Book Review: Shepherding a Child's Heart – Tedd Tripp

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I’ve learned two things (and more) from being in seminary and now having worked/working at 2 seminaries:
1. You can have a lot of practical expertise and not know any theology.
2. You can know TONS of theology and not be able to put it into practice well.

Tedd Tripp has authored a book that is good at both. He gives you the theology behind good parenting; and he gives you very practical follow-through so apply this theology.
What I love about this book: (the above paragraph), I love his humility (he and his wife do not have it all together), and his accomplishment of the task at hand – instructing parents how to not only target their children’s actions, but how to reach their hearts – to shepherd their hearts.
“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.” (p 6)Tripp spends the first half of the book laying the foundation to parenting, shepherding, Scripture, etc. “You need to direct not simply the behavior of your children, but the attitudes of their hearts.” (p xxi) Then the second half, he gives very practical advice for different stages of child-rearing: toddlers, children, teenagers. I found these extremely helpful – even as I think back about my youth ministry days and think ahead as I volunteer in the church and even babysit. These are great truths and principles to be adopted.
I went to a Christian school from K-12th grade, only missing one semester. I remember a conversation my mom had when we were talking about one of the trouble makers in my grade. She said something to the effect that her parents probably sent her to this school in hopes that they would “straighten her out”. Tripp makes a similar comment in the opening of this book: “They had hoped that school would provide the direction and motivation they had not been able to provide for their daughter.” (p xvii) The school nor the church have been given the role of chief discipler/parent in your child’s life. You have been given that role (see Deut 6).
“You want the values of your home to be scripturally informed.” (p 22) I saw this lived out in my mentor’s home. Scripture was every where. Itunes was on to the latest Christian praise and worship. But that wasn’t all – conversations were lined with biblical thought, ministry was front and center, relationships were key. All pointing to Scripture. Another one of my friends, Kathy, has as her ministry Scripture Pictures, because she wants to get the Word into as many homes as possible. She does beautiful hand drawn Scripture in art. Amazing woman!
My former professor, Dr. Alvin Reid, at SEBTS, says this: “It is vital that we incorporate the gospel into every fabric of our lives. Our interaction with our neighbors should bring glory to God and communicate Christ to those who need him.”
“Parenting is a pervasive task.” (p 33) Recently, I heard a radio interview with Sandra Bullock, star of The Blind Side. She said, “Being a mother is easy, all you have to do is love”. While there may be some truth in that, there are far deeper implications for parenting than just love. I don’t think I have ever heard a parent say that parenting is easy.
Some would say the best way to raise a child is to shelter them from society. Tripp says this: “You must equip your children to function in a culture that has abandoned the knowledge of God. Your objective in every context must be to set a biblical worldview before your children.” (p 45, 6)
“You must bring integrity to your interaction with your children. You model the dynamics of the Christian life for your children. You must let them see sonship with the Father in you. You should show them repentance. Acknowledge your joys and fears and how you find comfort in God. Live a shared life of repentance and thankfulness. Acknowledge your own sin and weakness. Admit when you are wrong. Be prepared to seek forgiveness for sinning against your children. The right to make searching and honest appraisal of your children lies in willingness to do the same for yourself.” (p 91)
“You must address the heart as the fountain of behavior, and the conscience a the God-given judge of right and wrong. The cross of Christ must be the central focus of your child rearing. God’s standard is correct behavior flowing from a heart that loves God and has God’s glory as the sole purpose of life. That is not native to your children (nor to their parents).” (p. 120)
“Whatever you do will require patience. It is hard for a family to change its direction. What is ahead of you is a matter of spiritual struggle against the forces of evil. There is more to it than applying some principles. Pray; seek God’s help. Wait on God. Study the Scriptures with your children. Try to take them along with you on your spiritual pilgrimage. Share with them what you’re learning and why changes in your family life are important.” (p 158)
“If you never address the character, you will never get beyond bare obedience.” (p 163)
“The primary context for parental instruction is set forth in Deuteronomy 6. It is the ordinary context of daily living. Your children see the power of a life of faith as they see you living it. You do not need to be perfect, you simply need to be people of integrity who are living life in the rich, robust truth of the Word of God.” (p 192)

With every book there are drawbacks:
1. All the illustrations. They are great, but for some they will try to live out these truths and principles in the exact same way – or they won’t be able to live these out at all because they won’t get past the illustration. Way to succeed: ask God how you need to apply these truths to your family, don’t rely on the family of the Tripps to be successful.
2. “God intends for parenting to be a temporary task.” (p 210) I disagree with this statement. Yes, you might not discipline them the same or help them make every decision, but my parents are still my parents. They help me in many ways: to make wise decisions, to give me advice, to help financially some, to be friends with; but they are still my parents.

This book is very helpful. If you haven’t read it, please do.