More wisdom from Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart about our God-appointed role as parents. Reflecting on how best to teach obedience as we seek God's will for us and our children in the purpose of parenting.
We are appointed by God to exercise authority as His agent in the lives of our children:
“You exercise authority as God’s agent. You may not direct your children for your own agenda or convenience. You must direct your children on God’s behalf for their good.”
“The purpose of your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God.”
“As a parent, you must exercise authority. You must require obedience of your children because they are called by God to obey and honor you. You must exercise authority not as a cruel taskmaster, but as one who truly loves them.”
We are to hold out God’s standard and help our children see their need of grace:
“The law of God is not easy for natural man. Its standard is high and cannot be achieved apart from God’s supernatural grace. God’s law teaches us our need of grace. When you fail to hold out God’s standard, you rob your children of the mercy of the gospel.”
We are to come alongside our children in trying to understand their heart struggles and to help them learn how to express themselves:
“Superficial parenting that never addresses the heart biblically produces superficial children who do not understand what makes them tick. They must be trained to understand and interpret their behavior in terms of heart motivation. If they never have that training, they will drift through life, never understanding the internal struggles that lie beneath their most consistent behavior.”
“The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another. Your objective in communication must be to understand your child, not simply to have your child understand you. Many parents never learn these skills. They never discover how to help their children articulate their thoughts and feelings.”
“Your first objective in correction must not be to tell your children how you feel about what they have done or said. You must try to understand what’s going on inside them. Since the Scripture says that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, you must engage your children to understand what is going on inside...What you must do is peel away the behavior and discern the inner world of your child in this situation. While you can never understand the issues of the heart flawlessly it is a pursuit worthy of effort.”
“Your communication objective can be stated in several simple propositions.
1. The behavior you see is a reflection of the abundance your child’s heart.
2. You want to understand the specific content of the abundance of his heart.
3. The internal issues of the heart of greater import than the specifics of behavior, since they drive behavior.
To summarize: You want to understand your child’s inner struggles. You need to look at the world though his or her eyes. This will enable you to know what aspects of the life-giving message of the gospel are appropriate for this conversation.
If you are going to understand and help your child understand himself, there are skills you must develop. You must learn to help your children to express themselves. You must learn to facilitate conversation. You must know how to comprehend behavior and words. You must strive to discern matters of the heart...
As a parent you want to be such a student of understanding.”
“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)
“Your role is to help him understand himself and speak with clarity and honesty about his internal struggle with sin. There are three issues you must walk him through: 1) the nature of temptation 2) the possible responses to this temptation, and 3) his own sinful responses.
In this process you stand both above him and beside him. You are above him because God has called you to a role of discipline and correction. You are beside him because you, too, are a sinner who struggles with anger toward others.”
We are to be committed to their good, investing ourselves in helping them to realize their full potential as they grow in fellowship with God:
“Children trust you when they know you love them and are committed to their good. When they know you understand them, when they know that you understand their strengths and weaknesses, when they know that you have invested yourself in encouragement, correction, rebuke, entreaty, instruction, warning, 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 anybody 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.”
We are to address their rebelliousness and help them learn that they can only get their help and strength to obey from God.
“What a wonderful opportunity to talk to children about the rebellion of their hearts! Show them how they are inclined to disobey and turn irrationally for what is good for them. Confront them with their weakness and inability to obey God without God’s work within. What happens to the child who becomes persuaded that obedience is good for him? Do his problems with submission melt away? No, no more than yours do when you know what you should do. Doing what he knows is good may still elude him. This, too, takes him to God. He must learn to get hold of God for help and strength to obey.
The gospel seems irrelevant to the smug child who isn’t required to so 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. But the gospel has great relevance for the child who is persuaded that God calls him to so 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.”
With the long-term in mind, we are to teach our children the importance of submission.
“Even though the child will not be able to fully appreciate the importance of submission, training him to do what he ought, regardless of how he feels, prepares him to be a person who lives by principle rather than mood or impulse. He learns that he cannot trust himself to judge right and wrong. He must have a reference point outside himself. He learns that behavior has moral implications and inevitable outcomes.”
God, help us to better understand Your role for us as parents, to better understand our children and their unique struggles with sin, and to better understand the ways that You are working to carry on to completion the great work You have begun in their lives. (Philippians 1:6)