Don't play favorites. Don't favor one child over his or her siblings. Give each of your children an equal measure of recognition and praise.

Keep the blessing in reach. Be willing to bless your children every day. Don't award a blessing only when your children achieve something spectacular.

Don't attach strings to the blessing. Rather than expecting your children to somehow earn your blessing, give it to them the way God does - with no strings attached. Let them know that you will always love and accept them, no matter what.

Defuse emotional minefields. Don't blow up at your children if you're in a bad mood. Seek God's healing for your emotional wounds so you can consistently express genuine love to your children.

Don't let traditions block love. Regardless of whether your children fulfill the family roles you expect them to, fit a certain mold, or hold onto a certain tradition, never withhold your blessing from them. Surrender your expectations of your children to God, and ask Him to help you love and accept them even when their choices don't match your traditional expectations for their lives.

Offer patience and understanding when your children have been wounded. Pour out extra love and encouragement into your children's lives to help them heal from traumatic experiences such as their parents' divorce, death, or desertion; an adoptive child's feeling of being abandoned by natural parents; and the stress of blending a stepfamily.

Seek God's healing if you've missed out on a blessing yourself. Know that you must deal with having missed out on receiving a blessing from your own parents before you can properly give a blessing to your children. Be honest about the pain in your past and how it has affected your life. Seek to understand as much as you can about your parents' backgrounds. Understand that, because of God's transforming power, even a curse can be changed into a blessing.

Pray for your parents as long as they're alive, but if they don't respond to you in the way you hope, grieve for them and ask God to give you peace. Embrace the ultimate blessing that is always available to you in the form of God's deep unconditional love for you personally. Ask God to reveal your purpose in life, and decide to move forward into it each day. With God's help, begin making clear, definite commitments to love your own children.

Adapted from The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, 2004 edition, copyright 1993 by John Trent and Gary Smalley. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.


Dr. John Trent is president of StrongFamilies.com, a ministry committed to strengthening marriage and family relationships worldwide. In addition to speaking, he has authored and coauthored more than a dozen award-winning, best-selling books. John and his wife Cindy have been married for 25 years and have two daughters, Kari and Laura.

Dr. Gary Smalley is one of the foremost experts on family relationships and has written or co-written 16 best-selling, award-winning books, based on more than 30 years of experience as a teacher and counselor. Smalley has been married to his wife Norma for 35 years.