Helping Young People Keep Agreements

I was asked the following question:

I work with parents in helping their children to keep their agreements. At school, I help the children to understand that if they say they will do something, it is their responsibility to keep their end of the bargain. If they do not, I tell them that I am disappointed in them and that I expect that they will keep their word when they give their word. Parents, however, do not go along with this. They look for punishments and consequences when promises (agreements) are not kept.

My response:

The way for a youngster to take ownership is to work with him/her by DEVELOPING A PROCEDURE. After the agreement (plan) is made, set up a procedure to implement the plan. Start by asking, “What will you do to carry out your plan?” When the YOUNGSTER explains in detail, a mindset is being established—not only for a commitment to do it but also a visioning process of HOW to do it. Remember that the youngster may have good intentions to implement the plan and may even want to do it but needs specifics to assist in the plan’s implementation—hence the need to establish procedures.

Also, instead of sending a negative message indicating that you are disappointed, send a positive one. KEEP THESE TWO QUESTIONS HANDY: “What would an extraordinary person do? If you were that person what would you do?”

The practice to follow is to ask effective questions, one where the person is prompted to REFLECT. Such questions evoke acknowledgment and  ownership—two critical components of taking responsibility.