The Week in Books 2009, No. 14

Instructing a Child’s Heart is the follow-up book to Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, which I have reviewed before. In this new book, Tripp discusses how parents should take opportunities for formative instruction apart from times when they are disciplining their children, and looks at how consequences can be best used as discipline. Tripp draws a distinction between biblical consequences (sowing and reaping that focuses on the heart) and behaviorism (capricious behavior manipulation). The book helped me understand that distinction more clearly, and also gave me some ideas for how I can better encourage my children.

I did have an issue with a point Tripp made about allowing children to make their own choices. Tripp contends that the parenting strategy of allowing a child several acceptable options so he can learn to exercise his independence is damaging to parental authority, and that children shouldn’t be given that sort of freedom until they are in their mid to late teens. To me, that sounds like a great way to ensure you get rebellious teens and young adults who might incur greater consequences than if they had been allowed to develop decision making skills in small steps earlier in life. Tripp used the example of a small child being allowed to choose the color of shirt he would wear as something that would infringe on a parent’s authority, which seemed to be taking issue with methods such as those in Parenting With Love And Logic and Making Children Mind without Losing Yours (I reviewed those here and here). I really disagree with Tripp on this point, but it wasn’t a long section in the book, and there was plenty of other good stuff to make up for it.

The section I found most helpful in Instructing a Child’s Heart was toward the end in a chapter on communication. Tripp pointed out the number of times the Bible talks about having restrained and pleasant speech, and how this is associated with wisdom, while harsh words or unrestrained speech is associated with a foolish person. He also noted that using harsh words or talking a point to death makes instruction difficult for children to receive without making them feel rebellious and frustrated. I thought Tripp’s examples and thoughts on communication were excellent and quite helpful.

Overall, I think if you’ve read Shepherding a Child’s Heart you’d probably get something out of Tripp’s new book, and if you try to use consequences as discipline in your parenting, Tripp’s points would also be useful for you.

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