Shepherding a Child’s Heart

by brenda on

by Jenne Glover

We earnestly desire to bring up our children in the absolute best environment we can possibly provide. We teach them who God is and that He loves us. We carefully select the way we will educate our children. We teach them to respect authority and be well-behaved. We monitor their friends, their classroom, their coach and team. We protect them from as much evil in the world as we can, for as long as we can. …But what if, in doing all these good things, we inadvertently miss the Best Thing?

This summer sixty-some mothers studied that very question using a book called Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. The book and four-week class challenged me to look carefully to see where I am following the Bible, and where I have allowed the world’s philosophies to seep in. Tripp raises the question, for example, ‘are you a determinist dressed in Christian’s clothing?’ He explains that many Christian parents adopt the belief that children are helpless victims of the circumstances in which they were raised. “You make a grave mistake if you conclude that child-rearing is nothing more than providing the best possible shaping influences for your children.” Parents who fit this bill “figure that if they can protect and shelter him well enough…if they can provide the best possible childhood experience, then their child will turn out okay.” Tripp continues: “Such a view fails to consider the fact that human beings are creatures who are directed by the orientation of their hearts.” And that orientation or heart attitude is either towards God or towards idols.

One powerful example of observing heart attitude is two siblings fighting over a toy. Mom’s response: “Who had it first?“ That hits upon the issue of justice, but misses the heart-attitude in both children: selfishness. Both children want the toy, regardless of what it takes to get it, or who they hurt in the process.  Both hearts must be addressed here.

The examination of your children’s heart attitude is critical in raising them to love God. It is at that point that you can begin to address the real motivations and begin to direct their hearts toward God. Children, like adults, need to identify real examples of when their behavior is talked about in the Bible, along with what God says about those behaviors. So, Tripp argues, we ought to use such ‘teachable moments’ to talk about things like selfishness and generosity. We can use these moments to hide the Word of God in our children‘s hearts. (Phil. 2:3 tells us we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition, but rather consider others better than ourselves.)

As I considered what life would look like if I responded as Tripp – and the Bible – instructs, I was both overwhelmed and encouraged at the same time. I knew immediately this was far beyond my power and that I would have to increase the time I spent alone with my Creator, but I also knew that if I chose this way, the Lord would equip me, and my children and family would reap the benefits.

 

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