One Mom’s Look at Tedd Tripp’s Book: Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Image of Shepherding a Child's Heart
by Tedd Tripp
Shepherd Pr 1995
Paperback 211

(Today and Thursday, we’ll be posting two perspectives on Christian parenting. Anne Sokol’s focuses on Tedd Tripp’s popular book on parenting. In tomorrow’s article, Aaron Blumer writes on “The Simplicity of Biblical Parenting.”)

For brevity, I focus here on my disagreements with Shepherding a Child’s Heart—its application of some Scriptures and its overall emphasis. My main concerns are these:

  1. The book’s focus on requiring obedience as the primary component of the parent/child relationship and emphasis on parental authority as the right to require obedience.
  2. Tripp’s teaching that spanking is the means the parent must use in order to bring a child back into “the circle of blessing.”
  3. Tripp’s interpretation that the “rod” in Proverbs equals spanking, that spanking is even for young children, that spanking is the God-ordained means of discipline (which parents must obey) and that use of the rod saves a child’s soul from death.
  4. His portrayal of any other style or method of parenting in a derogatory manner and training parents’ consciences that failure to discipline as his book teaches is disobedience to God.

These points are the heart of Tripp’s teaching, and while his book contains many truths, it does not communicate the full truth of gospel-oriented parenting, as he claims it does.

1. Is obedience the primary component of the parent-child relationship, and is it right for parents to mainly exercise their authority as the right to require obedience?

For several reasons, I see the obedience emphasis as a frustrating, and even false, paradigm for the parent/child relationship. The truth of the gospel is that my child will never obey me or God perfectly while on the earth. I, an adult, will never obey God perfectly on this earth. The essence of the gospel is that perfect obedience to God’s standards is only achieved by Christ—and in Him, we are free from this exacting burden.

So emphasizing obedience as the primary component of the family relationship, as Tripp does, distorts the gospel and puts our focus on ourselves and our sinfulness—not only because we will always fail, but also because our works are not praiseworthy; they are only acceptable insomuch as they are the Spirit’s work. The gospel focuses us on Christ’s obedience and His complete sufficiency for us. And the deeper we understand and accept that truth, the more we are transformed into His image (i.e., the more we obey). Obedience is the fruit, not the object. Obedience is our joyful freedom, not our punishable law.

Martin Luther wrote:

Therefore the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him, as Peter teaches (1 Peter v.) when he makes no other work to be a Christian one….

Then comes in that other part of Scripture, the promises of God, which declare the glory of God, and say, “If you wish to fulfil [sic] the law, and, as the law requires, not to covet, lo! believe in Christ, in whom are promised to you grace, justification, peace, and liberty.” All these things you shall have, if you believe, and shall be without them if you do not believe. For what is impossible for you by all the works of the law, which are many and yet useless, you shall fulfil [sic] in an easy and summary way through faith, because God the Father has made everything to depend on faith….

Now, since these promises of God are words of holiness, truth, righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of universal goodness, the soul, which cleaves to them with a firm faith, is so united to them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that it not only partakes in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all their virtues.1

A better rubric for parenting is developing a loving relationship (which does entail teaching obedience) which prayerfully prepares a child’s heart so that it is favorable to receive the good seed of the gospel. Again, teaching obedience is one part of this. Tripp’s emphasis is wrong and his methods are limited—he claims that communication and the rod are the only “biblical” methods of discipline.

Second, on the subject of authority as the right to require obedience, Tripp writes:

Authority best describes the parent’s relationship to the child. (p. xix)

When your child is old enough to resist your directives, he is old enough to be disciplined. When he is resisting you, he is disobeying…. Rebellion can be something as simple as an infant struggling against a diaper change or stiffening out his body when you want him to sit in your lap. (p. 154)

Yes, loving parenting authority does require obedience, but the extent to which Tripp emphasizes this is mistaken. Though he mentions other aspects of servanthood in authority, his main thrust is authority as requiring obedience, and he goes to great lengths to teach parents exactly how to exercise authority in this manner. Tripp’s book makes this the main factor in the parent/child relationship in a manner that is not consistent with Scripture.

For example, God’s relationship with us as His children is characterized by many things other than His right to demand obedience from us. He emphasizes lovingkindness, rejoicing, longsuffering, compassion, and sacrifice. He meets our true needs, helps us to will and to do His good pleasure, has compassion on us, blesses us—and much more. Tripp gives little attention to how these apply to parenting.

