Being flaky is the easy way out but it doesn’t help your kid grow. We can help kids commit. There are a few things we need to check off to ensure their best chances.
Commitment: the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
First I want to talk about what honouring commitments teach our children.
What honouring your commitments teaches
We all want children who will grow into thriving, responsible and happy adults. These qualities stem from positive self-esteem. Children who see themselves as a great addition to a team and their family, find it hard to be to not commit.
Sticking to commitments helps children with their self-esteem. When a child realizes their presence makes a difference like, with adults, there’s a rush of good feelings.
There is a sense of pride that comes with knowing you are someone who is reliable. When you can show up for your commitments, you can show up for yourself. And show up in ways that grow the relationship you have with yourself.
Want your child’s self-esteem to shoot up? Help him honour his commitments.
Think before you act
When you help kids commit, it helps them figure out how to think before they make a commitment.
I’ve seen this with my firstborn, he is nine now. A few months ago he committed to a cricket tournament. At the time, he exclaimed, “Yes!” When I asked if he wanted to take part.
I asked if he was sure, and he excitedly nodded.
I knew, at the time, that we didn’t do all the checks required to assist him in sticking out the commitment but, I convinced myself this is truly what he wanted so, it was okay. Wrong!
How to help your child commit
Before you can throw, “stick to your commitment” at your child, there are checks that are required. These are the checks I didn’t go through when Qhawe agreed to a cricket tournament- that is currently on, a month later!
The checks to help kids commit
- Talk your child through the commitment and what it will look like and mean for their time. For example, Qhawe agreed to a tournament without all of the details. This makes it hard to stick to the commitment. What I know I should have done was: sit him down and tell him, “hey buddy, this is what this season will look like: 1) Most matches are on Sundays, so you will have to give up your Sundays for a few weeks. 2) You can only miss one game because there are just enough of you in the team and 3) You may need to practice with your team on Saturdays.
- Get it on paper! When a child is being flaky, it is very easy for them to suddenly forget they made a commitment. So get it down on paper. You can download our Commitment Contract to help you get started. (If you are already a member please use your code. Remember code is case sensitive, use UPPERCASE)
- Remind him how dishonouring a commitment A) makes him/her feel. And B) If said commitment includes others ( in our case his cricket team) how it feels for them to be let down.
- Remind him he is responsible for breaking a commitment.
What went wrong for us
Now, because we didn’t do the above checks with Qhawe when he wanted to flake, it didn’t come as a surprise.
First, his back was sore then he couldn’t be bothered by cricket anymore. There was every excuse under the sun, including: “I didn’t know I had to go even when I don’t want to,” he said.
I was on the verge of losing my mind. Because while he was in this meltdown, time was ticking to get to the match. But I didn’t do the checks with him. And it is so easy to take for granted what or how children draw conclusions.
Children don’t reason like we do and sometimes, as parents, we can forget that.
How we made it work
I had to sit him down and remind him, like him, we committed. Our commitment is to make it work and get him to his games. And that we would stick to our commitment by taking him to the game, whether he was ready to play or not.
This did not mean he was forced to play but that he was responsible for breaking the commitment to his coach and his teammates. My husband and I made it clear we were not calling and breaking the commitment on his behalf.
What your child will realise when he sticks to his commitments
After the chat and some tears and hugs, Qhawe resolved to go to the game. What he realised is, flaking on his team would put them at a disadvantage. This is especially true when you flake at the eleventh hour. His team had no way of replacing him at such short notice.
Secondly, the need to think and weigh options before you commit came through strong for him on the day. This lesson is evident in how he makes some of his decisions now. An example, last week before the half-term break, he asked to be excused from all out of school extramural activities.
This request showed he was thinking ahead and giving the people involved in his activities time and space to make other decisions. And ultimately, this is what we want from our children, clear communication rooted in integrity.
Reasons your child does not commit
It is wise to take a step back and think about reasons your child does not want to commit. Before we help kids commit, we must first check if there are any outside or internal obstacles they are faced with.
