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  • Writer's pictureKate Eunson

Find out why it isn't developmentally appropriate to ask your young child to promise

Visuals 2 Develop & Deepen is an exciting new project by Kate Eunson at Attention 2 Detail & Design

➡️ "Exploring my passion for creating visuals to support you in your parenting pursuits."

Here is the low down on the second infographic from my free resource. This visual tool relates to the way we communicate with our younger children who are not yet developmentally able to understand the concept of making a promise. It is so important to remember that making and keeping a promise is an abstract concept, as opposed to a concrete, tangible thing that can be held or seen and for this reason young children cannot yet fully grasp it. Some studies have shown that little ones understand the concept of “I will…” earlier than they grasp the deeper meaning of “I promise…” and that generally these understandings form and develop from the ages of 4 right through until age 13. An additional point to note is that keeping a promise relies on remembering making the promise in the first place, not something we can necessarily rely on little ones to be able to do. Kids are generally impulsive beings, lacking foresight and living in the moment. They don’t often think of the future impact or consequences of their words and actions.

The darker result of asking younger children to make promises comes about when the inevitable happens and a promise is ‘broken’ or forgotten. 'Breaking a promise' can lead to your little ones feeling like they have let you down or disappointed you in some way. They may feel shame and it can lead to frustration or conflict between you. The negative effects of not keeping a promise can be emotionally damaging underpinning why we should strive to avoid this by not putting our children in this position in the first place.

Not asking your young children to make promises means having an intentional approach to avoid saying things to them such as "Promise you will..." or "Promise to never..." These requests can be somewhat subconscious in nature to us but you can train yourself to use more appropriate strategies and language. Address inappropriate behaviours openly with your little ones and make plans with them for more positive outcomes. As demonstrated in the visual, you can say things along these lines instead. “What you just did was not okay, and I think you know that. We are going to work out a plan together to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Reinforce the good stuff by labelling, celebrating and rewarding the positive and appropriate behaviours your little ones engage in, but don’t ask them to promise to do these again.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to teach the young people in our lives about promises and the idea of making and keeping a commitment. The most impactful way to do this with younger children is to model it through our own behaviour and actions. Keep the promises you make to them and don't make promises you don't intend to keep. Don’t use the language of ‘promise’ (with regard to your own actions) willy-nilly or without thought or consequence.

By being intentional about not asking your young child to promise, and using more appropriate and structured ways to communicate your desire to have them do or not do something in the future, you can prevent those negative situations from occurring. The infographic developed is based on recommendations made by a child development specialist with over 35 years of experience working with children and families of all kinds (I’ll be sharing her video on my A2D2 Facebook page if you’re interested). The concept has been presented in a quick and easy to access visual format in my resource.

This is the second of ten visual tools from my free resource -

⬅️ Impactful Visual Tools to meet Parenting Challenges.

Follow A2D2 on Facebook for lots of upcoming content like this!

Information on visual tool number 3 from the resource will be on its way soon.

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