We want to model the entire nature of God—not mainly God’s exercise of authority over us to command obedience. Communicating to my child that God can be trusted because He always is acting in wisdom, righteousness and truth toward us is the more godly path to obedience.

Again, Martin Luther understands:

This also is an office of faith: that it honours with the utmost veneration and the highest reputation Him in whom it believes, inasmuch as it holds Him to be truthful and worthy of belief…. What higher credit can we attribute to any one than truth and righteousness, and absolute goodness?

Thus the soul, in firmly believing the promises of God, holds Him to be true and righteous…. In doing this the soul shows itself prepared to do His whole will; in doing this it hallows His name, and gives itself up to be dealt with as it may please God. For it cleaves to His promises, and never doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and will do, dispose, and provide for all things in the best way. Is not such a soul, in this its faith, most obedient to God in all things?

In His dealings with us as His children, God does nothing like reaching down and spanking us each time we disobey. Sin has natural consequences, but God bears them with us, redeems them, and works in the secret places of our hearts transforming our beliefs and understanding about Him. Greater obedience results. His graciousness is not permissive, but it is very patient—training yet not demanding.

2. Does spanking bring a child back into the “circle of blessing”?

Shepherding a Child’s Heart connects spanking with blessing:

The rod returns the child to the place of blessing…. The rod of correction returns him to the place of submission to parents in which God has promised blessing. (p. 115)

The disobedient child has moved outside the place of covenant blessing. The parent must quickly restore the child to the proper relationship with God and the parent. As the child returns to the circle of blessing, things go well for him. He enjoys long life. (p. 135-136)

The Bible does not support Tripp’s teaching that spanking brings a child back into the “circle of blessing.” Spanking is not endued by God with such spiritual power, nor, in fact, is a parent endued with the power to restore the child. Biblically, confession and repentance restore our fellowship with God and others. Let’s cling to this promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NASB, 1 John 1:9). Tripp’s made-up “circle of blessing” teaching goes beyond what God says.

Also, the command to obey was given to the child. Just as husbands are not told to make their wives submit and wives are not told to make their husbands love them, parents are not told to make their children obey.

I taught my daughters to obey—starting when they were small—because I wanted their hearts to be sensitive and trained in the things of God. But teaching obedience is only one facet of my parenting.

3. Has Tedd Tripp correctly interpreted the “rod” passages?

Tripp teaches that the “rod” in Proverbs equals spanking, that spanking is even for young children, that spanking is the God-ordained means of discipline (which parents must obey) and that use of the rod saves a child’s soul from death.

God has commanded the use of the rod in discipline and correction of children. It is not the only thing you do, but it must be used. He has told you that there are needs within your children that require use of the rod. If you are going to rescue your children from death, if you are going to root out the folly that is bound up in their hearts, if you are going to impart wisdom, you must use the rod. (p. SACH, 108)

The rod … is the parent, as God’s representative, undertaking on God’s behalf what God has called him to do. He is not on his own errand, but fulfilling God’s. (p. SACH, 109)

Tripp’s use of Proverbs 23:14 (NIV: “Punish him [a child] with the rod and save his soul from death”) is faulty. Only the grace of God saves us from death and from our sinfulness. It is unbiblical to assert that spanking is God’s “means of grace” for saving children in any way. We diligently teach our children to obey, but spanking them is not salvific in nature. In fact, it is usually unnecessary. There are many godly ways we can teach our children to obey: by our example, by physically helping them fulfill our instructions, by meeting their internal and external needs, by teaching that choices have consequences, etc. God does these things for us as His children.2

The book refers several times to this conversation:

Father: “I must spank you. If I don’t, then I would be disobeying God.” (p. 31)

And again, “Dear, you know what Mommy said and you did not obey Mommy. And now I’ll have to spank you.” (p. 103)

In reference to the mother’s actions, Tripp explains that “the issues of correction transcend the present. All earthly punishment presupposes the great day when destinies are eternally fixed” (p. 103).

The conversation Tripp describes suggests parents who are controlled by a parenting formula rather than by the Holy Spirit: “I must spank you.” And linking earthly punishment to the day of judgment is a distortion of God’s relationship to us. As His child, my eternal destiny was decided already, because He punished His Son, not me.

