Gina’s daughter Monica has been having a hard time learning her multiplication tables. “I can’t do this, it’s too hard!” Monica tells her mom. In a moment of desperation, Gina promises Monica that if she works harder and learns all her time tables by the end of the month she will take her to the zoo to see the new Panda exhibit she has been begging to go to. Monica becomes excited and this promise of a special outing is all she needs to study a little harder. Two weeks later Monica comes home from school very excited to show her mother a test she took. “I got them all right! Now I can multiple how many more minutes until you take me to the zoo! Can we go this Saturday?” she sings out loud and dances around her mom happily! “I’m sorry Monica but I have to work. Maybe next weekend we can go.” “But the exhibit ends this weekend and you PROMISED!” Monica whines disappointingly.
If you are like most parents, you can probably relate to the above scenario. Sure the promise may have been different; but the intention behind it most likely was the same. We make commitments to people all the time, and the reality is that many times we just are not able to keep them. While we make these promises with all good intentions, the reality is that a broken agreement like the one above can have a very dramatic impact on our kids.
A promise, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is: “a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified; or a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act.” When we don’t keep a promise to our children, it sends the message to them that we don’t value them. They believe that we have chosen to put something else ahead of our commitment to them. Even when we break small promises, our kids learn that they cannot count on us. Whether it’s going to the zoo or getting grounded for slamming the bedroom door, when parents consistently keep their promises, kids learn dependability. They learn that when mom and dad say they will take away their iphone if they go over their minutes… they will do it!
When a child grows up with parents who only make promises they can keep, that child learns the value of a promise; and that child will grow up to be a person of integrity who also only makes promises that he or she can keep.