Shepherding a Child’s Heart


Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 1995. $12.99

The main point of this book is encouraging parents to get past just trying to change the behaviors of their children, but rather get to the heart of the behavior. This is a book that deals with speaking to the very heart of your children. Realizing that too many parents react only to symptoms of underlying sin, the author attempts to help parents look deeper, to see that all the things a child says and does flow from the heart (Luke 6:45). If a parent can understand a child’s heart and shepherd that heart, he can deal most effectively with a child’s deepest needs. Through it all he seeks to keep the gospel central to a parent’s calling and to a child’s response.

The author points out that children are not morally neutral, they are born sinners, just like we were born sinners, no one had to teach us how to be bad. Therefore, there is a need to be instructed and disciplined to bring them back to the safety of God’s will. The author also points out that a child can learn how to be behaviorally acceptable and function in society, all the while being in sin because they are not doing it for the right reasons. Their heart has improper motivations, desiring deceit, or rebellion.

Another principal of this book is teaching your children how to submit to authorities. They will have trouble submitting to their heavenly father if they never learned how to submit to their earthly one. The author encourages this to be taught by using the method of first time obedience this way the children learn who is in control and how to behave in a manner that is acceptable.

The last section of this book covers how to properly use the rod. The author advocates spanking as really the only biblical method of punishment for correcting young children. He lays out very clear circumstances in which children should be spanked and suggests many circumstances in which parents must not spank. He makes this type of corporal punishment very deliberate and very loving. He suggests that parents must be fully in control of themselves when they spank and must not be filled with anger.

Parents do not punish their children out of anger, embarrassment or retribution, but to teach children that defying authority will bring about consequences. Children must know that God demands obedience to authority and that there are consequences for defiance. The book then transitions into practical ways to train your children through different stages of life. The author walks the reader from infancy all the way to the teenage years.

I did disagree with one section that the author had in this book. On pages 52 and 53, the author starts by discussing how he did not believe that sports were ideal for children because you have to worry about the worldviews of the coaches and the author believes that organized sports encourage pride. In addition, the author believes that practice times take away from family time. As an alternative, he offers an example of how his family took a 650-mile bike ride in order to get strenuous activity, but also to get quality family time.

I disagree with this because it separates your family from the world. I believe that sports is a great way to not only get strenuous exercise, but also learn discipline, how to submit to authorities, how to lose, how to win, and how to work with others that are not like you. This last part is especially important if you are home schooling your children. Sports provide children a great way to expose their children to the world in a controlled atmosphere that allows them to gain experience in socialization. In addition, I think it provides opportunities to discuss things when things do occur that are contrary to a Biblical worldview. I fear that the author is focusing on to much of the family and separating it from the world.

I also disagreed with him on the next page where the author suggests that there is never a reason for your child to get in a fight. The author believes that the child should always seek how to make peace. Ideally, I agree with the author. A child should never seek out to solve a problem through violence. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a fallen world, which requires you to sometimes to have to defend yourself and others. The author does not address if a kid comes up and starts hitting the child. Are they just supposed to take a beating? What if their sister is being bullied, are they suppose to ask nicely for them to stop? This is only good advice before it becomes physical.

The biggest lesson that I got from this book is that we have to get to the heart of the behavior and not just be happy with correcting behavior. In addition, the greatest principal was the importance of teaching the gospel through discipline. The biggest challenge I see is not doing it because of bad motivations, such as, because you want others approval. This is especially important for us in ministry because we feel like our lives are under the microscope anyways.