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Why Parents Need To Stop Making Empty Promises To Their Kids

by Carmen Sakurai

Recently I observed a mom struggling with her little one at the store. He was perhaps about 7 years old, and after a few minutes of trying to get her kid to comply with her request without success, she resorted to saying, “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 parents should never (and I mean never ever ever) 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?)

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Seriously, if you think it’s tough when they’re 3, 4, or 9, wait till 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 that kid hits puberty.

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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, and not being able to trust anyone else. The very worst case scenario? They will begin to desperately search for someone, anyone, to lean on.

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Parents, let’s just make vow to just say no to:

1. Bribing our children to do something if we have no intention on delivering what we promised.

2. Reassuring our kids that we’ll do something for/with them (take them to the movies, pick them up after a sports event) and then repeatedly arrive late or flake out altogether.

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3. This is key: If we make a promise but something unexpected comes up (illness, car breaks down, etc.) let’s let our children know that we’re genuinely sorry, and reschedule/make alternate plans, and be certain to keep them.

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I slapped that “urgent” sign up there because this is serious stuff, peeps. Kids need to be able to find a “safe place” in you, and without trust, that place cannot exist.

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.

Courtesy of Carmen Sakurai

My own son, JRoc, is now 14, 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 it 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 interests, and I feel really good about trusting you completely.”

I just hope he continues feeling this way when he hits 18!

For more on Carmen Sakurai visit her blog Ninja Mom Diaries and Facebook.