As His children, He does not consistently punish us when we sin. He trains and disciplines us consistently but He is not obligated to punish us. By teaching parents that they are required to spank, Tripp teaches children (and their parents) that—contrary to the gospel—God does punish us consistently for our sins. Because Christ was punished for us, God is free to use whatever methods of discipline He wishes in order to train us and bring us closer to Himself.

Luther’s words are helpful once again:

When I say, such a Person [Christ], by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of His wife, nay, makes them His own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were His, and as if He Himself had sinned…. Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ.

Tripp errs gravely in asserting that spanking is God-ordained, that God’s methods of discipline are limited to communication and spanking, and that parents must spank or they are sinning.

The book also lacks adequate attention to age differences and stages of development—a great aid in child-rearing. On this point, Sally Clarkson writes:

The unfortunate thing is that many parents, in the name of faithful discipline, do not understand the differences between babies or toddlers or young children or even teens with all of their hormones, and they exhibit anger and harshness toward their children, act in a demeaning way, while neglecting the cues of the child at each stage. These parents have no perspective for the children themselves–they use a rule and formula no matter what–and often wonder why their children do not respond to them.3

4. Is Tripp correct that any other methods of parenting are ineffective and disobedient?

Finally, Tripp consistently describes other methods or styles of parenting or discipline as ineffective and undesirable. This is a weakness in his argument because other godly methods of biblical training do exist and have been used effectively for many years.

For example, a daughter of Puritan parents, Mary Fish (1736-1818) writes: “They were very watchful over us in all our ways, and they had such a happy mode of governing that they would even govern us with an eye, and they never used severity with us at all.”4

These summarize several of the major errors in teaching and emphases that I have found in Shepherding a Child’s Heart. The book includes several good teachings, but the overarching errors concern me to the point that I do not recommend the book to parents. Those considering promoting this book and its teachings seriously should give these topics a lot of thought.

Notes

1 All Luther excerpts here are from Concerning Christian Liberty, Part 2.

2 According to Clay Clarkson, Heartfelt Discipline, Prov. 23:14 is probably referring to the use of an actual rod on the back of a young man (p. 56).

3 http://www.itakejoy.com/first-time-obedience-really/

4 Joy Day Buel and Richard J. Buel, Jr. The Way of Duty: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America, p. 7

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There are 124 Comments

DavidO's picture

Quote:
A better rubric for parenting is developing a loving relationship (which does entail teaching obedience) which prayerfully prepares a child’s heart so that it is favorable to receive the good seed of the gospel.

This is not what Tripp teaches in SaCH??

dmicah's picture

Anne,
are you saying spanking is unbiblical? wrong?
or are you saying Tripp exaggerated its effectiveness and its biblical mandate?

mp

Jonathan Charles's picture

Proverbs certainly teaches spanking. It also speaks of verbal correction. In the early chapters of Proverbs (1-9), all the father does is teach his son. I take it that Proverbs advocates a mixture of discipline techniques. In our home, spanking is used more often when the children are young, along with instruction but it tails off as the children get older and eventually all discipline is instruction and restriction of privileges. Another consideration for us is that my son is a large teenager; it would take a heck of a beating to spank him.

Anne Sokol's picture

dmicah wrote:
Anne,
are you saying spanking is unbiblical? wrong?
or are you saying Tripp exaggerated its effectiveness and its biblical mandate?

mp


I dont' really want to focus this thread on spanking/not. The Bible does not speak directly to spanking small children.

Please go back and read my points again. Don't just skim. Tripp says spanking and communication are the only methods of childrearing. He is wrong. He is wrong about other emphases too.

Anne Sokol's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
Proverbs certainly teaches spanking. It also speaks of verbal correction. In the early chapters of Proverbs (1-9), all the father does is teach his son. I take it that Proverbs advocates a mixture of discipline techniques. In our home, spanking is used more often when the children are young, along with instruction but it tails off as the children get older and eventually all discipline is instruction and restriction of privileges. Another consideration for us is that my son is a large teenager; it would take a heck of a beating to spank him.
Jonathan, the son in Proverbs is a young adult. Caning your teen is what Proverbs (and "rod")is talking about, not that I recommend it. Biggrin

Anne Sokol's picture

DavidO wrote:
Quote:
A better rubric for parenting is developing a loving relationship (which does entail teaching obedience) which prayerfully prepares a child’s heart so that it is favorable to receive the good seed of the gospel.

