up, you say to him, “Ben you may walk upstairs yourself or¬†I can carry you upstairs. Which do you prefer?” Here it is: a Reasonable Choice–one where each option is something you can live with, gets the next task going, but allows him a way to begin to assert his independence.

If he says, “I need more time” calmly explain that he already had 5 minutes to prepare himself to take a bath and that you will make the choice for him if he is unable to make it himself.¬†Then, follow through! I cannot stress enough that this the step I coach families most on. No doubt¬†it is the most difficult step and I feel for you because when your child is on the floor having a tantrum it is heart-wrenching and frustrating at the same time. Use those 3C’s and realize the psychology of what is happening here: Ben is wrestling to understand his own ability to make the right decision. Your job is to¬†help him understand why it is important and assure him that by trusting you, his parent, it will bring about the best decision possible.

The key is to employ your 3C’s, be consistent, and follow-through. Don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong the first few times. Just keep trying! You are helping your child build character and learn to make the right choice, a skill that he will use for the rest of his life.

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Take Me to Your Mother

TMTYM-ThumbI just came across this fantastic new show¬†called “Take Me to Your Mother”, where Comedian Andrea¬†— a new mom to toddler Odin– is chronicling her adventures through Mommyhood¬†by tapping into one of NYC’s greatest resources: The¬†Neighborhood Mothers. In this episode¬†Andrea¬†seeks out the advice¬†of a group of West Indian Boss¬†Moms in The Bronx¬†and learns the real reason why you must learn to say No to your child.

8 Tips from The West Indian Boss Moms

Tip #1: Instill a Healthy Dose of Healthy Fear

Healthy Fear is a good thing. For Andrea that’s a hard thing to wrap her head around because the word fear implies something bad. In parenting, however, healthy fear lets the child know that you are the protector and your job is to make your child feel secure. This new world they’ve entered into is super scary and you are their guide on this journey.

Tip #2: Private Practice Makes Public Performance

If you let your child walk on the dining room table when there’s no one around, don’t be surprised when he does it during a dinner party. That’s what Andrea found out as little Odin screamed until he got to¬†walk on the dinner table, during dinner. The Boss Moms said it best, “private practice makes public performance”. Everything you allow your child to do in private is a practice for how he or she will act when company comes a calling.

Tip #3: A Mommy’s Mantra: I Am The Boss

I AM THE BOSS. Period. What Mommy said is what goes. End of story. The Boss Moms say that you have to believe that mantra internally before your child will believe you. Instilling that confidence within yourself is key to a healthy parent/child relationship.

Tip #4: I have to Follow-Through

Follow-Through is the secret ingredient. Andrea learns that if she gives a warning to Odin¬†and doesn’t follow-through, she’s teaching Odin that her words are just empty threats. But if she follows-through on those warnings, her words mean business.

Tip #5: Fix Your Face

Practice your mommy-said-no-and-she-means-it face in the mirror so you can see what your child sees. If you smile, like Andrea, after you give your demand all is lost and your baby has outsmarted you once again.

Tip #6: Once In Awhile, Just Act Crazy

To keep your kids in line, The Boss Moms suggest just letting your crazy overtake you for a second or two. No one wants to make mom mad. So make your point loud and clear.

Tip #7: Warning 1, Warning 2, Warning 3

Warnings are a good way to let your child have a chance to assess their own behavior and give them a warning to change it. One of The Boss Moms touted the success of this technique even with her teenagers. When¬†she gets to Warning Two, her 16 and 17 year old have barricaded themselves in their rooms and don’t dare come out until¬†she gives the all clear.

Tip #8: Talent Will Take You But Character Will Sustain You

Andrea learns that all these rules, techniques, and mantras are put in place for one reason only: to instill character in your child. The worst thing you can do is have a talented kid out there in the world with no “broughtupsy”, that’s having no upbringing, conduct, character, or manners for those of us like Andrea (and myself) who have never come across that expression. I cannot say enough good stuff about this funny show with real meaning.

Here are a few lasting quotes from The West Indian Boss Moms of The Bronx:

  • When you steward someone it’s not about being their friend, it’s about giving them the tools that they need.
  • If you do not train your child, the world will train your child. So true!

Check Out “Take Me to Your Mother: Andrea Takes Charge”
( http://www.hulu.com/watch/483740 )Andrea has trouble saying “no” to her 1 year old, so it’s off to meet some West Indian mothers who teach her how to take charge.

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Don’t forget to head on over to TerryTutors.com or give us a call at 310.254.0909 for more info about our Private Tutoring & Family Coaching services in the Greater Los Angeles area