The Fun of Following Through!
Following through any sort of task or project isn’t always easy. What can be even harder, though, is teaching your kid the value that lies behind the importance of following through any and every task or project she takes on.
You’re undoubtedly going to encounter times when your child is faced with a seemingly daunting task such as a school paper or project, or maybe even just household chores. Motivating your kid to finish what she starts can be tough, and the really tough part is helping her understand why it’s important to follow things through—no matter how difficult it may seem or how time consuming the project may be.
Following things through takes diligent effort, and while it’s not necessarily a blast to put forth every ounce of effort you have in order to follow through—much less teaching your kid to do so—teaching your child the importance of hard work right down to the very end is absolutely invaluable to your kid’s emotional growth. When your child learns how to properly and successfully follow through, she’s learning more than the mere idea that it’s good to finish what she starts; she’s learning about personal responsibility, and what it means to be an independent individual and thinker.
Use Toys as a Guide or Teaching Technique
A great place to start when teaching your kid to follow through is to begin with a healthy dose of fun. This is something you can do even before any issues of following through tough projects and tasks arise. Luckily, there are tons of toys out there that will help instill in your child the value of finishing what she starts, and also help her understand that finishing what she starts is a process that takes time. When you implement the use of toys that your kid enjoys in order to help her learn the value of following through, she’ll be put in the position where she has to finish a task, but she won’t necessarily find the process of following through to be arduous or tedious.
Think about toys like Legos, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, or even your typical puzzle: these toys are projects in themselves. When you create an environment filled with all sorts of buildings and characters with Legos, or a cabin with Lincoln Logs, or a roller coaster with K’nex—you’re building something. Sure, these toys are lots of fun, but the idea behind these toys is to start with a goal in mind and then finish whatever task is at hand.
When you and your kid play with toys like Legos and the like, your child is learning all about following through and she probably doesn’t even know it. Of course, you can say “if we don’t finish building this we’ll never know how it feels to see the finished product”, but you don’t have to say it forcefully or in a manner that’s overly austere or strict. You can just simply say “Don’t you want to see what it’s going to look like in the end? That would be fun right?”
Casually asking her if she wants to see a finished product will most likely appeal to her sense of curiosity. Toys that are essentially projects in themselves give your kid the initial possibility of wondering what the end product will be, and then she’ll get to fulfill her curiosity while simultaneously gaining empowerment as she learns that she has the skills to think through things critically, carefully, and creatively.
Best of all, using task-based toys will instill the value of following through before she has to tackle any complicated school project. She’ll learn the importance of following through at a young age, and you don’t even have to tell her that you’re trying to teach her at all.
Encourage The Process in Your Child
Let’s stick with the task related toys example for now. When your kid is putting together a puzzle or building a world birthed from Legos, it’s important that you validate every finished step along the way. Say to her, “Wow, that’s great that you figured out that that particular piece goes there. If you hadn’t have worked through that one step, we’d never know what this thing looks like.” It’s important that you let your kid know that you’re proud every time she makes a new discovery while playing with task-based toys, and that it’s her discovery that leads to the completion of the project.
If you’re helping your kid with a school project or paper, the same method of encouraging the process can apply. Seeing as how school projects often have little to do with play, the encouragement your kid receives during the process of completing a project will be a different sort of confidence booster than if you were playing with Legos. School is meant to be intellectually challenging, and when you help your child understand that she has the intellectual capabilities needed to get the job done, she’s bound to feel good about herself and take pride in her work.
By boosting her confidence and validating her efforts every time a single step is properly executed, she’ll understand that every step is just as important as the preceding step. You’ll be able to help your child see that every little part matters—that the whole process is important in order to finish the job no matter how long it takes. Putting emphasis on the process can be seen as putting emphasis on discovery. Every step opens up a new door and a new possibility—and when you make this clear to your child—she’ll understand that it’s a series of small discoveries that ultimately lead to understanding the idea behind the project as a whole.
Allow Your Child Independence
Giving your child independence when she’s working through a task or project is important. It’s her job to finish the task at hand, and you want her to know and feel that the finished product is her own accomplishment. If you’re the one who completes every single step of the task, she’ll feel no ownership; and with no sense of ownership comes no sense of responsibility.
Teaching your kid to follow through is all about giving her the opportunity to understand that she’s the one responsible for the completion of the task—that she’s capable of discovering how to work through any difficult task on her own. You want her to know that following through is her responsibility; otherwise she’ll only think that it’s your responsibility to finish things for her.
When helping your kid with a project, if she asks you how to do something you might want to subtly turn the tables and say, “What do you think you should do?” When you prompt your kid to think for herself without taking total control and possibly stifling any creativity, she’ll gain a sense of confidence and self-worth while simultaneously developing her critical thinking skills. The more you encourage her to think for herself in order to follow through in finishing a task, the more she’ll understand that she’s the one who followed through and not you. When she makes the realization that the final product was of her doing, she’ll take pride in her abilities, which will only further reinforce and increase her confidence as an individual, and as an independent thinker.
Don’t use Rewards as a Bribe
It seems like it would certainly make things easy if you reward your child every time she follows through with a task or project. And the truth is, that would be easy. Sure, rewards are nice, but there’s really no lesson to be learned if your kid is just working for extra television or videogame time. In fact, simply rewarding her every time she follows through negates the idea behind the lesson of following through to begin with.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating her accomplishments and achievements, but you have to remember that you’re teaching your child a valuable lesson—a lesson that’s more important than finishing something simply for the sake of it being finished. Teaching your child to follow through is about self-discovery, responsibility, and ownership; not just simply getting a job done. If she’s only working for rewards, she won’t understand why following through matters.
Your child needs to learn that following through is a reward in and of itself. Feeling a sense of independent accomplishment, personal responsibility, and intellectual prowess is infinitely more rewarding than a new toy that might be gifted to her upon completing that tough school paper or science project. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate her efforts, but you want to make sure she understands the value in what she’s doing.
Teaching your child to follow through doesn’t have to be a drag for her or for you. It certainly isn’t the easiest thing to do, but if you follow through on teaching your kid how to successfully follow through on her own, the benefits will be bountiful for the emotional growth of your kid.