Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. Shep­herd Press, 1995, paperback, 215 pages (also available as a Kindle ebook). [Reviewed by Dr. Julian Kennedy, CPRC, Ballymena.]

This is a book I wish I had read over 20 years ago, before I had my first child. It is a thoroughly bibli­cal approach to child-rearing, and I highly recommend it. The call to raise your children means it must be a priority, requiring study, thought, prayer, and action. You have limited time and only one opportunity to raise your children in God’s ways.

In this book Tripp guides us through the “why’s” and “how’s” of biblical child-rearing. Each informative chap­ter ends with questions that really test your understand­ing of his points. These make for an excellent review of the chapter and could be used in a Bible study group.

Tripp proceeds from the standpoint that parents ought to treat their (covenant) children as believers, and he rejects the notion of trying to “convert” them.

Tripp acknowledges that children are born sinners, but he affirms also that God can change the heart and that parents are God’s agents. We are to help our chil­dren understand life from a biblical perspective, teach­ing them they are sinners. Our discipline should be corrective. We must set the biblical worldview before our children. They must be shown that man’s chief end is to glorify God.

Tripp emphasizes that our lives as parents must be examples to our children, and that we must not send mixed messages by conforming to culture or adopting other goals. “You must help your children understand the rich treasures of living in the vitality of a robust and lively faith in Jesus.”

According to Tripp, the biblical method is as impor­tant as the objectives. “Poor methods—bribery, reward for normal responsibilities—these encourage selfishness and greed. Superficial parenting that does not address the heart produces superficial children who don’t know their own hearts.”

He helpfully explains communication as “how to draw out the thoughts of another, getting him to express himself, understand himself and see why he acted that way. Communication is the art of expressing in godly ways what is on my heart and of hearing completely and understanding what another thinks and feels.”

Perhaps the most enlightening issue Tripp addresses is physical punishment—the rod! He rightly empha­sizes this issue as applying to the first 6 years of child­hood. The foolish child has no fear of God, will not submit, and bears no reproof. The selfish child, driven by his own wants and passions if allowed his own way, will end up a rebellious teenager. Such a child is in grave danger. Disobedience merits a spanking. Refusing parental rule is refusing God’s rule and leads to death. The use of the rod (physical punishment) is an act of faith. The goal of correction is to bring the child’s heart to sweet, humble heart-submission to God’s will in obeying dad and mom. The method is God’s, to drive foolishness far from his heart. It has to be timely, measured, and controlled, not done with anger, bullying, frustration, or retribution. It is God’s way of saving a child from death. It imparts wisdom.

In addition, Tripp stresses other important points about discipline. It must be done in private. We must try to get the child to acknowledge the reason for the correction. Righteous anger is expressed when God is dishonored. Hatred, not love, will keep you from spanking. Where will a child be in 30 years if no one ever challenges his determination to do whatever he wants whenever he wants? If he is old enough to dis­obey, he is old enough to be disciplined. The authority issue should be settled early in childhood.

For the child aged 6-12, Tripp states that “he needs to know what to do when you are not there.” Our aim is character—honesty, kindness, helpfulness, diligence, self-control, purity—giving without expecting return, unselfishness. Strive to help your child, who is by na­ture a selfish sinner, see his need of Christ’s grace and mercy.

With regard to teenagers, Tripp has this to say: “Don’t foster rebellion by public reproof or using destructive demeaning terms. They are insecure and bow to peer pressure and fear of man.” Proverbs 1:7-19 forms the basis of our instruction. They must 1) fear the Lord; 2) heed parental instruction; and 3) dissociate from the wicked. “Your prayer is to see your children internalize the gospel and develop autonomous identi­ties as persons under God.”

Tripp fails on one major point, where he says he cannot find a promise in the Word that the children of believers will have faith. In fact, there are plenty, e.g., Psalm 103:17; Ps. 102:28; Ps. 69:36; Ps. 89:4, 29, 36; Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 44:3; Is. 59:21. Tripp places his hope in the power of the gospel without any reference to God’s cov­enant promises. He rightly states that teens may have serious doubts or questions. Relations with church people are vital. Your focus is to see them find comfort and strength in knowing God.

Overall this a helpful book and is recommended to all new parents.