Book Review: Shepherding a Child’s Heart


Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp is a treasure chest of biblical wisdom for parents desiring to raise children that will honor and obey the Lord all the days of their lives.  My daughter commented that this is the longest she has ever seen me read a book.  It has truly taken me several weeks to read this book because it has given me so much to think about while reading and considering parenting in light of the gospel.  This book is not a quick read if you are doing it right.  Reading this book caused me to evaluate my own upbringing, my understanding of the gospel, and the call that the Lord has placed on mine and Clint’s lives to raise our kids in a way that honors Him.

I have the privilege of teaming up with some friends in a few weeks to go through this book together as a part of professional development at the Christian school I serve at.  I’m eager to hear other perspectives on this text as we seek to mature in our understanding of biblical parenting as we encourage and hold one another accountable.  Obviously this book also has great implications for the students we invest in every day as well.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • God is concerned with the heart—the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23).  Parents tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart.  We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”.  Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior.  To the degree and extent to which our focus is on behavior, we miss the heart.
    When we miss the heart, we miss the subtle idols of the heart.  Romans 1 makes it clear that all human beings are worshipers; either we worship and serve God, or we make an exchange and worship and serve substitutes for God—created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18-25).  When parenting short-circuits to behavior we miss the opportunity to help our kids understand that straying behavior displays a straying heart.  Our kids are always serving something, either God or a substitute for God—an idol of the heart.  p. xi
  • The church mirrors the problems of the culture because we weren’t doing biblical parents a generation ago.  p. xix
  • 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. p. xix
  • Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise becomes wise.” As a wise parent your objective is not simply to discuss, but to demonstrate the freshness and vitality of life lived in integrity toward God and your family.  Parenting is shepherding the hearts of your children in the ways of God’s wisdom.  p. Xxi
  • Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” p. 3
  • Your child’s needs are far more profound than his aberrant behavior.  Remember, his behavior does not just spring forth uncaused.  His behavior—the things he says and does—reflects his heart.  If you are to really help him, you must be concerned with the attitudes of heart that drive his behavior.  p. 4
  • Shaping influences are those events and circumstances in a child’s developmental years that prove to be catalysts for making him the person he is.  But the shaping is not automatic; the ways he responds to these events and circumstances determine the effect they have upon him.  p. 10
  • Are the values of your home based on human tradition and the basic principles of this world or on Christ? p. 12
  • Your son or daughter responds according to the Godward focus of his or her life. p. 16
  • What would your children identify as the values of your family?  What are the things that matter most to you? p. 17
  • Whatever the shaping influxes of life, it is the child’s Godward orientation that determines his response to those shaping influences. p. 18
  • Since there is no such thing as a place of childhood neutrality, your children either worship God or idols. p. 21
  • You need to engage your children as creatures made in the image of God.  They can find fulfillment and happiness only as they know and serve the living God. p. 22
  • Since it is the Godward orientation of your child’s heart that determines his response to life, you may never conclude that his problems are simply a lack of maturity.  Selfishness is not outgrown.  Rebellion against authority is not outgrown.  These things are not outgrown because they are not reflective of immaturity but rather of the idolatry of your child’s heart.  p. 23
  • Freedom is not found in autonomy, it is found in obedience. (Psalm 119:44-45). p. 27
  • Children will be good decision makers as they observe faithful parents modeling and instruction wise direction and decision making on their behalf.  p. 31
  • Discipline is an expression of love. p. 36
  • While is is true that disciplined children are a joy to their parents (Proverbs 23:15-16, 24), as God’s agents you cannot discipline for mere matters of self-interest or personal convenience.  Your correction must be tied to the principles and absolutes of the Word of God.  The issues of discipline are issues of character development and honoring God.  It is God’s non-negotiable standard that fuels correction and discipline. p. 37
  • What is a biblical definition of success? p. 41
  • Many of these activities (sports, arts, clubs, etc.) 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. p. 50
  • In a biblical vision, you should instruct your children to entrust themselves to God in the face of unfair treatment.  You should teach them the principles of the Scripture. Romans 12:17-21 tells us that the only weapon strong enough to overcome evil is good.  We are exhorted to leave vengeance with God.  He will deal with the issue of justice.  Luke 6:27-36 helps us understand how to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.  It promises that we will be sons of the One who is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 1 Peter 2:23 tells us to face injustice without retaliation, entrusting ourselves to God.  You should encourage your children to see the needs of those around them.  You should help them learn to make peace.  You should teach that a soft answer turns away wrath.  Train your children to use occasions when hurt to leaven how to love God and deepen their trust and confidence in him.  p. 52
  • Grades are unimportant.  Some children can achieve “A’s” without any diligent effort.  Others struggle for a good solid “C”.  What is important is that your child learn to do his work diligently for God.  God has promised that he will reward the faithful.  Knowing that gifts and abilities are a stewardship from the Lord, your child’s objective should be faithfulness.  You need to train your child to find in Christ the strength and power to work for God’s glory.  Anything else is training him to think and act unbiblically. p. 55
