Critical Review of Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (eating the meat and spitting out the bones)

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp is required reading in many Christian courses and is a very popular book with high ratings on Amazon. But, it is based on a flawed doctrine from a flawed paradigm that leads to a flawed conclusion. Therefore, I fear it could destroy your family and drive your children away from you and away from God.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart is a dogma for predestinated parents to act as agents of God to deliver judgment against free-will disobedience of their children. I don’t understand how a Calvinist can write a book about child training. If the child has free-will choice to obey or disobey their parents, why don’t they have free-will choice to obey or disobey God? If the child does not have free-will choice to obey or disobey their parents, why are parents allowed to discipline disobedience?

UPDATE: Instead of this book, I highly recommend What the Bible Says About Child Training: Parenting with Confidence by J. Richard Fugate. This is a study designed to help parents to better understand their role and to reveal the mechanics for successfully raising children. To accomplish these ends this book will carefully define parental accountability, authority, and responsibility. It also describes the nature of a child and explains his Biblically-defined stages of development. With these principles firmly established, the book presents the Biblical system for training children. I will provide a full review soon.

My personal concerns about the foundation of the vision for parenting

I have deep concerns about Shepherding a Child’s Heart. It is based on the false doctrine of Calvinist Extreme Predestination, which causes the author to see the world through a false paradigm. This worldview is fixated on the phrase, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” (pg.46, 47, 50, 57, 123, 200) It compounds this error by promoting unkeepable standards for children with the misguided intention that this will drive them to God’s supernatural grace or else you will rob your children of the mercy of the gospel (pg.xxii). This creates a harsh environment that punishes children for failing to live up to standards that the parents know they cannot keep. This violates my Christian conscience and everything about parenting in Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3; therefore, I would never recommend this book to anybody.

It seems to me that a much better foundation would be “And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” (2 Corinthians 5:18) “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). This would promote a loving nurturing environment that would support and sustain a child’s growth with daily examples of living a godly life. Since the sweetness of the lips increases learning, gracious words promote instruction, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21), this environment would lead directly to the reconciling peace of the blood of the cross of Christ (Colossians 1:20).

After having raised 2 children in a very strict fundamental Christian sect, everything that I am ashamed of and wish I could change is contained in the first paragraph, just as it is espoused by this book. Everything I am grateful for, proud of, and look back with fond memories of, is contained in the second paragraph, which is berated and ridiculed by this book.

Tedd Tripp doesn’t pull any punches. In the introduction, he gives a clear overview of his message. This message is both good and bad, it is both fresh and bitter, and it is both sweet and salty…

Let me overview a biblical vision for the parenting task. The parenting task is multifaceted. It involves being a kind authority, shepherding your children to understand themselves in God’s world, and keeping the gospel in clear view so your children can internalize the good news and someday live in mutuality with you as people under God. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg.xix)

I think the good is obvious, so let me focus on the bad. I don’t think these phrases and keywords were accidental. As Jesus said, “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as cunning as snakes but as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).

  • “understand themselves in God’s world” -: This is different from understanding the fall of mankind and the universal call of Jesus Christ to whosoever will. This is the Calvinist extreme-predestination doctrine of Limited Atonement that Jesus Christ only paid for the sins of the elect. This means teaching your child that they must obey God and serve him even though it may not do them any good. IMHO, this is the ultimate violation of Ephesians 6:4.
  • “your children can internalize the good news” -: This is different than accepting the good news of salvation. This is a Calvinist extreme-predestination doctrine of serving God without a new nature. This is the worst kind of works program. You must live a godly life without God living inside of you.
  • “live in mutuality with you as people under God” -: This is different than heirs together of the grace of Christ as brothers and sisters who have been adopted into the family of God. This is a Calvinist extreme-predestination doctrine of God’s unsaved, unregenerate partner-people, moving towards salvation and the fulfillment of love in the church.

My personal concerns about open warfare against Evangelism

I have never understood the animosity of Calvinists against Evangelists. If any of their predestination doctrine were actually true, why would it matter?

