Saturday, November 25, 2006

Shepherding a Child’s Heart (3)

Continuing to lay the background for whys of biblical parenting, Pastor Tripp moves away from the shaping influences of childhood to the core issue - what Tripp calls “Godward Orientation.” Proverbs 9:7-10 states the following:

7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
According to Tripp, whatever the shaping influences of life may be, it is the “Godward Orientation” of the child that determines his response to those shaping influences. What finally determines whether a child responds as a mocker or a wise man? It is the fear of the Lord that makes one wise and it is that wisdom that determines how he responds to the correction.

Contrary to the pop psychology of the day, children are never morally neutral. Tripp argues that everyone is essentially religious: they either worship God or they worship idols. Remember Romans 1:18-19?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
According to Paul, your children either respond to God by faith or they suppress the truth for their own sin.
If they respond to God by faith, they find fulfillment in knowing and serving God. If they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, they will ultimately worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator.
Tripp notes that a young child may not be conscious of his religious commitment, but he is never neutral. Because all mankind is made in the image of God, children are designed with a worship orientation. They are either worshipping God or idols. It is important to realize that all of us, including our own children, are born wayward and sinful. One justification for spanking children is the nature of their hearts. “The remedy is not solely changing the structure of the home; it is addressing the heart.” The practical implications of this truth are that parents can never assume that selfishness is just a result of immaturity. Rebellion is not outgrown.

It is this biblical assumption that directs parental discipline and training of the children. “In all of this you must pray that God will work in and around your efforts and the responses of your children to make them people who know and honor God.”

Friday, November 24, 2006

Shepherding a Child’s Heart (2)

Chapters two and three entitled, “Your Child’s Development: Shaping Influences” and “Your Child’s Development: Godward Orientation,” respectively, are a general background of what a parent has to work with. The core issue in both of these chapters is that although parents should work to facilitate biblical shaping influences in the lives of their children, it is ultimately their Godward orientation that determines how they respond to those shaping influences.

What is a shaping influence? Tripp defines shaping influences as those events and circumstances in a child’s developmental years that prove to be catalysts for making him the person he is. However, the shaping is not automatic. A child’s response to these events and circumstances determine the effect they have on him. There is biblical warrant for the idea that childhood experiences have profound implications for our lives. All of the major passages dealing with the family presuppose these lifelong implications of the early childhood experience. Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, and Colossians 3. It is important to realize that a child is not merely acted upon by circumstances, but he reacts to them. The child responds to what Tripp calls the “Godward orientation of his heart.” Tripp identifies at least six shaping influences.

Structure of Family Life

Tripp asks several questions concerning the nature of a family’s structure. Is the family a traditional nuclear family? How many parents is the child exposed to? How are the parenting roles structured?

Family Values

The questions asked under this section include: What is important to the parents? What is worth a fuss and what passes without notice? What gets your kids into more trouble, a broken vase or disobedience to a clear parental directive? Are the values of the home based upon human tradition and the basic principles of this world or Christ? What about boundaries and where the secrets are kept and where are they told? Are there secrets from Dad between Mom and the kids? Are there secrets from Mom between Dad and the kids? “ Every family has established family boundaries. They may not be spoken or thought through, but they exists.”

Family Roles

What are the different roles that each family member plays within the family? “Some fathers are involved in every aspect of family life. Others are busy and distanced from family activities. Subtle things like who pays the bills or who makes family appointments say much about family roles.”

Family Conflict Resolution

Our children are influenced by how we resolve conflict in the family. Are they resolved or do members simply walk away? Are problems solved biblically or by power? Pastor Tripp looks to Proverbs and makes the point that a child is trained to be a fool or a prudent, wise man by the shaping influences of his home.

Family Responses to Failure

Another influence is how the family deals with a child’s failures. Are they made to feel foolish or mocked for these failures? Or do the parents see these failed attempts as an opportunity to find praise for the child?
Whether the child has known credible commendation or carping criticism or the mix of those things will be a powerful shaping influence in his life.

Family History

Finally, the family history is also a shaping influence. Marriage and divorce; money or no money; sickness or health; births and deaths; each have their own shaping power in a child’s life.

Of course, Tripp recognizes that this is not an exhaustive list. Nevertheless, it does show the types of circumstances that impact and shape our lives. However, as parents we must be aware of believing that our control of shaping influences determines how the child will behave as an adult. Pastor Tripp has the following to say about that mistaken view of shaping influences.

You make a grave mistake if you conclude that childrearing is nothing more than prividing the best possible shaping influences for your children. Many Christian parents adopt this “Christian determinism.” They figure that if they can protect and shelter him well enough, if they can always be positive with him, if they can send him to Christian schools or if they can home school, if they can provide the best possible childhood experience, then their child will turn out okay.

