We have officially entered the stage of child discipline in this household. Because I am very intimidated by this, I read three books on it, and now I am an expert ;). Just kidding. Here’s the breakdown on two of the books. (The third was “Entrusted with a Child’s Heart, and it is 500 pages long–making it hard to do a brief summary.) In the interest of length, I’m going to stay broad, and not use quotes or pick out individual sentences. If you want to read those kind of reviews, check out the reviews on Amazon (which is where the pictures come from, fyi).
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
The book is divided into two parts. The first part of the book gives overarching principles.
It points out the parent’s responsibility in teaching the child and pointing him or her toward God. It has you evaluate your goals in raising your children (e.g. to be happy, well-behaved, pray the sinner’s prayer, get a good education, etc. ) and see how they align with the Bible’s teaching. It points out that even if you tell your child that what is most important is to love and honor God, they pick up on casual things you say and do that teach them your real beliefs.
Another chapter walks through different methods of discipline, identifying them as either unBiblical or Biblical. Tripp’s three methods of discipline he considers Biblical are communication, spanking, and appealing to conscience. Communication can be listening to understand, encouragement, warning, reproof, correction, instruction, or prayer.
The second section of the book has training objectives and procedures for ages 0-5, 5-12, and 13-18.
–Ages 0-5: Teach them obedience to your (and God’s) authority. Be consistent while giving them permission to appeal.Build the foundation of your relationship with them by being a good example of obedience to God and pointing them to God through discipline.
–Ages 5-12: Teach character. Evaluate their relationships to God themselves and others. Address the attitudes of the heart as you see it in their behavior, and appeal to their conscience when you address them like Jesus did.
–Ages 13+: Teach fear of the Lord, adherence to parental instruction, disassociation from the wicked. Your use of authority goes down while your use of influence goes up, so keep interactions positive, not protecting them from the consequences of bad choices, but always pointing back to the cross and hope. and don’t nit-pick, but address overarching problems.
Pros: This book has a lot of practical ideas. I also liked that it focuses on addressing the child’s heart issues, not just teaching their behavior to conform to some social norm. Finally, it puts a big emphasis on building a good parent-child relationship, and being able to point to the Bible for the expectations you have and enforce with your child.
Cons: Tripp describes spanking as about the only Biblically acceptable form of discipline outside of communication, although he thinks this is acceptable only from parents, and doesn’t seem to use it at all with older children. So if this is the case, how would you discipline foster children? or students? Also, on page 180, he says that he doesn’t discipline for lying if the child doesn’t admit he lies after appealing to conscience (it’s unclear if this is with proven lies, or just suspected). He thinks it’s better to have the child growing up knowing you will believe him, than to discipline and break that relationship. I can see this to a point (I do remember a time in junior high I was telling the truth about something and a teacher told me I was lying. It did tick me off.), but I also think you could let your child become a pathological liar this way.
Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Summary: This book focuses on the communication and appealing to conscience aspects of discipline that distinguish Christians from non-Christians, that is, how to point your child to the gospel. It is pretty nichy, in that it’s definitely from a Reformed Baptist perspective, and it doesn’t spend much time address general discipline or much discipline for little children. The chapters cover the roles of law and grace, look at “goodness,” point out God’s ultimate role in changing kids’ hearts, and give examples of how to look to the gospel in many different parenting situations.
Pros: This book is a good reminder of God’s grace to us all the time. It constantly points parents to look to Jesus, as well as encourages parents to point their kids to Jesus and not just train them to be “good” kids. I appreciated the reminder.
Cons: First, due to the nichi-ness of the perspective, this isn’t a good book to recommend to just anyone. (Definitely not Mormons, who get called out in the first chapter. Ahem.) I’m from roughly the same perspective as the authors, and even I winced at the way some things were said and disagreed theologically with other lines. Also, some of the examples of how you would point a kid to the gospel are really long; they’re pointed at either “Christian” kids or “non-Christian” kids; and they don’t make kids apologize if they aren’t truly sorry. I think these might apply more when the kids are older, but I doubt it will help with young children.
Main conclusion after both books: They were both good books to read, even though you might not agree with everything the authors say. I concluded that I need to pray for a lot more wisdom and trust God with the results. Who knew? 🙂 I realize that sounds like a cop-out, but there is no way every situation that may arise can be described in these books. The basic idea is to love your children, be consistent in discipline, and focus on their hearts and the gospel, not just on conforming behavior. Then ask God to help you apply that to various situations.
Do you have any books on discipline you’d recommend?