- Your child may not seem committed to anything because he/she is overloaded. It is our job as parents to help them manage their schedules.
My son has sport every day of the week! We also live far from the school and so travel time adds to the heaviness of it all. I fully understood when he wanted to skip cricket and sleep in. The problem was not and will never be needing to rest. The issue was letting people down when they are not in a position to make a different plan. The idea is to understand and internalise responsibility.
But you can get ahead of having to make the choice I had to by keeping tabs on your child’s schedule.
The idea going forward is, for every one thing added one needs to be taken away. Another solution is to only engage a sport during its season and not all-year-round training. As a result, private cricket lessons may be coming to an end, we are waiting on the green light from Mr I hate cricket now.
Your child is too afraid to fail
Some children don’t commit because they are too afraid to fail. I have seen this creep up in my son too. He focuses on things he is great at and backs away from things he isn’t sure he can grow in.
We had to nip this in the bud when he refused to scratch out an incorrect answer and wanted to erase it instead. He has always been great at whatever he takes up. And as he grows up, and things get harder, he backs away. He has never learned how to deal with failure.
To remedy this, I ask him almost daily what he failed at during the day. This answer is still hard to come by. But it is a question that makes it okay to fail and reassures him that he is loved no matter what.
It is also important to enrol your child in things he will need all his/her might to grow in. Yes, introduce hard situations. Don’t stop there, let your child see you fail at something too. And model how you keep going until you succeed.
My son has seen how hard it has been for me to write my books and even harder to sell them consistently. I include him in my sales reports and my plans going forward. Every day he sees some form of either moving forward or being knocked ten steps back. The important part is, he witnesses me moving and sees results from my efforts.
The big life journal has a great article on helping children overcome the fear of failure.
Your child is just not ready
Sometimes, we are so excited to get our children started on activities to develop them we miss that the child is not ready.
My three-year-old was so excited to practice Jiu-Jitsu with his older brother but after three lessons all he wants is to play soccer on the mat. Last week, he decided to sleep. I can lose my mind and force him to participate or remind myself that he is three years old and does not understand commitment.
Children his age don’t understand a long term commitment. They don’t even know what tomorrow means.
If this is you, blowing through registration fees on different activities monthly, stop! Help kids commit, and help yourself, and ask for a trial class and maybe opt for one or two activities instead of a week stacked with things to do.
We have swimming which is a MUST. And for this, I speak to Shaka about swimming often. He hates it at the moment, due to trauma around water. But, because swimming is a life skill, we persevere and take it slow with him. Some days he shows up just to sit in the water.
It is vital to keep in mind that sometimes your child can’t comprehend the importance of a particular activity. And that he/she may be too young to understand what a long term commitment is. So try short commitments, limit the times a week the child engages and allow them to do what feels good for them while in that space.
Follow up and reinforce to help kids commit
Back to the dreaded match. When Qhawe came back from his cricket match, he could not wait to tell me all about it. He had a great game and took two or three wickets!
At this point, it was time to follow up on his feelings and reinforce the lesson on commitment.
I asked him to check in with how he felt now that the game was over and he had shown up for it? He said he felt great and realised had he not gone to the game, he would not have received a compliment from his coach.
He also admitted that had he not shown up, time at school may have been hard for him the following day. And not because his teammates would be horrible to him but because he would have felt terrible for not showing up.
He still wants to quit cricket and we are more than in full support of this decision. Why? Because now it is not coming from a position of being flaky and he has finished the season.
Conclusion- help kids commit
It is our job as parents to help our children understand and internalise the responsibility that comes with making a commitment.
It is important to make sure we help kids commit by thinking through the decisions with as much information as we have available. Remember the checks!
Children must be reminded it is their responsibility to break commitments and not their parents’ jobs.
Parents must take a step back and assess their child’s schedule and determine if their child is ready to take on any more commitments.
It is a hard gig being a parent but when we keep our heart in the right place and remember our little humans are new to this big world, we can get through more than we think.
I wish you, always, the courage to parent from a healed space.
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