I have met many parents whose preoccupation is getting their children saved. They focus on getting their child to pray “the sinner’s prayer.” They want him to ask Jesus to come into his heart. They take Johnny to Child Evangelism Fellowship functions, Good News Clubs, summer camps, or anywhere else where someone will bring him to a decision to trust Christ. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg.42)

This is a sensitive issue that must be tempered by two facts: 1) You can never know with absolute certainty whether your child is saved. … 2) A child’s profession of faith in Christ does not change the basic issues of childrearing. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 42)

There are many passages that teach the need to shepherd, to train, to instruct, and to discipline your children. None of these passages has getting a child to pray the “sinner’s prayer” as its focus (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg.42)

You must always hold out to your children both their need of Christ’s invasive redemptive work and their obligation to repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are not rites of initiation to Christianity. Repentance and faith are the way to relate to God. Repentance and faith are not acts performed one time to become a Christian. They are attitudes of the heart toward ourselves and our sin. Faith is not just the way to get saved; it is the lifeline of Christian living. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 53)

Sue and Neal came to Christ in a large evangelical church where there was no clear biblical teaching about children. They began reading books written by Christian men who accepted many psychological ideas that are not Scriptural. While they wanted to help their girls, things only got worse. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg.159)

Your children are part of a contemporary evangelical culture that suffers from a low view of God. Reading the prophets confronts you with a holy God who is awesome and prepared to hold his people to account. I have talked to my teens about the need for a bumper sticker to counterbalance the popular “Smile, God Loves You.” This would say “Tremble, God is a Consuming Fire.” Sober your children with the realization that a major theme of more than one third of the Bible (the minor and major prophets) is judgment. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg.188)

Other critical reviews of Shepherding a Child’s Heart on the web

After reading this book and writing this critical review, I noticed that many others share similar concerns.

My personal growth from eating the meat and not choking on the bones

I want to be a noble Berean, who is willing to listen to anyone, and then examine the scriptures daily to see if such things are true. (Acts 17:11) I do not want to have itching ears that only listen to things I have already determined beforehand. (2 Timothy 4:3) I have written 2 pages of criticism. Now, here are 9 pages of what I learned from Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

Chapter 1 – Getting to the Heart of Behavior

The Bible clearly says that our behavior comes from our heart. “Out of the heart spring the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). “For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21). “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Therefore, the most important thing a parent can do is be concerned with shepherding the heart of a child. They must learn to work from the behavior on the outside, back to the heart, exposing heart issues to the child. In short, you must learn to engage them, not just reprove them. Help them see the ways they are trying to slake their souls thirst with that which cannot satisfy. Then move beyond that to help them gain a clear focus on the cross of Christ.

Chapter 2 – Your Child’s Development: Shaping Influences

The child is going to grow from their experiences and their reactions to them. The child is not just acted on by the circumstances of life. They react. They respond according to the Godward orientation of their heart. In many cases, you can’t control the circumstances, but you can help them develop a Godward orientation that will help them react in a godly way. There are 6 ways you can influence this orientation

  • Structure of family life — the practical Godward orientation of the family has an impact on the developing Godward orientation of the child. The loving headship of the father, the loving submission of the mother, and the loving inclusion of the children all shape their understanding of the heavenly father and their place in the world.
  • Family values — the practical priority of hollow and deceptive philosophies (Col 2:8) of the things of this world versus the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:2) have an impact on the developing worldview of the child.
  • Family roles — the practical position of family members has an impact on the developing sense of place in God’s kingdom. Working together as trust members of the same team will impart a sense of mutuality to the child. Struggling against each other as suspicious grabbers will cause a subtle deterioration of unity.
  • Family conflict resolution — every family is going to have conflicts at times, but the way these conflicts are resolved will have a profound impact on the development of the child’s ability to resolve their own conflicts in the world. “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” (Prov 12:15-16).
  • Family response to failure — every family is going to experience failures at times because childhood is filled with awkward attempts and failed efforts as immature children struggle to master the skills of the modern world. The response to these failures shapes a child’s confidence to keep learning or quit. Credible commendation or carping criticism or powerful shaping influences in children’s lives.
  • Family history — the width and depth and height of a family’s love is just as important to a developing child as the it is for adults “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).

