Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shepherding a Child's Heart

I recently finished reading Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. (Well, the last chapters were on Training Objectives and Procedures for childhood and teens. I did not read those but skimmed them. I’m in a different area right now and will be for a while.) I first heard of this book when a blogging friend did a review on a parenting seminar completed by Tripp. Some personal friends then recommended the book and I realized I should check it out.

I have to say, although there were several, several things in the book I adore; overall I was left a little unimpressed. (Let me add, I read the original print of 1995, the book was edited and revised in 2005. I verified some things have been taken out and some added.) Since Lily was born God has moved our parenting vision from one of a “well-behaved child” to a vision of godly parenting. Tripp addresses this issue beautifully in the first part of the book. The concept is that what is in the heart is what flows out of the heart. (Proverbs 4:23) In other words, what is in the heart is what determines behavior. He focuses on the sinfulness of our hearts from birth. Biblically speaking, he points out that everyone is essentially “religious.” (Romans 1:18-19) We either worship the one true God, or we worship idols. Our goal as parents should be to teach our children about God’s ways and truth and to pray that God will reveal Himself to them and eventually change their heart towards Him.

Tripp communicated very well that the chief goal is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (He takes this from the Westminster Shorter Catechism…that I know because it’s the only one I have memorized.) When our goals are focused on athletics, social skills, well-behaved children, education, or even “saved” children, we have to examine if these are leading us away from glorifying God. (“Saved children” may raise a few eyebrows but his point is just because God has changed your child’s heart does not mean there is no work to do as a parent.)

My favorite part of the book is probably what Tripp has to say about communication. Communication is expanded from mere rules, correction, and discipline to encouragement, correction, rebuke, instruction, warning, teaching, admonition, showing the “benefits,” and obedience. All of these forms of communication are used at different points depending on the situation.

Now, this is long enough and I want to get to the points I didn’t like. I believe Tripp has a view on discipline that we, Nate and I, agree with. Basically, if the child hasn’t obeyed the first time, discipline is required. More importantly, God is the offended when a child fails to obey, not the parent. (Ephesians 6:1) While speaking during discipline, we have spoke of the offense to God but I believe we sometimes take it more personal and are more upset that the child offended us than that she offended God. We agree with Tripp that the early years are the most important for teaching obedience. We agree that children need to learn they are under authority given by God.

However, under Tripp’s section “Objection to the Rod” in Chapter 11, he goes a little too far for us. He goes over being discreet in physical discipline because some people disagree and you basically run the chance of being called into the authorities. He mentions an incident when one of his children had been in need of “much discipline” and had a doctor’s appointment. The child’s bottom was "black and blue"and they had a “sensible” doctor that knew bruising in the appropriate locality was not a sign of child abuse. As I have mentioned before, I previously worked for Child Protective Services and remain and advocate for abused and neglected children through CASA. Bruising is completely unacceptable due to spanking. There is no reason for a person to hit a child hard enough to bruise them. Now, let me add, Tripp is huge advocate for using controlled discipline. I, however, do not believe that under controlled discipline that you will bruise a child’s bottom. I do not necessarily believe that a bruised child is an abused child; I just find it unacceptable.

Tripp also made a comment that if an 8 month old is in need of discipline then it is due. My experience as a parent is that although an 8 month old is curious and possibly defiant, defiance is not really comprehended. I tend to lean more towards Dr. James Dobson’s view on the matter in The New Strong-Willed Child that a child should not be spanked until the ages of 15-18 months. (Note: I do not have a strong willed child, I read this book before Lily was 3 months old.) Dr. Dobson includes a study completed by the American Academy of Pediatrics in or around 1995 supporting the use of corporal punishment. The article includes information on age appropriate corporal punishment.

So, I would recommend the book to have a better understanding of shepherding your child’s heart through biblical communication, which I think is very important. I would also recommend visiting Kimberly at Raising Olives and read her series on Your Child’s Heart.


Crystal Mary said...

