As a teenager, I arrived late to class a number of times. When my teacher asked me about it, I always had a good excuse: a stomachache, a headache, or the alarm clock was broken.

One day, my teacher looked into my eyes and said, "Excuses can make you die!" I was shocked by his statement. He went on to explain that when he was my age, he was studying at a yeshiva in Europe where the students were allocated to different families who would supply their meals. (This was a common practice in pre-war Europe, where yeshivas did not have money to feed their students; instead, the local community supported Torah learning by each family undertaking to feed a student or students one or more days a week, each according to its ability.) Many of the discussions amongst the student would be about their meals. Once, a student complained that porridge was the only food he got. "I get porridge for breakfast, porridge for lunch and porridge for dinner!" To which another student responded, "Porridge is fine; from porridge one can live. I get excuses: an excuse for breakfast, an excuse for lunch, and a third excuse for dinner. In the morning the woman of the house says she was too tired to cook. At lunchtime, she was out visiting a friend, and for dinner she tells me there's no food in the house and the market is closed. From porridge one can live; from excuses a body can die."

(As told in the original Yiddish, this last line is a play on words: kashe, "porridge", also means "questions"; the Yiddish word for "answers", tirutzim, is also the term for "excuses." Hence: "From kashe one can live; from tirutzim one can die!")

Dependability is a vital key to success in all areas of our lives; it is always a pleasure to deal with people who honor their word. But dependability is of utmost importance in parenting our children. It gives children a sense of security to know that when a parent says that he or she will do something, it can be relied on one hundred percent.

As a school principal, I was always saddened when children would walk into my office an hour after school had ended, weeping, "My mother forgot to pick me up..." The child felt abandoned and unworthy. Any excuse, however justified, that the parent could give to the child would not have been enough to make up for the hurt feelings.

While emergencies are an inevitable part of life and at times cannot be avoided, it is still a far cry from breaking our word on a regular basis, even if we have a very good excuse each time...

Parents who are not consistent in honoring their word lose the power to discipline their children. They may say to their child, "You are banned from watching TV for two weeks." In his head, the child is likely to laugh, knowing that in a few days his father will have forgotten about it. This child will not take any discipline measures seriously.

Even if we haven't been up to scratch as far a honoring our word is concerned, it is never too late to change. But in order for lasting change to occur, it is important that we inform our families, friends and work colleagues that change is on the horizon and from this moment on, we are going to honor our word. And then we must stick to it. No excuses must stand in the way of carrying out what we say we will.

Try it. It works!