The following are six keys to raising kids. It's not a formula, but rather elements I have seen work and we have personally used successfully.

1. Have an affectionate and affirming relationship.

Growing children is like growing young plants. Every word we say is an opportunity to frame and shape their world. The most crucial thing you can do is speak words of affirmation and affection into their life from the time of their conception.

Be positive. And don't allow your kids to be negative, even though that's the way we all naturally tend to be. If your child speaks negatively about themselves, correct them, lovingly and firmly. Don't let it pass. The girl who's allowed to say she looks ugly will grow up believing it.

What causes children to act and think that way? They're simply repeating the kind of worldview they receive from other people. Watch your words. Do you call yourself fat? Does your wife say she's unattractive?

Instead, affirm and compliment your wife's appearance...and do the same for your children.

When my son Noah was young, he went through a stage when he stopped eating his food and would get really upset after meals. We had hurt him by commenting on the "pokey-out belly" he had when he ate. We thought it was cute, but he interpreted our comments and fond laughter as a judgment that he was ugly. How old was he? 12? 14? No. He was just 3 years old!

This really upset us and caused us to be attentive to what we said and how we said it. For our son, that could have been the start of an unhealthy association with food and a damaging eating disorder. The wonderful thing about children is they bend but don't break - just like young plants you can train to climb a trellis. Through our affection and affirmation we were able to correct our mistake and Noah's perception of his belly. Children are very forgiving of our mistakes! They give us the grace to learn and grow as parents.

2. Be open communicators.

Talk about anything, at any time. Continually communicate. I make Jessica tell me about her day. When she says, "Dad, I can't remember," I stop and make her tell me.

I insist that the channels of communication are open. I've done that since she could talk, because I want the channels to still be open when she is 20.

As parents we have to deliberately train and equip our children with the tools to express their emotions. If I am concerned about something they have done, I don't just tell them it is wrong. I sit them down and say something like: "Sweetheart, I am feeling a little upset about something you said/did and I need to talk about it." I have done this since Jessica began talking, even before she could understand. Now, years later; if she is upset, she says, "Dad, I need to talk to you about something that is upsetting me." Give your child their tools before they need them so they can draw on them in times of need.

3. Communicate clearly and specifically about sex.

Make sex normal. It's a normal, powerful, natural thing. Sociologists tell us that human beings have three major drives: food, shelter, and sex. We talk to our children about money. We talk to them about caring for their home. We need to talk to them about their sexuality. It's going to hit them one day and they need to be able to talk openly with us. Once again, give them the tools to cope before they need them.

We also have to prepare our children for a world that is preoccupied with sex. The Bible calls it lasciviousness, or a preoccupation with lewd sexual behavior; and sure enough, the world is preoccupied with sex.

The Bible also talks about modesty, and that's something we seem to have forgotten in Western church culture. Let me put it to you in straight talk: we are not meant to dress, act, talk, dance, joke in any way that could be seen as a provocative sexual "come on." That is lasciviousness. When you're with your wife, go for it. That's pure. But around your children, or allowing your kids to act out, dress, or behave in a sexual manner, is not acceptable.