Expressions from our Youngest

Expressions from our Youngest
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Shepherding a Child's Heart

I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss the next two chapters in Tedd Tripp's book called Shepherding a Child's Heart.  We are currently on Chapter 6:  Reworking Your Goals and Chapter 7:  Discarding Unbiblical Methods.  In chapter 5 we discussed what Mr. Tripp calls 'unbiblical goals' when we involve our children in:  Developing Special Skills, Psychological Adjustment, Saved Children, Family Worship, Well-Behaved Children, and Good Education without the awareness of biblical values and of our chief purpose in life to know, love, and serve the Lord.  These activities can not achieve success on their own.  Children should be instructed to percieve and participate in them within the light of biblically held principles and faith-related realities that address their hearts.

Therefore, chapter 6 assists us in valuable insight into "rethinking unbiblical goals" (p. 51) in order to enhance the lives of our children which enables them to fulfill their true purpose in life to "to glorify God and enjoy him forever." (p. 47)  I would love to post every one of my rethinking of these goals but, for the sake of time and space, I will pick one to work with as an example.  Tedd Tripp's book is so good that it helps the parent really analyze the goals they have set for their children and direct the hearts of their children toward Godly realities.  I think I can write a whole other book just on my family.  In any event, I've chosen to talk about reworking the goal of Developing Special Skills from Chapter 6.

Learning involves knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study, or even modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (as exposure to conditionings).  This is one of the benefits of homeschooling because repeated exposure in reading scripture and participating in parish activities helps give children valuable knowledge which assists them in their involvement with any goal, activity, or event.  For example, when a child learns a special skill for a sporting activity, do not let just the sport influence their hearts.  Parents should help them develop the dire awareness that "strength and stamina" can greatly assist "them in a life of service to God." (p. 52)  Good health can help us meet the needs of those we serve to build up the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, if a goal for your child is to learn a sport, teach them "a biblical worldview to exercise and care for their bodies as an expression of stewardship for God's gifts." (p. 52)  They will surely be more motivated to work hard perfecting their sport and showing teamanship with the Lord at the helm of this activity.  I can't wait to analyze (or rework) my other goals with the help of this book to ensure a healthy Christian development and unity for my family.

Now Chapter 7 helps parents discard unbiblical methods and refers to the many negative influencers children can encounter in life, including:  parental attitude of "I Didn't Turn Out So Bad, Pop Psychology, some Behavior Modification techniques, some Emotionalism, some Punitive Correction, and Erratic Eclecticism.  For the purpose of time and space, I've chosen to discuss Behavior Modification.

"Some pop-psychology methods apply behavior modification" which involves rewarding your children when they perform well or do something good even when "they are fulfilling normal responsibilities." (p. 63)  Parents have to be careful to avoid training "hearts toward greed and selfish interests and to working for rewards" only.  Mr. Tripp referred to a family that had their children put their names into a jar whenever they did something good.  "It taught them to earn parental approbation and therefore, a name in the jar.  They quickly learned what would get their name in the jar and how to maximize the number of times for a minimum amount of effort.  They became manipulators of the system."  This is the wrong purpose to be doing good things.  "The God who knows our hearts calls us to right behavior for the purpose of honoring Him" (p. 64) not winning a game or gaining approbation.

Now, there are times when I have to remind my five year old that he can not receive the privledge of going on the computer before prayer and school work.  I do not see this as a bribe though, but rather prioritizing activities properly.  I do not have to tell my older children this because they've already learned to value honoring God as the number one priority.  My children are never given something for the task of cleaning their rooms.  This is part of proper hygiene that they are required to be responsible matter what.  Periodically, their rooms can get too messy though.  I've told them that they are unable to invite friends over if their rooms are messy or even tell them thay can not watch t.v. until their room is clean.  Is this a bribe or making a deal?  A bribe is something that serves to induce or maybe it is.  Nevertheless, I tie in the fact that cleanliness is close to Godliness in which we always "look out for the interest of others." (p. 63)  Brothers and sisters who share their rooms need to be respected too and any friends that come in their rooms need to feel welcome, safe, and comfortable.  I think about biblical principles of caring for others so that this attitude will penetrate their hearts:  the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Poor Widow, Joseph during the famine in Egypt, Ruth, David and Goliath, the Passion of Christ, etc.  It is a good idea to have a Concordance which can help parents locate biblical passages that apply to their child's current situation.

In a nut shell, we can not let the "human mind be used as the standard." (p. 61)  God sets the standard for all of us and is the author of life.  He tells us what is good and bad and gives us the proper perception to have in all our daily affairs.  Oprah may be entertaining, but she does not set the standard.  Our children need this proper perception along with everything and anything they become involved in.  Reading the bible can be an objective by directing our hearts and efforts toward Jesus; and it can also be a method employed to live a virtuous life and avoid vice.  Acts of learning and instruction are always considered beneficial when they assist us in building up the Kingdom of God.  After public schools left religion out of their programs, their effectiveness to instill virtuous characters and proper patriotism in their students declined.  Parents have the authority and power from God to deal biblically and faithfully with the heart rather than being tied down in only instances of behavior.  I highly recommend "Shepherding a Child's Heart" to any parent interested in affirming and/or improving their parenting skills.

Although it is good to analyze the goals we set for our children and ensure compliance to biblical principles, married Christians also attain a special grace in virtue of the sacrament of marriage.  Weather your Catholic or not, these words elevate Christian Marriage to its reality of Christ being present in the union of man and woman.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the graces of the sacrament of Matrimony in paragraphs 1641 and 1642.

1641  "By reason of their state in life and of their order, (Christian spouses) have their own special gifts in the People of God."  This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony  is intended to perfect the couple's love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity.  By this grace they "help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children."

1642  Christ is the source of this grace.  "Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony."  Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.  In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a fortaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb:

How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father?...How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service!  They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh.  Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.

These words can not be denied as the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The ultimate reality for us is our relationship with God and eachother.  The relationship of a Christian husband and wife, undeniably, receives special graces in order for them to love God and fulfill their state and order in life which includes educating their children.

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