Loaded with examples from his own parenting experience, Tedd Tripp seeks to give us the proper biblical foundation for raising children in a God-honoring way. He begins by pointing us to Proverbs 4:23, which states, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Our actions spring forth from the heart—the internal determines the external. When we sin, it is because we are acting upon sinful desires that we harbor within ourselves. This strongly affects the way we parent our children. Too often, parents discipline to change behaviors rather than heart attitudes. The big problem with this is that forcing outward obedience without encouraging inward godliness results in both inward and outward rebellion. When we merely seek to change our children’s behaviors without addressing their hearts, it is inevitable that they will rebel in the future. Not only this, but outward obedience without inward heart-change is abhorrent to God, who sees and judges the wicked hearts of men. We must parent our children in a way that brings about inward heart change and points them to Christ. This book has impactful insights on the purpose of parenting, communication with our children, and how we ought to go about disciplining them.
What I found most striking about this book was its insights on discipline. Proverbs 23:13-14 says, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.” From this, we see that we must spank (the rod) our children in order for them to live godly lives. The passage does not end there, however. In verse 15, it also says, “My son, if your heart is wise, my own heart also will be glad.” The purpose of discipline is not to produce children that merely behave well, but that also possess wise hearts. The rod can be only used in the task of Shepherding a Child’s Heart when its purpose is restoration instead of retribution. The rod must be used lovingly, which means that the parent must clearly explain what the child has done wrong and point him to Christ afterward. The parent must teach his children that they are sinners by nature, but he cannot stop there; children must also know that Christ came to save sinners like them. It is also extremely important that parents, when disciplining their children, clearly explain that they are doing it in obedience to God’s commands in Scripture. Children must learn to submit to their parents’ authority, but they must also see that their parents submit to God’s authority.
Tweetable thoughts from the book:
- Behavior change that does not come from a changed heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.
- The behavior a person exhibits is an expression of the overflow of the heart.
- God works from the inside out. Therefore, your parenting goal cannot simply be well behaved children.
- You will never have the hearts of your children if you talk with them only when something has gone wrong.
- If you discipline your children because God mandates it, then you need not clutter up the task with your anger.
- When you fail to hold out the standards of God, you rob your children of the mercy of the gospel.
- All behavior is linked to attitudes of the heart. Therefore, discipline must address attitudes of the heart.
- Anger may teach your children to fear you and even behave better, but it will not bring about biblical righteousness.
- Your right to discipline your children is tied to what God has called you to do, not to your own agenda.