This is not what Tripp teaches in SaCH??

There are many other parenting books that do a much better job with this without leaning parents into the adverarial/authority thing that Tripp gets into, that I just dont recommend his stuff. Things like Ross Campbell's Relational Parenting and Clay Clarkson's Heartfelt Discipline are much better approaches.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Let's not lose sight of Anne's focus here... her point is not to reject spanking but to argue against the emphasis she believes Tripp places on it as a. mandated, b. having the power to deliver a soul from death, c. have some connection to the judgment day, and d. having the power to restore child to blessing. (Having not read the book, I don't know if this accurately represents what he's saying. Some of it certainly seems to!)

Personally, I believe painful discipline is absolutely mandated and sometimes this is going to have to be physical. The "rod" passages establish this idea.

As for Prov. 23.13-14, na'ar likely does mean something like "young man." But the more important word is in v.14. "Death" is sheol, the pit, the grave, the condition of being dead. It almost certainly does not refer to "hell" (NKJV, KJV) here. Though there are a few places where sheol is used in reference to a place that the context clearly identifies as a place of judgment, these are exceptional and there's no evidence of that here. The Proverbs generally focus on practical results.
FWIW, I'm convinced that the Proverb commends the use of painful discipline as a means of avoiding "an early grave."
IOW, it's essential for developing good habits.

Where I mainly differ with Anne is on the centrality of teaching obedience and the role obedience has in sanctification. It's possible to overemphasize anything, but it's pretty hard to emphasize obedience more than Scripture does!

DavidO's picture

I don't have my copy of this because I lent it to my brother who is probably caning his six year old daughter right now. I kid. :bigsmile:

BUT, if my recollection is correct, Tripp expressly and carefully states that mere compliance or some sort of knuckling under 'obedience' is not what a parent should be after. While he heartily affirms the authority of parents in the lives of their children, he also urges them to transparently come along side them as co-strugglers who have found the answer in the gospel. He further stresses that it is the issues of the heart that all behavior springs out of and if a parent fails to shepherd a child to understand his/her behavior in light of revelation, any angry enforcement of authority will merely drive a child farther from God.

His point if children never learn to live under the authority of their parents, they will not accept God's authority, for whom the parents sort of "stand in".

And obedience is a goal. The gospel is something to be obeyed.

On another note, do you understand the following proverb to refer only to teenagers?

"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him."

DavidO's picture

From this side of the cross, if spanking, in coordination with other discipleship means, helps a child recognize that he is one under many authorities, the ultimate of which is God's, does not spanking effectively help deliver one's soul from death?

I know that's not the best exegesis from the Hebrew, but I think its far from teaching spanking as a sacremental means of grace.

Tripp isn't saying it is the act of spanking that restores the child to fellowship, it's what loving discipline accomplishes in the child's heart that does so.

Anne Sokol's picture

these are thoughts that get at the heart of some issues here.

DavidO wrote:
His point if children never learn to live under the authority of their parents, they will not accept God's authority, for whom the parents sort of "stand in".

Yes, and you see, you have to accept his premise--which he offers as fact. It's such a limited perspective. It's one perspective of God we must understand, not the entire rubric of our parenting relationship. So my main beef with this idea is that it is not the main thing, as Tripp makes it the main thing--and it's not to be "taught" the way Tripp says it's to be taught.

DavidO wrote:
And obedience is a goal. The gospel is something to be obeyed.
The obedience is belief.

DavidO wrote:
On another note, do you understand the following proverb to refer only to teenagers?
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him."

Proverbs is addressed to teen/young adults. So applying the "fool" of Proverbs to the "foolishnes" or childishness of a 2- or 3-year-old is not consistent with what God has in mind there, IMHO.

Anne Sokol's picture

DavidO wrote:
From this side of the cross, if spanking, in coordination with other discipleship means, helps a child recognize that he is one under many authorities, the ultimate of which is God's, does not spanking effectively help deliver one's soul from death?

I know that's not the best exegesis from the Hebrew, but I think its far from teaching spanking as a sacremental means of grace.

Tripp isn't saying it is the act of spanking that restores the child to fellowship, it's what loving discipline accomplishes in the child's heart that does so.

Tripp says it's essential and the one God-ordained means to "save your child's soul from death. He is wrong on several counts there. Not to mention the "holy burden" he's putting on parents who desire godly children.

