Mean what you say.
Today in the car M was throwing the ball in the car and I took it away from her. G was scolding her and telling her that there is a rule, no throwing balls in the car. M asked for her ball back and said "I promise I won't throw it again." Really?
Where did she learn this word "promise"? I felt as horrified as I did the day she told me that "When I am 15, I will have a baby." Kids can't promise. They're kids. They can try, and try, and try again. I cringe when I hear "But you PROMISED!" in some kids show about how parents don't keep promises. Why is this word so abused?
Parents, listen up. Stop using the word promise if you don't know what it means. It means that you will do something no matter what. It means that your honor is at stake. It means it WILL happen.
Don't promise to be home at a certain time because you are not in control of all factors. All they learn from empty promises is that promises don't mean anything.
Don't ask your kids to promise things. They are kids and cannot be expected to keep a promise. All they are doing is getting an exercise in breaking promises.
Say "I'll try to be home..." If someone asks you to promise, they are manipulating you and you should call them on it. Don't let kids force you into a promise and then get their heart broken when you can't hold up the other end. They are kids! Teach them to honor their word, and not give it lightly.
There are real promises to make and keep. When they're old enough they can make those promises, and keep them.