The challenges, problems and pain that our children face are real, and as a result, they affect us as parents as well. These challenges impact the whole child; and therefore, we must be willing to engage and embrace our children (and ourselves!) holistically. At the same time, we must always remember there are no quick fixes—merely changing behaviors will not accomplish what is needed. Our goal must be nothing less than healing for the whole child. Much like our own journey of spiritual healing and maturity, the healing we desire for our children will be a process, and it must be anchored by hope—real hope.

Fundamental to this real hope is an understanding that our children need a healthy and consistent balance of both nurture (affection, compassion, mercy) and structure (rules, limits, boundaries). Put another way, our children need a balance between connecting (nurture) and correcting (structure). As a result, the challenge is to identify what your child is really saying and what your child really needs. If we give a child structure (rules and correction) when she needs nurture (affection and mercy), we damage her ability to trust. If we give a child nurture when she needs structure, we limit her ability to grow. Therefore, we must learn to see our children and understand what they need in all of their being.

I believe this is similar to how God relates to us as His children. Using a balance of both nurture (His tender mercies) and structure (His guiding hand directing and correcting), He kindly, yet firmly, leads us into a right relationship with Him. I love the way The Message reflects the words of Paul in describing how God handles us, His children: “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change” (Romans 2:4). As parents, we too must lovingly, intentionally and firmly take our children by the hand and lead them into a relationship of trust and healing. It is through this process, and as a result of this renewed relationship, that we and our children will discover real, life-changing hope.

*Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Created To Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child.  This study guide companion to The Connected Child can be downloaded for free.  Printed copies of the study guide are also available for purchase.