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“I remember sitting on my bed in my dark bedroom late one night after having had a horrible conversation with my son where I had lost it and said all the things that I told myself I wouldn’t say. In the dark, I felt so defeated, so alone, and so overwhelmed. I remember mumbling to myself and to my Lord, ”I just can’t do this anymore. It’s just too hard.“ In that moment it hit me that God hadn’t called me to do what I could not do all by myself. Yes, as a parent, he had called me to do things that were beyond my natural abilities, character, wisdom, strength, and gifts, but he had never sent me out to do them alone. Aloneness is a cruel lie that will defeat us every time.”

Knowing that this is the author speaking, in a book on parenting, may prove crucial in your thinking about this book. Do you read this and think he is a hopeless parent or a great parent? This one quote might determine whether you immediately buy this or decide to never touch it. Let me assure you that there is plenty more like that in the book:

“Here’s the humbling conclusion that God, in grace, led me to: I am more like my children than unlike them - and so are you. The reality is that there are few struggles in the lives of my children that aren’t in my life as well.”

Personally, I find it reassuring to read this in a parenting book! This is not a book written by a perfect parent crammed full of techniques to turn out perfect children. Paul Tripp is an author to read when you feel beaten, guilty and tired. I’m not afraid of saying that, because in my experience most parents spend much of their life in that place!

Tripp’s big message is that parenting is firstly about the parent’s heart being changed by Christ to depend on him rather than on their own experience, techniques or strength of personality. Then the parent will be in the right place to seek to parent their child’s heart. Tripp argues that the goal of parenting is not good behaviour, excellent exam results or total obedience but children who grow up with hearts that beat for Jesus Christ their Lord.

In the first chapter Tripp warns that many parents are adopting a strategy of ‘ownership parenting’, I’ll let him explain what he means by this;

“Ownership parenting is motivated and shaped by what parents want for their children and from their children. It is driven by a vision of what we want our children to be and what we want our children to give us in return.”

The alternative he offers is to be an ‘ambassador’;

“God’s plan for parents is that we would be his agents in the lives of these ones that have been formed into his image and entrusted to our care. The word that the Bible uses for this intermediary positon is ambassador. It really is the perfect word for what God has called parents to be and to do. The only thing an ambassador does, if he’s interested in keeping his job, is to faithfully represent the message, methods and character of the leader who has sent him.”

“Parenting” is not an easy book. It is a challenge beyond me to read two chapters at a time. But it is practical. It is an excellent book. It is offering a truly Christian model of parenting. Perhaps this is a book to read over the summer; perhaps a chapter a day with a chance to talk it through with a close friend or your spouse?

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