New Year is such an exciting time for most people as they set new goals for the new year. Many people make pledges and verbal affirmations about the changes that they plan to make during the upcoming year. Everywhere you turn, people are making promises for a fresh start as they try to release any negativity from the past year. Focusing on the upcoming year is a great thing to do for adults and children alike. However, it’s very important that we teach our kids to only make promises that they intend to keep.
My family and I recently discussed our plans for the upcoming year. We do this at the end of every year so that we are all on the same page about our goals. However, I’ve noticed that sometimes my kids get so excited about the “newness” of the New Year that they sometimes start to make promises that might be a bit hard for them to keep over time. While it is important that your kids make goals that will stretch them, it is equally important that their goals and promises are realistic so that they can actually achieve them.
One way to help your kids make realistic promises is by helping them establish time parameters. Consider this for example: If your kids say that they want to donate to a charity this year out of their own earned money, you might want to encourage them to commit to giving one dollar a month to a nearby charity instead. When they have a specific timeline they will stay focused and not likely to forget their goal after a month or two. They’ll also be more motivated to continue the task after the excitement wears down - if the promise is actually doable.
Another great way to help your kids keep their promises is for them to develop a specific plan of action instead of a generic statement. For instance, if your child says “I promise to be nicer to my sister” you could ask them how they plan to do that. There are multiple ways that this task can be accomplished, of course, but if they’re able to say specifically how they will do it, then it becomes much easier.
Creating a visual reminder is one of my favorite ways to help my kids keep their promises. After my kids make a promise, I encourage them to write out the promise and place it in a place where they will see it often. My daughter likes to write an intention statement on a poster board and hang it in her room while my son writes his promise on the cover of a notebook that he uses frequently. This approach keeps the promise visible so that your kids will actually remember the promise that they made and stick to it.
A fourth way to help your kids keep their promises is to create an “Update System” as a family. You can be creative with your update process. Perhaps everyone in the family can give an update on how well they are sticking to their promises during family meetings. Another fun way to do it is to have an Update Journal where everyone updates their progress at least once a week. Every week there should be a different “Journal Monitor” to make sure that everyone is remembering to put their updates in the journal. And there are other creative ways that you can get updates about the family’s individual progress toward their goals. The idea is to make it fun and creative, not punitive, so think of a system that works for your family.
Making promises is something that happens in daily life but it is important that kids learn to stick to their word. Of course, sometimes kids forget or become disinterested, but the idea is to teach them to only make promises that they intend to keep. These are four creative things that you can do to help your children learn how to better keep their promises.