Parenting: follow-through

(Breaking news: Look what’s IN STOCK on!!)


My youngest daughter turned 4 in November. She’s a sweet little girl, but she isn’t above using her status as ‘baby’ (and my related softheartedness towards her) to conveniently ‘forget’ work, or to do small disobedient things. I’ve had the nagging realization for awhile that I need to get more serious about insisting that she obey every time. But it wasn’t until the last few weeks that I really buckled down and committed to making it happen.

Yesterday I asked her to fold two pair of pants and put them on her dresser. After an initial whine and an ‘accidental’ dropping of one pair, she got a firm grip on both pairs and (I hoped) headed off to obey. A moment or two later she was back, so quickly that I feared she’d just tossed the pants on the floor. She SAID she’d done it, but she’s been known to answer questions less than truthfully before. I knew I ought to go peek to verify that the work had been done.

I wrestled with my own laziness for a moment. Going to check on her work would interrupt mine. Honestly, would it really matter that hugely if the clothing was on the floor instead of on the dresser? My conscience was quick to remind, however– it wasn’t about pants, it was about developing character traits that would serve my daughter her whole life.

I sighed and went to look. She trotted cheerily with me– a good sign. Usually if a kid hasn’t done a job, she’ll scurry ahead of me to hastily make the job right. To my surprise, not only were the pants on the dresser, they were also folded with precision– a beautifully done job. As I hugged her and praised her to high heaven, she glowed, and I got the joy of relishing her success along with her.

Inspecting my kids’ work doesn’t only give me the chance to correct wrong, it also gives me the golden opportunity to praise the very good that I so much want to see and encourage in their lives. I tend to forget that part of the equation, but seeing the glow on her little face made me determined to remember it more often.


  1. Wow, what a powerful insight…I need to remember that I am looking for successes to celebrate, not mistakes to correct.

  2. Mary ~ What a wonderful reminder! All too often I am prepared to correct a wrong… I wonder how often my attitude shapes my daughter’s behavior. Thanks for the swift kick of conviction.

  3. Michelle says:

    Maybe I got the first copy (probably not)! I was ordering some other things about an hour before your post and checked to see it it was in stock. Much to my surprise it was! Very much looking forward to reading the whole thing after reading as many pages as the Amazon reader would let me. Thank you also for the reminder to praise the positive things…a good reminder after just threatening my three year old daughter with a loss of play time with a friend this afternoon if she didn’t stay in her chair while eating lunch (yes, I’m in a much different time zone!).

  4. What a great reminder! Thanks for sharing that.

  5. Yes! Checking their work is a vital part of training. We so often let that slip! Also, I tried to order your book for my Kindle. It’s not available…I hope it becomes available for that….I really look forward to reading it. Lisa~

  6. Thank you for sharing and reminding us about the importance of following through. I have a 2 1/2 year old who takes his dishes to the sink when we’re done with meal-time, takes his yogurt container to the trash when he’s done with snack, puts his clothes in the basket when we’re getting ready for bath, etc. I get all kinds of looks — both positive and negative — when this type of thing is brought up in conversation. But, by-golly, he’s capable of helping so why should I expect less? Sure, it would be easier (and faster) for me to just do it for him those times he forgets and needs a gentle reminder but what does that teach him? When I read posts like this, it helps me to feel good about what I’m trying to accomplish with my own child. Thank You!

  7. I, too, have found that when I notice that a daily job has started to be done sloppily I have to make myself check the the “finished” product for a while until it is brought back to house standards. The unexpected perk of this? After the first few days of re-dos and complainings, the job-do-er will come proudly to me and ask me to check his work. Then I have the chance to say, “Great Job! Just what I was looking for! Thank you!” This always results in a beaming face and a hug. 🙂

    And, I have a just-turned-four-year-old that had me in the same boat as you. How do they learn to use their charming cute-ness to get away with things?! I have just recently started to get more serious with her too. Fortunately, she usually does not get into trouble. Really, just the exact same kind of thing you described today.

    I am planning on ordering your book! How fun to see it on Amazon! Congratulations!

  8. So true. Thanks for such a wonderful reminder!

  9. I’ll never forget the time that I told my kids, “I’m coming to check…” Nobody scrambled, which I took as a sign that they didn’t think I was serious. I said, “OK, I’m coming to check right now!” I rounded the corner and was greeted by a perfectly orderly family room with not even one pillow on the floor (totally unheard of in our house). My mouth dropped open and the kids started bouncing around and giggling.

    They never seem to remember my nagging reminders… I think the praising words stick better. 🙂

  10. Very good point and it stopped you from wondering whether she did what you told her to.

  11. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement. I need to be more consistent with my 3 and 4 year olds in this department. (As my 12, 10 and 8 year olds tell me.) =) I love reading your blog and admire your honesty and openness very much. You often inspire me. And besides all that, I love hearing about your family life and kids. I’d like to know you in person. =) Please don’t publish my blog address as it’s not open to the public for various reasons…but I don’t mind if you visit me there. =)

  12. Aaaah, laziness. Sometimes it is so much easier to sit and let things slide. But you are right, they won’t learn anything positive from that.

  13. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement. I need to be more consistent with my 3 and 4 year olds in this department. (As my 12, 10 and 8 year olds tell me.) =) I love reading your blog and admire your honesty and openness very much. You often inspire me. And besides all that, I love hearing about your family life and kids. I’d like to know you in person. =) Please don’t publish my blog address as it’s not open to the public for various reasons…but I don’t mind if you visit me there. =)

  14. Good reminder!

    When you pre-order…. it arrives in todays mail! I’m starting it tonight and I can’t wait!

  15. As a mom to several strong-willed children I find myself check their work often, of course worst offender is usually the one that currently has the tightest grip on your heart. I received a real treat in the mail today – your book that I had preordered!!! I may have to put the kids to bed early and devour it. – Mom to only 6, age 26-7, from just 2 countries.

  16. Yes. Wow. What a great reminder for me. My first child is at this stage, and I continually find I am learning so much from you. I am so glad you were able to praise her for a job well done. Thanks for motivating me.

  17. Thanks for this, my follow thru has gotten a bit slack!

  18. What an excellent reminder to parents about building character in their children, and also about the positive side to checking on chores.

    Congrats on the book at Amazon. Can’t wait for the cookbook to be on there too!

  19. multi-taskingmom says:

    Great tip Mary. I always strive to praise the positive rather than punish the negative – not always easy though. We are going to try a new twist on your “Mom’s Smile” idea. Draw a face with a smile and tape a small blank paper over it (cut into strips like in the smiling one)….each time a kid is “caught” doing something good, they get to tear off a piece of paper, thus making mommy smile. I’m hoping that this will reduce the whining reports…you know the ones….”he said this, she did that”, with reports of “guess what he or she did for me mom”

    Got your book yesterday – I pre-ordered it. Can’t wait to read it – I’m itching to. But – I have several books lined up that must be read first. I pre-read most of the books before the kids do unless we are familiar with the author or series. I have been reminded that they are “out of books” and really need me to finish those. Can’t complain though, I’m happy to have a house full of avid readers.

  20. Good post. THis is one of those things that is so easy for me to let slide..and is always a bad idea if I do. Follow up….follow follow. Just need to make sure I keep my energy up too!! THere’s the trick now isn’t it?

    I posted a review of your book on my blog today, hope that’s ok. Loved it tho! M

  21. I pre-ordered your book a while ago and it came in the mail yesterday! I started it last night and am loving it! I have five kids and reading the book makes me want another. My baby is 4.

  22. Great reminder! I didn’t do a great job in checking chores this Saturday and it kicked me in that pants later!

  23. sorry…should have said “the pants” not “that”.


  24. Great encouragement… I find myself dreading the checking process, but I too often forget that it DOES give me the chance to praise them. And who doesn’t need that once in a while?
    Thank you so much for the sweet reminder.

  25. Hi! I received your book today, (I ordered it in Oct. I believe,) and I am already on Ch. 4 and can’t put it down. I am loving it. I had a hard time visualizing your description on your laundry room, as I am not a 3D thinker. I would love to see pics of it. Perhaps you can make a post on it, or maybe if you already have you can tell me where to look. Thanks so much.

  26. Thank you for such a quick response, and for making a post just for me 😉 Also, thanks so much for your condolences regarding our daughter. After reading what I have read of your book, I am wanting to adopt two again! My fire has been re-ignited.

  27. I am hiding out – reading your book – and LOVIN’ it!!! Lots of great thoughts I can SO identify with! Great job!

  28. Latrice says:

    Hello Mary! Love your blog and gonna buy your book!
    Thanks to Meredith!!!
    I see you have several children of African descent —
    I too am Af-Am and just wanted you to know that I have friends like you who have opened their hearts to bless children from other countries and I impart ‘hair product’ advice to them all the time – If ever you need anything or should have questions – feel free to let me know –
    Good for you and your growing fam! God Bless!

  29. Thank you for these parenting posts – this one really hit home with me – I know I haven’t been as consistent with my 15-month old son’s discipline as I should be, and this was a real encouragement to me. The part that really hit home is the factor that if I get up to discipline him, it interrupts my work- which is a big factor for me since I take him to my office with me & often ignore his disobedience in order to finish my finance projects. Thanks for posting this!