Don’t Make Promises you can’t keep

“If I promise you that I will do something, you can be sure that I will keep my word!” I have said this to my class every year on the first day of school. I need to show them that I can take care of them, that I am a child advocate, and that I can provide the education they need. Each student must know that society judges you on your integrity. A vital life skill which needs to be learned early in life is that you are true to your word.

Children continually see adults not follow through on what they say, and therefore they are distrustful of adults. One example would be when the tired parent enters the house after driving home in bumper-to-bumper traffic and is asked by their child to play a game with them and the parent quickly shoos them away and agrees without conviction. The child knows from experience what this means…no game playing tonight. In this example the child can see that adults can say anything to be left alone and that their word is meaningless. In fairness to the parent, they are exhausted, however, if they responded by explaining that they are tired and that they might be able to play a game after dinner, a better lesson would have been learned by their child.

I can remember the class wanting to work on a project instead of the review of a lesson. They would beg for me to make a promise that we would play that game that day. I would chuckle and respond, “No way, I won’t make a promise that I might not be able to keep.” In that situation I would tell them that if we completed our lesson before a specific time we would play the game. I would then continue to explain that if they did not finish the lesson on time, I would promise to play the game later on in the week when their work was completed.

This life skill of being true to your word is an essential one for young children to comprehend. If I ask them to complete an assignment and they promise me that they will, I will count on them to do so. When they don’t follow through they reduce the faith I have in them and they need to work harder to regain that faith and trust.

Children want to be appreciated and accepted and respected, however, they need to be shown how that can be accomplished. By modelling how an adult keeps her word and how difficult that might be at times, the child learns that in life promises are not always that easy to keep. However, once made, that promise must be kept,