*Today we are honored to have Erica of What Do We Do All Day? sharing a helpful parenting story. Enjoy!
There are few things more disheartening than hearing your child cry, “I don’t believe you!” with disappointment in his eyes because of a promise you failed to keep.
Sadly, this is exactly what occurred with my 8-year-old son. I had broken a string of promises to him because I had failed to stop, focus and practice mindful parenting.
My son loves birding. He had repeatedly requested I take him on a special guided bird walk in Central Park. I knew it was important to him, yet three times I had failed to follow through because I had carelessly tossed out the promise, “We’ll go next Saturday.”
Three times I did this! I felt like a failure and I completely understood why my son didn't believe me when I finally sat down and wrote it on the calendar.
I needed find a way to guarantee
I would be there for him.
Why a Contract?
I decided the best way to convince my son that he could trust me was to draw up a contract. I realize a contract sounds so business-like and sterile, exactly the opposite of how you want to negotiate with your child, but it turned out to be a great experience.
A contract is a document of trust, a guarantee that two parties will follow through on a specific promise. Treated properly, it’s not a threat, but a mutual agreement that recognizes how two people are committed to helping each other. For us, it became an expression of goodwill.
Creating the Contract
I asked my son to write the contract. I assured him that he could decide the terms, set the agenda for the day and add any extras (within reason!) he wanted. I would sign the contract, guaranteeing our attendance at the birding walk. Still unsure, he wanted to know what I would forfeit if I didn’t meet the terms. I asked, “What do you think is reasonable?” After some thought, he decided if I backed out, I would have to pay him the princely sum of $13.
My Parenting Lesson
My son, in fact, loved writing up the contract. He felt I was treating him with respect and giving him an important responsibility. I like to think that after I followed through on my promise he now has a bit more faith in me. In turn, I learned not to be so careless about acknowledging his requests. Even if I don't have an answer for him on the spot I can still say, "Let's talk about this at dinner."
I can’t promise to be perfect, I can’t promise I’ll never disappoint him again, but I can remember to slow down, listen and be more mindful about making promises.
Oh, and we had a great birding tour. No lawyers required.
Erica is a theater geek turned stay-at-home mom with an obsession with children’s literature. She makes book lists, drinks chai, plays board games, blogs at What Do We Do All Day? and is learning all about birds from her son.