These parents are sure that a proper environment will produce a proper child. They respond almost as if the child were inert. Such a posture is simply determinism dressed in Christian clothes...Determinism makes parents conclude that good shaping influences will automatically produce good children. This often bears bitter fruit later in life. Parents who have an unruly and troublesome teenager or young adult conclude that the problem is the shaping influences they provided...They forget that the child is never determined solely by the shaping influences of life. Remember that Proverbs 4:23 instructs you that the heart is the fountain from which life flows. Your child’s heart determines how he responds to your parenting...The child is not inert during childhood. Your children interact with life. This leads us to our next chapter...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Shepherding a Child’s Heart (1)

The first chapter is entitled “Getting to the Heart of Behavior” and hits the core problem of modern methods of parenting straight on.

What your children say and do is a reflection of what is in their hearts. Luke 6:45
My son, Nathaniel, is 11 weeks old at the time of this post. He is cute and will snuggle very sweetly as I hold him on my chest. However, our previous history with his two older sisters has been a great teacher to Tammy and I. One day that sweet baby will stomp his foot and yell, “No!” at me over some issue he wants his way when I have told him to do otherwise. He will rebel against me, as his sisters have done and do on occassion, because that is his nature. They all inherited it from me and Tammy. We inherited it from our parents and they from theirs, etc. Scripture tells us that we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners, from the heart.

Pastor Tripp warns that parents get sidetracked trying to curb behavior and neglect the deeper and more profound problem: the behavior reflects the status of the heart.

A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. Is it not the hypocrisy that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees? Matthew 15
But, parents tend to be more concerned about stopping the annoying or disruptive behavior than helping the child understand how his heart produced the wrong behavior. I found Tripp’s analysis of this common scenario (daily at my house) very instructive.

Let’s take a familiar example from any home where there are two or more children. The children are playing and a fight breaks out over a particular toy. The classic response is “Who had it first?” This reponse misses the heart issues. “Who had it first?” is an issue of justice. Justice operates in favor of the child who was the quicker draw in getting the toy to begin with. If we look at this situation in terms of the heart, the issues change.

Now you have two offenders. Both children are displaying a hardness of heart toward the other. Both are being selfish. Both are saying, “I don’t care about you or your happiness. I am only concerned about myself. I want this toy. My happiness depends on possessing it. I will have it and be happy regardless of what that means to you.”

In terms of issues of the heart, you have two sinning children. Two children are preferring themselves before the other. Two children are breaking God’s law. Sure the circumstances are different. One is taking the toy the other has. The other is keeping the advantage. The circumstances are different, but the heart issues are the same - “I want my happiness, even at your expense.”
In this way, Tripp shows how the heart directs the behavior. Therefore, the area that needs to be confronted is the heart, beyond the behavior. We need to unmask for our children the fallen nature of their own hearts, using their behavior as a demonstration of their need for a Savior. This leads to the cross of Christ. Addressing issues of the heart “provides opportunities to show the glories of God, who sent His Son to change hearts and free people enslaved to sin.”

The following chapters address the child’s relationship to two broad sets of issues that affect him:
  1. The child and his relationship to the shaping influences of life.
  2. The child and his relationship to God.
We will address the shaping influences in the next post.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart (0)

Through the years, many people have recommended to me that I read “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp. Emma is now five and I still have not read the book. I have owned it for a while. Sometimes it is easier to ponder theology and not the nuts and bolts of its application.

So, I have started reading the book. I thought it might be beneficial if I blogged as I read it. Well, not AS I read it. After I read a chapter, I will bang out some thoughts and quotes from the book. Feel free to comment as I do this.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

If we don’t disciple our kids, others will...

I read an article recently written by Al Mohler on “The New Atheism.” It is a movement among intellectual elites which seeks to make belief in God socially “embarrassing.” What most struck me are the comments on how these new elites view our duty to train up our children in the way of the Lord. Now, more than ever, we must know what we believe and pass it on to our children. As a side note, if we shirk this responsibility, Elton John is apparently more take up where we leave off...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas Party at the Rose’s

Mark your calendars to be at the Rose’s on December 1st for our class Christmas Party. Child care will be provided. Please contact Robyn or Jill with any questions.

Phil Johnson on Discipling your children

I ran across this article on discipling children. Hope it is helpful.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Witness of Tipping

I hope that none of us fall into this stereotype. Freely you have received, freely give. However, there is nothing wrong with putting a nice tip inside of a tract...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Memorizing Scripture

Here is a guide to memorizing large portions of Scripture. Hope it is helpful.