Kids & Promises: a Warning for Parents

9 promises you should never make to your kids

Breakups. Moves. Financial difficulties. Given the disappointments your family may have already faced, you might be tempted to make your kids promises you can’t guarantee. No matter how good your intentions are, you should always use extreme caution with the word “promise,” especially when you’re talking about things that aren’t 100% in your control. Here are nine examples of kid promises that can easily backfire:

9 Kid Promises You Should Never Make

  • 01 of 09

    I Promise That We'll Get Back Together

    Woman and daughter doing a pinky swear promise
    Kids and promises can be a dangerous combination. Photo © RunPhoto/Getty Images

    This is a classic example of a promise you can’t make, simply because you can’t make it happen all on your own. Pulling it off would require your ex’s behaviors to change as well, which you cannot guarantee—no matter how much you might wish you could. 

  • 02 of 09

    I Promise That I'll Be at Your Game

    Middle school girl soccer player kicking free kick on sunny field
    Hero Images / Getty Images

    ... Or a school event, party, or anything else your kids value. You may want to be there, and you may do everything in your power to try to be there. But if there’s even the tiniest possibility that something could come up at work or home that would prevent you from actually being there, then the word “promise” winds up carrying too much weight. Instead, communicate your intentions and make sure that you always have backup for those times when something unexpected comes up. (This is where the gra...MOREndparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors who make up your support system can pitch in and help!)

  • 03 of 09

    I Promise I'll Get Married Again

    Bride Laughing while putting on Groom;s Boutinere
    Alyson Aliano / Getty Images

    This is a tough one because it’s not something you can promise, and it’s also not something you need to promise your children. You are 100% capable of being their sole parent. You are not obliged to replace your ex in their lives or make up for his or her shortcomings through a new relationship. 

  • 04 of 09

    I Promise Never to Get Married Again

    Happy mother and daughter sharing a phone conversation
    Hero Images / Getty Images

    This is another promise you should never make to your children. You may think you’ll never marry again. You may not even be interested in dating. But more surprising things have surely happened…so steer clear or making this particular kid promise. 

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    I Promise Not to Date Anyone You Don't Approve Of

    happy young couple eating together in restaurant
    Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

    Similar to the marriage-related promises we’ve already covered, you don’t want to promise your kids that you’ll give them a say in who you date. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever consider their opinion because you should. (Kids have an uncanny knack for seeing what we don’t in others!) But promising to give them veto power gives them too much control.

  • 06 of 09

    I Promise to Take the Day off from Work and …

    Father and children in pajamas playing in bed
    Hero Images / Getty Images

    Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take time off to be with your kids! But it’s all in the wording. There’s a big difference between “I’ll take a day off this summer” and “I promise to take tomorrow off…” Particularly if you have an insecure work situation or a demanding manager who sends time-sensitive projects at the last minute, this is another kid promise you should avoid.  

  • 07 of 09

    I Promise We'll Go to (Fill-In-The-Blank) on Vacation

    day by the water
    Sebastian Menzel / Getty Images

    Here’s another promise you might be tempted to make as a consolation. But especially if it’s a stretch financially, this promise can easily backfire on you. Instead of promising, let your kids in on the planning process. It’s never too early to let them know that going on a family vacation involves socking away some hard-earned cash over an extended period of time.

  • 08 of 09

    I Promise to Get a New Job

    Businessman listening to earbuds at office desk
    Tom Merton / Getty Images

    Here’s another well-intentioned promise you should avoid. You can, however, let your kids know that you’re looking for a new job and give them a glimpse into what that process looks like. Depending on their ages, it may also make sense to ask for their input on issues that matter to them, such as whether a new job would necessitate going to ​after school care or require you to go back to school for a period of time.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    I Promise That We'll Never Move

    Father carrying happy daughter on shoulders
    Sam Edwards / Getty Images

    Among all the promises you shouldn’t make to your kids, this one could be the most precarious. What if your job changes? What if a family member falls ill? There is much about life that is unpredictable, and promising that you’ll never have to tell your kids “we’re moving” can backfire and lead to unnecessary disappointments.