Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 10/16/2007 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. A recommended series of encouragements for parents.
Quick fix parenting has become a multi-million dollar industry. Parenting books by the score are released every year, and television programming regularly features shows such as “SuperNanny” and “Nanny 911.” What is so ironic – about the television programs, most noticeably – is how parents seem to be turning to non-parental ‘specialists’ for parenting advice. If these specialists proudly bear the PhD, so much the better. Meanwhile, godly pastors and parents who publish their thoughts on parenting are decried as dangerous amateurs by non-Christians and Christians alike.
Pastor, author and parent Tedd Tripp, unassuming possessor of a none-too-shabby Doctorate of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary, has laboured resolutely to bring God’s word to bear on parenting for the benefit of God’s people and God’s people’s children. Tripp is best known as the author of the biblical parenting manual Shepherding a Child’s Heart, and plays a major role in the publishing ministry of Shepherd Press. He has endured his own share of flak from both the secular sphere and a significant cross-section of the Christian world. Critics describe his methods as overly scripted and excessively severe. One need only consult the copious Amazon customer reviews (currently numbering 212) of Shepherding to appreciate the controversy Tripp has generated with his flagship parenting book. Whereas Shepherding is a comprehensive exposition of the means (speaking to the child’s heart) and ends (long life, salvation, eternal life) that God has ordained for child-raising, Hints for Parents operates as a follow-up for parents who have practiced Tripp’s shepherding approach, but whose purpose and practice have waned along the way. The tone of the book evokes a picture of the author sitting across the table from the parent he is addressing, earnestly urging that parent to embrace and practice biblical principles of child raising.
The eighty pages of this diminutive hardcover (obviously modeled after Multnomah’s successful Life Change series) include parental teaching from no less than three godly pastors: a live one and two departed. But their teaching is remarkably congruent. The book’s headliner, Victorian Presbyterian pastor Gardiner Spring, presents four chapters of inspiring exhortations ranging over many varied parenting topics. Some standout quotes include the following, the first of which could have been penned yesterday: “Who disagrees today that the great bulk of literature and entertainment exerts a destructive influence, both on the intellectual and moral character? But let us not just curse the darkness. Let children be committed to teachers who will exert a holy influence on their youthful minds.” Another quote rightly points to the object of our dependence as parents: “Gaining the confidence of an impetuous child – while restraining him – is no small feat. It calls on all the kindness, discretion, and firmness of a godly parent, who will soon throw up his hands – to the Father of lights!” Tripp interjects comments which expand upon Spring’s ideas, and often roots them in the gospel at points where Spring is merely implying the gospel application. Along the way, Tripp offers practical application of keeping the biblical Sabbath, touches on the use of the rod, and beautifully articulates a God-centered understanding of a child’s salvation: “Ultimately, you must recognize that in all your efforts at child-rearing, you are at the mercy of God. Your children will never come to faith in Christ because you got everything right in the child-rearing department. If they come to know and love God, you will stand in awe of a God who has mercy on children even though their parents fail.” Another Victorian divine, Archibald Alexander, rounds out the book with a brief discussion on the importance of catechizing, namely the use of ‘question and answer’ in teaching children the things of God. Throughout the book, all three authors consistently refer to Deuteronomy 6 as the doctrinal basis for catechizing children.
If any faults can be leveled at this book, it is that Spring’s constant allusion to moral principles seems a bit overdone. Of course, this is typically Victorian, so he is easily exonerated. Tripp’s intermittent, italicized gospel encouragements compensate for all the talk of morals. And although dead authors are both easy targets and impossible opponents, I must take ever-so-slight umbrage with the title, since ‘hints’ is a mild misnomer in our age. Perhaps Rev. Spring’s Victorian audience took ‘hints’ to mean more of an exhortation. Should any parent opens this slim volume expecting bullet-point lists of tips on parenting, they will be sorely disappointed. Rather, they should turn to Shepherding a Child’s Heart for a comprehensive exposition of the why’s and how’s of biblical parenting. But for those who have enjoyed and benefited from Shepherding, the parental exhortations of Spring, Tripp and Alexander come highly recommended.