Why Children’s Feelings Matter

This society seems to value children’s feelings less and less.  From parents telling their children that they ate all of their Halloween candy (as a supposed “joke”) and videotaping them crying in order to send it to Jimmy Kimmel to show on his show so everyone can laugh at it; to the dad who shot his daughter’s laptop because she posted a letter on Facebook about how she felt disrespected by her parents.  The majority are cheering for this dad.

What about the children’s feelings?  Why do so many laugh at an upset child?  It is very disturbing to me that children’s value seems to be less and less.  This is not a good thing!  It means our society is becoming less and less empathetic.  That is downright scary.

Christians aren’t any better either.  Many punish their children for showing any type of negative emotion.  Children are not being taught how to express and cope with their negative emotions in a healthy, positive way.

I understand that we adults get so caught up in our lives and issues that we forget that losing candy, not being able to go outside, or being disappointed about a friend being mean is a big deal to them.  They are new to our world.  They don’t understand adult issues nor should they.  I love how my friend, Rachel, got busy trying to get laundry done and briefly forgot to take her daughter’s feelings into consideration, but then, recognized her mistake and made things right with her daughter.

“I had a parenting fail today because I was tired and frustrated. I was running Sadie a bath and trying to get laundry done for tomorrow so I told her I needed her uniform to wash with the others. She replied “I have to be naked?!” And flipped out. Crying and hysterical. I was trying to talk over her instead of calming her first by saying just her uniform, she can wear her panties, and she was laying in bed anyway playing on her Kindle so she wouldn’t be cold, she has blankets. I was in a rush to get clothes in the washer so I had timeto dry them by bedtime. Obviously that did no good. I finally took the five minutes to sit and listen to her truly, why she didn’t want to be naked, and then what I was saying about having panties on and covering up with a blanket was perfectly fine to her. We are all busy, we all have our own things to get done, but when we don’t slow down and listen, sometimes we are only hindering ourselves. Kids have reasons why they want things a certain way, and we can’t expect them to listen to us if we don’t listen to them, no matter how unreasonable it seems” ~Rachel.

I agree with Rachel. Simply taking the time to listen and validate our children’s feelings is crucial. And, in the end, it makes life go easier. Instead of fighting against them, we can work with them and do our best to understand and validate their negative feelings.

Just because children are young and immature, does not make their emotions and feelings less important than ours.  How would you do if your spouse or friend put you down or dismissed you because they thought what you were upset about was “stupid” or “ridiculous?”  What if they “jokingly” upset you and showed it to the world to laugh at?

We are supposed to live by the Golden Rule. If you wouldn’t like it done to you, don’t do it to your children.

We need to take our children’s emotions seriously from birth.  Always responding sensitively and respectfully to crying infants is to validate their feelings. Instead of shushing the infant and saying, “You’re ok,” I say, “Oh, you’re hungry! I’m getting ready to feed you.” I Always validate even the youngest infants feelings even if I can’t figure out the need. For example, tell the infant, “you’re so upset. I hear you. I’m trying to figure out what you need.”

Teaching children to be “tough” is not a good thing. Crying is not a weakness!  I know many men as well as some women who have a very difficult time expressing and coping with their negative emotions because they were taught to be “tough.”  And sometimes, being “tough” for some is not showing compassion for others, which is not Christ-like at all.  People who are hurting need and deserve compassion and validation.  This includes children!

Finally, if we force children to deny, repress, and bottle up their negative emotions, they will eventually come out somehow. Or they’ll turn to harmful ways of dealing with the pain inside them. For some, this may lead to suicide.

Yes, children’s emotions matter.  Everyone should be sensitive to each other’s pain.  The only way to do that is to model love and compassion towards our children and everyone else that is hurting!  Also, model Jesus.

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Parent Through Grace And Faith

Romans 4:13-16:
“For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

I often see Scripture applying to the parent-child relationship where most would not.

For example, this Scripture clearly states that living by grace and faith is what we ought to do as Christians because merely living by the Law brings wrath and voids faith. We all know that the reason Jesus came to die on the cross was to allow us to have an easier way to access God.  People cannot successfully keep the Law of Moses. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we now have grace and can live by faith in Jesus.

So, how come so many Christian parents tend to make their children live by the Law which brings about wrath?

