Review: Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

I need help raising children!

This book came recommended from my father-in-law as the best book on parenting he’s ever read, getting to the heart of the issues like no other child-raising methodology does. I finally read it, with 2 children of my own, ages 3 and 1, and I concur – this is the kind of parent I want to be.

Tripp sets forth a high standard for parenting: “One of the most important callings God has given parents is to display the greatness, goodness, and glory of the God for whom they are made.” (p. xii) A most insightful penetrating paragraph explains it like this: “Parenting is your primary calling. Parenting will mean that you can’t do all the things that you could otherwise do. It will affect your golf handicap. It may mean your home does not look like a picture from Better Homes and Gardens. It will impact your career and ascent on the corporate ladder… It will modify the amount of time you have for bowling, hunting, television, or how many books you read. It will mean that you can’t develop every interest that comes along. The costs are high.” (97) We will answer to God for how we exercised our responsibility to raise our children according to His commands. This is the bedrock truth of parenting. One of the most challenging parts for me, was the truth that we can’t just tell them what to do, we have to model it in our own lives. We must be a display for them of someone who loves and delights in God from the heart, and is devoted above all things to His glory. Otherwise we end up raising hypocrites just like we.

Tripp then lays out his thesis. The heart is more important than the behavior, because behavior flows from the heart. One of the keys is this: “You must help your child ask the questions that will expose that attitude of the heart that resulted in wrong behavior.” (5) On the other hand, you must also have your goal to win their heart to Christ (again, not just conform their behavior to christian standards).

The two main methods for this are Communication, and The Rod. For me, the chapters on communication were incredibly helpful. “The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another. Your objective in communication must be to understand your child, not simply to have your child understand you. Many parents never learn these skills. They never discover how to help their children articulate their thoughts and feelings.” (73)

“Honest, thorough, truly biblical communication is expensive. Insightful and penetrating conversations take time… Children do not pour their hearts out or open themselves up on a demand schedule… In those times, when their conscience is stirred, you need to talk. This may require dropping everything else to seize a critical moment. You must become a good listener.” (90)

Elsewhere in the book he discusses: the sinful nature of all children; the nature of a parent’s authority; exposes and details bad parenting goals and methods; how to properly use the rod in discipline; and finally lays out specific “objectives” and “procedures” for three stages of a child’s development.

This was by far the most helpful book on parenting I’ve ever read. I will be revisiting it again as my children grow and the challenges increase. My father-in-law said one of the most helpful things was to have his wife read it, so they could be on the same page when discussing their children. Interestingly, a pastor also told me that he found this book helpful in shepherding the hearts of the people in his church.

I will definitely be reading this book again in the future. I highly recommend it to anyone with children.

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