These are very important, but the child has a free will of their own and can receive these influences or reject them regardless of your best efforts and best intentions.

Chapter 3 – Your Child’s Development: Godward Orientation

Whatever the shaping influences of life, it is the child’s Godward orientation that determines his response those shaping influences.

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return.
Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.
So don’t bother correcting mockers;
they will only hate you.
But correct the wise,
and they will love you.
Instruct the wise,
and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
and they will learn even more.
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
(NLT Study Bible Text,) Proverbs 9:7-10

Thus, the ultimate determination of whether a child responds as a mocker or a wise man is the fear and awesome respect of the Lord that is the foundation of wisdom.

As parents, we have a God-given responsibility to help the child understand that their heart is not neutral. They are either worshipping God with their attitude and behavior or they are worshipping idols—usually themselves—as the ultimate personal idol. Even a child who is living as a fool by saying there is no God, doesn’t cease to be a worshipper—he simply worships what is not God. These kinds of idolatry usually manifest themselves as selfishness, disobedience, and rebellion, which are not outgrown by themselves. Part of the parent’s task is to shepherd him as a worshipping creature, to worship the One who alone is worthy of his worship. This can help the child learn to respond in a godly way in the midst of difficult shaping influences by entrusting themselves to God.

Chapter 4 – You’re in Charge

A Biblical understanding of authority in the home is necessary for orderly operation of the home. Parents aren’t in charge because they are smarter, or else it will only last a few years until the children reach the age when they think they’re smarter. Parents aren’t in charge because they’re stronger, or else it will only last a few years until the strength of youth overpowers the older parent. Parents aren’t in charge because they are more holy, or else it will only last a few years until the children realize their parents are not perfect. Parents are in charge because that is the way God set up the home. Deuteronomy 6 clearly puts the responsibility of the home squarely in the parent’s control. God wants one generation to follow another in his ways. God accomplishes this objective through the agency of parental instruction.

Ephesians 6:4 commands parents to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. This is a command to provide the training and instruction of the Lord on God’s behalf. God has decreed the appropriateness and necessity of being in charge in the child’s life. Not as an advisor, but as an authority. God hasn’t given you the right to back out of this command. But, how you do it will affect your children forever. If you allow unholy anger to muddy the training and instruction, you will not be honoring God, and the results will not be what he intended. Angry discipline will teach the child fear of man that brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25), rather than an awesome respect for God.

Godly correction, on the other hand, has wonderful benefits. God says the rod of correction imparts wisdom, and whoever heeds correction shows prudence (Proverbs 15:5; 29:15). He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding (Proverbs 15:32). Therefore, even though the parent is a flawed instrument of God, proper correction properly delivered will bring the child understanding and wisdom. This is because correction orbits around God, who is the one offended, so the focus of correction is restoration. The function is remedial. It is designed to move the child, who has disobeyed God, back to the path of obedience. It is corrective.

Chapter 5 – Examining Your Goals

Parents need to be careful of their goals in raising their children. If the goal is for the child to be successful so they can “do well” and live happy comfortable lives, they may think they have done this without the Lord. This goes back to the battle of Israel against the Midianites under the direction of Gideon, who was a very flawed instrument. If you remember the account God kept winnowing the troops until they were too few to think they had won the battle on their own. It was obvious the Lord had won the battle.

Parents need to remember “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (Romans 14:17-19). If the parent’s goals are anything other than pleasing God, then they will end up teaching their children to function in the culture on its terms.

Chapter 6 – Reworking Your Goals

Parent’s need to give special care to the things they allow and encourage their children to do. Many activities teach your children to trust in themselves, when the Scripture says that those who trust in themselves are fools whose hearts turn from God. The self-love and self-trust our culture proffers always turns the heart away from God.

In contrast, Godly parents should encourage their children to see the needs of those around them, and be genuinely compassionate towards others. They should teach that a soft answer turns away wrath. They should teach the Christian life is not simply living according to a biblical code, but as life in faith, commitment, and fellowship with the living God.

