Welcome to the “Ask Pastor John” podcast. This week, we are joined by guest Tedd Tripp, probably best known for his two best-selling parenting books, Shepherding a Child’s Heart and Instructing a Child’s Heart. Dr Tripp, thank you for joining us this week. We have a big week ahead, so let’s get right into it. And let’s start big picture: Parenting is hard and demanding work — I think every parent will agree. But are the aims and goals of parenthood really all that complicated? In other words, do Christian parents seem to oversimplify parenting or make it too complex?
Well, I think that, as you said, parenting is hard work, and it requires time and focus and intentionality, but I don’t think that necessarily has to be terribly complicated either. One of the problems we have, I think, in modern culture is that people want to have children, but they don’t necessarily want to be parents. We almost view children sometimes as possessions, “I have got these kids. Aren’t they cute!” especially when they are really young, and everyone oohs and aahs over your children. But the calling of being a parent is really a full-time focus. It has got to be one of the primary things that you are involved in when you are raising children.
Shepherding, Not Just Managing
So I think that knowing God and modeling God’s ways for our children is really the big picture idea — that I am a Christian, and I love God, and I want to draw my children into that whole spiritual world of this wonderful God and love for him and delight in him. And then helping them to see and embrace the goodness of God’s ways and the riches of God’s truth. That is where I want to be going with my kids all the time.
“One of the problems we have in modern culture is that people want to have children, but they don’t necessarily want to be parents.”
In the simplest terms, here’s the overview that I want parents to take away from my work on parenting: the goal is not just managing behavior. The goal is really shepherding a heart. The goal is nurture, so that my responsibility as a parent is not just to control, to constrain, to limit the range of choices, or to manage this kid so that he jumps through my hoops and does the things that I would like him to do. I think a lot of parents end up with no more profound focus than that, even Christian parents.
But I want to be shepherding his heart. I want him to understand that the heart is the wellspring of life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Then all the choices, desires, and purposes of the person are bound up inside, and we make choices and make decisions based on what is attractive and important to us.
Speaking to Your Child’s Heart
All the way through raising kids, that is what I want to do. Now the way you do it is going to be very different with a two-year-old than with a teenager. A two-year-old is not going to be self-conscious about motivation. I can’t ask him about his heart. He doesn’t even understand. He lacks the vocabulary, the insight, the understanding, the facility with ideas to even interact with that question. So you begin with kids talking about the heart even when you do correction. So a little child knocks over his sister and takes her toy, I want to correct that behavior: “Honey, no, no. You may not do that. Your sister was playing with that. We are going to give that back to her.”
“I want to raise kids that understand the world of reality. There is a God in heaven. He is glorious. And I want them to see his goodness.”
When I correct her or correct him, I am going to use the language of the heart to describe the thing: “Honey, you are not being kind to your sister. You are loving yourself, not loving her. You are serving yourself. You are not serving her. You must give the toy back to your sister. She was playing with it. That is a way you can express love for her.”
So even in my correction of this two-year-old, I am talking about things other than just, “Give her back that toy. That is bad. Don’t be bad. Be nice to your sister.” Well, those terms don’t have any meaning. There is no content to them. So, I am going to give content to that by talking about the heart. And with older kids, obviously, you can talk about heart issues much more thoroughly and even teach them through the middle years about attitudes of the heart and the way that behavior is pushed and pulled by what goes on inside.
So parenting is really, by God’s grace, aimed at raising faith-filled Christians.
Sure. I want to raise kids that understand the world of reality. There is a God in heaven. He is glorious. He is good. And I want them to see his goodness.