This December we had our awards night for our kid’s ministry, Lightbearers. As a part of that evening, we gave each family a copy of Tedd Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” Over the next several weeks we will be posting articles based on chapters from that book in order to encourage and help parents in the work of parenting.
In Shepherding a Child’s Heart Tripp makes a simple claim and outlines the rest of his work based on this premise: “What your children say and do is a reflection of what is in their hearts.”
The Role of a Parent
What is the core role of a parent? What does a parent do and how do we know? Understanding the role of the parent is crucial for how you must interact with and lead your children. For many today, parenting is taking the role of a guiding advisor. Many believe, that we are here to give good advice, point them in the right direction, but to let them make their own decisions, to do what they want. This is not God’s call for parents. God has designed parenting for a purpose, and that is rooted in being the leading authority in our children’s lives.
Authority is a scary word, and as natural sinners we tend to hate authority. In the country and world we live in today, we constantly hear about abuses of authority. Government, police, corporations, take their authority and wield it as a weapon against the vulnerable. Since this is the message that is constantly told to us, we have lost belief that authority can and is a good thing. The truth is, God is the ultimate authority over the world and has put parents over their children for their benefit. Parenting is taking authority over your kids, not to abuse authority, but for the good of the kids.
The Scriptural Command
Tripp points out Genesis 18:19. God says to Abraham “I have chosen him [Abraham] so that he will direct his children and household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” God gives Abraham a task, to raise, direct his family to obey God’s commands. Parents today are tasked with he same job. Parenting is no longer about you and your children, God has now given parents a task, a job, and we are raising our children on His behalf.
Ephesians 6:4 commands fathers particularly “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” God has placed parents as the authority over their children and has been given a specific job, to train them to obey the Lord. Your children’s obedience is now not about obeying you and about your pride, but it is about obeying the Lord, and honoring Him.
Coming back to the idea of authority, a major error in parenting has been letting children be the key decisionmakers.
Tripp gives this seemingly unimportant example:
“As a school administrator, I observe that most parents do not understand the appropriateness and necessity of being in charge in their child’s life. Rather, parents take the role of adviser. Few are willing to say, for instance, “I have prepared oatmeal for your breakfast. It is a good, nutritious food and I want you to eat it. Maybe other mornings we will have something you like better.” Many are saying, “What do you want for breakfast? You don’t want the oatmeal I have prepared; would you like something else” This sounds very nice and enlightening, but what is really happening? The child is learning that he is the decision maker. The parent only suggests the options. This scenario is repeated in the experience of young children in clothing choices, schedule choices, free-time choices and so forth. By age thirteen the child is out of control. Parents can cajole, plead, urge (in frustration and anger), scream and threaten, but the child is his own boss. The parent has long since given up the decision-making prerogative in the child’s life.” (Tripp, pg. 31)
Tripp is clear that parents is not some harsh, cruel, no freedom allowed dictatorship, but children learn and grow best when they are under parental authority who is under God’s authority. For many parents, this is not a practice you’ve done, and it seems impossible to start now. First, repent, to God and your children by saying “I have not been as active in my children’s life as I should be, I have let you make decisions that I knew would only hurt you and bring you further from God, forgive me.” Parents must be active and in charge in their children live. As Tripp says “Children learn to be wise decision makers by learning from you.”
Make sure to read Shepherding a Child’s Heart for more on this issue.
Tedd Tripp. 2005. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press.