Keeping Promises: How to Teach Integrity to Your Preschooler

Mother and daughter making pinky promise under a blanket fort

Keeping Promises: How to Teach Integrity to Your Preschooler

January is always a good time for self-reflection and goal-setting. The start of a new year allows us to close the book on the past and begin anew with promises that we make to ourselves and to others. As we adults talk about our grown-up New Year’s resolutions this month, we also have a wonderful opportunity to teach the importance of making and keeping promises to kids.

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember locking fingers with a friend on a “pinky promise”? Maybe you pledged to not share a secret, or promised to do something specific. Whatever it was, the symbolism of locking fingers seemed to make the pinky promise take on a meaning beyond words.

Keeping a promise lays the foundation for trust and respect. When our behavior is consistent, it allows others to build faith in us. Nurturing this behavior in children early on begins a pattern that leads to reliability and personal integrity.

keeping promises


The Primrose Way

Keeping promises for kids means being consistent in what we say and do. When we do what we say and say what we do, it makes children feel secure and it helps them learn the concept of commitment. Children under the age of 3 may not always comprehend an abstract concept like keeping promises, but by modeling consistent reliability and trustful behavior, we help them build the foundation for later understanding.

In our classrooms, we teach the importance of keeping promises for kids– and other important character development lessons – in a variety of ways. Teachers may promise a favorite activity, such as playground time, once students have completed a less-enticing activity, such as cleanup. We look for opportunities to discuss the importance of keeping commitments with students, like when feeding the class pet or reading a book with characters who keep or break their word.

Our Primrose Friends puppets are one way we nurture and reinforce positive character traits year-round. Billy the duck is our Primrose Friend who represents keeping promises, and he helps engage students in discussions about being dependable. In addition, we always commend students when they follow through on their word and remind them when we follow through on ours. Most importantly, we try to set a good example.

Teaching Keeping Promises at Home

As you determine the resolutions you will make to yourself in the new year, it is the perfect time to reinforce the concept of keeping promises for kids. You can do this at home by remembering the three Es: Example, Expectations and Exclamations.

  • Example: Set a good example by demonstrating to your child that you keep your word. Remember when you made a request as a child and your parents responded with “we’ll see”? That was their way of saying just that – we’ll see when the time comes, but I can’t make you that promise right now. This sort of response is much better than tossing out an empty promise you don’t intend to keep.
  • Expectations: Set expectations and stick to them. It may be that your child must clean up his toys when he’s done playing or that he must feed the family pet every morning. Set simple goals so he will be successful.
  • Exclamations: Make a point to notice and recognize when your child and those around you follow through on a commitment. (“I know Grandma is so happy that we came to visit her last Sunday, just like we promised.” Or, “Look at your clean room! I’m glad I can count on you to do what you say.”) This will help your child learn the concept of keeping promises and why it is so important.

There are a number of great books that focus on the importance of keeping promises for kids. Below are a few of the titles that we’ll be reading to our Primrose students this month to get them thinking and talking about commitment – an important first step to developing integrity, responsibility and other character traits which will serve them well in school and life.

Make a resolution to read these and exercise the three Es with the little ones in your life!

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