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.