  • Teaching your children to live for the glory of God must be your overarching objective.  You must teach your children that for them, as for all of mankind, life is found in knowing and serving the true and living God.  The only worthy goal for life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. p. 56
  • Biblical goals require a biblical approach—only godly methodology will bring glory to God. p. 59
  • Biblical discipline addresses behavior through addressing the heart.  Remember, the heart determines behavior.  If you address the heart biblically, the behavior will be impacted. p. 66
  • Your child is a covenantal creature.  The heart is the well-spring of life. p. 67
  • God is not only concerned with the “what” of parenting, he is concerned with the “how.” the Bible seeks to the issues of methodology. p. 69
  • Methods and goals should be complementary.  You want your child to live for the glory of God.  You want your child to realize that life worth living is life lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  You methods must show submission to that same Lord.  Methods designed to produce well-adjusted and successful children won’t work because your goal is not simply success and good adjustment. p. 71
  • “In the process of helping your child understand his sin, you stand both above him and beside him.” p. 79
  • Communication must be multi-faceted and richly textured.  It must include encouragement, correction, rebuke, entreaty, instruction, learning, teaching, and prayer.  All of these must be part of your interaction with your children. p. 81
  • “Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14 p. 81
  • ENCOURAGEMENT-Children need communication designed to inspire and fill with hope and courage. p. 82
  • CORRECTION-Sometimes a child needs to be brought into conformity with a standard. p. 82
  • REBUKE-A rebuke censures behavior. p. 83
  • ENTREATY-The earnest pleading of a father or mother who, understanding their child, the ways of God, and the extremity of the moment, is wiling to bare his soul in earnest pleading for his child to act in wisdom and faith. p. 83
  • INSTRUCTION-Instruction is the process of providing a lesson, a precept, or information that will help your children to understand their world. p. 84
  • I gain understanding form your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Psalm 199:104 p. 85
  • WARNING-Your children’s lives are fraught with danger.  Warnings put us on guard regarding a probable danger. p. 85
  • Communication not only disciplines, it also disciples. p. 89
  • You must bring integrity to your interaction with your children.  You model the dynamics of the Christian life for your children.  You must let them see sonship with the Father in you.  You should show them repentance.  Acknowledge your joys and fears and how you find comfort in God.  Live a shared life of repentance and thankfulness.  Acknowledge your own sin and weakness.  Admit when you are wrong.  Be prepared to see forgiveness for sinning against your children.  The right to make searching and honest appraisal of your children lies in willingness to do the same for yourself. p. 91
  • Children trust you when they know you love them and are committed to their good, when they know you understand them, when they 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.  When a child knows that all his life you have sought to see the world through his eyes, he will trust you.  When  he knows that you have not tried to make him like you or like anyone else, but only sought to help him realize his full potential as a creature God made to know him and live in the relationship of fellowship with him, he will trust you.  p. 94
  • You must regard parenting as one of your most important tasks while you have children at home. p. 97
  • Hebrews 12:11 “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.” p. 104
  • It is not a kindness for the parent to ignore the rebellion against God’s authority that will ultimately bring God’s even greater chastisement. p. 106
  • The central focus of childrearing is to bring children to a sober assessment of themselves as sinners.  They must understand the mercy of God, who offered Christ as a sacrifice for sinners. p. 120
  • Correction and shepherding must focus on Christ.  It is only in Christ that the child who has strayed and has experienced conviction of sin may find hope, forgiveness, salvation, and power to live. p. 121
  • Biblical goals must be accomplished through biblical methods. p. 123
  • Ephesians 6:1–3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (ESV) p. 129
  • Obedience is the willing submission of one person to the authority of another.  It means more than a child doing what he is told.  It means doing what he is told—without challenge, without excuse, and without delay. p. 134
  • As a wise parent, you must exercise sensitivity to your child’s needs and wishes as you provide direction. By doing so, you model godly authority that is truly kind. p. 137
  • The gospel seems irrelevant to the smug child who isn’t required to do anything he does not want to do.  It seems irrelevant to the arrogant child who has been told all his life how wonderful he is.  Bu the gospel has great relevance for the child who is persuaded that God calls him to do something that is not native to his sinful heart—to joyfully and willingly submit to the authority of someone else!  Only the power of the gospel can give a willing heart and the strength to obey. p. 139
  • Consistency is mandated if your children are to learn hat God requires obedience. p. 144
  • “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15 p. 145
  • Discipline must not rob a child of his dignity. p. 146
  • How will your child ever see his need of Christ’s forgiveness and grace if he never faces the native rebellion of his nature and his inability to obey God from the heart? p. 151
  • If you are too mad to discipline properly, instruct your child to take a seat or go to his room.  Then you must seek the face of God.  You must repent of your anger.  You must remain before God until you are able to deal with your child in integrity. p. 155
  • Whatever motivates the behavior trains the heart. p. 172
  • You must be a person of long-term vision.  You must see your children’s need for shepherding, not simply in terms of the here and now, but in terms of long-range vision. p. 181
  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7 p. 187
  • Make it a point to read through the major and minor prophets with your children during their teen years.  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. p. 187
  • Proverbs 1:8-9 reads, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” p. 189
  • One of the foundational elements of shepherding is influence. p. 201
  • “The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” Proverbs 16:21 p. 205

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