How to Follow-Through

Melissa and Jane Nelsen

Melissa and Jane Nelsen

I attended An Introduction to Positive Discipline at the Adler School with the co-founder of Positive Discipline herself, Jane Nelsen, last week! I was inspired by the power of her approach to parenting, which is based on respect and compassion.

During the workshop, I volunteered to be a teenager in a role-play in which Jane was modeling the Positive Discipline approach to follow-through. The set-up of the role play was that I had agreed to mow the lawn by 2 pm, and she was coming to check with me at 3 pm because I hadn’t mowed the lawn yet. As I pretended to play a video game on my iPhone, she asked, “Do you know what time it is?”
I said, “I don’t know,” while continuing to play the video game.
She said, “It’s 3 pm. What did you agree to do by now?”
I said, “I don’t know,” and continued to play the game.
She just stood there.
I said, “Oh, … mow the lawn. But, I had a lot of homework this week! I’m tired!” I was still not really looking at her, and continued to pay attention to the game.
She just stood there.
I said, “But I just want to relax a little more!”
She tapped her watch one time, and that made me look up. When I raised my head, what did I see? I saw her looking at me. She wasn’t mad, or annoyed, she was just standing there calmly. She was giving me THE LOOK. To me, THE LOOK said, “I have confidence you will do this because you said you would, and I am absolutely sure there is no problem here whatsoever, because you are a person who keeps her word.” THE LOOK conveyed all this, I don’t know how, but it did!

My powers of procrastination WITHERED immediately. I had no choice but to say, “Okay, I’ll go mow the lawn!”

The minute I gave in, the other people in the workshop spoke up and said they didn’t think my response was realistic, because a “real teenager” wouldn’t have agreed so quickly. I felt aggravated, because I’m a good role player, and I was trying my best to ignore Jane and play my video game, sincerely! I said, “If you were sitting here and experienced THE LOOK, you’d do it too!” But it seemed as if my fellow classmates were not convinced.

Happily, the very next day I described my role play with Jane to a REAL teenager, a high school student of mine. When I described how Jane didn’t lecture me, or nag me; when I explained how all she did was ask me questions and wait, silently and calmly, for my answers; when I imitated how she gave me THE LOOK that was not condescending or annoyed, but instead confident and clear, he said, “I feel like I want to go mow the lawn right now!”

I felt validated.

I believe in the power of respect. I believe that approaches like Positive Discipline and Internal Family Systems are powerful tools for increasing our capacity to relate to our kids, families and selves with kindness and clarity. I’m grateful to Jane Nelsen for bringing this work alive!


ps: Want to learn more about follow-through? Check out this article, which has an audio version of Jane Nelsen in the same role play I described above!