Some more quotes from Tripp:
The rod:

Quote:
“God has ordained the rod of discipline for this condition. The spanking process (undertaken in a biblical manner set forth in chapter 15) drives foolishness from the heart of a child” (106).

“Your children’s souls are in danger of death—spiritual death. Your task is to rescue your children from death. Faithful and timely use of the rod is the means of rescue” (106).

“God has commanded the use of the rod in discipline and correction of children. It is not the only thing you do, but it must be used. He has told you that there are needs within your children that require use of the rod. If you are going to rescue your children from death, if you are going to root out the folly that is bound up in their hearts, if you are going to impart wisdom, you must use the rod” (108).

“I knew that failure to spank would be unfaithfulness to their souls” (109).

“The use of the rod is an act of faith. God has mandated its use” (109).

“The rod . . . is the parent, as God’s representative, undertaking on God’s behalf what God has called him to do. He is not on his own errand, but fulfilling God’s” (109).


Circle of Blessing:
Quote:
“The rod returns the child to the place of blessing. . . . The rod of correction returns him to the place of submission to parents in which God has promised blessing” (115).
“The disobedient child has moved outside the place of covenant blessing. The parent must quickly restore the child to the proper relationship with God and the parent. As the child returns to the circle of blessing, things go well for him. He enjoys long life” (135-136).
“Remind him that the function of the spanking is . . . to restore him to the place in which God has promised blessing” 151).

DavidO's picture

A few things.

I don't think Tripp makes it (God's authority) the main thing. I think he says it's foundational, though, and that's hard to argue with.

The greek word often translated believe is more like exercise faith, if I understand correctly, and includes a submission to God's authority.

Anne Sokol wrote:
and it's not to be "taught" the way Tripp says it's to be taught.

Says . . .?

Susan R's picture

The only objection I remember having to SaCH was the tone- that his standard is the benchmark by which all other parenting methods are measured. To be fair, I haven't read enough of Tripp to know if that is what he really intended. I think any time we are passionate or deeply convinced about something, we tend to come across as dogmatic.

Drawing conclusions about someone's parenting from a brief synopsis of their beliefs and experiences (and I don't care how long the book is, when you consider the details of everyday life and the unique dynamics of family, any book about parenting that doesn't look like the tax code is a brief synopsis) is problematic. It is also too easy, IMO, to read our own bias into the information presented. This really is a case of eating the chocolate and spitting out the foil for me, or taking the time to investigate the premise more deeply by comparing other writings to create a more accurate picture.

It is more beneficial to clearly present one's insights as "This is what worked for us, this is what we based it on, this might work for you too". This, for me personally, lowers the tendency toward a defensive response.

Charlie's picture

Anne, I'm not a parent yet, and I don't have a great stake in many of the particulars that may concern others. I applaud you for your approach.

1. It is scripturally informed, even if there isn't a lot of detailed exegesis.

2. It is historically sensitive, bringing the best of classic Protestant theology into the conversation.

3. It is theologically oriented, in that it operates under the assumption that central Christian truths (nature of God, gospel) are paramount in guiding praxis.

So, I was glad to read it, and I think you've set the stage well for meaningful interaction.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Anne Sokol's picture

my original article was over 4000 words, so aaron did a great job paring it down to some essentials so people would actually get past the first point. the original had about 7 points of disagreement!

I agree a lot with Susan, I hate formula parenting books and that's exactly what SACH is (and GKGW, for that matter). parents are so individual and so are family dynamics, so while some people read a book and get one thing, others read it and get another, and the author wrote it saying you have to do exactly as he prescribes or you're wrong . . . .

sigh. have more to post Biggrin

Anne Sokol's picture

DavidO wrote:
I don't think Tripp makes it (God's authority) the main thing. I think he says it's foundational, though, and that's hard to argue with.
I dont' think God's authority (meaning, the right to require obedience, as Tripp means) is the "foundational" way God deals with us. God is, in essesnce, our authority, He governs us. It's not a debatable point. But He doesn't go about His plan of salvation/relationship making this foundational, iykwim. Tripp is really, really big on this.

Authority (parental) is better just assumed instead proven, exercised, extracted, etc., as his book mainly communicates. I'm not knocking teaching a child to obey. It should be a "happy habit" to obey (a little Charlotte Mason there). And it is a lot of work for a parent to do this! Doing this while growing in intimacy and closeness to your child.

