Ch. 14 – Infancy to Childhood: Training Objectives – Shepherding A Child’s Heart (A Synopsis)
Tripp defines infancy to childhood as that period from birth through age four or five. During this period, the child is going through astounding changes including:
- Physical change
- Social change
- Intellectual change
- Spiritual change
At this stage, there needs to be one principle objective to training. That objective is to instill the following: “HE IS AN INDIVIDUAL UNDER AUTHORITY. He has been made by God and has a responsibility to obey God in all things.” Submitting to parents is the result of being under God’s authority. In other words, submitting to authority is what God has called children to do. This training must start when they are infants – Tripp suggests the second you bring them home from the hospital.
The Circle of Blessing
For the fundamental concepts of the Circle of Blessing, Tripp points to Ephesians 6:1-3:
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
This verse tells us that submission to parents means both honoring them and obeying them. It also promises two things as a result of doing this.
The first result of honoring and obeying parents is that things will go well with them. We do not teach our kids to obey for the benefit of the parent but for their own benefit. When kids are submissive to their parents, it is a place of safety for them. On the flip side, being outside the circle of protection is a place of danger for them. They are, after all, outside the will of God when they are outside the circle. As parents, we must return them to the circle of protection. If they were any other sort of danger, we would not hesitate to act. When they are outside the circle of protection, our reaction can be no less. Tripp offers a visual concept of the circle of blessing based on this verse. The circle surrounds the child with HONOR and OBEY on the top and bottom and the circle while Blessing and Long Life reside on either side of the child.
The Definition of Honor
Next, Tripp moves to defining what it means to honor your parents. His simple definition is “Honoring parents means to treat them with respect and esteem because of their position of authority.” Tripp explains that if a child is going to honor his parents, it will be because of two things:
- The parent trains the child to honor them; and
- The parent is honorable in both conduct of demeanor.
Tripp explains that it is hard to teach a child to honor their parents because we live in a culture where no one is honored. There are certain things kids must never be allowed to do because they dishonor parents:
- Never speak to their parents in imperatives (i.e., orders)
- Never speak to their parents as they would a peer
- They must be taught to express their thoughts and feelings in a manner which shows respect
On the issue of respect, Tripp warns parents to teach this respect early as respectful teenagers are developed when they are 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 not when they are 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16. Another thing Tripp warns parents about the need to show their kids respect in order to teach their kids how to respect them. If we fail to be respectful to our kids, we must repent and ask for their forgiveness.
The Definition of Obey
Obedience is not a popular concept in our society today. Tripp defines it as follows: “Obedience is the willing submission of one person to the authority of another. It means more than a child doing what he is told. It means doing what he is told – Without Challenge, Without Excuse, Without Delay.” Many times it means doing what they do not want to do when they do not want to do it. Tripp warns that we will train our children in obedience one way or another. They will either learn to obey in a biblical way, or only after much yelling, pleading, and threatening. Or, they may learn not to obey at all. If we accept any response from our kids other than immediate obedience, we are training them in the art of disobedience.
We must be consistent with our kids. The rules can’t change from day to day. Tripp explains, “If they must obey, you must challenge disobedience and persevere until the lessons of submission are learned. Victory does not come to the faint of heart.” This entails clear directions and standards for our kids and the appropriate follow through when those expectations are not met. Tripp warns that if we, as parents, truly understand the fear of the Lord, we will not allow our kids to disobey his will without doing something about it. If there is any doubt, I suggest you read my earlier post on SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD by Jonathan Edwards. You do not want to subject your kids to the fury of God simply because it is easier to ignore disobedience than to deal with it.
Process of Appeal
Tripp does allow room for kids to appeal to parents. This can only happen once kids understand that they are under the authority of their parents and understand that they can’t always do what they want. Once those objectives are reached, we can teach them the appropriate way to appeal.
Here is what an appeal is not. As a parent, here is what you can’t accept:
- Children who refuse to obey
- Children who obey only when they are certain that you are right or fair
- Children who require you to “sell them” on why you are right
You can teach your kids how to appeal in a respectful manner though. This process serves as a double check:
- Against “caprice on your part,” and
- To give kids a safety valve.
Tripp provides the following guidelines for an appropriate appeal:
- Obedience must happen immediately, not after the appeal.
- The child must be ready to obey regardless of the outcome of the appeal.
- The appeal must be done respectfully.
- The results of the appeal must be accepted in a respectful manner.
The benefits from such an appeal process are obvious:
- It gives the child some recourse.
- They learn to submit to authority in a way that is not arbitrary.
- They learn to be respectful to superiors.
Tripp concludes, “The parent can change his mind in the context of respectful appeal, but not in the presence of blatant rebellion.”
Tripp addresses the importance of submission, “Even though the child will not be able to fully appreciate the importance of submission, training him to do what he ought, regardless of how he feels, prepares him to be a person who lives by principle rather than mood or impulse. He learns that he cannot trust himself to judge right and wrong. He must have a reference point outside himself.”
Finally, Tripp offers some advise to parents whose kids are already past this stage in terms of age but who have not yet learned the foundational principles of submission to authority. He offers the following:
- Start with gracious and kind instruction.
- Teach them biblical passages like Ephesians 6.
- Help them see the benefits of being under authority.
- Convince them that submission is the path to blessing.
- Never try to sugarcoat submission. It means doing what you don’t want to.
I can not say enough good about the “Circle of Protection” which Tripp offers in this chapter. I have used it extensively with my kids, and they have really taken to it. They have a deep grasp of the gravity of being outside of God’s protection, and it helps them to put their actions, and more importantly their heart attitudes behind those actions, into some context. When we are having our discussion, I find myself physically drawing the circle on their hearts as a way to remind them of the importance of God and their heart in following him.
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