One of the best places for this kind of teaching is during family worship, which connects with your children and their lives. Parents must be creative and flexible to assure that the family worship serves the shepherding and nurturing tasks required to raise godly children. Since the Hebrew Scriptures were written for our warning, so that we would crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did (1 Corinthians 10), they are a great place to start. Reading about the Old Testament heroes and villains is an exciting jumping off place for the best kind of family discussions. Just remember that God hates empty rituals (Isaiah 1).

Chapter 7 – Discarding Unbiblical Methods

We cannot be indifferent to methodology. Biblically, the method is as important as the objectives. God speaks to both issues. He is concerned not only with what we do, but also with how we do it. Therefore, Biblical goals require biblical methods to bring glory to God.

Parents must break the chain of bad parental methods they may have learned from their parents. They must not use the pop psychology gimmicks of bribery and fake contracts to encourage desired behavior. They must not use animal training methods of rewarding every slight trend towards the desired behavior. This tends to train the heart to greedy self-interest and obtaining rewards. Parents must not use their own feelings as an appeal to the child. They must not emotionally isolate or publicly shame a child for bad behavior. This is not only cruel, but ineffective in addressing the heart Biblically. Parents must not use punishment that is just punitive without any teaching moment.

These all miss the Biblical fact that the child’s behavior springs from their heart. Out of an evil heart springs evil behavior. Out of a good heart springs good behavior. Therefore, the goal must be focused on the child’s heart. These all lead to the same problems. They lead to superficial parenting, rather than shepherding the hearts of children.

The expediency of dealing with behavior rather than the heart means that deep needs within the child are ignored. If you only try to change behavior, you are missing the real issue—the heart. If you can successfully address the real issue, the behavior problem will be solved.

There is another problem. If you address only behavior in your children, you never get to the cross of Christ. It is impossible to get from preoccupation with behavior to the gospel. The gospel is not a message about doing new things. It is a message about being a new creature. It speaks to people who are broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart. God has given his son to make us new creatures. God does open heart surgery, not a face-life. He produces change from the inside out. He rejects the man who fasts twice a week and accepts the sinner who cries for mercy (Luke 18:10).

Chapter 8 – Embracing Biblical Methods: Communication

A Biblical approach to children involves two elements that you weave together. One element is rich, full communication. The other is the rod. In the book of Proverbs, we find these two methods side by side (Proverbs 23:13-19; 23:22; 23:26).

Rich, full communication is dialog, not monologue. It is not only the ability to talk, but also the ability to listen. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinion (Proverbs 18:2). He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame (Proverbs 18:13). Remember, parents can only see the outside of the child, only God can look at the heart. The only way you can understand what is happening is to get your child to tell you. To understand your child’s inner struggles, you need to look at the world through their eyes. But, you can’t get inside their head and look out, so you must get them to tell you. Therefore, you must engage your child and listen to them to know what is going on inside their heart. This requires trust and relationship. You have to start early and often.

Chapter 9 – Embracing Biblical Methods: Types of Communication

Children need communication designed to inspire and fill with hope and courage. Children need communication that corrects them when they are wrong. Children need communication that expresses your sense of alarm, shock, and dismay at something they have done wrong. Children need communication that is earnest and intense, to plead, solicit, urge, and even beg. Children need communication that instructs a lesson, a precept, or information that will help your children to understand their world. Children need warnings against dangerous situations. Children need teaching to help them learn. Children need communication between you and them and God in prayer.

Chapter 10 – Embracing Biblical Methods: A Life of Communication

Full-orbed, rich, multifaceted communication is the cement that holds a parent and a child together. Communication will provide the context for a growing unity with your children. Children know when they have a relationship with people who are wise and discerning, who know and understand them, who love and are committed to them. They will know if you know the ways of God, understand life and people in the world, and are prepared to carry on a relationship of integrity and security. There will be times of disagreement or conflict, but disagreement can be resolved in a relationship of open communication.