Parenting by the Law means that parents set up rules by which their children cannot abide such as expecting a toddler or preschooler to sit quietly through an hour long church service. This is completely developmentally inappropriate for young children. Then when the child inevitably breaks this arbitrary rule, the child gets spanked/hit or otherwise punished by the parent. The Law brought wrath upon the child. The parent’s and child’s faith are void because neither is trusting God in that moment even if the parents think they are doing as God commands by punishing the child.

Therefore, when a parent spanks/hits a child, he/she is parenting under the Law and acts as a judge. The child commits an offense, the parent tries the child and decides a spanking is necessary, the parent doles out the punishment, then the child is free to go on since he/she paid the price.

Only, as Christians, the Law is no longer binding. If we want children to learn the grace, peace, love, and mercy of the Law of Christ, why do we parent under the Law of Moses?

We are supposed to be living by grace and faith. 
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Living and parenting by faith means we get to know Jesus and follow His example in our parenting. He set realistic limits for His disciples and gently corrected them.

We also need to understand child development in order to set realistic limits for our children. For example, instead of expecting toddlers or preschoolers to sit quietly through a church service, we either worship at home with them, bring crayons and let them color as we sit in the back of the sanctuary in case they need to leave, or allow them to go to children’s church.

Grace doesn’t punish. It doesn’t nullify faith. Grace sets appropriate limits and allows natural consequences when appropriate. 

Let us parent our children through faith and grace.

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Tantrums Versus Meltdowns. Why I Choose To Call Them “Meltdowns.”

After writing and sharing this post, which made me feel vulnerable, I was very taken aback by a couple of uncompassionate responses by people I never thought would have such a reaction. They were mothers of children with Autism. They were quite upset that I had used the term “meltdown” to describe my loss of control. They had said that I had had a “tantrum” “over not getting my way.”

Needless to say, I was quite confused and bewildered by their responses. So were a number of other gentle parents. The argument these two moms tried to use was that only people with Autism are allowed to have meltdowns, and everyone else has tantrums and can control themselves.

I won’t get into how wrong it is to tell an adult who chose to share about her embarrassing episode in the hopes of reminding everyone that meltdowns happen to even mature adults that she had a “tantrum,” except to say that it is wrong.

I will explain that as an early childhood professional, I do have some knowledge of and experience with children with Autism and other sensory issues. These children can, in fact, have very intense and even violent meltdowns that can last for hours. Some of these meltdowns are triggered by sensory overload such as bright lights, too much noise, clothing that is uncomfortable, and having too many people nearby.  These meltdowns are totally uncontrollable. 

But, typical children have uncontrollable meltdowns too. A meltdown is when we lose total control over our emotions for whatever reason. Tantrums are the same thing. Only when most people hear the word “tantrum,” they picture a child trying to “manipulate” us in order to “get his/her own way.”  Even the moms complaining about my terminology said it was to “get my own way.”

In reality, when I lost control of my emotions that night, I had no thought of “getting my way.”  My thoughts were not coherent in that moment.  I was still grieving. I had just watched my husband and his sister bury their mom a month ago that night. I was dealing with my own grief. I just wanted to enjoy the rest of my time with my mom and her boyfriend before they left for home six hours away.  What I truly wanted was for my mom to live closer and for the grief I was experiencing to go away. I knew acting like a fool wouldn’t allow me to “get my way.”

That’s the thing. People witnessing a meltdown have no clue what is truly going on. They see a “bratty” child throwing a fit over “not getting what he/she wants.”  They look at the parents begrudgingly for not “controlling and spanking that brat.” They call it a “tantrum.”

What they don’t see is the child having a hard time. The child may be overtired, hungry, thirsty, getting sick, going through major transitions, being triggered by something sensory related, and/or trying to learn how to cope with a major, to him/her, disappointment. The brain goes haywire. He/She loses control. 

Yes, before a full blown meltdown, people can use coping skills. We can prevent some meltdowns by validating children’s feelings and giving them ways to express themselves as well as meeting needs.

But once anyone enters a full blown meltdown, it’s over until the brain allows them to calm down and regain control. The only appropriate response to anyone experiencing a meltdown is compassion and empathy.

The reason why I stopped using the term “tantrum” to describe children’s loss of emotional control is the negative connotation of the term. Anyone familiar with me and my work knows that I’m trying very hard to get society to see children in a positive light. To help everyone understand the development of young children. And for Christians to view and treat children as the blessings that they are. The term “meltdown” is more respectful.

