(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
In Trust Issues, Part i, we looked at the importance of trust in a relationship with your kids, and we discovered that one way to establish that trust is to keep your promises. This isn’t always an easy thing to do, however. I’d like to propose a simple 6 step plan for avoiding conflict with promises:
1. Don’t make a promise unless you are 100% sure you can follow through.
This may mean you have to take the time to think the promise through thoroughly before you make it. Try to think of any possible thing that could arise to keep you from keeping that promise, and if there are any “ifs”, then make sure your promise is conditional: “I promise we’ll go to the park this afternoon, as long as I don’t get called into work!”
2. If you can’t make the promise because you aren’t sure, then be prepared to share your reasons for NOT promising.
My boys and I hand raise baby birds. A couple of years ago, I promised my boys we could spend one of the last days of the school year at a local amusement park. They, of course, wanted me to pinpoint a date. I would have loved to have done just that, but some of our birds were starting to go to nest. I knew that during the three week period that the baby birds needed to be fed, we wouldn’t be free to spend the day at the amusement park. Not knowing exactly when we would have babies, I didn’t feel free to commit to an exact date. What I did do, however, was I sat down with them and explained my concerns. They understood, and they stopped pressuring me to commit to a date.
It will happen that you don’t always have all the facts, and when it does, it’s better to NOT make the promise. In order to help your kids understand why you can’t make the promise, however, it becomes necessary to explain yourself. (Please join us for the upcoming devotional, Bringing Up Kids God’s Way, Part 8, for more on the importance of explaining yourself.)
3. If something arises that you can’t keep the promise you already made, be prepared to share your reasons for NOT keeping that promises.
A few years ago, I promised my kids early in the week that we would go sledding on Friday. Thursday night rolled around, and with it a snowstorm. Fresh snow on the sledding hills meant better sledding! It wasn’t until we were ready to leave that I remembered my handicapped mother. A snow-filled driveway meant she was stuck at home. There wouldn’t be time for both sledding and shoveling. I would have to break my promise. I sat down with my boys and explained the situation. After hearing my reasons, they both said, “We’ll have to go sledding another time. Grams needs to be able to get out of her driveway!” As it turned out, they pitched in and helped me clean the driveway in record time. In the end, there was time for both.
Always remember that children understand more than we give them credit for. When you sit down with them and openly explain the reasons why you cannot keep your promise, it will go a long ways towards helping them to understand.
4. Be prepared to try and see things from your child’s point of view.
When you see the need either to not make a promise or to break one you’ve already made, and you sit down and explain your reasons to your kids, be prepared that they may not see things your way. When this happens, make an effort to try and see things from their point of view, and if you can do so without compromising your own, take their ideas into consideration!
Back when we were homeschooling, we made an effort every Friday to attend a local homeschool support group. The commencement time was 1:00 p.m., and we would often stop at a local diner for lunch before going. And this is what I had promised my boys we would do one week. The only problem was our morning school work took longer than usual to complete. By the time we were finished, I knew there wouldn’t be time to go out for lunch! I sat down with my boys and explained to them why we would have to have lunch at home. Needless to say, they didn’t understand! “But mom, you promised! Can’t we skip homeschool group for once?” Suddenly I saw it from their point of view. Going out to lunch was more important than homeschool group! We went out for lunch. Peace was restored.
5. Admit to yourself your real reasons for not complying and be prepared to evaluate their validity.
Remember: “An honest answer is like a warm hug.” (Prov 24:26 The Message)
My older son loves to swim. He was on the swim team at his high school until recently, and he desires to continue swimming regularly so as to be ready for the swim team in the upcoming school year. Earlier last week I promised him I would take him to the pool on Saturday. However, when Saturday rolled around, I was in the middle of preparing my living room to be painted. The last thing I wanted to do was to drop everything and take him to the pool! I proceeded to explain to him that I was too busy to take him to the pool, but when I saw his face fall, I realized that my reasons likely sounded pretty selfish to him. And when I thought about it, they sounded pretty selfish to me as well! In the end, we went to the pool, and when we got back, my son surprised me by helping me finish preparing the living room. With a little honesty, the problem was resolved!
6. If you don’t have a valid reason for not doing so, KEEP THAT PROMISE!
Once you’ve established yourself as one who keeps your promises, you’ll find that your children will be much more likely to see you as someone they can trust, as someone they can come to when they need something, as someone they can come to when they are having problems. And, most importantly, when you try to teach them that God keeps all of His promises, they will believe you.
Join us next Saturday for another important topic in relationship building: Consistency! Bringing up Kids in the Ways of the Lord, Part 6Diii.
God bless you as you bring your children and grandchildren up in the Lord.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)