I was asked to write this article almost a year ago after attending a parenting conference with Tedd and Margie Tripp. With all the new knowledge I had in my notebook, I was so excited to share it but I felt it wasn’t what God was leading me to do and I wasn’t sure why. Last week after looking through my notes as I shared them with a friend, I saw all the progress we have made by implementing this knowledge, and now I know why God held me back. He wanted me to share a testimony instead of just my notes.
At our 2nd child’s dedication (also pregnant with #3) we were gifted the book Shepherding A Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. After sticking in on the shelf and riding out a really rough couple of years, I was reminded by a friend that I needed to read this book. I started to read the book and practice some things with our oldest child but stopped there. Prior to this, we weren’t too strategic about how we parented. We disciplined as needed for bad behavior and occasionally lost our tempers, scaring our children into obeying. This led to a lot of regret, discouragement and unfortunately- no real change in our children’s behavior. We then began to shift our conversations with our oldest by helping him understand the sin behind his behavior and walking him through what he should have done versus disciplining him for what he had done. Every moment of discipline became an opportunity to share the gospel with him. He began to really understand the gospel and his own need for salvation and decided to ask Jesus to live in his heart.
In the midst of this amazing joy we experienced with our oldest, the parenting book remained on the shelf, and our middle child was drowning in his own temper and stubbornness. In attempting to help him I would find myself just as angry and stubborn as him, and our relationship was suffering. I needed to help myself in order to help him and wasn’t sure practically how to do it. While crying on our front porch over losing my temper with him yet again, I begged God to help. In His perfect timing, as always, God opened a door to go to a parenting conference by Tedd and Margie Tripp. We have always joked about wishing that the hospital had given us a manual when they sent us home with a new baby but never realized that we had one right under our noses. As a mom and dad, living in obedience to God, we paint an imperfect picture of who God is to our children. We ARE given instruction on how to parent and it is laid out for us in the Bible, by clear commands and warnings and also by studying how God treats His own children (since we are to model that to them).
We began to implement what I learned that weekend and were in complete shock over the almost immediate results. Here are the changes that were made and what results we saw:
Change 1: Discuss God’s goodness as much as possible
Reason: We are made to worship someone or something as humans. If we want our children to worship and obey God, we need to show them how great our God is. Read Psalm 145 slowly. There is no denying the WONDER of our great, glorious, mighty and loving God! But if we lose our sense of delight in God and our kids don’t see us rejoicing in who He is, neither will they.
Result: Wonder/awe of God and His creation all around us fill their minds and conversations. A simple sunset is no longer just a beautiful thing to look at but a piece of God’s artwork for our enjoyment, and a reminder of the beautiful heaven we have hope to live in soon.
Change 2: No longer discipline bad behavior (unless disobedient, see change 3) but lead to understand what sinfulness from within led to that behavior. Role play to practice correct behavior
Reason: Understanding what led to bad behavior from within is what eventually leads to change for the right reasons. From Shepherding a Child’s Heart “to the extent they are successful (with disciplining bad behavior), they become like the Pharisees, people whose exterior is clean, while inside they are full of dirt and filth”. Mark 7:20-22 “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, pride, and foolishness.” We correct our children because we are called to teach them and train them up in the ways of the Lord. Our goal is to correct and lead to our need for Christ, not to punish for bad behavior.
Result: They now know how they feel inside and why they act the way they do. They sometimes catch themselves and do what we practice in role play, but please note: these behaviors are not a quick fix! We are simply laying a foundation for them for when they choose to put their faith in God and live in obedience to Him. Ezekiel 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
Change 3: Spank for all forms of disobedience, including partial disobedience. Do not engage in debates or disagreements
Reason: Children are commanded to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1). Parents are told to discipline their children (Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13 just to name a few). We, as Christians, are to walk in obedience to God. We are not called to question God’s authority and we are not to partially obey. Living in obedience is understanding biblical authority. We know what is best for our children and for their own benefit, they are to obey us. Being the sinful creatures they are, there will be defiance in this area as they desire to make choices on their own. When this defiance occurs, they are to receive discipline in the form of a spanking (the rod mentioned in verses above). Until they have the maturity, wisdom and life experience to make good choices, we are to make those choices for them. Choosing your battles is not wise advice, children are to obey their parents, period. Side note: God is perfect, therefore His discipline is perfect. He does not discipline His children out of anger or any ungodly attributes that we may find within our hearts as we discipline. There is a process Tedd Tripp lays out in his book in chapter 15 for spanking that is key in order to hold ourselves accountable. It is not considered abusive when done correctly and you will be surprised at your child’s response when the steps are followed!
Result: Obedience! Surprise! Initially, our oldest got more spankings than he used to. He was a fairly well-behaved child, but he does not like to obey. This created a lot of behavioral problems in the beginning but we now see him walking in obedience much more often. Our middle child was constantly misbehaving and getting spankings in the past and now, he rarely gets them. We were forced to give clear instructions for him to obey and he does, for the most part! Our youngest is 3… enough said? We have a little ways to go with her, but she is learning! The best result is what I see in myself. I have more self-control than ever before because I know what God expects of me and what my children need from me. I still mess up and respond in anger and have to apologize to my kids and seek God’s forgiveness and help on a regular basis.
My eyes well up with tears as I think back over the last year at how far we have come. Our middle son needed me (who he most resembles in personality) to SHOW him how to respond and control his anger by living out what I was trying to teach. He is very black and white and needed clear instructions from us as parents. We were more wishy-washy than we would like to admit and did not remain consistent in what we disciplined for and how. He didn’t know what to expect and couldn’t handle that. Those correction conversations (change #2) have been a game changer for our family. If he was wronged, his ungodly attitude within led him to act out. We then disciplined him for this behavior and he would lose his temper, often for hours at a time involving a lot of violence and holes in walls (yes, that intense), leaving us feeling defeated and frustrated. Now, we discuss what he felt within (ungodly attitude) and validate his feelings before guiding him through how to make a better choice in his response. He stays calm and his entire demeanor changes when he feels understood. We have not had a single blow up as we used to and our love for one another has grown immensely (and now I am crying!).
Every time I see the hole in the drywall behind my boys’ door, I am reminded of God’s grace for us and pray everyone can find wisdom in this area as well. I cannot recommend enough reading any parenting book by this couple. If ever given the opportunity to sit under the teaching of the Tripps, make it happen! They do not just tell you how to do things based on what they have studied and seen, like many parenting book authors do, but they seek wisdom in this area from God Himself and lay it out simply for us to understand. I pray that my sharing this leads you to seek wisdom in this area for yourself and for your family! Know if you read this you were prayed for!
Tami Johnson is a faithful servant of Christ with a passion for serving with kids as the Children’s Ministry Director at Lakeshore. She has been married to her husband, Dane, for 10 years and is fulfilling her dream of being both a mom and teacher by homeschooling her 3 young children. She is loving what God has called her to do in all areas of life!