DavidO wrote:
The greek word often translated believe is more like exercise faith, if I understand correctly, and includes a submission to God's authority.
Reading the book of John, Jesus says often something like "do what I command" and then He is at the same time talking about faith. His command is to believe in Him. It changes everything in one's life.

DavidO wrote:
Anne Sokol wrote:
and it's not to be "taught" the way Tripp says it's to be taught.

Says . . .?


A lot of people Biggrin Perhaps even God Himself, if we'd listen.

dmicah's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
dmicah wrote:
Anne,
are you saying spanking is unbiblical? wrong?
or are you saying Tripp exaggerated its effectiveness and its biblical mandate?

mp


I dont' really want to focus this thread on spanking/not. The Bible does not speak directly to spanking small children.

Please go back and read my points again. Don't just skim. Tripp says spanking and communication are the only methods of childrearing. He is wrong. He is wrong about other emphases too.

Anne,
To be clear, i read your article.
I asked questions to clarify, not loaded questions. I didn't make comments or tear apart your points. I was trying to understand fully your position.

The reason i asked is b/c only in your first point do you give any personal alternative to Tripp's points. 2-4, you basically say, "He's wrong". Much of your support comes from others, i.e. Luther, Clarkson. I was simply requesting more info on your personal thoughts related to spanking and a suitable alternative.

For instance, you mentioned that you trained your daughters when they were young. How did you train them to obey at 6 months, 16 months and then 4 years? What tools did you employee?

regards,
mp

Anne Sokol's picture

another point I haven't put into the article at any point is his really bogus definitions of "behaviorism" and "punitive." He defines them in a very limited way that serves his purpose in order to counter the arguments that his method is not behavioristic or punitive. Define these words correctly, and take out his caveat that spanking is God-commanded, and you have a very behavioristic and punitive method.

Punitive:
SACH, 37, "Discipline: Corrective, Not Punitive
"If correction orbits around the parent who has been offended, then the focus will be venting anger, or perhaps, taking vengeance. The function is punitive. If, however, correction orbits around God as the one offended, then the focus is restoration. The function is remedial. It is designed to move a child who has disobeyed God back to the path of obedience. It is corrective."

Do you see how he rides you down his logic road? He says it's punitive if it's angry or vengeful, not if it's corrective, remedial, restoring. But that's wrong, really. Punitive simply means "inflicting, concerned with, or directed toward punishment" or "inflicting punishment; "punitive justice"; "punitive damages." (google search "define: punitive") Spanking is punitive, regardless of the motive.

Behaviorism. . .it's a page or so, but basically, i would argue that his method is pretty behavioristic:

“When does a child need a spanking? When you have given a directive that he has heard and is within his capacity to understand and he has not obeyed without challenge, without excuse or without delay, he needs a spanking. If you fail to spank, you fail to take God’s Word seriously. You are saying you do not believe what the Bible teaches about the import of these issues. . . . If obedience is to be absolutely mandatory for him, you cannot tolerate disobedience” (149).

Anne Sokol's picture

I think the proverbs about the rod, foolish "child," saving his soul from death, etc. would be better understood in this light:

Quote:
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 "If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. "And they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' "Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear.

Anne Sokol's picture

dmicah wrote:
Anne,
To be clear, i read your article.
I asked questions to clarify, not loaded questions. I didn't make comments or tear apart your points. I was trying to understand fully your position.

The reason i asked is b/c only in your first point do you give any personal alternative to Tripp's points. 2-4, you basically say, "He's wrong". Much of your support comes from others, i.e. Luther, Clarkson. I was simply requesting more info on your personal thoughts related to spanking and a suitable alternative.

For instance, you mentioned that you trained your daughters when they were young. How did you train them to obey at 6 months, 16 months and then 4 years? What tools did you employee?

regards,
mp

I'll give a short and a long answer here.
the short answer is that there are a lot of parenting skills that help teach obedience. I'd recommend goybparenting.com and parentingfreedom.com, itakejoy.com and googling "gentle discipline." It's a journey, so give yourself time. Books: Anything by Ross Campbell, Clay Clarkson, Danny Silk (not read him personally though), and child development series by Louise Bates Ames (Gesell Institute of Human Development).

oh, here are some other stuff:
http://www.steadymom.com/2011/02/positive-discipline-5-tips.html
http://www.itakejoy.com/first-time-obedience-really/

Here's the long answer, and I basically had to limit the article to my objections to this book. I want to say, also, there are good things in the book. I don't think it's all terrible. there is just not space to sift out the bad from the good in the article, nor would i hand the book to a parent assuming they could sift out the bad from the good.

