Blog posts that provide encouragement for marriage and family success.

Summer Fun: The End of Empty Promises

Planning Summer Fun

At the end of each school year, I ask my sons what they want to do for the summer. I ask them (separately) what they really want to do with their time off from school. Learn more about that process here.


Their list generally includes a visit to the grandparents up north. That one is a sure thing. But one summer my oldest asked to have time to surf during the summer. My other son asked to spend more time with friends. Another summer one son wanted to learn to hone his blacksmithing skills...the other wanted to fine-tune his calisthenics workout. One summer we focused on fishing; another summer we focused on time at home to just BE.


As you can see, our summer planning involves lots of fun - some just family, some with friends. We have summers we want to be home and summers we want to be out and about. I let the kids take the lead. I ask them to each pick 2 or 3 "want to" items for the summer.



Let me assure you, this isn't some "Yes Day" craziness. They can't ask to eat chocolate all day or fly to Paris. However, sleeping in late and having pancakes for dinner might be great!


beach full of people with title tile

Making it Happen

Once I agree to their wishes, it's my job to make sure that these things happen.

I need to create situations that lead to success.

I need to plan the trip to see grandparents.

I need to be sure there is wax for the surfboards...or the house is clean for friends to come over.

I may need to prod my son to actually text his friends and invite them to come over.

Once we agree, it's on me to be sure these things happen. And that brings us to broken promises.


Broken Promises

Far too often, parents agree to something that sounds perfectly reasonable in the moment, but later realize it's just too much. This happens to me all the time. For instance, my son will ask if he can stay for the adult class at BJJ. "Sure," I say - not remembering I don't have dinner ready and we won't get home until 830 and homework hasn't been done yet.


In the summer I may not have factored in whether I have clean house, or my husband's schedule, or the work I have to do in preparing for an upcoming speaking engagement. So I say yes, only to realize I wish I'd said no.


Can you relate?


Here's what I know for sure: Family communication, in fact family success, depends on keeping our word. When parents make decisions that are reasonable, children learn they can trust the parents. They learn that their parents mean what they say. The opposite is also true - empty promises or broken promises - lead to mistrust. Our kids learn they can't count on us to do what we said we would.


Kites flying with the article title

Jesus tells a parable (Matthew 21:28-32) about a father who asks his sons to do something. One says he won't go, but does. The other says he will go, but doesn't. Jesus asks which one did what the father asked. The answer is the first - the one who actually obeyed with action and not just words.


The same is true for parents. If we blindly agree to the summer plans our kids want, with no intention of actually following through, we are being untrustworthy.


How to Make Promises You Can Keep

There are a couple of simple steps to making sure that we make promises we can keep.

  1. THINK: This one sounds like a no-brainer but parents are busy. Lots of us only half listen. Then we agree without thinking about what our child says and how realistic a "yes" response will be. Think about your schedule, what else is planned, what sort of investment (time, energy, money) will be required for a yes, and who else needs to be involved. For instance, for summer plans involving my husband, that's a lot of logistical planning. I need to be more cautious about agreeing to those plans ahead of time. Those may need to move to the "we'll try" column.

  2. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS: Be sure you understand what your kids really want. Sometimes I over-think what my kids are asking. When they ask to have friends over, I envision 12 boys wanting dinner and snacks. My son may just want 2 or 3 kids to come over and swim. Grapes and Doritos will suffice. That's a whole lot easier! Also manage their expectations. If you can visit grandparents, but only for 2 weeks, be sure they know what you are capable of doing ahead of time. Be sure they are on board before you decide it's "on the list."

  3. AGREE: Agree on the final list of summer activities. If your kids have a long list that you'll never get to, have them prioritize it. The guarantee the first couple (or however many is reasonable for your family) and call the rest of the list "we'll try." Surprise them and make your best effort to actually get to at least one of the "we'll try" items. They'll be so impressed!

  4. REVIEW: Before summer is over, go through the list to see how you're doing. I do this about halfway through, then again about 3/4 through the summer. If I've missed some activities, I put them on the calendar. At the end of the summer, talk with each child again. Go through the list you planned and review the happy memories of the things you did that the planned. Reviewing the list and memories reminds them that you kept your promises and helps them to end the summer with happy memories.

James 5:12 tell us to "let your yes be yes and your no be no." James is really saying we don't need to swear or promise - we just do it. You don't have to make any grand promises to your kids. Just carefully listen, think, manage expectations, and DO what you agree to.

When we take these steps we are keeping our promises, building healthy relationships, demonstrating strong family communication skills, and demonstrating our trustworthiness.


I hope you find these suggestions an encouragement to you. You can totally do this! Your kids will have great memories and you'll feel like you accomplished something great.


What do your kids like to do over the summer? Scroll to the bottom and let us know - I really want to hear! Sharing ideas is always more fun than being stuck in our regular rut.


Have fun!

Andrea


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** Family success depends on parents leading the way. Marital communication that is effective will lead by example. When husbands and wives communicate clearly and with intent, they can build a successful marriage. That marriage teaches children successful family communication for ultimate family success. I pray this post gives you encouragement to learn that process and have your own successful marriage and family. **