When I received Tim Chester & Ed Moll’s extremely helpful book Gospel-Centred Family, I was determined to write an immediate review. Weeks passed. I kept going back to the short 93 page booklet to remind myself of gospel principles in raising my children. After reading through chapter 5, Disciplining a Child’s Heart, again this morning with my wife, I decided it was time to do the review!
Summary: One of a Kind
Gospel-Centred Family is simple, accessible, applicable, and profound. Many of us were raised to think that the gospel was something we should accept, not something we always need. This is equally true of parents. Like our children, we need the gospel to start and continue the Christian life. Instead of stooping to bribery, manipulation, behavior management, or emotionalism in parenting, Gospel-Centred Family lifts us up with gospel principles that point to Jesus as our King (not just example), to the heart (not just behaviors), and to understand how grace (not family goals) will transform a child into the image and beauty of Christ.
Book Structure: Easy to Read
The book is broken up into Four Sections: 1) Gospel-Centred Family 2) Grace-Centered Family 3) Word-Centered Family 4) Mission-Centred Family. Each chapter in each section contains a Principle, Biblical Background, and Questions for Reflection. I’m typically not into this kind of layout. In a lot of books that take this approach make the interaction feel “forced.” Not so with Gospel-Centred Family. Quite the opposite! The questions and principles are helpful and I’m considering using the whole book as the basis for a course in our church.
Disciplining a Child’s Heart: Gospel-centered & Practical
Instead or reviewing each chapter, I will provide a sample review of the book by examining one chapter.
Principle: Addressing the heart matters ore than controlling behavior.
Biblical Background: Colossians 2:20-3:10. This background shows how Scripture does not advocate a rule-based approach to change, but that identity as a new creature in Christ is what changes us from the inside-out.
From Controlling to Addressing the Heart: Using helpful anecdotes, the authors explore common misconceptions about why children misbehave (“influences” not the heart). Many of us fall prey to these misconceptions, disciplining our children in ways that reinforce behavior-centered, not heart-centered parenting. We often try to control a child’s behavior instead of instruct their hearts. Consider some adapted examples:
- Manipulation – “Can’t you behave like your sister?”
- Fear – “If you don’t obey, you’ll get hit by a car.”
- Bribery – “I’ll give you some candy if you obey me.”
- Emotionalism – “After all I’ve done for you…”
- Inconsistency – “Okay, just this once.”
We all fall into these, some more than others. My wife and I had an honest conversation about where we see one another choosing these behavior control approaches. We encouraged one another to address the heart more often.
The authors then turn the corner of critique to instruction:
“…if your aim is to teach your child the ways of God, then your discipline will be calm, clear, consistent, and concentrated on the motives of their heart. The goal is not control—that’s your agenda. God’s agenda is a child who delights to know and serve Him.“
They unpack each of the 4 Cs for godly discipline:
- Calm: The focus of discipline is the child’s hear rather than your emotional state.
- Clear: Make your commands clear…explain why they are being disciplined.
- Consistent: Set consistent boundaries..by always following through with warnings…and being consistent between parents.
- Concentrated on the heart: Focus on motivation, not just behaviour, e.g. “What did you want?” “Why did you do it?”
These principles and practices are immensely helpful, but they must be applied together as parents. Make sure you have some discussion time together over these things. Unite in prayerful repentance over failure and joyful resolve to not just change your kids’ behavior but instruct their heart. Parents should never stop talking about how to raise their kids. Fathers should lead out. As children grow older, it is important to move from discipline to self-discipline. As they grow, create times of discussion between parents and children so that you can grow in the gospel together.