Any book that promises help with parenting tends to sell well. After all, most parents know what it is like to be frustrated, overwhelmed, and lost for ideas. Each family is different yet each family has its own issues. As a father of three boys myself, Paul David Tripp’s latest book on Parenting caught my eye. I expected to see the same few Bible texts trotted out with some sensible advice which I might be able to use.
I was wrong. This is not that kind of book.
In my experience, most Christian parenting books resemble secular parenting books with a few Bible verses thrown in. But all the practical advice would be pretty similar both types of books, with the exception being that the Christian book might say something about family devotions or perhaps schooling choices.
Up front I must say that I found this the most helpful and stimulating book on parenting I have read. Tripp doesn’t try to give Christianized good advice to parents; he tries to show how a right understanding of the gospel and grace will transform how you think about parenting in the first place.
Christians believe that God has saved sinners like us by grace, and we are called to live lives honouring to Him, making disciples as we go. Yet when we think about parenting so often our aim is to get obedience and conformity in our children with little concern for our critical work of making disciples. Introducing our children to Jesus and grace is not just about church and family devotions. It also includes modelling grace in how we treat them, being consistently patient with them as God is patient with us. We need to be thoughtful in how we encourage good behaviour and punish bad behaviour so that we are not only motivating by law but that we are intentionally linking this to the gospel. We need to be talking about sin and forgiveness openly and often, and we need to be prepared to confess to our children when we have messed up as a model to them.
This book has many things worth considering deeply. Personally I was struck by the observation that it is so easy for parents to take things personally when they are not personal. For example, when a child has left the kitchen messy for the 100th time it is easy to respond with anger and accuse them of making our lives difficult. But the child didn’t wake up and decide to make our lives difficult; we need to put our anger away and not resent the fact that God has given us another opportunity to parent our child.
I recommend you read this book if you are a parent or considering being one. It is easy to read, not overlong, and full of practical illustrations and anecdotes. I am sure you will be convicted gently of things and once more end up thanking God for the opportunity as sinful parents to influence sinful children with the good news of Jesus.