I don’t care who you are, how old you are, if you have special needs or not, we all have meltdowns. Life gets hard. It will happen. Let’s not judge children or adults. Let’s assume there is always a deeper reason for the meltdown. And let’s not say that one group has “meltdowns” and the other group has “tantrums.”  Jesus tells us not to judge others. Besides, Jesus had a few meltdowns Himself in the Temple and in the Garden of Gethsame. 

May we treat all children and adults with compassion and respect!

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The Brain Overload During Meltdowns Is REAL!

I was recently reminded that the total brain overload and loss of control in children during meltdowns is very real! Why? Because it happened to me!

I’m 34 and was recently at a public place with my husband and some other family members. At this place, I was treated disrespectfully.

Now, due to my severe cerebral palsy, people often treat me as a child or a person with a mental disability. Usually I take it in stride. I never make a scene in public. But, unfortunately, this time was different.

Instead of just brushing this person off and moving on, I lost it and yelled and said things that I regretted as soon as my brain came back under my control. My husband and family were trying to calm me down but my brain was stuck in “fight or flight” mode.

Looking back, it was weird but I had truly lost control of my impulse, self-control like young children do. My brain just got stuck. Usually I can talk myself down and use self-control. Not then.

After a few minutes as my brain came back to me and God gently convicted me, I realized I’d REALLY blown it. I wanted to disappear or run out. All I could do was look out the window and cry. I couldn’t stop crying.

Thankfully, my husband got me out of there, but not before I willingly and on my own accord, apologized to the person I had yelled at. The person graciously accepted my sincere apology. Of course, I prayed and asked God for forgiveness as well.

Once we left, I also apologized to my family. I felt awful that I acted so horribly. I still beat myself up over the incident even though weeks have passed since the incident occurred.

If you have been reading my blog recently, you are aware that my husband and I are grieving the loss of his mom, to whom I was quite close. It has been a rough few months for us. Looking back on this incident, it is obvious that grief played a major role in my very embarrassing public meltdown.

After all, I had never done this before in my life!  No, grief is not an excuse for my inappropriate response, but it is a good reason.

My point in telling this embarrassing story that I wish I could forget is that I think many adults think that children can control themselves in a full blown meltdown. They believe that children are just trying to manipulate us into giving them their way.

I can assure you from my incident that children absolutely can not control themselves during meltdowns. The brain gets overloaded with stress hormones and they truly lose control. Getting angry, yelling, spanking/hitting, shaming, or otherwise punishing them will only keep their brains in this heightened stress state longer. Had my husband and family scolded me or punished me, it would have only escalated things. Instead, they spoke calmly and offered comfort which allowed my brain to get unstuck in order for me to calm down and make things right. My tears became tears of godly sorrow for messing up.

When our children are in the throes of a meltdown, the best thing we can do is speak quietly and calmly to them and offer comfort until their brains come back under their control. The “fight or flight” response is very real and extremely powerful. The sooner we help them get out of that mode, the sooner we can teach them healthy calming and coping techniques to prevent that from happening most of the time as they grow.

We can also teach them that there are times throughout life where the stress and pain is too much for them to bear and they may get stuck and make a complete and utter fool of themselves, but God and we will be there to support, forgive, and help them through it.

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Sacrifice And Love For Others–Especially Our Children

Romans 15:1-7:

“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

I think this Scripture is key in how we should interact with others, especially our children. It seems that many Christians are not willing to self-sacrifice for the betterment of others. If it’s not convenient for us, then we won’t sacrifice for others.

Guess what!  Being crucified on a cross was not convenient to Jesus, but because He loved us so much, He died a horrific death for us–His beloved children!

I think it’s beyond sad that many popular, mainstream “Christian child-rearing experts” actually discourage parents from self-sacrificing for their children. Instead of rearranging their lives to include children, these “experts” teach parents to force a new human being to fit within the parents’ lives so the child knows that he/she is not too important.

How is that obeying what God clearly lays out in the above Scripture?  Children are indeed weaker than us. They need constant care and guidance from us which should involve major self-sacrifice from us.

Leaving infants to cry-it-out so that we can get a good night’s sleep is not self-sacrificing nor is it accepting infants for who they are.

