Kim Davidson

Thursday Book Club: Shepherding a Child's Heart

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Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, (Shepherd Press, 1995),  211 pages. I've learned at least two things while in school: 1. You can have a lot of practical expertise and not know anything. 2. You can know a lot and not be able to do anything.

Tedd Tripp writes a book that gives us both. He gives you the theology behind good parenting, and he gives you very practical follow-through to apply this theology.

What I love about this book: (the above paragraph), I love his humility (he and his wife do not have it all together), and his accomplishment of the task at hand - instructing parents how to not only target their children's actions, but how to reach their hearts - to shepherd their hearts.  He follows through on the intentions for this book.  He does not leave you wondering what should be the main goal in parenting: shepherding your child’s heart toward the Gospel.  "Your concern is to unmask your child's sin, helping him to understand how it reflects a heart that has strayed. That leads to the cross of Christ. It underscores the need for a Savior." (p 6)

Tripp spends the first half of the book laying the foundation to parenting, shepherding, Scripture, etc. "You need to direct not simply the behavior of your children, but the attitudes of their hearts." (p xxi) Then the second half, he gives very practical advice for different stages of child-rearing: toddlers, children, teenagers. I found these extremely helpful - even as I think back about my youth ministry days and think ahead as I volunteer in the church and even babysit. These are great truths and principles to be adopted.  A friend commented to me (she is single, does a lot of babysitting) that she even practices these truths with the children she babysits for, hoping one day God would bless her with own children, but taking every opportunity to reach the heart of children in her life.  I do not have children either, so I’m in the preparing stage…and I can use these truths in ministry, babysitting, or just as a gauge when watching other parents interact with their children.

I went to a Christian school from K-12th grade, only missing one semester. I remember a conversation my mom had when we were talking about one of the trouble-makers in my grade.  She said something to the effect that her parents probably sent her to this school in hopes that they would "straighten her out". Tripp makes a similar comment in the opening of this book: "They had hoped that school would provide the direction and motivation they had not been able to provide for their daughter." (p xvii) The school nor the church have been given the role of chief disciple-maker in your child's life. You have been given that role (see Deut 6).  You must take on the responsibility.  Be bold, be brave, seek advice, read books, but most importantly – live out the truth found in Scripture with your kids in your home on a daily basis.  No one will pick up your slack.

"You must bring integrity to your interaction with your children. You model the dynamics of the Christian life for your children. You must let them see sonship with the Father in you. You should show them repentance. Acknowledge your joys and fears and how you find comfort in God. Live a shared life of repentance and thankfulness. Acknowledge your own sin and weakness. Admit when you are wrong. Be prepared to seek forgiveness for sinning against your children. The right to make searching and honest appraisal of your children lies in willingness to do the same for yourself." (p 91)

"You must address the heart as the fountain of behavior, the conscience, the God-given judge of right and wrong.  The cross of Christ must be the central focus of your child rearing. God's standard is correct behavior flowing from a heart that loves God and has God's glory as the sole purpose of life. That is not native to your children (nor to you their parents)." (p. 120)  "Whatever you do will require patience. It is hard for a family to change its direction. What is ahead of you is a matter of spiritual struggle against the forces of evil. There is more to it than applying some principles. Pray.  Seek God's help. Wait on God. Study the Scriptures with your children. Try to take them along with you on your spiritual pilgrimage. Share with them what you're learning and why changes in your family life are important." (p 158)

With every book there are drawbacks: 1. All the illustrations. They are great, but for some they will try to live out these truths and principles in the exact same way - or they won't be able to live these out at all because they won't get past the illustration.  Ask God how you need to apply these truths to your family.  Don't try to be the Tripps. 2. "God intends parenting to be a temporary task." (p 210) I disagree with this statement. Yes, you might not discipline them the same or help them make every decision, but my parents are still my parents. They help me in many ways: to make wise decisions, to give me advice, to help financially some, to be friends with; but they are still my parents.

This book can benefit everyone who reads it.  If you have children, it gives you hope for the journey because there is hope in the Gospel.  If you are about to get married (with the intent of having children), it gives you solid truths to work through in pre-marital counseling.  If you work in childrens’ or youth ministry at church or in your community, this will help you better relate to parents and how to shepherd the children/teens while they are in your care.  Take every opportunity, no matter where God has you, to shepherd a child’s heart.