More on Parenting: Getting to the Heart of the Issue

Now that Jack is feeling better (his medications seem to be keeping things under control right now), I’m realizing that we have some serious disciplining to do–what I jokingly refer to as “shepherding of our child’s butt.” While he was at his sickest point, we were just doing our best to make sure he ate anything at all, slept, and had clean diapers and clothes–no matter what it took (i.e. eating cookies in our bed, sleeping in our laps, etc). Now that he’s bounced back, we’re ever so thankful…but, boy, he’s a handful of a toddler now. Jack is certainly pushing our boundaries and patience at every turn. I’m sure many of you out there know what that’s like! So, I’ve been trying to catch up on some parental reading.

I finally got around to reading a book called Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. This book came highly recommended to me by several of the staff, pastors, and families in our church. Keith recently talked about this author in his “Ten Things I Think I Think about Parenting” post (you should definitely read his post if you haven’t yet!). What an incredible challenge and encouragement Tripp’s books has been to me, even as a parent of a 21-month-old and newborn. Here’s a little taste of what the book–which is quite different from most parenting advice out there–is about.

The author sets before the reader this premise (my paraphrase):

In Proverbs 4:23 it says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Therefore, as parents, we cannot deal with just outward behavior in our children but with the issues going on in their hearts that are behind that behavior. We must help them see not only the “what” of their sin, but the “why” behind it. The point in all of this is to help them see that the thirst of the heart can only be satisfied in truly knowing God.

The danger of using unbibilical approaches, Tripp says, in parenting (ones that don’t deal with the heart) is that we may create “little Pharisees” who look clean on the outside but have hearts that are distant from God (and from their parents). The parenting approaches the culture uses (i.e. good education, behavior modification, pop psychology, punitive approach, emotionalism, etc) don’t lead to the message of the gospel. Instead, the heart is being led away from Christ and the cross. It teaches them to rely on themselves and ultimately not to glorify God.

So, how do we guide our children toward facing the reality of their sin and their need for Christ? Tripp lays out what the Bible has to say about discipline and correction, including our role as kind authorities in our children’s lives, the role of good communication, the function/use of what the Bible calls “the rod”, and the importance of appealing to their conscience. Along the way he interweaves practical stories and examples of how to undertake many of these tasks, as well as different training objectives for the different ages.

Now I’m not saying this is the perfect parenting book or that you’ll necessarily agree with everything he says. In fact, I admit much of the book is somewhat ahead of where we’re at in the toddler phase. But, it has given me a biblical framework for thinking through my actions and goals as a parent. I truly appreciated the Christ-centeredness of this approach and his admission that we must work hard at our parenting job while also praying “that God will work in and around (our) efforts and the responses of (our) children to make them people who know and honor God.”

Now, off to shepherd my toddler’s butt…oops, I mean heart.

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