Staying up with them and engaging in nighttime parenting despite being absolutely exhausted is self-sacrificing and accepting them.

Spanking/hitting, using time-out, shaming, arbitrarily taking things away, yelling, and other harsh punishment with our children is not self-sacrificing or accepting children.

Doing the hard work of disciplining (teaching, guiding, correcting) using positive, respectful, and gentle techniques such as modeling, child-proofing, validating feelings, fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, setting realistic limits and boundaries, helping children comply, giving choices, and using natural and logical consequences with children is self-sacrificing and accepting of our children.

Most Christian claim that if they don’t spank/hit and “teach” their children that the world does not revolve around them that their children will turn into self-entitled brats.  Let me tell you this: Children learn by our actions. Some of the most self-entitled people I know grew up in punitive households where they were constantly “put in their places.”  Their parents were so focused on forcing their children into self-sacrifice that the children never truly learned how to sacrifice for the sake of others.

True love means being willing to sacrifice, accept, give grace and mercy for another no matter how inconvenient it is to us. We must model this to our children.

Biblical love does not involve inflicting pain on children as many Christians still believe due to errant interpretation of this verse:

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24, NASB).

In order to understand this, we need to understand that the Biblical Rod was a big, heavy stick with spikes on it. Shepherds never hit their own sheep with the rod. Rather, they used it to protect their sheep from predators. We need to do the same with our children. We need to sacrifice ourselves in order to protect our children from the enemy, satan, who comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

Biblical love is clearly defined as:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cornithians 13:4-7, ESV).

May we use self-sacrifice to truly love our children and everyone!

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Hearing vs Doing The Word

James 1:23-25 (NASB);
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

How many times have we all read God’s Word and then turned around and have done the exact opposite?  I know I have. God gently convicts me when I do this.

We all mess up. Only God is perfect. But, I feel like many Christians don’t even try to be doers of the Word because instead of loving others, including children, they are often harsh, judgmental, and condemning. Yet, the Bible says there is no longer condemnation in Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s ok to condemn sin. But it is not ok to condemn sinners as we are all sinners. 

I believe children get condemned the most by many Christian sects. They insist we must spank/hit children and control them. Yet, the Bible says to treat everyone with gentleness.  This includes our children.

Colossians 3:12-15:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

Ephesians 4:2:
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”

Galatians 6:1-2:

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

When we fail to extend mercy, love, and gentleness to others, including our children, we become hearers of the Word. To spank/hit, punish, and treat children harshly is forgetting the beautiful Gospel message because Jesus taught, corrected, and discipled His disciples and others.  He never hit anyone. No, not even when He cracked His whip in the temple. 

We need to be doers of God’s Holy Word. We need to be gentle with everyone. Treating children gently and working with them is one of the best ways we can be doers instead of merely hearers of the Word.

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The Pain Is REAL!

So, my husband and I are grieving his mom who went Home August 8th, 2015 and it’s become more and more obvious how the United States wants to repress pain as soon as possible. Any negative emotion is pushed into a time frame, and once that time frame is over, it’s time to “get over it.”

Western society minimalizes everything unless the media finds it sensational and can then exploit others’ pain.

It wasn’t like this in Bible times. People spent weeks or months in mourning. It wasn’t rushed. You could actually mourn without pressure. Now, once the person is in the ground, it’s time to move on.

Well, I’m not ready. Grief does not work that way, especially when it’s a MOM!

Watching my husband grieve his mom has been unbearable. She carried him in her womb, nursed him, and did all the wonderful mom things with him.

How in the world do you simply “get over” that?  Guess what!  You DON’T!  Especially when she was a wonderful mom that never intentionally hurt him.

She was my second mom for 17 years. She fully accepted me into her family. With my disability AND our age difference, she could have chosen to be like my dad and reject me and disown her son. But she and her husband welcomed me right into the family as did the rest of my husband’s family.

To be hurting this much actually makes me happy in a way because to hurt THIS much means she did something VERY RIGHT. I’d choose this grief over the weird, yucky grief I had with my dad who abused me.

We need to stop teaching children from infancy that happiness is the only acceptable emotion because it’s not. It has created a society where pain and suffering must be dealt with as quickly as possible because it makes others feel uncomfortable. God never intended that. Validate your children’s negative feelings. Help them learn healthy ways of dealing with negative emotions.

