Shepherding a Child’s Heart Study: Chapters 18 and 19

shepherding a childs heart study

Today we cover the final chapters in our Shepherding a Child’s Heart book study. These chapters cover one of the seemingly “scariest” topics in parenthood – teenagers! Tripp basically builds on the principles laid out in the previous chapters. Many people cringe when they think of their children entering the teenage years, but Tripp says this need not be so. Parents often seem surprised when their teen rebels, but Tripp points out that often the seeds of rebellion were already present in the younger years. It’s just that as the child grows, he or she realizes that Mom and Dad are not all powerful and they no longer fear the consequences so they begin to act on the rebellion that already existed. This is why it is so important to begin this shepherding process early. A few things that stuck out to me as I read:

Young people generally do not run from places where they are loved and know unconditional acceptance. They do not run away from homes where there are solid relationships. They do not run from homes in which the family is planning activities and doing exciting things.

You can accomplish nothing of lasting value simply by being an authority. You must seek to counsel and influence.

Encourage your children not to run from their questions. Everyone does not have to have every question, but everyone must find resolution for the questions he has. Christian faith is robust enough to stand close scrutiny.

Overall, as I finish up the book, I am reminded that as the children grow older, my relationship with them counts more than the rules I make. I must work to influence them during the teen years, not simply command them. I can set all the rules I want, but what good do those do when the child leaves home (or can circumvent any rule I come up with while still in the home)? He or she needs to be able to think for themselves, and it is my role to guide them in that process.

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Shepherding a Child’s Heart Study: Chapter 15

shepherding a childs heart study

We are almost to the end of our Shepherding a Child’s Heart book study. Today’s chapter goes into more detail on the idea of spanking. In the opening of the chapter, Tripp pointed out that he and his wife used to notice “cyclical patterns of behavior” with their children, where “every few months, they would become unruly,” so the Tripp’s would get serious about being precise and consistent, returning to the “basics – speaking once and expecting obedience.” As things returned to normal, eventually the pattern would repeat itself. Then one day, they realized they were the ones producing the cycles! “When things went well, we became lax. Eventually, the deterioration in our children’s behavior would become painfully obvious. We would respond with renewed courage and effort.” Before getting into any of the rest of the chapter, I have to admit that this passage hit me over the head! I have seen this exact thing in my two boys. As soon as I think my boys have something down, a week or two later the issue will start cropping up again! And I realized that this is sometimes because I let things slide when they are “mostly” obeying. I was convicted of my need to be more consistent in how I deal with disobedience. This can be hard because it takes effort and mental stamina that can sometimes be difficult to muster. But if I keep the end goal in mind, then I will be more likely to persevere.

Moving on, the rest of the chapter goes into the how, when, and why’s of spanking. In a nutshell, Tripp says:

  • When: “when you have given a directive that he has heard and is within his capacity to understand, and he has not obeyed without challenge, without excuse or without delay”
  • How: “You must avoid responding in anger…treating your child without proper respect for his person and dignity,…temper unwavering firmness with kindness and gentleness, Remember that discipline is a rescue mission, [and] You must keep the spanking focused on issues of the heart”
  • Why: “God commands it. Additionally, spanking enables you to deal with issues of the heart”

Tripp then addresses some of the frequently asked questions. This is where I again disagreed with him a bit. For example he says “Rebellion can be something as simple as a small child struggling against a diaper change or stiffening his body when you want him to sit on your lap….You have no way of knowing how much a child less than a year old can understand, but we do know that understanding comes long before the ability to articulate.” The problem is that earlier Tripp says that a parent must “Secure an acknowledgement from the child of what he has done.” This obviously can’t be done with a very young child and I would be very careful of seeing something like struggling against a diaper change as true “rebellion” at less than a year old.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart Study: Chapter 14

shepherding a childs heart study

As we move into Part 2 of the Shepherding a Child’s Heart Book Study, Tripp goes into detail about how the objectives and methods of Part 1 work within an actual family. Again, I had some disagreements with the author, but I still found some valuable reminders in the chapter.

First Tripp talks about the command to honor one’s parents. One point that Tripp made that stood to me in this section was that

The parent must be honorable in his conduct and demeanor….A parent who is respectful to his children and teaches them with dignity and respect will be respected by his children. You may not yell at your children. You do not make them your slaves. Suffering indignities from you cannot be a part of submission to authority. When you fail to be respectful or courteous, or sin against them, you must seek forgiveness.

This reminds me of the saying “more is caught than is taught.” We can tell our children to be respectful and submissive, but if we don’t model it, we will simply be teaching them to be hypocrites like us.

Secondly Tripp addresses the command to obey one’s parents. He says it means a child should do what he or she is told “without challenge, without excuse, [and] without delay.” The parent, in turn, must be consistent and give clear directives. The child, however, is not without recourse. The child can appeal (not challenge), but he or she must begin to obey immediately, be prepared to graciously obey either way, and appeal in a respectful way. When the child obeys, Tripp says “It should be our habit to say ‘Yes’ to a request unless there are good reasons to say ‘No.’ It is easy to say ‘No’ because we do not want to think through the implications of saying ‘Yes.’”

I must admit that I am guilty of tending to say “no” out of habit, without really thinking things through. I want to show my children grace, not just “the law,” so I need to work on implementing this idea of saying “yes” to appeals and requests unless there is a good reason to say no.

The final quote that stood out to me was this:

Even though the child will not be able to fully appreciate the importance of submission, training him to do what he ought, regardless of how he feels, prepares him to be a person who lives by principle rather than mood or impulse.

This is certainly something I want to train my children to do – not to be swayed by friends or emotions, but to do what’s right regardless of influences.

As I said, I didn’t agree with everything Tripp said. One problem I think Tripp should have addressed was that he mentions the verse in Ephesians 6 that tells children to obey and honor their parents that it may go well with them and they may enjoy long life on the earth. Tripp then says that if children stay inside the circle of honoring and obeying, “within that circle things will go well and they will enjoy long lives.” Except that’s not always true. Anyone who has ever lost a child knows this. The Bible doesn’t teach that there is a circle of safety and that you are guaranteed a long life and everything will go well if you just honor and obey your parents. Nor does the Bible necessarily teach that those who don’t honor and obey will necessarily have a poor life and die young, though this, of course, can happen. In the early years of a church, honoring and obeying your parents (in a time when Roman persecution of Christians was at its height) in many cases actually guaranteed an early death as a martyr. I think, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like this promise is a general one, not a specific one – i.e. in general principle, if you learn to obey and honor your parents, life usually goes better than if you rebel, and your rebellion could lead to an early death by poor choices (think of the rebellious teens and young adults who die every day from drug overdoses, drunk driving, gang violence, etc.). But this promise is not a specific cause and effect principle for every person. The command to honor and obey is for everyone, but the specific consequences for doing or not doing this are more general rather than specific to every single individual.