Children trust you when they know you love them and are com mitted to their good, when they know you understand them, when thy know you understand their strengths and weaknesses, when they know that you have invested yourself in encouragement, correction, rebuke, entreaty, instruction, warning, understanding, teaching, and prayer.

All this communication gives children a Biblical understanding of mankind. It gives them a better understanding of themselves. It helps them understand God’s standard. They learn that God is ultimate. This provides a biblical grid for understanding life. They learn that humanity’s problem is sin. We all sin and are all sinned against. We are both perpetrators and victims. For this reason, all of life must be viewed in terms of God’s redemptive restoration of man.

Chapter 11 – Embracing Biblical Methods: The Rod

Children are not born morally and ethically neutral. If they were, then they would need direction instead of correction and instruction instead of discipline. But, the Bible teaches that the heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The child’s problem is not an information deficit. His problem is that he is a sinner. There are things within the heart of the sweetest little baby that, allowed to blossom and grow to fruition, will bring about eventual destruction.

The rod functions in this context. It is addressed to needs within the child. These needs cannot be met by mere talk. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will it far from him.” God says there is something wrong in the child’s heart. Folly or foolishness is bound up in his heart. This folly must be removed, for it places the child at risk.

The correction of the rod with wisdom is of profound importance. The child who is not submitting to parental authority is acting foolishly. He is rejecting the jurisdiction of God. He is living his life in idolatry of himself for the immediate gratification of his wants and desires. Ultimately, to refuse God’s rule means to choose his own rule that leads to death. This is the height of foolishness.

This rod of correction brings wisdom to the child. Hebrews 12:11 says: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This rod is the hands of the parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness towards his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured, and controlled use of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying God, thus rescuing the child from continuing in his foolishness until death. This is not to be wielded by anyone else beside the parent according to God’s word. This divinely protected context of the parent-child relationship prevents anyone else (even a teacher) from spanking a child.

Since the rod is an idea that has fallen out of favor in our culture, let me be clear about some distortions of the rod…

  • The rod does not allow unbridled temper. “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20).
  • The rod does not allow parents to bully their children. God warns against the danger of embittering children in Ephesians 6.
  • The rod does not exact retribution. It is not payment due. It is not punitive. It is for correction having the positive goal of restoration.
  • The rod is not vindictive anger. It is not a fight because both parties are angry with each other. The spanking should produce closeness not distance.

The rod bears wonderful fruit. Timely, careful discipline, while unpleasant and painful at the time, yields happy, successful children. But, too much rod without rich communication will be like a ship with all the cargo loaded one side. It won’t sail very well. Communication and the rod are not stand-alone methods. They are designed to work together.

Chapter 12 – Embracing Biblical Methods: Appeal to the Conscience

Your correction and discipline must find their mark in the conscience of your son or daughter. God has given children a reasoning capacity that distinguishes issues of right and wrong. Paul reminds us that even those who do not have the law of God show that its requirements are written on their hearts when they obey the law (Romans 2:12-16). They either excuse or accuse themselves in their thoughts because of their conscience. This is your ally in discipline and correction.

Tedd Tripp says…

You want to see your child live a life that is embedded in the rich soil of Christ’s gracious work. The focal point of your discipline and correction must be your children seeing their utter inability to do the things that God requires unless they know the help and strength of God. Your correction must hold the standard of righteousness as high as God holds it. God’s standard is correct behavior flowing from a heart that loves God and has God’s glory as the sole purpose of life. This is not native to your children (nor to their parents). (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 122)

The alternative is to reduce the standard to what may be fairly expected of your children without the grace of God. The alternative is to give them a law they can keep. The alternative is a lesser standard that does not require grace and does not cast them on Christ, but rather on their own resources. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 123)

I believe this is the complete opposite of how God deals with us and it should be the complete opposite of how we deal with our children. Everything I am ashamed of doing as a parent falls into this category of strict law enforcement. Setting up a child for failure so you can brutally discipline them is not shepherding. But, everything I am proud of doing as a parent falls into the category of Christ-like unconditional love and restoration. Shepherding is leading and showing the way.

