It’s hard to believe that a new school year is just around the corner.  I love the excitement that comes with anticipating the first day of school.  In addition to the new backpack and new shoes, there comes a list of commitments that students make.  Perhaps they want to make better grades, play a new sport, or join a new club.

What about our new commitments as parents?  The dictionary defines commitment as “being dedicated to a cause” – I like that idea!  As we begin the new school year, I want to challenge you to consider five commitments worth making to your children.   Subscribing to these won’t guarantee all “A’s” in school nor will it cure the occasional sour attitude.  It will, however, give you a firm foundation upon which to build strong character in your son or daughter.

#1 – Believe in your children before they succeed. We all like to be identified with a winner. An adoring audience always surrounds the championship team. But this generation of kids needs someone to believe in them now! They need adults who will believe in them now and coach them in cultivating their God-given potential even before the big “win” takes place.

#2 – Underscore the strengths of your children. For too long, we have allowed the secular media to define success for us based on weight, net worth or the car we drive. When measured by this humanistic yardstick, most of us can quickly list our shortcomings. We need to build up our kids by underscoring their character strengths and reminding them that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

#3 – Identify and celebrate important milestones in the lives of your children. In Joshua 4, we find the children of Israel had just crossed the Jordan River and the Lord told them to take twelve stones and build a memorial as a reminder of this remarkable event. Our children need us to be their cheerleaders.  They need us to slow down, take a break from our hectic schedule and celebrate their accomplishments.

#4 – Tell your children that you love them every day. I love you – simple words, powerful words, words too seldom spoken in the average American home. Every child longs to hear these words spoken regardless of his/her age. Don’t let this day pass without stopping to tell your children that you love them.  Dads, we may need this message more than moms.  Maybe you need to stop right now, pick up the phone and make a call just to say these three words: I love you!

#5 – Be real with your children. Let them know that you have weaknesses, imperfections, and failures in your life. Do you want your children to confide in you when they have problems? If so, you must be open and honest with them about your own struggles.

A Columbine High School student summarized the emptiness of her culture well when she wrote, “The paradox of our time in history is that we spend more, but have less; we have bigger houses, but smaller families; we have more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.”

The apostle Paul, writing to his young friend Timothy said, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, rather be an example to all those around you” (I Timothy 4:12). Paul continues throughout this chapter to build up the faith of his young protégé. No greater gift could be given to our children than to consistently build them up in their faith.  Let’s make the commitments that matter most first this year – put the temporal stuff (cars, houses, investment accounts, etc.) in their proper perspective.  Give your greatest focus and energy to that which lasts forever – your faith and your family.