I recently read an older parenting book titled, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. I am not really big into reading parenting books and yet from time to time they have been helpful in getting me to think through how my husband and I are parenting. Though, I don’t agree with every idea or perspective in this book, I appreciate the way it gets me to think critically about the how and why’s to the way I am parenting. Let me summarize a few helpful take-a-ways from the book.
-I must start at the place of recognizing that all children are born sinners. Jeremiah 17:9, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, Proverbs 22:15. (pg. 105) “One of the central roles of childbearing is to bring children to a sober assessment of themselves as sinners” (pg. 123) Helping do this will give my children the basic framework for building a worldview and a right understanding of themselves and their need for a savior.
-“Children trust you when they know you love them and are committed to their good, when they know you understand them, when they know you understand their strengths and weaknesses, when they know that you have invested yourself in encouragement, correction, rebuke, entreaty, instruction, warning, teaching and prayer” (pg. 98). Trust is the basis on which your words will have weight and meaning.
-As a parent I am God’s agents in this task of training up my children in the instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4. I function on God’s behalf. This means I am under authority. My children and I are both under God’s authority. We have different roles but the same Master (pg. 30). I must require obedience from my children because they are called by God to obey and honor me. I need to teach my children how to respect my authority so that, when they are older they will more easily know how to respect God’s authority. “The purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God.” (pg. xviii)
-Proverbs 20:5, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” As a parent I need to be a person of understanding and try to understand the inner struggles of my child (pg. 79). A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not the goal. That is hypocrisy. We need to address the heart that drives the behavior (pg. 5). This requires time, discussion (when old enough) and commitment to doing the hard work of engaging them.
For me the material in this book helped to put into this proper place the importance of following through with my words. When I tell my son we will read only 2 books before bed and he whines and complains asking for 5, giving in to him is not helping him learn that I am the authority. It is not about the books but about teaching him how to respect my words. I know for me the tendency is to give into the whining and complaining because it is easier then following through on discipline. In my day-to- day life I often forget that what I am doing in shepherding my children is about far more then outward behavior. It is about shaping their hearts and creating an environment in which choosing to submit to Jesus in the future will be a natural, easy choice.