  • The law was given that every mouth may be stopped before God. (Romans 3:19)
  • It was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. (Galatians 3:24)
  • He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (Isaiah 40:11)
  • I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
  • “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.    He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.    In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) Colossians 2:13-15
  • “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) James 2:13.
  • Remember, the Pharisees were guilty of this. Jesus told them, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) Matthew 23:23
  • “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.    So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”   For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

Chapter 13 – Shepherding the Heart Summarized

  • Your children are the product of (1) shaping influences, and (2) their Godward orientation. Parenting involves providing the best shaping influences and careful shepherding your children’s response to those influences.
  • The heart determines behavior. Therefore, the parent must work backward from the behavior to the heart attitude that caused it. The heart must be fixed before the behavior can be corrected.
  • God has given parents authority as his agent to bring them up with discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord (Eph 6:4)
  • You must help your children have a godly worldview to help them understand themselves and what happens around them.
  • Biblical goals must be accomplished through biblical methods. Don’t substitute the latest fad for God’s word.
  • God has given two methods for child raising that must be woven together in careful harmony: rich, full communication and the rod.

Chapter 14 – Infancy to Childhood: Training Objectives

The most important lesson that a very young child can learn is, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.    “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) Ephesians 6:1-3

This is critical because godly teenagers are developed when they are 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, not at 13, 14, 15, or 16. Do not wait until your children are teenagers to start this training. If you do, you will suffer the indignity of disrespect that only a teenager can dish out.

Obedience is out of vogue in our culture. You can find classes that provide assertiveness training, but try to find classes in submissiveness training! Remember what is at stake; that it go well with your children and that they enjoy a long life. For their sake, help them to learn to obey at this early age.

Obedience is not simply an issue between the parent and the child. It is a character trait that will manifest itself between the child and any God-ordained authority. And, eventually, it will manifest itself between the child and God himself. It is not a glory to overlook offenses of that sort.

However, as with almost everything in life, obedience is best learned by following a mentor’s example. Parents must provide godly example of obedience in their life. They must obey God. They must obey God’s agents in the government. They must submit to each other. And, they must submit to other Christians. Don’t pretend you can shepherd a child’s heart when your own heart has not been shepherded by the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-4).

When you make a mistake of disobedience to man or God, be quick to be an example of confessing and forsaking your sins. “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) Proverbs 28:13. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk to your children about confession and restoration leading to mercy.

Chapter 15 – Infancy to Childhood: Training Procedures

Children need to be spanked soon enough after the disobedience that they can understand the connection. It is different for each child in each situation. But, in general, needs to be very soon for very young children, and can be a little longer for older children. If you cannot spank a very young child within this timespan, it is better to skip it than frustrate the child by spanking them to long after the infraction. Older children can be spoken to at the time of the infraction and still remember their own rebellious attitude and disobedient behavior hours later, so it’s okay to administer the board of learning to the seat of understanding later.

Spanking must never be done in anger. Spanking must never frustrate the child. Spanking must never cause the child to lose their dignity. These guidelines may help…

  • Take your child to a private place where he can be spoken with in private
  • Tell him specifically what he has disobeyed.
  • Secure an acknowledgment from the child of the disobedience.
  • Remind him that the function of the spanking is to restore him to blessing.
  • Tell the child how many swats they will receive.
  • Remove his diaper or training pants since the padding will interfere.
  • After you have spanked, reconfirm your love with words and hugs
  • Pray with him for strength and wisdom and thankfulness for forgiveness.

One last thing, being with others when your children are misbehaving is very uncomfortable. You may feel under great social pressure to be successful. You may fear that your relatives expect perfection. You want to be a testimony to them. You want them to see that biblical methods are bearing fruit. The temptation is strong to solve problems through some compromise to avoid embarrassment. Or, you may be tempted to be extra hard on them to show how “Biblical” you are. But, you may never use your children to promote your convictions. The purpose of discipline is not evangelism. The purpose of discipline is to shepherd your children. Using them to showcase your beliefs abuses their dignity and threatens the integrity of your relationship with them. “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (NLT Study Bible Text,) Proverbs 29:25

Chapter 16 – Childhood: Training Objectives

Childhood is an important time of change. The child is developing a growing independence of choice and personality. The child is spending more time away from the direction and oversight of the parents. He is confronted with experiences that parents cannot witness or adjudicate. They think their own thoughts. They have their own ideas. The have their own complex combinations of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding these things can enable us to shore up their weaknesses and develop their strengths.

