Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart – the best-selling, gospel-centred book on parenting – recently visited us in Sheffield to talk about parenting.Tripp’s latest book is Instructing a Child’s Heart which is also available in the States as a DVD. I’ve included a promo video at the end of this post.
Here are my notes on Tedd’s talk to us in The Crowded House …
‘Above all else, guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.’ (Proverbs 4.23).
Parenting must be heart-centred for the heart is the wellspring of life. The heart in the biblical terms is not simply the seat of emotions. We think, discern, fear and so on with our hearts. Our heart is our inner self. (1 Samuel 16.7; Deuteronomy 10.12; 1 Chronicles 28.9; Proverbs 3.5-6; 2 Chronicles 16.9; 1 Kings 8.57-58.; Matthew 15.8, 17-20;
It is not enough to tackle behaviour through manipulation (bribery, shame, threats etc.). When we only tackle behaviour:
1. The real need is not addressed.
2. We present a false basis for ethics (selfish ethics)
3. The heart is being wrongly trained. E.g. we might teach children to fear others.
4. The gospel will not be central. When we manipulate we appeal to idols in the child’s heart (appealing to pride, greed etc.).
5. Manipulation shows our idols of our hearts (our idolatrous desire for pride, control, ease, convenience, fear of man).
Where to go with this?
1. The Bible reveals hearts (Hebrews 4.12).
2. There is always a ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ of behaviour. But we confuse the ‘when’ and the ‘why’. We answer the ‘why’ question by saying ‘when’ – i.e. pointing to circumstances – when the answer is in the heart.
3. We all have a profound need for grace (Ezekiel 36.25-27). Help your children understand their need for the gospel.
We need to help our children understand thir hearts and their need hearts. It’s not that we never address behaviour. If a child is hitting his sister we don’t wait for heart change! But we must have a bigger vision a long-term focus on the heart.
Two-year-olds do not have sufficient self-awareness to address heart issues with them. But we can teach them to live under loving authority and introduce the biblical language of the heart and its motivations.
Most parents give away their authority before even their children go to school as we negotiate with them and let them override our decisions. We shouldn’t teach five-year-olds to be decision-makers – we should model good decisions and obedience to authority. Teach them that it is a blessing to live under wise and loving authority.
How can we regain authority when we have given it away? Start with instruction. ‘Mum and Dad gave gained some new insights from God’s word that will help us as a family. Sorry we didn’t see this before.’ So start with instruction and then set new parametres.
Five to twelve year-olds
We often address behaviour because behaviour is visible. But doing the right thing for the wrong motive is hypocrisy. We also expose our hypocrisy: ‘I can’t believe you’re so selfish!’ = hypocrisy. Instead we can share our common need and our common hope in Christ. We’ll never got to the grace of the gospel if we’re manipulating behaviour.
Goals with our Teenagers
1. Internalization of the gospel. We want them to embrace God’s truth as their own living faith. Shepherd their interaction with God’s word – not just reprimanding, but taking them to God’s word. ‘I didn’t write this book –
this is God’s word.’ Helping them are the vitality and relevance of God’s word.
2. Shepherding through the inevitable periods of doubt. Don’t panic, but talk openly about doubts.
3. Developing a relationship that leads to mutuality as adults under God. We need to move from parent instructing child, to a mutual relationship of care.
Three foundations for teens from Proverbs 1
1. Fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1.7). Show the greatness and excellence of God.
2. Remembering your parents’ words (Proverbs 1.8-9). Remind them that no one loves them like you do. Their friends are fickle, but parents love and sacrifice no matter what.
3. Disassociation from the wicked (Proverbs 1.10-19). The attractiveness with the wicked is camaraderie – a sense of belonging. Make home a great place of belonging.