“Parenting” By Paul Tripp (A Review)

Paul Tripp’s newest book, Parenting will soon be on the shelves.  I just finished reading a review copy I received, so I’d like to give an advanced evaluation for our readers who might be interested.

As a parent of children between five and fourteen, I’ve read quite a few parenting books (Christian and non-Christian). This one by Paul Tripp is like other Christian books I’ve read because it talks about patience, the heart, forgiveness, the gospel, authority, character, and so forth.  In fact, Tripp’s book is very similar to one called Give Them Grace (which I reviewed here before).  In my opinion, Tripp’s book “Parenting” is somewhat helpful, and somewhat unhelpful.  I’ll break it down:

HELPFUL: Tripp nicely emphasized the need for God’s grace in parenting.  Parents need God’s grace and so do their kids.  Like his other work, Tripp wrote that we are God’s instruments of grace in the lives of our children.  We have to remember that God changes our children, not us.  Amen!

The book also recognized the reality of sin in our hearts and the hearts of our kids – along with our/their need of Christ.  Many of Tripp’s principles and tips for parenting were good, such as the fact that we need to see parenting as a long process, the fact that we are more like our kids than we often think, that we need to tell them about God very often, etc.  There is a lot of wisdom in this book, and I underlined quite a few sentences in it.

UNHELPFUL: Tripp’s writing style made the book somewhat hard to read.  He repeats himself quite often, asks tons of rhetorical questions, and uses more words than necessary.  By the end of the book I was thinking he could have gotten his points across with 50 fewer pages.

The subtitle of this book (“14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family”) is inaccurate.  Tripp’s “14 Gospel Principles” aren’t really gospel (or “good news”) principles, they are wise statements on parenting from a Christian perspective.

Speaking of the principles, there are fourteen overarching principles, but in many chapters there are minor principles as well.  As I moved on in the book, I felt overwhelmed by all these principles (e.g. “you need to…”  “your children need to…”  “you must be…”).  The book is supposed to be a “big gospel picture” (p. 13) of parenting, but the numerous tips and principles went against a big picture perspective.

Tripp also says a Bible word that explains God’s calling for parents is the term “ambassador.”  I’m uncomfortable with this language because this word is used twice in the NT to describe the apostolic ministerial calling (2 Cor. 5:20 & Eph. 6:20).  The Apostle Paul uses other words for parents and parenting.

[[As sort of a side, Tripp didn’t really address the topic of kids with biological or mental issues.  Sometimes kids are “bad” because they are sinful, but sometimes “bad” behavior is associated with biological/mental issues.  For example, a child with Aspergers might get upset and yell when he hears a high-pitched noise.  We should address yelling in this case, but it’s not simply a matter of the child’s sinful heart.]]

Finally, one unhelpful aspect of the book is the fact that Tripp says children of believers are “lost” sinners with hard hearts.  It is true that children of believers are sinful, for sure, and need Jesus as much as their parents do.  And it’s true that parents need to point their kids to Christ all the time.  But Scripture’s description of children in a Christian home is more positive than Tripp’s.  The Bible says they are “holy” (“set apart” – 1 Cor. 7), a blessing from God, and are members of God’s covenant, like Abraham’s children (“I will be your God and the God of your seed after you”).   A major tone of the book is that our children are lost, and Tripp’s advice to parents is affected by this tone.  While some readers might agree with Tripp, I for one do not.  Based on Scripture, I don’t believe it is wise or helpful to call children of Christian parents “lost.”  Sometimes God is pleased to sovereignly regenerate a child in his/her infancy; treating that child as “lost” would be a tragic mistake!  I appreciate the Reformed teaching of the covenant of grace when it comes to parenting in a Christian home.

In a word, there are some helpful parts to this book.  It did remind me that I need to speak kind, loving, directing, forgiving words to my children, words that point them to Christ.  But there were quite a few unhelpful parts in this book as well, so I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly (especially for our Reformed readers!).

Paul Tripp, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton: Crossway: 2016).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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