When my first child was 2, I was a frustrated, spanking parent. Spanking was basically the ONLY parenting skill I had available to myself and our relationship. I was expressing my discipline frustrations to an acquaintance, and she amazingly packed up a box with a billion "gracious" parenting books and mailed them to me here in Kiev. They were not all anti-spanking. In fact, Ross Campbell's Relational Parenting (hands-down the #1 book I would recommend to parents of small kids), does advise spanking on some occasions, but he has a LOT of things to do that are positive ways of "compliance training" (ha ha). I did a lot of reading, a LOT of learning other parenting skills, ways to help my child obey that were not punishing in nature. It took me several months of transition time, a HUGE mental change from "I MUST teach you to obey me." to, "how can I come along side my child and help her learn obedience in a way that my manner is Christlike?" . . . It took me time to wean away from spanking, from threatening spanking, from going from spanking to yelling for control . . . to learning patient ways to teach obedience.

So, my kids are wonderfully imperfect, and they are quite obedient! certainly not robots and I'm not a perfect mom in a long shot (I think this whole parenting thing is more about who we become as people/parents in one way). But anyway, like I said, i think parents are so different in their personalities and they really need to develop their own "parenting style" that is consistent with the Bible. I have no formulas to offer, just growing Biggrin

Aaron Blumer's picture

David O., we had some discussion on this last week in the Forum -- the faith and obedience angle.
I don't want to repeat everything I said there, but I'll summarize: faith is obedience but it is not "works." So the question--in relation to parenting--becomes "What role does obedience/works have in the growth of those who are regenerate?" In other words, it's very much a question of how someone understands sanctification.
My personal belief is that many nowadays (most?) underrate the role of "works" in sanctification. I believe the indwelling of the Spirit, our union with Christ, our new birth, etc., profoundly change what "works" or obedience means compared to the works of a person who is trying to obtain peace with God apart from or instead of faith.
(Galatians is a favorite text of today's "let go, let God" crowd--which has both Keswick and Reformed editions--but I think Galatians has been misapplied in many cases.)

Lots about that here... http://sharperiron.org/forum/poll-how-important-it-for-christian-parents...

As for parenting technique... at our house we have been passionate believers in "first time obedience." I wish I could say we have been stunningly successful implementers of first-time obedience! Not even close. Smile

dmicah's picture

Quote:
So, my kids are wonderfully imperfect, and they are quite obedient! certainly not robots and I'm not a perfect mom in a long shot (I think this whole parenting thing is more about who we become as people/parents in one way). But anyway, like I said, i think parents are so different in their personalities and they really need to develop their own "parenting style" that is consistent with the Bible. I have no formulas to offer, just growing

thanks for the detailed response.
My wife and I are doing our best with three sons, 8, 6 & 3. Each with their own personality which requires discipline tweaks. We only use spanking for outright, rebellious "testing the limits" behavior. Where i tend to side with Tripp's philosophy on authority is that children from the moment of birth strive for autonomy. It's the way of sin. So based upon age and development, mild and temporary pain is an option for attitude correction and a very physical reminder of who is in charge. So where i can agree with you is that it is not necessarily a biblical mandate, but biblically acceptable. But we definitely keep a lot of tools in the tool belt; if you don't, you can't take them in public. Smile

Favorite parenting story to date: Last year when my two oldest were 7 & 5, i sat them on the couch and delivered a fantastic "Dad" speech about their poor behavior. Not yelling, not scolding, not threatening. Just five minutes of inspirational locker room coaching; prepping them to listen better, stop fighting, behave and obey Mom and Dad. At the end, I joined them on the couch, hoping to hear a "Sorry, Dad" or "We'll do better." The five year old finally spoke and said, "Dad....you're new name is Waster." "Why is that son?" "Because you've wasted my time." All i could do was roll to the floor laughing...

DavidO's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
faith is obedience but it is not "works." . . . nowadays (most?) underrate the role of "works" in sanctification.

