In this convicting chapter, Tripp moves from the goals of parenting to the methods. He looks at several popular, but unbiblical, approaches to disciplining our kids. He observes that as parents we cannot afford to be indifferent to methodology. Our methods are as important to God as our goals, and biblical goals must employ biblical methods. The following are some of the unbiblical methods prevalent in our society today.
1. I Didn’t Turn Out So Bad
In this method, a parent blindly employs those methods used by their own parents without any thought to whether or not those methods are biblical.
2. Pop Psychology
There is no shortage of advice out there on how to raise kids in our society. Some of the most popular ideas today involve bribing our kids or having them sign contracts in order to get things done. Tripp describes these as superficial methods of parenting and points out that they latch on to the evil in our children’s hearts and use that to motivate them.
3. Behavior Modification
This involves rewarding good behavior and ignoring, or perhaps punishing, bad behavior. Tripp offers his opinion that kids should not be rewarded for fulfilling normal responsibilities. Doing so only trains their tender hearts to be greedy and look out for their own self-interest in obtaining rewards. Eventually they become manipulators of the system.
This involves getting emotional in order to get our kids to do what we want them to. It includes statements such as “You hurt my feelings” and shaming a child. Contrary to shepherding their hearts, this method does not help them to learn the specific issues of the heart causing their behavior.
5. Punitive Correction / Grounding
Punitive correction includes the threat of punishment. The most popular form of it is grounding. Again, this issue does not address the issues of the heart which are causing the specific behavior. Rather, it is punitive in nature. Tripp believes this method is popular in our society today because it is easy. It does not require patient instruction and communication with the child. Unfortunately, kids subjected to this form of correction just learn how to cope with the punishment and never address the heart issues in a biblical way.
6. Erratic Eclecticism
This “method” involves no consistency. Parents freely draw from many sources and use bits and pieces of a number of different methods. I like how Tripp explains it: “Like a rolling snowball picking up snow, ideas are added along the way.” This method leaves children confused and not sure what the parents want. They are never sure what system is in effect.
Tripp points out that these unbiblical methods miss the real point because they are aimed solely at issues of behavior. Biblical discipline addresses behavior by addressing the heart. As parents, we must train our kids to be able to interpret their behavior in terms of the motivations of the heart that cause it. Tripp cautions that changing behavior without addressing the issues of the heart trains the heart towards whatever unbiblical method you are using. He also observes that when modern day “experts” tell you that you must find the method that works best for each child, they are really saying “you must find the idols of the heart that will move each child.” Furthermore, when our methods only address the issue of behavior, we never get to the need for the Cross of Christ. Tripp concludes that when we use unbiblical methods to punish rather than biblical methods to discipline:
“Children are not being trained to make ethical choices as responsible people living in reverence for God. They are learning how to jump through your hoops and avoid your displeasure. They learn to make choices based on expediency rather than principle.”
I found this chapter to be perhaps the most convicting chapter in the entire book. My oldest child was ten years old when I became a follower of Christ. We had plenty of issues with him, and by the time Christ became my model for parenting, a number of these unbiblical methods (if not all) were firmly entrenched in my parenting style. Even after becoming a Christian, I still employed many of these unbiblical methods figuring that there were no better alternatives. Even now that I have seen, in large part because of this book, a more biblical approach to parenting, it is easy to slip back into those old habits. When I am tired, it is easier to yell than talk. When I am stressed, it is easier to punish than discern, and on and on and on! My prayer is that God would continue to work in my heart to make me into the father that he wants me to be and that he would help to remember that my strength is in him and through him all things are possible.
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