I was observing a mom struggling with her little one at the store… he was perhaps about 7 years old. After a few minutes of trying to get her kid to comply with her request without success, she resorted to… “Ok, ok… if you do this, I’ll get you that toy you wanted.” To which the child answered, “No you won’t. You always say that.”
This… THIS, my dear mommies and daddies… is WHY we are to never… NEVER EVER EVERRR make empty promises to our babies.
I get it… there are days when you’ve reached the end of your rope and just want everything to get done – no matter what it takes. So if you promise little Annie a sticker if she finishes all her lunch, well… be prepared to deliver that sticker, babe. Even if it means making one yourself with printing labels (not a bad idea, eh?).
Seriously… if you think it’s tough when they’re 3, 4, or 9? Wait til they turn 14… 16… or *gasp!*… 18 – ages when they decide to officially explore being their own person! If you don’t build and maintain trust with your kids right now… not only will a flimsy parent/kid relationship hurt your precious one, YOU are gonna have a heck of a time when they’re teens.
Trust is CRITICAL for a healthy, thriving parent/child relationship. Kids need to know you’re on their side and are looking out for them. Repeatedly breaking promises results in kids: not being able to count on you… not feeling that you’re looking out for their best interest… resenting you… withdrawing and keeping secrets from you… not being able to trust anyone else… or worse, they will begin to desperately search for someone, anyone to lean on.
Just Say “No!” To:
- Bribing your child to do something if you have no intention on delivering what you promised.
- Reassuring your kid that you’ll do something for/with them (take them to the movies, picking them up after a sports event) and repeatedly arrive late or flake out altogether.
- If you make a promise but something unexpected comes up (illness, car breaks down, etc.)… let your child know that you’re genuinely sorry, and reschedule/make alternate plans and be certain to KEEP it.
This is serious stuff, peeps. Kids need to be able to find a “safe place” in you… and without trust, that place cannot exist. And as your child grows, it’ll be important for them to know they can trust you no matter what. And guess what? This bond will help motivate them to make wise choices of their own, based on your guidance… because they trust you.
My own son, JRoc, is now 14 (at the time of this writing)… and as cautious as he is with others, especially those he doesn’t know well, he’s always confident in our connection. When I give him advice or make a suggestion, he accepts without question. I asked him why he never argues with me over these things and he answered, “Mom, you’ve never lied to me or broken any promises. I know you’re always looking out for my best interest and I feel really good about trusting you completely.”
I just hope he continues feeling this way when he hits 18! (He is now 18 and I'm happy to report that he still looks at me as his "safe place" and biggest influence. #phew!)
This was my JRoc at age 9. See… when your kid trusts you, he’ll even let you draw on his adorable face with hypoallergenic eyeliner!