During the time, your child is growing spiritually as well as physically. They have questions about the Bible. They have questions about God. They have questions about themselves. To shepherd their heart, you must have some perception of where they are spiritually. This is why it is critical to start the process at 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, because you need that dialogue of rich communication now more than ever. As your children open up to you about their struggles, it is a blessed opportunity to go to the Lord in prayer for strength and wisdom with them.

Chapter 17 – Childhood: Training Procedures

At this time of life, the child’s heart begins to determine the course of their life like no other. You have to be ready. Whatever motivates behavior trains the heart. If you motivate with shame you teach your children to respond to shame. If you motivate with emotional appeals you train them to respond to emotional appeal. If you motivate with promises of material things you train them to respond to material incentives. Many of us as adults can see character weaknesses in ourselves that are tied to the motivations offered to us as children.

During this time, the child’s conscience is being exercised to discern between good and evil (1 Peter 3:16). You must be ready. You must get to the root issues by dealing with their conscience to help them mature. If you make your appeal there, you avoid making correction a contest between you and your child. It’s not about them. It’s about God.

Chapter 18 – Teenagers: Training Objectives

The teenage years are often years of rebellion. Some of the rebellion is simply a misguided attempt to establish individuality. But often, teenage rebellion has deeper roots. In some kids, it is an expression of rebellion that has been latent all along.

There are three goals during these years that are simple enough to remember, yet comprehensive enough to provide broadly applicable direction…

  • The fear of the Lord — is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7). Your teenage child is on the threshold of living independent from you. He is already making choices that have major impact on his life. He is making value decisions every day. Therefore, he needs more than ever to be motivated by a sense of awe and reverence for God. You want the choice he makes to reflect a growing comprehension of what it means to worship God. Whenever they are tempted to follow a multitude to do evil, you must help them to see the ways they are experiencing the fear of man and help them to go to God for direction.
  • Adherence to parental instruction — (NLT Study Bible Text,) Proverbs 1:8-9 This is the exciting time when the child starts to have independent convictions that reflect his training. Or, this is the scary time when the child starts to have independent convictions that refute his training. It is the time when all the lessons of infancy and childhood start to blossom and bear fruit. My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.
  • Disassociation from the wicked — Solomon called his son to disassociate from the wicked. “My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them!” (NLT Study Bible Text,) Proverbs 1:10. God understands the temptation of influence. The one who lives in company with wicked people will learn their ways. The most powerful way to keep your children from being attracted by the offers of camaraderie from the wicked is to make home an attractive place to be. But, this had to start at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. It’s too late to start at 13, 14, 15, or 16 without some very serious work on both sides.

Chapter 19 – Teenagers: Training Procedures

If you have successfully dealt with the first two stages of your child’s development, then your role in this stage is directive instead of remedial. You have already established your role and right to be involved in your child’s life. It is natural for them to include you in their life.

If you did not successfully deal with the first two stages of your child’s development, or you are getting started too late in their lives, then you must take the time to seek God and work back through your life with your teen. Confess, rethink, and establish your authority and your child’s responsibility based on God’s Word to both of you. There is no shortcut to your right as their shepherd or your teen desiring to be shepherded. The only route to those things is through repentance and faith.

During this stage, your teen is trying new things and making new mistakes that will try your patience. During times of failure, your teen needs positive interaction. You need to keep your eye on the goals for your children and you need to keep a proper sense of proportion. Your relationship with your teen is worth much more than a car. I am not talking about shielding them from the consequences of their actions, but I am talking about helping them understand the effects of errors in judgment. This interaction is able to turn a fiasco into an opportunity to learn and go forward. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (NLT Study Bible Text,) Romans 8:29

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