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Advances in horticulture are made every year. Scientists, to get the most vibrant, healthy plants possible, spend much time studying the optimum conditions and environmental factors that will bring about the healthiest, hardiest and most fruitful plants.

Likewise, as we take a look at raising healthy children, we need to be aware of the importance of the optimal environmental conditions in our homes. The right conditions will allow our children—God’s unique gifts to us—to flourish.

In my experience I have found that, because of the uniqueness of each home and each family member, there are no set formulas, rules or checklists that help guarantee the “successful” raising of children. As Chuck Swindoll noted, defining the importance of family and describing the outcomes of an optimal environment, or family atmosphere, “The family is where you put down your first roots, where you form your most lasting impressions, where you put together the building blocks of your character.”

Let’s look at three essential environmental conditions in our families that are conducive to raising vibrant, flourishing children.

Peace-full (not stress-full)

In guarding the atmosphere of our homes, the management of stress in the family is paramount. While stress is a normal part of life, it is imperative that we do not let the stress and busyness of our ministry and life responsibilities encroach on the peace-fullness of our homes.

I believe that each individual person has a pace at which his or her life functions best—a pace at which the individual thrives. I also believe that each family has a pace at which it functions best. A racehorse has a natural pace, or natural gait, at which it runs most strongly, effectively and efficiently. So, too, a family has a natural gait that allows it to run most strongly, effectively and efficiently.

Often, with the schedules and pressures of ministry, we force our families (specifically our children) away from the natural pace, and into our “busy” pace, which inevitably affects our peace-fullness.

Love-full (not hate-full)

An atmosphere that is love-full is a place of safety and trust. In other words, a safe place! Our homes are to be free from emotional and physical threat, angry outbursts and rage, name-calling, and other forms of verbal, physical or emotional abuse.

In a love-full atmosphere, children are taught to treat one another with kindness and courtesy, and to stand up for and support other family members. Also, they are taught to value and practice helpfulness, service, cooperation and giving to others.

Grace-full (not shame-full)

Where grace-fullness abounds, family members are respected and valued. There is a respect of an individual’s privacy, thoughts, feelings and space. Grace-fullness also provides an atmosphere where, emotionally and relationally, adults act as adults, and children are allowed to be children.

In my experience counseling families, I have found that there are times in which adults are emotionally and relationally drawn into an immature or childish pattern of responding to or reacting to their children. This becomes a barrier to raising emotionally healthy children.

In Families Where Grace Is in Place (Bethany House), Jeff VanVonderen wrote: “It is not possible to truly have healthy Christian families unless behaviors and attitudes are developed in the context of relationships that are grace-full, lived in an atmosphere of grace … [placing] a filter of God’s grace over the process of parenting, the nuts and bolts of which may look different in each family. Capable, creative, contented people, people of faith and depth, come from families where grace is in place.”

My prayer for each of our homes and families is that we pursue, establish and preserve an environment that is peace-full, love-full, and grace-full, that nurtures vital, healthy and thriving children.

former director of CARE/Center for Spiritual Renewal East (CSR-E) in Christiansburg, Va.