Brief Overview of the Book (Theme, Perspective, Approach):
The book is organized around four parts (Gospel-Centered Family, Grace-Centered Family, Word-Centered Family, and Mission-Centered Family). Each chapter begins with a scenario to consider, followed by a Bible passage to study, then a discussion of the point made by the passage for the purposes of parenting and reflection questions. This format is well-suited to a twelve-part devotional rather than simply reading through the whole in one sitting. The perspective complements that of the books published by Shepherd Press and the materials produced by CCEF. Therefore, the perspective is that of addressing the hearts of our children and not just controlling their behavior.
Critique (strengths and weaknesses):
This was originally published in the UK so there are some differences in terminology. For example, it calls a “spank” a “smack.” Most of these are very minor differences. The book is also lacking in detail in a few key places. For example, which of the ideas for discipline (p.42) apply at which age/personality? I would suggest, and it is a book they recommend for further reading, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (and Instructing a Child’s Heart) in order to fill in this gap. In fact, I am concerned that they have not thought through this page as much as Tripp does. With that said, the weaknesses are far overcome by the strengths. The most important strength of the book is its content. I would heartily recommend this book to all Christian parents because it is brimming with gospel truth and practical Biblical wisdom.
Application (specific, shows just how valuable & relevant the book is):
This book is really good at exposing our respectable middle-class idols as false gods. Rather than children-centered or parent-centered homes, it encourages us to have God-centered homes. One of the most common idols that we worship is our children themselves. The book suggests that with young children parents should spend time working on their marriage relationship so that children learn that they are not the center of the world. Other respectable idols that we worship include education, career and prosperity. We worry about the culture’s influence without realizing that we can have an influence on our children that is “just as corrosive of gospel-centered priorities” (p.18). We do this “when we make these things more important than knowing and serving God” — when we make these things or people idols (p.19). Then the book even helps us to relate to the culture — to see that with young children we should be concerned with what they watch (of the culture, for example, television) and with older children how they watch it. This book is powerful, it can change your life, because it starts with the parent’s heart and applies the gospel.
So our children are not the center of the world. Yet that’s how we often treat them. We structure our lives around them. We may not give them everything they want. After all, we don’t want to spoil them, we tell ourselves. But we do everything for them. Their good sets the agenda. We fit other things around them. We put their education above ministry opportunities. We live in nice neighborhoods so they’re not corrupted. Getting them to the church youth group matters more than other people’s needs.
The irony is that doing everything for their good is not for their good! They learn that they come first, that their needs are paramount, that the world is there for them. In the west we are perhaps creating one of the most indulged generations ever.
If we put our children before serving God and others, then we make an idol of them. How will they learn to worship God as God if they see us worshiping them in place of God? We don’t serve our children well by putting them at the center of our lives, a space reserved for God alone. (p.89-90)