Kids Remember Your Promises
“But Mommy, you promised!” Heard those words a time or two with your kids? When you are a divorced parent, your helter-skelter demanding existence seems to involve a lot of cajoling on your part to get your kids moving in the direction you want them to move. So, you promise them something to motivate them, right?
“But Mommy/Daddy, you promised!” Heard those words a time or two with your kids? When you are a divorced parent, your helter-skelter, demanding existence seems to involve a lot of cajoling on your part to get your kids moving in the direction you want them to move. So, you promise them something to motivate them, right?
Your children remember every single promise you make to them. Because they haven’t learned to reason yet, they have a tendency to live in their feelings – their emotions – and these emotions create brilliant visualizations of what you’ve promised them: an ice cream treat; a trip to the park; some toy they really want. They can see it in their mind’s eye, because their mind created it for them.
To that visualization they add trust because their mom or dad said it and they trust you. And they expect you to DO what you said you would do. It would destroy your child to make promises you have no intention of keeping, so use “making promises” only when you intend to follow through meticulously.
Your children can learn wonderful lessons when you keep your promise to them. They can learn to trust, to love, to be secure, to be safe, to reach their potential. But if you don’t keep your promises, they can be negatively affected. They can experience anger, disappointment, depression, helplessness, and distrust. You don’t want that result, so it’s a great idea to keep your promises to them.
What does “I promise” mean to you? To me, it means “I intend to follow through and do what I’m saying to you.” And then I do it. My kids could always trust me to tell the truth to them and they could trust that my word was worth something. I wanted their words to have value and trust, too. So, if you keep your promise, they can count on you. If they keep their promise, you can count on them.
Mean what you say and only say what you mean. Here’s another aspect of promise-keeping you might not have considered: “Tommy, wash your hands and come to the table to eat.” He doesn’t do that. You say it again “Tommy, wash your hands and come to the table now.” He ignores you. “Tommy, if you don’t come to the table now, I’m going to [insert some promise]. I can guarantee you, if you are a promise keeper in other areas, Tommy is right now in the bathroom washing his hands.
I can also offer you this little tip: there is more meaning and more conviction behind what you said the third time than what you said the first time. If you could weave more meaning and conviction into your promise, make sure you have his full attention (a touch on the arm works) and then deliver the promise, you’ll only have to say it to your kid one time.
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