The Four “Wheels” of Highly Healthy Children


All evidence suggests that true health involves our entire beings, with all elements–physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual–functioning as God designed them to function. The well-being of highly healthy children depends on their inner life as well as their physical health.

To help us understand the elements of health think of the wheels on a car. If a driver wants a long, smooth ride, the wheels need to be as perfectly balanced as possible. An imbalance in even one wheel could put a strain on the engine, chassis, and other wheels. In short, it could goof up the whole car. Think of the components of health like the components of a sturdy wheel: four wheels attached to a stable car (the four health “wheels” of a highly healthy person), with all wheels in balance (all aspects of a highly healthy child developed in balance).

The four “wheels” of highly healthy children are:

Physical health -the well-being of a child’s body;

Emotional health -the well-being of a child’s mental faculties and connection with his or her emotions;

Relational health – the well-being of a child’s associations with parents, family members, friends, and community; and spiritual health–the well-being of a child’s relationship with God.

Physical Wheel Hub=trust that your child’s body will develop properly if nurtured

Vertical Spokes=activity and rest

Horizontal Spokes=nutrition/growth and immunizations

The simplest definition of maximum physical health is that the child’s body–all its chemicals, parts, and systems–is working as closely as possible to the way God designed it.

Emotional Wheel Hub–trust that your child’s emotions will develop properly if nurtured

Vertical spokes–love/respect and affirmation/appreciation

Horizontal spokes=media/learning and boundaries

Great emotional health is not the absence of emotional distress. Emotional health involves learning to cope with and then embrace the full spectrum of human emotions–positive and negative–we all face in life. Emotional health in children is greatly enhanced by the love, security, and well-defined boundaries of the parent-child relationship.

A key foundation for a highly healthy child is unconditional love, which helps reduce a child’s risk for immature anger, resentment, guilt, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and many other highly, unhealthy factors. Unconditional love balances love with discipline, freedom with limits, and nurture with training. Too much media in children’s lives–video games, computer games, and way too much television–assaults their senses, negatively affects their minds and is detrimental to their emotions and body. Activities such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, and even playing board games with family members have been linked with sharper minds throughout life.
Relational Wheel Hub= trust in and nurturing healthy relationships with others and self

Vertical Spokes=relationship with parents and family relationships

Horizontal Spokes=connectedness and performance in school/extracurricular activities

Great relational or social health can be defined as the state of maximum well-being in all of a child’s relationships. Of all the characteristics of highly healthy parents, other than loving your children unconditionally, the most important is the quantity of time you sacrificially give to your child. Your relationship with your child is critical to his or her self-concept and ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships. A child’s connectedness to his or her parents and friends is foundational to his or her relational as well as emotional health. Children with healthy levels of connectedness not only have strong relationships with good friends or playmates; they also exhibit a willingness to interact constructively with others, a can-do attitude, a willingness to tackle new adventures, a sense of optimism, and an ability to make friends comfortably.

Spiritual Wheel Hub=trust in and nurturing a healthy relationship with God

Vertical Spokes=personal relationship with God and prayer

Horizontal Spokes=spiritual instruction and spiritual activity

Great spiritual health can be described as the state of a child’s maximum well-being in a personal relationship with God the Creator. The foundation for spiritual health is most effectively laid during childhood and must include spiritual instruction. Activities such as family Bible reading, Sunday school classes, confirmation classes, vacation Bible school, church camp, and the like all play a role in spiritual instruction.

Are your child’s wheel round or are they flat in spots? If there are any severely wobbly wheels, he or she is less than highly healthy. Now is the time to begin lengthening the short spokes of your child’s wheels of health.

Used with permission from the book, God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Child

Walt Larimore, M.D. has been called “one of America’s best known family physicians.” He is a nationally-known and nationally sought after speaker and health expert.