Posted by: spaghettipie | June 5, 2008

Book Review – Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Title: Shepherding a Child’s Heart
Author: Ted Tripp

This book, I imagine, is (or will be) considered one of those modern classic parenting books. Ted Tripp draws on his vast experience as a pastor, counselor, school administrator, speaker and father to share with us his perspective on raising children. His underlying principle is that our role as a parent is to guide our children to understand themselves and the world in which they live. To do this effectively, we have to do more than just tell our children, we must lead them through open communication, self-disclosure, living out our values – shepherding their hearts. Tripp states, “The central focus of parenting is the gospel. You need to direct not simply the behavior of your children, but the attitudes of their hearts.”

The book is laid out in two parts: Foundations for Biblical Childrearing (the philosophy) and Shepherding Through the Stages of Childhood (the implementation). He begins with exploring the idea that the heart determines behavior. He walks through the various influences our child development that affect what fills the heart. He then reminds parents of their place of authority. I think this is an important concept to internalize, because I increasingly see in our culture a desire to be friends with our children, rather than parents. We focus on making our children like us, and so we gloss over the difficult responsibilities like discipline.

Tripp then moves into a section on goals, and what I loved about this part is how he shifts our focus from ourselves to God. For example, rather than wanting to raise well-behaved children – because it makes us look good or because it gives us control – we want to raise children who love God so much that they want to live in obedience to Him (not us!). These and other goals he discusses may seem good, but they are not Biblical.

The last section of the first part discusses many different Biblical methods, ranging from communication to spanking. While I appreciate his discussion and agree with many of the points he makes, parents should be aware that he does express some fairly rigid beliefs. Personally, I think you should consider the personality of each of your children and apply the methods that are most effective. However, parents should not dismiss the rationale and Biblical mandates behind what he suggests just because they disagree with the method or the extent to which it is used.

The second part is intended to be a more practical implementation of his philosophy. To me, this is the weakest part of the book. I walked away from the book still unclear how to implement most of the ideas he had discussed.

Overall, the concepts in this book are great and well explained. It could stand to be a little shorter and more concise, and needs more concrete points of application. But it is definitely worth the time to read.



  1. T,

    We’ve read both of those books and really appreciated them! Thanks for the reminder to get them out and look through them again.

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