12 December 2006

Shepherding a Child's Heart

I recently received an e-mail from an old friend who had heard about my pregnancy. She had some interesting questions for me such as what type of 'social conditioning' I was planning to expose my child to. There were obvious implications in the terminology she used, but even so I was glad to engage in a discussion with her.

I am beginning to feel the weight of the responsibility of motherhood that God has blessed me with. As much fun as it is to dream of the ways baby Humfrey will be like her mom or her dad (for some reason I think it's a girl), I know that it is essential that I begin to do some serious thinking on the biblical philosophy of parenting.

Obviously, I want to teach my child to love the Lord, but the 'how' can be a little less easy to discern. Each parent that you talk to has a different way or emphasis, and if you walk into the Christian bookstore there is a smorgasbord of methods to choose from--mostly comprised of little charts, anecdotes and accompanying dootles. It's enough to make one's head explode. Ton's of information, and none of it seems truly helpful.

One light I've found in the abyss of parenting resources is a little book by Ted Tripp called "Shepherding a Child's Heart." In it, he says, "A person's life is a reflection of his heart." He warns against the pitfall of merely correcting behavior without addressing the source of the problem, namely, the sinfulness of the heart. Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23, "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Tripp notes that the parent is not the ultimate authority of the child, but that the parent is answerable to God for his/her actions. The point of parenting is not to produce a well behaved child (that doesn't embarrass you), but rather a child who fears the Lord. He emphasizes that when a child's heart is corrected to have a Godward orientation, right actions will follow.

He also addresses important issues such as shaping influences, communication, setting goals, authority issues, and the purpose of discipline (i.e. punishment vs. correction).

I have found this book very helpful as I begin to put together my meager thoughts on parenting. As much as a 'mini-me' sounds appealing to my idolatrous mind, I am becoming more and more convicted that shaping an individual who loves the Lord is much more important.

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