Agreed, and I hope what I was saying sounded like what you say above (if not, that's my fault) which is why I don't have much of an argument with Tripp. Although I probably need not spend more time trying to express why I think what we agree on and what he is saying are congruent. His book is not that expensive for anyone who wants to see for themselves.

Anne Sokol's picture

dmicah wrote:
Where i tend to side with Tripp's philosophy on authority is that children from the moment of birth strive for autonomy. It's the way of sin. So based upon age and development, mild and temporary pain is an option for attitude correction and a very physical reminder of who is in charge. So where i can agree with you is that it is not necessarily a biblical mandate, but biblically acceptable. But we definitely keep a lot of tools in the tool belt; if you don't, you can't take them in public. Smile
I really dont see them that way. I think God made children very dependently-natured on us parents, emotionally, physically, etc. God makes our children very, very open to us parents in many ways. So winning their hearts and talking about our faith and truths is very easy. A diaper-change struggle is not rebellion Wink

Maybe I don't look at "disobedience" the way you do. Usually disobedience is a signal that something is wrong in our relationship. Not always, but often. And I like first-time obedience. I don't go about it the way Tripp does, but I do work toward and usually have pretty immediate happy obedience.

Also, using something like natural consequences can be a lot more "painful" in some ways, and lot more effective for kids. I have a "don't work, don't eat" you're-part-of-a-family policy, and I have only had to enforce it once. They love togetherness.

RyanS's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:

Tripp's emphasis is wrong and his methods are limited--he claims that communication and the rod are the only "biblical" methods of discipline.

You take issue with Tripp’s position on spanking. It is clear from several statements that you disagree with spanking young children and opt for other methods that are more relational. My question to you is this: Is that not communication? What other tools are there apart from physical and verbal correction (perhaps deprivation of privileges)? By rejecting physical correction, all one is left with is communication, and that is even more limited! I think Tripp’s explanation of communication in the context of training a child is quite good and his approach is biblically balanced on the whole.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Anne,

The problem is, you don't have any BOYS! Cool

Rachel L.'s picture

Quote:
By rejecting physical correction, all one is left with is communication, and that is even more limited!

In the above, I believe the word "punishment" is what is meant rather than correction.

I correct my children physically by *making* them obey (moving their bodies, moving their hands, removing items from them) when they are unable to make themselves obey. I do not, however, physically punish them. I do not at all feel limited by no longer using physical punishments. As a matter of fact, when I stopped spanking I found that I was MUCH LESS LIMITED in my responses. A whole new world of teaching and correcting was opened up to me when I no longer relied on spanking to do everything.

I agree with Anne's assessment of Tripp's materials. Tripp would tell me that I'm sinning because I no longer spank my children. My question to him would be: If my children are being well-taught without spanking them, why MUST it be used?

Greg Long's picture

I'm sorry, Anne, I just don't buy your objections. I think Tripp makes a very biblical case for the discipline methods he espouses (both instructive and corrective), while I don't think you argued from Scripture. I do believe spanking is God-ordained (I think that's pretty clear from multiple verses in Proverbs), although it is certainly not the only method of correction we use.

Have you read any of the Tripps' (both Tedd and Paul) other books? Such as War of Words or Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands? I don't know how anyone could argue that they are anything other than Gospel-centered. It is not about "making" a child obey, as if we could do that on our own, but getting to the heart of the matter and using the Gospel to bring about repentence.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Rachel L.'s picture

Greg,

Do you believe that spanking is REQUIRED of Christian parents?

Anne Sokol's picture

RyanS wrote:
You take issue with Tripp’s position on spanking. It is clear from several statements that you disagree with spanking young children and opt for other methods that are more relational. My question to you is this: Is that not communication? What other tools are there apart from physical and verbal correction (perhaps deprivation of privileges)? By rejecting physical correction, all one is left with is communication, and that is even more limited! I think Tripp’s explanation of communication in the context of training a child is quite good and his approach is biblically balanced on the whole.

You know, my best stand-by parenting skill when one of my kids balks at obeying is this: taking her in my lap, talking to her, giving her a hug, just a few things like that for about 2-3 minutes--filling the emotional tank--and then I make the exact same request, and she bounces off happily to obey.

There are so many, many ways to reach a child's heart. So many ways to help them learn obedience, many things that God does for us. It's really not limited at all.

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