I had an epiphany in St. Louis about something I heard Ted Tripp say on his videos. It’s bugged me for a few years now. He says something negative about parents who solve their children’s arguments by asking “who had it first?” I believe his point was, we should instead teach our children that it is selfish to be fighting over toys, “let each esteem other better than himself” and so on. Since I regularly intervene in sharing disputes, I have been bothered by his statement, but not able to articulate why. I finally figured out why.
First, my kids haven’t yet learned what is expected, the baseline rules of ownership and sharing. Before I can teach David that it is loving to let his sister play with the toy he has picked up, and before I can teach Bethel it is selfish to play with a toy merely because she knows it irritates David, I think they have to learn some foundational truths.
For example: they need to know that if you stop playing with a toy, it is available for another child to play with. They need to know that it is not right for them to grab a toy out of another child’s hand, nor is it right for that child to grab a toy out of their hands. They need to understand how to ask someone for a toy, and how to choose to be happy if it is not given. (“May I have it when you are done?” is better than “Share with me.”) They need to know that sharing is a choice, not an obligation, that it is okay to refuse to hand over a toy they just picked up to play with. And yes, they do need to learn that our sinful hearts do not like to share, but the grace of God can change our hearts to help us love others more than ourselves.
Second, in every sharing dispute, there’s a giver and a taker. I can’t make a blanket statement about forcing one child to be the giver, because then the role of taker simply shifts to the other child. Instead, I must discern who needs what lesson at that time. I want David to learn how to choose to be happy when somebody isn’t sharing just as much as I want Bethel to learn how to love her brother by letting him play with the toy that she had first. Does this make sense? I’m not suggesting we don’t work on the heart. Sometimes though, finding out who had it first allows us to understand whose heart needs the most work.
Maybe Ted Tripp would disagree with my concerns, but maybe he has forgotten what it’s like to have toddlers.
Thank you for this (found it from the link to the most recent post) – I have a friend blogging on Tripp’s book and she pointed out this statement he made and it got me thinking – what’s so wrong about that statement? My three year old is not ready to look at her heart and realize she is not esteeming her sister better than herself. She is not saved and is quite immature. A two year old even more so. I almost wonder if Tripp’s book as I am reading it now applies more to older children who are saved or at least of the age when they are ready to be saved. More to ponder as I read. I am enjoying this mental exercise, though. It’s been a while.
Adventure Mom Janna says
Hello! Nicole has reference your blog several times. I went to MBBC and I am the “friend” who is currently reading, and summarizing chapters of Tripp’s book on my blog once a week.
It would be nice if we could sit down and talk with Mr.Tripp and find out exactly how he intended his statement to come across but I think it’s okay to use that phrase but then work towards like you said getting to the heart.
I took his example as just another wake up to re-examine our “tried and true” methods but not necessarily as a warning to remove it completely from our conversations. Sometimes it would be nice to say, “And just how Mr. Tripp. would you suggest fleshing that principle out with a 1,2, or 3 year old?”
Most of all his book gets me thinking about discipline instead of sitting back and cruising on “auto pilot” without stopping to consider God’s ways.
Hi Janna! I’m glad you took the time to stop by and comment. You’re right that it’s hard to know what he’s thinking there, and some people might make more of statements like that than he would be comfortable with. (I agree with the principle that parents should not spend their days ensuring that everything is fair to the nth degree.) Shepherding a Child’s Heart was such an important book when it first came out because Tripp did challenge the status quo for many Christian parents. Like you, I like being provoked to think about why I do what I do (and perhaps I wouldn’t have thought through “who had it first?” except he brought it up). Have you read his latest book? It’s called Instructing a Child’s Heart, and it’s written by both Tedd and Margy Tripp. It is very good, and in some ways updates the first book. I get the sense that it’s more of a mother’s perspective, which is perhaps why it resonated with me more. I want to take the time and review it. Maybe this will motivate me to get to it!