Be Impeccable with Your Word

Mar 6, 2014

In his book, “The Four Agreements,” don Miguel Ruiz laid out four principles based on the great religions of the world and particularly his own Toltec roots in Southern Mexico.   These four agreements, he writes, provide a practical guide to personal freedom and happiness.

His simple ideas also provide a solid foundation for successfully raising our children.  Over the next four weeks, I’d like to explore these four ideas beginning today with the first agreement:  Be Impeccable with your Word.

Parents can provide the model to our children that we only speak the truth to them.  This involves their watching how we conduct our lives with honesty, following through on commitments and only making promises we can keep.

But it also includes holding fast when we make decisions about our children.  When they ask if they can stay up later and we’ve already said no, being impeccable with our word means sticking to what we’ve said.  When we promise a trip to the park, it means coming through on our offer of fun.

Most of the kids I know learn early in life about negotiating.  I’ve seen preschoolers who could give a few lessons to organized labor leaders.

But when parents are “impeccable with their word” consistently, their kids negotiate less.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, when children know they can sometimes change their parents’ minds, they will ring that bell again and again.  When they learn that “no means no,” they accept their parents’ decisions more easily.

One final application of being impeccable with our word is that children come to trust what we say.  If we describe them as lazy or bad, that will become their truth about themselves.  If we say they’re hardworking or kind, those virtues will become manifest in them.  We must respect the power of our own words when we speak to our children.

Being impeccable with our word makes us accountable to ourselves, to our children, and to all others who cross our path.  Over time, our children will learn that they can count on what we say, growing up with a front row seat to understanding the meaning of integrity.