Then, teach them how to help others who are in pain. Because while anyone can put a smile on his/her face and act “fine,” the pain is REAL no matter how old you are. It helps if not only God, but other people actually come along side you and help carry some of the pain. We can’t stop it, but we can help carry it!

Romans 12:15 New American Standard Bible (NASB):

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Love this song, “Not Right Now” by Jason Gray.

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God Cares About Our Hearts, NOT Our Appearances!

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Whether it’s a child’s behavior, an elderly person, or a person with a disability, too often we judge by appearances. We see an upset child and assume that it’s his/her “sinful nature” appearing. We see someone with a severe disability and assume they are mentally disabled and/or are afraid to interact with them as a “normal” person.  We see an elderly person and dismiss their wisdom and competence.

But God looks at hearts.

God sees that the child is simply having a hard time. He sees that the person with the severe disability is trying to serve Him in any capacity he/she can. He sees the elderly struggling to impart wisdom and love before their lives end.

Jesus tells us not to judge because when we judge others, we are usually totally wrong. God wants us to “love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

So, the next time we see a child having a hard time or a person with a disability or someone totally different from us, instead of judging or being afraid, let’s LOVE them as Jesus LOVES everyone.

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What Will Your Legacy Be?

Yesterday my mother-in-law went Home to be with the Lord. Today is the 12th anniversary of my dad going Home.

I am am filled with grief as I write this post. Thankfully, last week my husband and I were able to visit her. She and I were quite close. I miss her so much.

She was such a wonderful, kind, generous, loving, and gentle mother to my husband and his sister. When my husband and I began dating, she totally accepted me into their family. She beamed with joy on our wedding day.

My husband and his sister have all happy memories of her. She wasn’t perfect, but she was a great mom. And that is her legacy!

My dad, however, was physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive to me. I hate that that is his legacy as I can’t deny what he did to me. Yes, he was often loving, but after 33 years, it’s the yucky stuff that still comes to mind when I think of him and that makes me sad.  It’s especially hard on days like this to remember him because he refused to heal our relationship while he was still here.

It’s an interesting thing.  The more a parent hurts a child even if the parent is loving at times, it is those harsh, abusive times that come to mind most when thinking about that parent.  Yet, if a parent is loving, gentle, kind, and empathetic, THAT is what the child will also remember the most.
No matter how “lovingly” you hurt your children, they will remember those times more even if they try to deny it.

Do you want your legacy to be how you inflicted pain on your children? Or do you want your legacy to be how you loved them and positively disciplined them?

It’s up to you and until you die, it’s never too late to repair and heal the relationship with your children. I wish my dad had repaired our relationship before he died in 2003.

I’m so grateful my mother-in-law left behind a wonderful legacy for her children and to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. And even though my mom is still alive, I’m grateful her legacy is positive. She sacrificed so much for me.

What will your legacy be?

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Training Children To Love Jesus?

I was surprised to discover that some Christians believe that they can “train” their children to love Jesus. Frankly, I find this a bit disturbing because how can one “train” children?  They’re not animals. And when Christians say train, it usually means a great deal of corporal punishment is being used as in the Michael Pearl style.

I don’t want to get to involved in what the Hebrew meaning of “train” is for this post as I believe the Christians claiming that they must “train” their children are using “train” wrongly anyway.

Can you truly train anyone, let alone children, to love?  Does God train us to love Him?

According to the Bible, we are not trained by God to love Him.

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, KJV).

And how did He show us love?

”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NASB).

No, God never “trains” us to love Him because that would pretty much be forcing us to love Him. God prefers true love that can only come from deep within our hearts because we have seen and felt God’s love for us. He is gentle and patient while He waits for us to accept His great love for us and reciprocate it back to Him!

Another thing, young children have a special knowledge of Who God is. They already love Him.

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants'” (Matthew 11:25, NASB).

“From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease” (Psalm 8:2, NASB).

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We just need to cultivate that knowledge and love for Him through reading His Word to them, including them in prayer and worship without forcing it on them, and, most importantly, showing them God’s amazing love by modeling it to them through treating them and others with compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

We don’t need to worry about “training” our children to love Jesus nor fighting for their souls. Rather, we need to worry about accurately portraying God’s loving character to them so that true love for God and others will last a lifetime!

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