Review of Shepherding a Child’s Heart

When I read a review on a new book called Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp, I was quite interested. I purchased the book a year and a half ago and have read it through two times, planning to reread it once a year. The things Tedd Tripp said about our children’s hearts made sense.

We do not deal simply with behavior issues, but rather with the heart from which the behavior comes. If, by the firmness of my discipline, I gain the compliance of my child’s actions but not his heart, we still have a long way to go. Mr. Tripp says, “A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. Is it not the hypocrisy that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees? In Matthew 15, Jesus denounces the Pharisees who honored Him with their lips while their hearts were far from Him. Jesus censures them as people who wash the outside of the cup while the inside is still unclean. Yet this is what we often do in child-rearing. We demand changed behavior and never address the heart that drives the behavior.”

This book dealt with how we can use situations in our homes that require discipline or teaching to help our children look at their hearts. Rather than addressing a fight over a toy by trying to determine who had it first, we are encouraged to show each child the sinfulness in his heart that caused the offense. Mr. Tripp encourages us with, “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. It provides opportunities to show the glories of God Who sent His Son to change hearts and free people enslaved to sin.”

This is important to me. Although I do desire good behavior and attitudes in our home, my greater desire is for my children to learn to see their sin, ask forgiveness for it, and seek Jesus’ help in forsaking it. Good behavior and attitudes will naturally result from this. My children struggle with kindness toward each other practically every day. As a mother, I would much rather have a child who humbly admits his selfishness and asks forgiveness for it than one who pridefully defends his behavior. I also tend to be more lenient with a child whom I feel has a genuinely repentant heart than with the one who cannot, or will not, admit fault.

Mr. Tripp also says, “You must understand, and help your child to understand, how his straying heart has resulted in wrong behavior. How did his heart defect to produce this behavior? In what characteristic ways has his inability or refusal to know, trust, and obey God resulted in actions and speech that are wrong? . . . You must learn to work back from the behavior you see to the heart, exposing heart issues for your children. In short, you must learn to engage them, not just reprove them. Help them see the ways that they are trying to slake their soul’s thirst with that which cannot satisfy. You must help your kids gain a clear focus on the cross of Christ.”

I have not found this to be easy for two reasons. First, it takes time to have these discussions with a child, and often they are needed at an inconvenient time. Second, I will sometimes not be able to convince my child that his behavior was wrong. He will strongly defend what he has done, usually based on what another did to him. Often, if I confront him with a question, which asks him if Jesus would be pleased with his behavior, the answer is rather simple. Whether it is easy, or whether the time is readily available, it is my goal to address the heart of my child. That is one of the main reasons we homeschool. What better use of the time even if it does interrupt Joseph’s math or John’s phonics? As a matter of fact, this year I have planned extra time into my one-on-one school with each child so that I will have time to handle interruptions when they need to be addressed.

Mr. Tripp also mentions, “Secondly, you must be actively shepherding the Godward orientation of your children. In all of this you must pray that God will work in and around your efforts and the responses of your children to make them people who know and honor God.” The longer Steve and I parent, the more we see our need to be constantly crying out to the Lord for wisdom in parenting our children, for our children’s hearts and attitudes, and for their future and direction. Our own efforts may produce “good” children, but we want children whose hearts are turned fully to the Lord. This will not come about if Steve and I are only faithful in our personal walk with the Lord. We must also fulfill what He has called us to as parents, being totally dependent on the Lord to work in the hearts of our children.

There is much more that this book talks about, which I do not have the space for in this Mom’s Corner. I have read many Christian books on raising children. Most of them have a focus on manipulating a child’s behavior but don’t deal at all with the heart from which that behavior comes. I think Shepherding a Child’s Heart is a valuable resource for our homes. I hope, if you have not read it and choose to, that it will give you encouragement and direction.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Shepherd Press, P.O. Box 24, Wapwallopen, PA 18660 or (800) 338-1445.

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