7 Promises Parents Should NEVER Make


1.  But, You Promised!

“Parents use promises for a variety of reasons—to bribe their child into doing what they want, to avoid a possible confrontation with their child, to spare their child from disappointment, to create hope in their child,” says Sylvia Rouss, an early childhood educator and author. But children are sticklers when it comes to promises—your word is your bond. “To break a promise is to break trust with your child,” says Rouss. Here are some common promises parents make (and break), and tips for how to steer clear of them.

2. Ouch Factor

The Promise: “It won’t hurt, I promise.”

The Fix: Pain is subjective, so while having a bandage removed may seem like nothing to you, your child may feel otherwise. Instead of promising it won’t hurt at all, Rouss suggests saying, “This might hurt a little, but it will be over quickly.”

3. Night, Night

The Promise: “I promise I’ll be home before your bedtime.”

The Fix: Be careful about making promises when there are circumstances beyond your control—like traffic jams and last-minute work meetings. Instead, try: “I promise to do my best to make it home before bedtime.”

4. It’s a Date

The Promise: “I promise you can have a play date next week, not today.”

The Fix: Children remember the details. If you say next week, they’ll hold you to it. Rouss offers this more realistic alternative: “Let’s talk to your friend’s mother and try to set up a play date.”

5. Bitter Sweet

The Promise: “I promise to take you for ice cream when you clean up your room.”

The Fix: Bribing your child won’t help them learn to be self-motivated. Skip the promise of a sweet and instead help them understand the idea of consequences. Try something like, “You need to pick up your toys so no one trips on them.”

6. Live & Learn

The Promise: “I promise that if you do your homework, you’ll be the smartest kid in class.”

The Fix: Help your child appreciate the value of learning, rather than putting the focus on being the best. Rouss recommends saying something like, “Doing your school work helps you grow and learn.”

7. What a Day

The Promise: “I promise that tomorrow will be a better day.”

The Fix: Parents want to make everything better for their children, but sometimes what children need most is to have their feelings validated and acknowledged. A good way to do that? Say, “Sounds like you had a difficult day.”

8. Vacation Inspiration

The Promise: “I promise that we can go to Disneyland for your birthday next year.”

The Fix: Your child desperately wants something special, and you desperately want to give it to them, but big-ticket items like a trip require planning and funds. Involve your child in the process so they have a better understanding of that. Try saying, “I think Disneyland would be fun. Let’s think of ways to save up for a trip there.”