I do believe in spanking, however, not violently, and not always. When my youngest son was about eight he rode his bike a long distance from home, to an unsafe place. He was gone for hours and when he came home I was so relieved. But, because I told him he was never to go and because he took no notice and because he could have been harmed, I smacked him 10 times on the back of his legs with a wooden spoon (10 was the highest number for the worst offence). It was hard enough to sting but not hard enough to bruise. It hurt me terribly to do it. I let him cry in his room for about ten minutes and then I went to him and comforted him, telling him how I loved him, but that he had been very naughty. He never went back to that place again. Love is being consistant in child rearing. I also feel if a parent is likely to be too angry, they should walk away and think before dealing out punishing, lest they go too far.
God Bless.

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

I have the Shepherding a Child's Heart book and read it when my older two were the age of your children...and I loved it. DH and I were not raised in Christian homes, so we are pioneers in Christian parenting in our family. What that means is this book was a HUGE help to me in rearing that first one (not having a clue what we were doing!)

I don't remember anything in my book about black and blue bottoms...maybe I have an older edition? I would disagree with that too. I've never left bruises on my kids. Red bottoms, yes. Black and blue, no.

I do think you have to be careful about how you discipline in public, though. You'd be surprised how many people will stick their nose in your business because they don't believe in ANY discipline.

The thing is, stay calm, and don't ever discipline while you're angry.

I remember the first time I disciplined my oldest...he was only about a year old, and I only spanked his hand, but he flat knew what he was doing. And, he never did it again. :-)

Jama said...

It's been over 10 years since I read his book. At the time the concept of "Biblical discipline" was foreign to me. It helped my husband and me gain a better understanding of that concept. As with any book written by man, take what lines up with God's Word and leave the rest. I've read other books since then that I like from a more practical standpoint that help you recognize heart issues. From what I remember Tripp's book helped me understand the "why", but didn't do a great job on the "how."

LOVE the name change of your blog. I think it represents who you are and the way in which you are headed. :-)

Michelle said...

Crystal: you are right on...consistency is key.

Chelle: we need to talk more. :) We are in the same boat. N and my backgrounds are lacking in a biblical worldview, even if they are considered "Christian." This book was great on helping us understand "why" like Jama said.

Jama: You need to hook me up with some of those more practical books. But wait awhile...I keep checking books out at the library and can't get myself finished with the book of Judges! I'm on a fast from any other books until I'm finished! My 6 mo bible reading program is a LITTLE off schedule!

Tracy said...

I really appreciate your thoughts and comments here Michelle.

I adore this concept of our goal NOT being to have a "well behaved child" but to see how we can help our children understand and grow in their primary life purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

I concur that a "black and blue bottom" would not be acceptable discipline for me. I also agree with Dobson that sometime after a year old, when I could tell the child was willfully, and with understanding, choosing to disobey was when discipline came in. For me it was a wooden spoon across the bottom-sharp enough to be felt but no real pain and certainly no bruising. By the time my sons were in early elementary school, physical punishment wasn't used any longer because I'd found other means that seemed more appropriate for us and worked for them.

I've been blessed with 3 very strong willed sons and, although it makes the teen years really rough, I feel grateful for the leaders the younger two are becoming and the fine young man & leader my 22 year old is.

Mesha said...

HI MICHELLE! Didn't really get to read read your blog today, I'm at work but I wanted to at least drop by to let you know I appreciated your comment on my blog and will be following yours to learn a bit about you as well. Hope you've had a good week and have a even more blessed weekend.

Tony C said...

I've got to read Dobson's book you mention! My first one was not very defiant, but #2 is picking up her the slack. I have found that the threat of a spanking followed up with the actually act when necessary sets the tone that 'I mean what I say.' Now I only have to show anger or disappointment for a message to be conveyed to the toddler, when she will then go running and screaming to her room 'I'm so bad!' and promptly sit in her bed.
Is that a female thing? I made my mom work for any spanking she gave me.

Good people above me. Mesha is my hero...