Best parenting / child-rearing book I’ve ever read – hands down – is Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.
Aside from some of the Puritan works on family and parenting (Ryle’s Duties of Parents, Mather’s A Family Well-Ordered and Hildersham Dealing with Sin in our Children), Pastor and author Tedd Tripp’s counsel for parents of children of all ages is excellent. I highly recommend it. A few things I still remember and use today:
1. “The Circle of Blessing” – Children are indeed blessed by God when they honor and obey their parents. Inside this ‘circle’ of blessing, they are safe. When they step outside this circle, there is danger. Sometimes immediate, but definitely long term danger. It is a parents responsibility to place the child back into the circle so they will be safe. This captures the principle of Proverbs 19:18 –
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope, do not be a willing party to his death”
2. The heart of the matter. Tripp does a great job of reminding parents that the goal of parenting is not to merely respond and correct surface-level behavior from our children. That is part of the job, but not the ultimate goal. It’s sad to hear so many parents say things like, “I just tell ’em ‘I don’t care what you do, just go play and don’t get in trouble'” I’ve heard parents of teenagers say, “I told her, I don’t care what you do, just don’t get pregnant.” This so misses the mark of our jobs as parents and this is what Tripp is concerned with. In our parenting, we should be concerned with the ‘why’ of behavior as well as the actual behavior itself. As part of our daily interaction with our kids, we ought to be asking questions like, “why do you think you did that?” and “how did that make you feel?” and “how do you think that made them feel when you did that?” Again, this approach finds its home in the parenting paradigm drawn from Deuteronomy 6:6-8.
3. Being honest. Sounds silly, right? Of course, we need to be honest. Don’t lie to our kids. That’s not really what Tripp is talking about though. He’s talking about being honest about sin. Our children sin because they’re sinners. And so do we. One of the most powerful (I’m convinced) things to share with our children(when appropriate) is the reality of our own failures. Yes, we are the boss. Yes, we give the correction and discipline. But – just the same – we are just as bad as our kids. We may not throw our hot dogs across the kitchen during dinner(with guests present, of course!) but we disobey God’s commands in others ways – all the time. You can answer that question above (why did you do that?) for your child: “Because you’re a sinner, just like Mom and Dad are.” It will have an eternal affect on your children, for the good. This approach trumps the “Knock it off! Because I told you to!” technique, every day.
4. Last but not least: The Gospel. This really is the target that #3 points to. Telling our kids they are sinners, only gives them 1/2 the story. There is a remedy for their sickness. There is a Great Physician who can heal their hearts and change their desires forever: Jesus Christ. All parenting is a bending process. Just as automotive manufacturers around the world work to bend steel to make it useful in the production process, we as parents are in the business of bending our children toward Christ. We can’t force them. We can’t change them ourselves. There is NO magic formula. There are no magic kids. No quick-fix in this job. Sorry – it just doesn’t work that way. God tell us to point them to Him and pray hard. Model Christlike behavior to them, teach it and live it. By God’s grace – they will place their whole trust in Him for salvation. And salvation from sin and death in the next life has benefits for this life as well.
I would not only recommend you read this book – no matter what stage of parenting you are at right now – but also that you buy a few extra copies to give to your parenting friends.
Have a great weekend!