Young children are heartlessly honest. (See these letters, if you don’t believe me.)
They are heartless because they know what they feel, but cannot yet imagine how their words will make someone else feel. As they get older they know very well how their words will be accepted and they still use them. We call that being brutally honest. But, in all fairness, parents are known for giving such honesty as well.
Love is very important to children. They need to know that it is a constant. The quickest way to ruin a child is to withhold love, or make the child feel he or she has to earn it.
Don't do it. You will just be playing the same game as the letter writer, above.
Loving a child unconditionally, does not mean we give children everything they want, or let them behave anyway they see fit. This is not love; it is neglect. Children need limits and expectations. If they don't have them, they begin to believe they are not capable of meeting any expectations.
Children need to know that they are loved - no matter what.
If they do well -- they are loved.
If they fail -- they are loved.
If they are angry -- they are loved.
If you are angry -- they are loved.
If good things happen -- they are loved.
If bad things happen -- they are loved.
They need to know there is nothing they can do to make you love them less AND that there is nothing they can do to make you love them more.
Love is not negotiable.
Children with the assurance of love can take some risks and try new things. They have a safety net.
Children with the assurance of love can be corrected and repent. They can do this because they know forgiveness.
Making a mistake, being corrected, repenting, being forgiven, and learning what is right -- these are all necessary for learning and growing and being healthy.
We can - and should - be honest with our children. It is our job to show them the right way to behave. Children will survive our criticism, and learn from it, when they know they are loved -- no matter what.
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, ESV
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17, ESV
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