Over the course of this summer, I picked up Tedd Tripp’s Instructing a Child’s Heart. I had read his magnum opus of child-rearing, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, had recommended it to everyone I knew, and was ready to take the next step in my studies as a daddy.
Shepherding and Instructing a Child’s Heart are the most gospel-centric parenting manuals I’ve come across
Tripp calls parents to “formative instruction,” – that is, we have a responsibility not merely to allow culture to form the thoughts and habits of our children or to think, somehow, that we will passively affect their thoughts and behaviors without any intentionality.
God calls us to instruct our children about what to believe, how to think from the Scriptures, and how to live… Our central objective in instruction, discipline and correction is heart change, not behavior change.
After an extended call for formative instruction, Tripp gives a brief explanation of what that instruction entails – including the sowing and reaping principle, authority, the glory of God, wisdom, completion in Christ, and the importance of the church. He closes the book by giving thoughts on the application of this instruction.
Chase the Heart
One of the big takeaways for our family can be summed up in the brief statement, “Chase the heart.” Any time our children misbehave or fight (and they give us plenty of opportunities), we remind one another that correcting the behavior is important, but is not the ultimate goal. We remind one another to “chase the heart,” and help our children discover what sin or underlying motivation caused the action to begin with.
Do they need to cease that behavior? Certainly.
But if we only get them to stop through command, threat of punishment, or offer of reward, we lose the opportunity to help our children recognize sin, teach them to rely on the gospel for forgiveness, and to train them in righteousness.
I can’t recommend Instructing a Child’s Heart more highly.