Friday, July 30, 2010

Some Words From Ted Tripp on Unbiblical Parenting Goals

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about parenting lately. Having two children is hard enough, and now we are getting ready to have a third. Child rearing has been an experience of great challenges. One of the books I’ve read in order to gain a biblical perspective on this duty is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp. One passage I have found particularly challenging and relevant is his section on unbiblical goals in parenting. I want to mention two of them here in particular:

Well Behaved Children

“Some succumb to the pressure to raise well-behaved kids. We help them develop
poise. We teach them to converse. We want children who possess social graces. We
want them to be able to make guests comfortable. We want them to be able to
respond with grace under pressure. We know that these skills are necessary to be
successful in our world. It pleases us to see these social graces in our

I’m A Pastor who has raised three children. I’m certainly not down on
well-behaved children. Yet, having well-behaved children is not a worthy goal.
It is a great secondary benefit of biblical child rearing, but an unworthy goal
in itself.

You cannot respond to your children to please someone else. The temptations to
do so are numerous. Every parent has faced the pressure to correct a son or
daughter because others deemed it appropriate. Perhaps you were with a group
when Junior did or said something that you understood and were comfortable with,
but that was unquestionably misread by others in the room. Stabbed by their
daggers of disapproval, you felt the need to correct him for the sake of others.
If you acquiesce, your parenting focus becomes behavior. This obscures dealing
biblically with Junior’s heart. The burning issue becomes what others think
rather than what God thinks. Patient, godly correction is precluded by the
urgent pressure to change behavior. If your goal is well behaved kids, you are
open to hundreds of temptations to expediency.

What happens to the child who is trained to do all the appropriate things? When being well-mannered is severed from biblical roots in servant hood, manners becomes (sic) a classy tool of manipulation. Your children learn how to work others in a subtle but profoundly self-serving way. Some children become crass manipulators
of others and disdainful of people with less polish. Others, seeing through the
sham and hypocrisy, become brash and crass rejecters of the conventions of
culture. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, scores of young adults rejected
etiquette in an attempt to be real and unpretending. Either reaction is a
casualty of manners detached from the biblical moorings of being a servant”
(Tripp, 45-46).

Another unbiblical goal that I think is worth mentioning is “control.”


“Some parents have no noble goal at all; they simply want to control their
children. These parents want their children to mind, to behave, to be good,
to be nice. They remind their children of how things were when they were
youngsters. Frequently they employ the “tried and true” methods of
discipline—whatever their parents did that seemed to work. They want
children who are manageable. They want them to do the right thing whatever that is at the moment). The bottom line is to control their kids. But, the control is not directed toward specific character development objectives. The concern is personal convenience and public appearance” (Tripp, 46-47).

In any position of leadership, especially in the ministry, I think these unbiblical goals become easy temptations. People look at us and think that our kids ought to be perfect, since after all “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Ministers don’t want people to get the idea that they cannot “control” their own household, so it’s easy to feel tempted to bow to the pressure of other people’s expectations. At times it might even feel that the ability to "control" your kids is a condition of employment! This kind of unbiblical pressure can be excruciating, and it can be very difficult to keep one's parenting focus where it should be.

I have felt this pressure numerous times since the first day that I became a father. Even though I recognize that temptation is unbiblical, it rears its ugly head quite often so that I must cry out, “Lord, deliver me from the fear of man, and help me to patiently shepherd my child according to your expectations and not the expectations of others.”

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