Here’s a guest post from a talented writer and graphic designer, Maria Cowell. Check out her site HERE or follow her on Twitter: @HipMamaMedia.
Some places are more free-wheeling than others. I live in Southern California, the epicenter of the laid-back lifestyle.
Seriously, dressing up for a wedding here means wearing the flip-flops with rhinestones instead of the ones sans bling.
Frankly, I don’t mind since I do, in fact, own several pairs of flip-flops.
I am just that kinda gal.
Unfortunately, our care-free demeanor isn’t just limited to clothing; the downside is when a laissez-faire attitude impacts things that really do matter.
Lately, I have been grappling with the idea that words are a casualty of our casual lifestyle. That’s probably because I over committed during this Christmas season and wanted to bail on a few of those commitments. Thoughts:
- We rarely say what we mean or mean what we say.
- Keeping one’s word is hardly practiced, much less taught to the next generation.
- The fact that I have been wrestling with this makes this post a confession rather than an accusation.
“My word is my bond,” is antiquated speech.
Yeah: it’s old. It dates back to 1801 as the motto for the London Stock Exchange when bargains were made with no documents or written pledges. Can you image our litigious society functioning that way?
Lawsuits aside, keeping your word is a lost discipline.
The narcissistic nature of today’s world makes it difficult for young people to honor their word. If keeping your promise cramps your style, then by all means, ditch your commitment.
Because, you know, “YOLO, baby: You Only Live Once.”
But children should and can learn what it means to keep their word, even at an early age.
From the mouth of babes
My nephew’s daughter was invited to spend the weekend at Grandma’s. Grandma cleared her calendar and planned special events.
Two days before the weekend, the daughter was invited to the party to end all parties. We’re talking bouncy house, clowns, face-painting and ponies: an eight-year-old’s Paradise on earth.
Despite the temptation to throw Grandma under the bus, this remarkable young lady politely declined, “It sounds real fun, but I already told my Grandma I am coming over, and I need to keep my promise.”
Wow! She was already learning lessons about keeping her word.
Developing integrity and trustworthiness
Nobody just wakes up one morning as a person of integrity and trustworthiness. Those qualities are developed over a lifetime as opportunities arise.
With children it begins with small opportunities within the family, such as the story above, and then expands to others in the community as they grow.
Each time a child keeps their word, they are putting one more brick in a foundation that will enable them to keep significant promises later such as marriage and career commitments.
Keeping your word makes you accountable
We don’t usually give our word to ourselves: we make promises to others. Our actions or lack thereof have ripple effects. When we promise something, others count on us.
That makes us accountable to them and it takes the focus off of us. Promises are made in the context of community and connection.
When my son was a high school senior, he had to decide between a volleyball game and a choir tour that left the same night. He told the coach he would join the tour next day. Coach put him in the starting rotation.
The day before the game he decided he’d rather leave when the choir left. Call us mean parents, but we said no. The team was counting on him to be there.
His team’s defense was based on him in the middle blocker position. He made a promise and now he needed to be accountable.
Words matter – Words have meaning
Most people don’t break their promise capriciously. I get that there are circumstances beyond our control, but more often we break our word because it’s no longer convenient to follow through. Or a better deal comes along.
When we let our children do that, we are subtly teaching them that what they say doesn’t matter; only what they feel. But empty words do hurt and disappoint. Can you recall the sting of a broken promise?
It’s hard for kids to connect the inconvenience of keeping a promise with the lasting reward of a disciplined life.
But that’s where parenting comes in: we can model, and yes, even compel them to do the right thing. We know from experience that it will make them a better person.
And now, please excuse me while I volunteer at the Christmas concert despite the fact that the laundry pile is growing, I still have shopping to do, and my cards aren’t mailed.
Despite those other duties, I know that keeping my promise was the right thing to do.
My only question is: are the red and green flip flops with silver bells a little too much?
Question: What are some ways, and reasons, you teach your child to keep their word?