I must admit, I'm excited to be tackling the age group that my daughter falls into - both this week and next. This chapter deals with training objectives whereas the next chapter will deal with training procedures. That being said, let's get started!
Tripp begins by defining this age group as birth to age 4 or 5. He says the primary characteristic of this period is Change. Children this age are changing rapidly physically, socially, intellectually, and spiritually. With all of these changes, what should be our primary focus? According to Dr. Tripp, the big lesson is for the child to understand "he is an individual under authority." This is not the type of authority the parent hangs over his child's head. It's purpose is for the child to learn he is made by God and has a responsibility to obey God in all things. Tripp says the key passage for this age is Ephesians 6:1-3:
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise),' that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."
Why are our children instructed to obey us as parents? Because God has called them to. When they obey us, they are obeying a clear command from the Lord. On a side note, our children are called to obey us "in the Lord." They are not required to obey their parents when the instruction given is asking them to sin. In such a situation, they are to obey what they know to be true of God's word first.
Tripp has a diagram he calls the "Circle of Safety." According to Eph. 6:1-3, he draws a circle of blessing around a child. Within that circle are the commands to honor and obey. As a result, the fruit: go well and long life. When our children honor and obey us, they are in a place of protection and safety, which may lead to long life. For example, if we tell our child not to run into the road, and he disobeys us, it could literally cost him his life. But if he obeys, he is in a place of safety. Tripp then reminds us that the function of the rod and communication is to rescue our children and keep them within the Circle of Safety.
Back to the "honoring" part of the verse. A child will honor his parent's as a result of either a parent teaching him to do so or a parent being honorable in his conduct and demeanor. Our children must speak to us in a manner of respect, not as to a peer. Tripp gives several examples of gentle yet firm ways to teach our children. One example he used was this: "I am sorry, dear, but you may not speak to me in that way. God has made me your mother and has said that you must treat me with honor. Now, let's see if there is a respectful way you can express what you wish to say." It's a mouthful but it's clear, biblical and firm. Dr. Tripp reminds us to start early with our children or we will regret the lack of teaching when they are teenagers.
So what exactly is obedience? Tripp defines it as the "willing submission of one person to the authority of another." Yet, it is not a child just doing what he is told. He should be doing it "without challenge, without excuse, without delay." I've also heard this as "all the way, right away, with a happy heart." If any of these three are not happening, they are still choosing to disobey and should be disciplined accordingly. Remember, it's not for your sake - it's for theirs - that it will go well and they will enjoy long life.
Tripp then goes on to discuss consistency. I have personally noted this as THE failure in most parent's disciplining (including myself). More than once I've heard, "But my child won't listen to me," or "discipline does not work with my child." Most of the time you can thank yourself for this. When we fail to be consistent, we fail to teach our children to obey. More often than not, I fail to be consistent because of laziness. Sometimes it's easier in the moment to ignore a whining child than to discipline her. However, being inconsistent, I'm only teaching her to disobey.
Next, Tripp describes the process of appeal. Appeal is a safety check for both the parents and the child. It keeps the parent from being harsh or hasty and the child knows they have permission to appeal (in a godly manner) to the command. Tripp gives four guidelines in making a biblical appeal.
- You begin to obey immediately, not after appeal.
- You must be prepared to obey either way.
- You must appeal in a respectful manner.
- You must accept the result of the appeal with a gracious spirit.
If these guidelines are followed, the child can appeal and the parent can choose to change his command. But done in this way, the appeal shows respect and not blatant rebellion. We should be careful to model submission to our children as well. Whether as a wife to her husband, an employee to an employer, etc., our children should see us "practice what we preach."
When our children naturally want to do something other than what we we've commanded them to do, we have the opportunity to point them to Christ. We can teach them about our selfish hearts and the way we will live apart from God's grace. As Tripp says, "only the power of the gospel can give a willing heart and the strength to obey." Let's start while our children are young. If they are older and we've already failed, let's repent, ask them for forgiveness, and work to rebuild the foundation we wrongly began. After all, God has promised us grace.
A lot of good stuff to chew on. Until next week...