Edric and I were in a hurry to leave my parent’s place to get back home, when my dad said, “You can’t leave yet because I promised Elijah a milkshake.”
I thought it wouldn’t make much of a difference if Elijah got to drink the milkshake another day. After all, we were going to see my parents the very next day. I didn’t want to have to wait twenty more minutes for the milkshake to be made. But when I replied, “Dad, it’s okay, he can have the milkshake another time,” my dad was quick to say, “I promised him so let me keep my promise.” And then he put his hand on my shoulder to make sure I was paying attention and said in a pretty serious tone, “When you make a promise to your kids make sure you do what you say. This will show them that they can also trust in God.”
I had not really made that connection before. But he was right.
Its easier for our children to understand that God is dependable when we model dependability for them. If we keep our promises, we can tell them that God keeps his promises and they will understand what that means.
I felt quite convicted because earlier in the day I did just the opposite of what my dad said. A while back I had told the kids that we would go to the toy store for my birthday and that they could pick out a toy for themselves. But they got so many presents over Christmas I no longer wanted to bring them. The boys kept reminding me about my promise.
Finally, when Elijah asked me again I replied, “we are not going to do that anymore because you have too many toys.” In fact, I said, “that deal has expired.” I didn’t say it in a mean way but I am sure Elijah was disappointed. In his mind, I broke a promise. (This was all before the milkshake incident.)
As I thought more about what my dad said, I decided to ask Elijah if he thought I kept my promises, he only gave me a rating of 80%. He said, “you are like an 8 out of 10.”
It sounds like a passing grade but how can 80% be a good grade when it comes to reliability? That would be a BAD seller’s rating if I was an online vendor! People would not buy from me.
So I definitely need to improve my “credit rating” with the kids when it comes to promise keeping. And I have to guard my tongue so I can avoid flippantly saying, “I will do this and do that,” which creates the expectation to begin with. Instead I should say, “If it is God’s will…” The book of James talks about this.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'” (James 4:13-15 NASB)
If I want my kids to believe with greater ease that God is 100% reliable and if I want my kids to have the trait of reliability then I have to model it consistently. Either I do what I say right away or I keep silent about my plans and pleasantly surprise them. I like how my husband , Edric, puts it. “Underpromise, over deliver vs. over promise, under deliver.” He usually says this in relation to work, but I think it is also a good guideline when making commitments to my kids.
Well, the milkshake experience turned out to be worth the twenty minute wait. Elijah thought it was delicious. But for me, it represented a valuable parenting lesson on what it means to keep my word. Thank you, dad! (And, mom, for making the milkshake!)
“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”(Matthew 5:37 NASB)
Easy Milkshake Recipe:
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar (or add as needed)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 ice cubes
Add vanilla ice cream if you don’t mind the extra calories (but my mom didn’t add this)
Blend together and serve chilled. Enjoy!