• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 205 other followers

  • Calendar

    March 2011
    M T W T F S S
    « Feb   Apr »
  • Usually Kind Reader Interaction

    moodyfastlane on Parenting is a Boring Ble…
    expastor2014 on Focus on the Preached One, not…
    Lori on I am Rachel Dolezal
    godcentered on I am Rachel Dolezal
    Dave on I am Rachel Dolezal
  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Advertisements

Shepherding a Parent’s Heart

Perhaps I should give caveats and qualifications to this excellent critique by friend Anne Sokol on a book that I have heartily recommended but found myself accompanying said recommendations with caveats and qualifications, many of which are similar to Anne’s concerns. Anne raises some issues that have become matters of of concern for me as well. However, I may not be as strongly dismissive of the book because I think there are emphases that are good for certain people. Pastoral experience has taught me that a pastor is much like a pharmacist who mixes and concocts various sources to apply to particular needs. Often there needs to be a big dosage of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart,” however I do think that it should always come diluted with an awareness of problems that Anne has respectfully raised. Her four concerns are succinctly stated here and then expounded on in her article.

  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 disobedient to God.

It is not an uncommon experience among many Christian families that the youngest child has a more intimate, loving relationship with the parents than the oldest child. It is also not uncommon that the youngest child had far less spankings in his or her lifetime. This is often flippantly explained as a result of the youngest having the benefit of learning from the consequences suffered by the eldest. Or it is bitterly opined by the older children that the parents got soft. It is also a fairly common observation that older parents are less inclined to spank than younger parents. This is explained by saying that older people are sometimes overly indulgent and lack the energy required to be disciplinarian.

There may be some truth to the above statements, but I really think that another major factor is that maturing of Christian people to the realization that the parent-child relationship does not necessarily have to be defined by, as Anne says, the “rubric” of authority/submission, but by a loving relationship that accepts as very real the fact that a parent does not have the power to make a person change and that “spanking is not endued by God with such spiritual power, nor, in fact, is a parent endued with the power to restore the child.”

I do think that pain is sometimes necessary in discipline. But I also agree with Anne: “In His dealings with us as His children, God does nothing like reaching down and spanking us each time we disobey.”

I think thoughtful parents should carefully read Tripp. They should also carefully ponder critiques such as this.


12 Responses

  1. sheesh, i feel like i’ve earned letters after my name like Anne Sokol, noBBb
    (noticed on Bob Bixby’s blog)

    I hope in the mail to your church will soon arrive Ross Campbell’s Relational Parenting. It’s a great book to have in the lending library. His chapter on anger management is excellent, not to mention many other things. i dont think i have any reservations about that book.

  2. question:

    I thought this book was a lot less about authoritarianism simpliciter (like say the Ezzo stuff) and a lot more about working on the child’s affections. I thought it was more about getting them to understand the gospel and obey God in love than raw, mindless obedience.


  3. As I stated on my FB page and at SI, I still recommend the book. I think Anne seems (and may in fact) dismiss the book, but pastorally I can’t do that. I think it is more of how you read it then what he actually says.

    It could be compared to what my feeling is about nouthetic counseling, so popular among reformed/evangelical circles. I personally find it formulaic and, frankly, at times unbiblical. The Puritans were more pyschologically aware than the nouthetic counselors are today and yet nouthetic counselors seem to spin their approach as the only biblical way to deal with problems.

    Is it valuable? Yes. Does it help? Yes. Is it biblical? Most of the time. Should we listen to them? Yes.

    • Bob,

      Have you read any of the recent authors: Powlison, Welch or Tripp? Remember, Jay Adams was the only guy in the 60s arguing against the psychologizing of the church–even fundamental colleges were integrationist. They basically gave up progressive sanctification to the world. Jay Adams had to find his way through with little help from other Christians. Plus much of his material makes more sense when you realize he’s mainly addressing pastors that refused to help members struggling with clear sins–adultery, pornography, drunkenness, etc. He didn’t have as much of an emphasis on difficulties caused by suffering (both because of a broken world and suffering caused by the sins of others) as more recent biblical counselors do. Adams’ material needs to be read in that context. It’s still excellent, but biblical counseling has matured as more recent authors evidence in their writings. It is much less formulaic with fewer moralistic or behavioristic tendencies. Make sure you’re evaluating the current state of biblical counseling and not some version from the 70s.

      • Kraig,

        Good point. And perhaps it would be more clear to say that I do not like the practice of nouthetic counselors and their basic approach vs. biblical counseling per se.There clearly is a difference between the older writers and the newer ones, but I don’t think the practice has generally caught up yet.

  4. “In His dealings with us as His children, God does nothing like reaching down and spanking us each time we disobey.”

    Not in every area, sure. But I’m not sure that is universally the case. There are sinful choices in which we often experience immediate negative consequences as a result. Proverbs is replete with warnings of assured consequences of sinful behavior. Spanking does not always immediately solve the issue of concern when administered to a child, and the unpleasant experiences of conflict or broken relationships, or even a burning guilty conscience (for example) do not always deter us from, say, sinful anger or deceit. However, repeated unpleasant experiences (whether spanking or the experiences of consequences of our sin before God) are capable of shaping the attitude and behavior of an individual (along with other factors). Just as Tripp does not endorse spanking alone, God does not solely rely on consequences to deter us from sinful behavior, but provides us with revelation, teaching, and so on.

  5. Greg, I think you’re saying the same thing just from a different side. The argument, I think, is that spanking should not be considered as the automatic go-to, universally-applicable result of disobedience. However, it is also true (as you say) that sometimes immediate painful consequences are what God does use. I personally think that spanking should be a tool in the tool box. I think, however, that Anne is on target when she suggests that many Christians are inclined to think it is endued with some kind of extra blessing from God.

  6. Thanks Bob,

    I’m not worked up one way or the other. Was just curious because I thought Tripp was a healthy step AWAY from the ezzo/nouthetic counselling world.

    Anyway, I totally agree with your take on nouthetic counselling — Although I’d say it’s more popular with fundamentalists with calvinistic tendencies than with evangelicals or the thoroughgoing reformed. The CCEF guys aren’t perfect either but they are a step away from the hard-nosed forumulaic nature of much of NANC


    • Keith,

      Tripp really is a healthy step away from the Ezzo/nouthetic counseling world. But most of the people who read Tripp are Ezzo/nouthetic! They find confirmation more than finding correctives.

      Having said that, I still think Tripp overstates some things and I am not sure I get his “circle of blessing.”

  7. Anne is a friend of mine. I’ve interviewed her, and had a Women of Acts party for her. I’ve met one of her darling daughters.

    She has put into words what I wish I would have had the courage to say as I read it with a church group. At the time I was a new mother and felt intimidated. I wanted to jump up and say “I disagree with Tripp’s assertion that every child’s bottom is connected to his heart. ”

    The problem with this book (and other parenting books for that matter) is that they give a one size fits all formula for raising kids. Each child is unique and precious and each child needs special attention.

    It is refreshing to read thoughts from a pastor with some balance on this issue.

  8. I sent a copy of Relational Parenting to your church for the library. I looked through it again. It has some elements of psych-speak–I think he’s a psychologist and pediatrician. However, overall, he presents an extremely wholesome and broad view of Biblical parenting. I use stuff from chapters 3-6 daily.

  9. […] Shepherding a Parent’s Heart The Gospel and Discipline – A Scenario The “rod” Proverbs […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: