Do you remember the last time someone made a promise to you – and then broke it?
How did that make you feel? Disappointed? Worried? Angry? Not good enough?
And how did that broken promise affect your opinion of that person? Did you consider him no longer trustworthy? Would you think twice before making another request of him or her? Did you find yourself not liking that person so much?
Promises make the world go ’round. In effect, everytime we say “Yes” to another person’s request, we are making a promise…..a commitment…..an agreement. Yet, how often do we actually follow through?
As parents, we need to be especially careful what we say to our children and how we say it. “I’ll think about it” often sounds like “I promise” to a young child who’s asking to go to the zoo on Saturday!
So how do we avoid the pitfall of broken promises? One way is to be very clear about the four ways we can respond to a request:
- A definite “yes”
- A definite “no”
- A “commit-to-commit”: What a great idea! But I’m not sure I’ll have time. Let me think about it and let you know at bedtime tonight.
- A “counter-offer”: I have other things to do on Saturday. Would you like to go on Sunday instead?
Though a simple yes or no is probably more effective for the very young child, the “commit-to-commit” and the “counter-offer” can be introduced when appropriate. The end results of these guidelines for making promises are the development of strong relationships, trust, the self-esteem of those involved, and the successful outcome of the situation.