I must say many parents have good intentions when they make promises to their kids; almost every parent wants to keep their kids happy and as such, they do not intentionally break their promises, knowing that it would affect or disappoint the kid, but this is not an excuse. One of the golden rules of parenting is to do what you say and say only what you will do. While some parents are very faithful in keeping their promises, never making promises they cannot keep, some others (though with good intentions), are unable to keep some of their promises when the time comes to deliver.
It is important for parents to understand how much their broken promises affect the young ones. I came across this piece by Abigail Van Buren, a 5th grade public school teacher. As part of her class writing assignment, she asked the 5th graders to write a piece called “Dear Abby”, a letter-either real or imaginary. Here’s what one of the pupils submitted;
Dear Abby: Sometimes I get so mad at my mom because she says she is going to come home at a certain time, but she never does. She also tells me she is going to take me somewhere when she gets home, so I wait and wait. No mom. Then when she finally gets home, it’s too late to go. This really gets me mad. What advice can you give?
Needless to say, these situations play out in many homes and often times kids are expected to understand and or even get scolded for throwing a tantrum when promises are broken, “I know I was” and it wasn’t a good feeling. Parents need to be aware of the impact these broken promises have on children. From Nannynet; I found ten reasons why promises are important to kids and I would like to share:
- It’s a matter of trust – Our children trust us to keep our word. Little children especially look up to parents with a kind of awe whether or not we are aware of it. Consequently when a promise is made, it is assumed by the child that the promise will be kept.
- Leading by example – Some parents like to try the “Do as I say and not as I do” model with their kids. Unfortunately this does not work. It can be confusing for younger kids and downright distasteful for older kids, as it puts parents in a hypocritical light. If we want our kids to learn to keep their promises, then we must learn to keep ours.
- Teaches integrity – When kids see parents following through on their promises, they are seeing a form of integrity in action. They know that whatever Mom or Dad promises is something they can count on.
- Affects discipline – Sometimes parents will promise a particular punishment or consequence for misbehavior. If those promises are never kept, the child learns that he or she can get away with disobedience because there will be no meaningful consequences. As the child grows older, this practice can become more and more of a problem.
- Kept promises teach dependability – Whether it’s going to the zoo or getting grounded for acting up, when parents consistently keep their promises, kids learn dependability. It will come as no surprise when electronic privileges get cut off for misconduct. It was promised that they would. By the same token the trip to the amusement park is a sure thing because Mom and Dad promised.
- It’s a matter of reputation – Imagine an airline company that always promises to get you to a certain destination and they never deliver. Maybe it’s only one city short of where you expected to go or maybe it’s the next state over. The point is, you would never trust that airline to get you where you want to go and they would have a bad reputation. Parents need to have good reputations with their children if they expect the kids to follow their example in becoming good adults.
- Teaches about honesty – The last thing you want to hear your child say to you is that you are a liar. Yet, when a child is faced with a broken promise, particularly when the promise was very important, if it isn’t said, you can be pretty sure that is the thought that goes through the kid’s mind. Part of keeping a promise has to do with honesty, and this is a trait that we want to develop in our children.
- Kids will learn to value the promise – When a child grows up with parents who only make promises they can keep, that child learns the value of a promise. That child will grow up to be a person who also only makes promises that he or she can keep.
- Keeping a promise shows respect – As kids get older respect becomes a big issue with them. They want to receive respect and keeping promises made to them shows them that they are respected.
- Parents are the first teachers – As first teachers, everything parents do matters in the lives of the children. This is an important thing to remember. Keeping promises teaches many things, and parents need to be the best teachers their kids could ever have.
Finally; as earlier stated, the golden rule is to do what you say and say only what you will do. So if you promise your child something, fulfill it. If you have no intentions of doing so, don’t ever commit to it. Similarly, don’t ever threaten your child with things or events that will never happen. If we want confident, happy and secure children, we need to give them a security blanket, not a threatening environment.
Don’t forget; if the parents make false promises to momentarily calm the child, they are inadvertently training the child to make false promises Can such children grow into respectable individuals? Your guess is as good as mine.
Lead them right.