Be True To Your Word

True to your wordI take myself seriously. Maybe, too seriously sometimes. If you’ve hung around here awhile, you may have come to the same conclusion.

Anyway, when I say I give you my word, I make every effort to follow through. If somehow I don’t manage to do it… well, guilt and questioning will surely follow.


Twice a week, a tutor comes to the house to work with my children on Judaic studies. The tutor is very nice, and the boys like her. SJ meets with her first every session, and BR goes second.

The other day the boys and I were driving home from school. The subject of SJ going first for tutoring came up. I asked BR to go first for once.

“I don’t want to go first today.”

“Why not?”

“Because SJ goes first. He said he would.”

“Yes, but you can go first for once. It won’t kill you. I promise. Besides, this way you can be done first.”

“I don’t want to go first today.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t.”

Sigh. “Fine. What about Wednesday?”

“Alright. I’ll go first Wednesday.”

“Okay. That works. You’ll first go Wednesday. Wednesday – you’re first BR.”


Wednesday afternoon came. Ms. MMK picked the boys up at school. BR came out of school agitated and insisting he couldn’t go first.  The four of us went out for water ice in honor of Ms. MMK’s birthday (Happy birthday, dear. Love you).  By the time we got home, it was just 20 minutes till the tutoring session was scheduled to begin.

The three of us hung in the car to discuss Ms. MMK’s birthday. Then I spoke to BR about his promise. “But you made a promise.”

“Things change.”

“I know, but you made a promise. “

“You know things can change.”

“Of course they do. But you made a promise, and if at all possible, you should follow through. Do you know what it means to give your word?”

“I had a rough day in school.”

“What was so rough?”

“I don’t know. It was just rough. Besides I have had a headache.”

“You seem fine to me.”

“I have a headache.”

“Listen, when you say you are going to do something you need to do everything you can to follow through. Your word has to mean something.  Do you understand?”

BR couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me.

Within two minutes of arriving home, BR was playing on the computer doing his normal thing. He showed no ill effects from his headache or any other alleged ailments.

When the tutor came, SJ was confused. He thought BR was going first. It got ugly. And embarrassing. When BR came to me, it did not get better.

I’d like to say we had a long heartfelt talk, and he now understands. He knows that his words must have meaning. He now knows that his words have consequences. He now knows that if he does not follow through, people will ultimately lose respect for him.

But we didn’t. Well, we did have a talk later that night after we (yes, I did not act behave particularly well either) calmed down. However, I still don’t know if he gets it.

Following through on your word is on my Mt. Rushmore of things that I want my children to get. It’s that big. It’s part of being truthful, responsible, and reliable.

BR will be 11 next month.  Maybe, I’m making too big a deal over this particular incident. Maybe, he has not yet grown into understanding the value and importance of a promise and following through on your word.

I’m not sure.

I am sure that when your word means something, you will command more respect and appreciation. Every relationship – personal and professional – will be better if people know you are a person of your word.

So, I have a job to do.

And one day BR (and SJ) will be men. And I will be proud of them for many reasons including that they have become people of their word.

16 thoughts on “Be True To Your Word

  1. I probably would have thrown the book at him, taken away screen time, and make sure he went first for the next three times. It was not an unreasonable request, and he needs to follow up on his promises.

    Part of all this is making sure that you as the dad follow through on whatever punitive measures there are, (as well as rewards)

    Maybe rewarding the kid who goes first would be another option.

    “The headache” is a very common excuse.
    We hear about the “stomachache” all the time, especially when there is homework to do. (Age 6)

    • Mysterious ailments.
      I actually did take away screen time.
      I also felt that it was very important to let him know how I felt about it even if he doesn’t quite get it yet. While he might not admit it, seeing his dad so adamant makes an impression.

  2. It sounds like you did the right thing to speak with them about the importance of being true to your word. I have had that conversation with my kids too. It is something more people should focus upon.

  3. Parenting is difficult, and this is a perfect example of that. It would be much easier to let these things slide; who has the energy? But as parents, we need to instill values, and that takes active work. I’m sure your son will remember this incident, and even if it didn’t unfold in a perfectly calm manner, he’ll have learned a lesson.

    • I agree with you completely. I hope he learned his lesson, but I think it’s the beginning or at least part of a process.

  4. Punishing the child isn’t the answer. It’s probably best to show BR an example of how one becomes disappointed when someone doesn’t follow through with his/her word. Perhaps the next time you tell the kids that you’ll take them out for water ices you change your mind at the last minute feigning a similar headache. This will hopefully let BR and SJ both know what disappointment feels like when someone doesn’t follow through with their word. You might also have asked BR to rest in his room to recover from his headache while SJ goes first and is given a treat when he’s finished with the tutor.

    • I think punishing is not the answer in and of itself. However, I think repercussions matter. Maybe, the acting thing could be part of the process.
      The resting thing is something I would have done now that I think back on it.
      My first thought is always technology as that is what he values most.

  5. Way to stick to your guns! I’m proud of you. It’s so much easier to let it all slide, and then one day you have a 45 year old man-child living in your basement still unable to keep his word.

  6. My boss and I just had a similar issue – I told him that the way I grew up, your word was your bond, and if you said you were going to do something, you did it. And for months I felt like I kept saying “you said you were going to do this” or “you said you were going to do that” and it’s hard to respect someone who doesn’t hold true to their word! That is one of the top 5 on every list of an ineffective manager, and I agree it is a very important lesson to teach our kids! If they make a commitment, they follow thru and if they say they’ll do something, they must try with all their power to hold true to their word!

    Okay, I’ve subscribed and confirmed… fingers crossed!

    • I would find it very frustrating if that were true of my boss. Ultimately, I think it could be hard to work for such a person. It would certainly be demoralizing.
      We are definitely on the same page here.
      Sorry for the issues you are having signing up here.

  7. What can I say? We are fighting the same battle, and I don’t think he gets it . . . and we wonder if we are doing the right thing in insisting. He is only four, but we think it’s important to start young . . . good luck to all of us,

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