The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy's new book, Loving Your Child Too Much: How to Keep a Close Relationship with Your Child without Overindulging, Overprotecting, or Overcontrolling, (Integrity Publishers, 2006).

It’s only natural to be passionately in love with your children, and all kids deserve that kind of love from their parents. But while you shouldn’t ever limit the amount of love you give your children, you do need to watch the ways you express that love. If your love leads you to overprotect, overindulge, or overcontrol your kids, that’s not healthy.

Here’s how you can love your kids in healthy ways that lead to positive relationships between you:

Embrace grace. Realize that everyone makes mistakes, and that all parents can sometimes be guilty of overprotecting, overindulging, or overcontrolling their children. Know that, in Jesus, there is no condemnation. As you examine your relationship with your kids, talk to God about the ways in which you need help, and accept the mercy and grace that He offers you. Rely on His strength to change, and trust Him to be with you along the way to better relationships with your kids.

Understand your motives. Reflect on what might be motivating you to express your love for your kids in unhealthy ways. Invite God to show you what issues from your past or present stresses may be affecting how you relate to them. Then release them to God, and pursue the healing He offers.

Stop overprotecting them. Don’t lie about tough, real-life issues; always tell the truth, in age-appropriate ways. Don’t rescue your kids from situations that can teach them more about accountability, responsibility, and the consequences of their decisions. Let your kids take care of tasks they should do themselves, and require them to help with household chores on a regular basis. Refuse to fight their battles for them; let them learn how to solve problems and deal effectively with conflict by working through their own issues. Encourage them to tackle challenges and gently push them keep going when situations get tough, even if they sometimes fail. Help them learn from disappointment.

Teach them that, even though life can be painful, they can find joy through God’s grace. Let them know that, even though the world can be a dangerous place, generally it’s not that dangerous. Assure your kids that they are fully capable of giving and receiving love. Encourage them to learn the valuable emotional and spiritual lessons that suffering can teach. Ask God to give you the wisdom to effectively balance freedoms and restrictions in your children’s lives during each stage of childhood and the teen years. Give your adult children complete autonomy, but always keep praying for them.

Stop overindulging them. Don’t give in to whatever your children want, no matter how much they beg, whine, or throw temper tantrums. Don’t bribe them to cooperate with you. Require your kids to make an effort to obtain desired items on their own, rather than simply giving the items to them. Help them understand the value of hard work and what it takes to earn money.

Be sure to supervise your kids well and set appropriate boundaries for them. When praising your kids, remember that praise should be earned so your children will have the motivation they need to work toward their goals. Don’t just defer to your kids when making decisions; consider your own feelings and work together to find compromises.

Teach them that it’s okay to feel strong emotions, but they have a responsibility to express their feelings in faithful ways and make good choices. Let them know that it’s fine to want things, but they don’t need to have everything they want. Show your kids that they are accountable for their actions. Teach them that there is joy in earning things instead of always being given things. Show them the importance of serving others, and join them in regular acts of service to people in need. Instead of trying to fix difficult situations for them are trying to rescue them from challenges, coach them through the issues so they can achieve the skills and confidence they’ll need later in life. Always follow through with consequences for misbehavior so your kids will know you’re serious.

Assign them regular household chores and work alongside them. Encourage them to tackle pursuits like sports or music, where they’ll need to develop the self-discipline necessary to practice. Reward their hard work. Limit their presents for holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions – and teach them that gifts are privileges instead of entitlements, and that they need to express appreciation to those who have given them gifts.