One of the first thoughts I had as I began reading Mr. Tripp’s book was, ‘Uh oh, my oldest is almost ten!’ On the very first page of the introduction, Tripp says, “By the age of ten to twelve, scores of children have already left home.” (xvii) And he’s not talking literally here, he means that these children have ditched Mom and Pop as an authority for their lives! So after reading that, I got a little anxious and my mind started racing and replaying all the parenting I had done with him up to this point, and I began questioning if I’m doing enough; if I’m doing it right; if I’m doing it the way God wants me to. And I hate to admit this, but I’d have to say that currently, no, I’m not doing enough or doing it right and I’m definitely not doing it the way God would want! I realized then, that this book wasn’t just going to be about my children’s heart, but like it or not, it was going to be about my heart too! Bring on the convictions… I need them….. I’m ready for them!
According to Tripp, today’s parents are frustrated, confused, and ready to throw in the towel because they don’t understand why their children don’t act like they should and why they aren’t responding to their authority attempts. You can put me in the frustrated and confused categories! I’m frustrated daily with my children’s disobedience, lack of respect, and laziness, which in turn leads to confusion because I don’t know how to “fix” it, which then leads to feelings of failure, depression….. (wow, the enemy is having a field day and loving me)! BUT, I will NOT throw in the towel! I will NOT let satan win; my family is too important and deserves a fight!
Thank you Mr. Tripp for the reminder that their is HOPE, and we CAN raise godly children in this day and age! And we only need to look to one place for the answers – God’s word – The Bible! It has all we need, right in one book, to handle this awesome profession of parenting.
We, as parents, are to “exercise authority as God’s agents.” (xix) We are to “direct” our children for God and for them (our children), not because it makes our lives easier – not for our own selfish reasons. After I read this part, I decided to look up “direct” in the thesaurus and loved that I found “shepherd” listed as a synonym for direct. Pretty cool (at least I thought so)! When you hear the word authority, what pops in your head? A straight-faced police officer? Your feared high school principal? Your mean piano teacher from 5th grade? Well, that’s not what God means by authority; authority doesn’t have to be mean and cruel; it can be kind and gentle. I love how Tripp puts it, “the purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God.” (xx) Wow! And Jesus is the perfect example! We MUST exercise our God-given authority of our children, in a kind and loving way. And how encouraging to know that “children generally do not resist authority that is truly kind and selfless.” (xx)
So how do you exercise authority in a kind and loving manner? By being your child’s shepherd, his guide, and helping him understand himself and the world around him. We can’t just tell our children how to act and how to think, we also need to teach them WHY. And this requires your time, dedication, and devotion; it’s not just a one time talk you have with your kid; it’s talking, sharing, and demonstrating, day in and day out to your children, a life of integrity and spirit-filled living that will help lead them to the cross.
We should not just strive for well-behaved kids on the outside, we need to strive for internal change in our children – change of the heart. Yes, our kids need to know WHAT they did wrong or sinned, but more importantly, they need to know WHY. And we can do this by keeping the gospel at the center of our parenting. “The gospel enables you and your children to face the worst in yourselves – your sin, your badness, and your weakness – and still find hope, because grace is powerful.” (xxii) How comforting is that?
As I read the last page of the introduction, I had another “uh-oh” moment. I have a HUGE responsibility here! At some point in my children’s life, they will decide whether or not to except the gospel as truth; that’s a bit scary to me. I know I can’t save my children, only God can do that, but I am a large influence on these little beings. What if I don’t shine Christ bright enough to them and they choose the wrong path; it’s very scary and sad to think of my children living a life without Christ as the center. Thankfully we are saved by grace, and not by our actions – my own or my kids’ – so I don’t have to worry that I’m not doing enough, or doing it right, or not doing it according to God’s plan. He has His plan, and He will see it through…. and that’s so comforting and reassuring!
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Wow, that was just the intro; now on to chapter one.
Chapter one was short and sweet, and had a very simple message – we need to get to the “heart” of the matter! Our goal shouldn’t be to change our children’s inappropriate behavior to appropriate behavior (although that will be an eventual result), we need to be more concerned with the attitudes of their heart. How simple and logical – why didn’t I think of that? Once we realize this, we can focus on the issues of the heart and work on revealing the sins in our children. We can help lead our children to Christ and help them see the need for a Savior. I love the example that Tripp gives about two kids fighting over a toy because it is so classic and so true. When we look at the situation (two kids fighting over a toy) as a matter of the heart rather than justice, it’s amazing how the whole situation changes. I think Tripp summarizes it best by saying, “The heart is the wellspring of life. Therefore, parenting is concerned with shepherding the heart. You must learn to work from the behavior you see, back to the heart, exposing heart issues for your children.” (p.6)
I’m excited to dig deeper into this book and even more excited to start focusing on my children’s hearts!