“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
– Robert Frost
Thank you Mr. Frost – my sentiments exactly.
I promised my girls that I would take them swimming after school today. How was I supposed to know that baby Zahra would get extremely sick the night before and cry NON-STOP until 3.30 a.m.? At which point she technically fell asleep, only to wake up every 20 minutes crying in pain. I haven’t had one of these kind of nights since she was an infant, and man it was rough. We were late to school this morning, I got nothing done because I was too busy repeatedly passing out on the couch, and then it was time to pick up the girls again. And face the swimming dilemma.
I know it’s not a huge deal, but taking them to the pool seems like the BIGGEST challenge ever today. My body is literally aching from lack of sleep. My head is fuzzy from drowsiness. I do NOT feel like packing up swim bags, playing in the water with them because they’re too young to be left alone, then showering them (aka: torturing them) in the locker room and taking them to grandma’s house – where we are supposed to be having dinner tonight.
It literally feels like I have miiiiiiles to go before I’ll get a chance to sleep. Motivation is extra low right now. I could just tell the girls that baby’s not well, mommy’s tired and I’ll take you tomorrow. They’re kids, they’ll get over it. I could just tell them I’ll take them tomorrow.
I could. But I won’t. And here are three reasons why:
- Promises teach your children to trust you.
Promises are your word. They are a representation of how much trust a child can place in you. Adults understand that situations come up where a promise may need to be adjusted. But children don’t come with that mechanism. There is no adjustment. There’s either a promise fulfilled, or a promise broken. You can either trust an adult’s word, or you can’t. And we need them to take our word for it in so many important matters: religion, morals, values, relationships, self-worth etc. If they learn from a young age that we are not to be trusted, how will we be able to guide them through important things in the rest of their lives? Following through on our promises affirms for them that when mom and dad say something, it’s real, it’s meaningful and they can trust it.
- Promises teach your children integrity and the value of your word.
Honesty and Integrity in speech are pillars of pretty much any faith that you could follow – because they are a core need in human society. People have to be able to trust and rely on each other’s word in order to function harmoniously. Modeling this value to your children by keeping your promises demonstrates how to be a good person AND that parents can not only be trusted, but respected. Respect is earned, right? Here’s one way to earn your children’s!
- Promises teach your children that they are important to you.
When you keep a promise to your kid, they feel valued. They feel important. They feel that their wants/needs are important to you and that instead of putting it off – you gave them priority. This teaches them to make time for people you love, to prioritize and keep your word above all else. It also teaches them that you love them. Every human being needs affirmations of love – especially children.
So just think about it: When you tell your kid, that we will play with a toy together later, and then that later never comes, they mentally make a note. They make a note that when mommy and daddy say later, they don’t mean it. They’re LYING. They’re not to be trusted. So, I shouldn’t calmly move on and wait for later. I should throw that tantrum, I should get frustrated right now – or else they won’t keep their promises and I’ll never get what I want. If you’ve ever wondered why your kid throws so many tantrums when you aren’t able to stick to your plan or promise, it’s not because they are a bad child. It’s because you’re a bad parent. You have trained them from early on, that adults don’t mean what they say. That they are just putting you off, they don’t care about you. And this leads to rebellious behavior, unhappiness and less cooperative kids. You have unknowingly taught your child that your word means nothing.
And as I’ve typed all of this up, I have completely freaked myself out about destroying my relationship with my kids if I don’t quickly get my act together and get them to the pool!!! Definitely not feeling a lack of motivation now – sleep can wait, my promise of one hour of splashing in 2 feet of water cannot! Because a promise is a promise. And a promise to my daughters, well, that’s even more sacred.