(photo courtesy: Amazon.com)

I have recently been reading through Tedd Tripp’s parenting book entitled Shepherding a Child’s Heart. One particular excerpt regarding a child’s poise particularly caught my attention. Tripp relates to the dangers of purposing to rear a child within social graces. He states,

“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 children.

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 childrearing, but an unworthy goal in itself.”

Tripp further comments on the distinction of correcting our children for behavior modification in contrast with Godly correction. He says,

“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, you 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 servanthood, manners becomes 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 hyprocrisy, become brash and crass rejecters of the conventions of culture. …Either reaction is a casuality of manners detached from the biblical moorings of being a servant.”

Tripp concludes each chapter of his book with Application Questions, I included a few below for you:

  • How do you define success? How would you want your child to complete this sentence? “What mom and dad want for me is…”
  • Remember, you are a shaping influence for your children. What makes you tick? What would you say drives you day by day? What do you fear, love, feel anxious about? What are the values taugh in your home?
  • What are the subtle ways you are tempted to teach your children to function in society on its terms?
  • What mixed signals do you send to your children? Ex: Doing your best is all that matters to me (I don’t want to see anymore C’s on your report card).
  • Are the spoken and unspoken rules of your family life consistent with true spirituality-living for the glory of God?

I am so challenged by Tripp’s godly counsel and guidance. What did you learn from the excerpt? What are your struggles and strengths in parenting?

Thanks for reading!