For most parents, the response that immediately comes to mind when your child has not lived up to their end of a bargain is, “Heck no!” Well, “Love and Logic” suggests a different response that is as usual, laden with empathy and helps your kids focus on their actions. It’s somewhat of mental Aikido where you are using your child’s strength (the ability to make you feel guilty) against him. *Cue maniacal laugh* (Yes, the Love and Logic people are better than this than I am. I’m sure their laugh is more empathetic.) Enough with the preamble. Please check out the article:
Sixteen-year-old Josh was livid, “Mom, you promised! You said that I’d get a car when I was sixteen. You always expect me to keep my promises!”
Mom was frustrated and confused. She’d made that promise two years ago. Part of her believed that she was obligated to live with her promise. The other part of her realized that Josh was now drinking with his friends. She was terrified that this could lead to a driving tragedy. What should she do?
The answer is that promises can only be made with the assumption that conditions will remain the same. However, there are times when conditions change and the basis for the promise is no longer valid.
Mom needs to answer Josh with, “This is sad. I decided to make that promise based on not worrying about alcohol use. I could have kept the promise if things had stayed the same. Now that I worry about your use of alcohol I have a responsibility to change my decision.”
It is often helpful to explain this to children at the time a promise is made.
To learn more about how to easily handle situations like the one above…and for a great overall introduction to the Love and Logic approach, watch the video How To Raise Kids Who Make Responsible Decisions When Nobody Is Watching.
Promising things to children (even to our children) is a slippery slope to unforeseen problems. What if you promise you won’t tell anyone why junior is upset, and you discover an abusive situation? As usual, L&L approaches allow you to remain the ADULT without devaluing the child. Thank you for posting this great example!
Thanks for the comment Richasaurus! I agree that kids need to understand that there is a caveat to all promises even if it that caveat is implied.