Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

Reviewed by Marti Hutchison
Parenting is difficult; excellent, God-centered parenting is IMPOSSIBLE without the grace of God. There is no shortage of advice out there about how to raise children.  How can a parent discern which of the many well-meaning "experts" are right?  Does God's Word have any real direction for us?  Genuine believers vary widely in their parenting philosophies and methods, so to whom do we listen? 
Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp, does an excellent job of addressing the heart of this issue of childrearing. Tripp, a seasoned parent, pastor, counselor and school administrator, offers no magical formula, but, instead, calls parents to the arduous task of pursuing a relationship with each of our children and living daily in the light of the Gospel as we parent.   
Shepherding a Child's Heart can be divided, pragmatically, into two parts.  The first part of the book provides the foundation for Biblical parenting, and looks at what the goals of parenting ought to be and how to pursue those goals.  It further discusses how to engage our children in what really matters, by addressing heart issues and emphasizes that communication and discipline work together.  The second half of the book provides practical training objectives and procedures for infancy through the teen years. 
Tripp's thesis, if you will, is that every behavior has its root in the heart.  We must address the heart issue, and not the outward behavior, in each of our interactions with our children.  We should, therefore, not aim for outward conformity in our children's behavior but a change of understanding of the way in which the behavior either glorified God or was sin against Him.  The goal of discipline, then, is NOT punitive, but corrective, and should be used as a means to restore relationship (with God, with parents, with others). Conversely, the goal of discipline is NOT to alienate, embarrass or chide. 
The author discusses that in order to discipline confidently, we need to first understand our calling to be in authority over our children; not because we're smarter, bigger or less sinful, but because that is the role God has given us.  We are to be shepherds to our children.  We have been placed in their lives to guide, protect, correct, discipline and teach.  Our role is NOT to "catch" them being "bad", but to understand their sinfulness and their need of a Savior, just as we understand this about ourselves.  
Tripp encourages parents to use the "shaping influences" in our children's lives (family life, siblings, values, the culture around us, etc.) to lead them toward a Godward orientation in life.  It is our role to equip them to respond to everything in life with an awareness of the Gospel, our need of it, and a desire to please God BECAUSE of it.    
I love this book!!  The centrality of the Gospel (the good news of Jesus and His pursuit of a relationship with us) permeates the book.  We must, likewise, pursue a relationship with each child that God has blessed us with, and, by God's grace, within the context of the authoritative role God has given us as parents, help our children internalize the Gospel so that it effects every aspect of their lives.  God has commanded us to "teach them (His commandments) to our children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deut. 11: 19  This command doesn't look optional to me.  We cannot assume that someone else is going to shepherd our children.  No, parenting isn't for sissies, but it is for people committed to relationship with Jesus, and humbly relying on Him to enable them to do what He has called them to do.  "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'." II Corinthians 12:9. Our great Shepherd will help each of us as we shepherd our children.      


  1. Good points and all the more important when so much advice is not just lacking God's guidance but is now anti-God.

    I haven't read the book, but it sounds good.

  2. Sounds like a helpful book. There was an interesting article in this month's Christianity Today - the Myth of the Perfect Parent - seems to get at similar issues.