I remember when my girls were little and they got me to say ‘yes’ to something.
Yes, we will go to the beach tomorrow… or
Yes, we will buy blueberries the next time we go to the store.
As soon as I said I would do something, the next question was always…
And, I would always say – No.
It seemed a little harsh sometimes, but let’s be honest. There are not very many things in life you can promise. After all, what if something comes up that keeps you from going to the beach or buying the blueberries? When that happens, you have not only let someone down, you have taken back your word.
And, every time you go back on your word, you lose a piece of your integrity.
This is why I make very few promises. I try very hard not to promise something unless I have certainty that I can follow through. As a result, I have a reputation for following through on everything I promise.
My girls learned quickly in life that mom doesn’t make promises. What they really learned though is that when mom says something, she means it. I had no idea how powerful this simple choice would be. The choice to not make promises.
The respect. The trust. The integrity. These values have been foundational in the relationship between me and my daughters. And, I know it is what has made our relationship so different from the relationships of so many of their friends.
This is one of the best bits of advice I can offer any parent…
The best way to keep a promise is to not make a promise you can’t keep. And, let’s face it, there aren’t many promises you can keep.
If you want your word to mean something, you have to always mean what you say. Choose your words carefully and don’t be afraid to say “no” to something you can’t control.
This applies in the area of discipline as well. Don’t threaten some sort of consequence for bad behavior if it’s something that you can’t follow through on. Don’t tell your kids that “Santa won’t come if they don’t behave.” Unless, by golly, you are prepared to back that up with action.
Sometimes as parents, in a moment of upset, we threaten consequences that we would never follow through on. Am I right? The sooner you learn not to do that, the better. Your kids have to believe you. They have to know you mean what you say. And, that you say what you mean.
When I say the words “I promise” to my girls (or to anyone), it’s a big deal. It means I’m going to give it my all to make sure it happens.
They know it.
I know it.
And, those are the promises worth keeping.