Instructing a Child’s Heart Review + Giveaway

Who is ready for a giveaway?! I firmly believe that you can never have too many books, so I am going to try to add one more to your resource library! ūüôā

Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margy Tripp is a tremendous resource for anyone who works with children! While written specifically for¬†parents, there was sooooo much in here that I took away as a Christian teacher desiring to help her students grow in Christ. The Tripps’ goal is not to give a simple three-step method to change the behavior¬†of a child. ¬†It is all about using God’s principles to help form¬†the¬†hearts of our students. More than geared towards “fixing” our children, it challenges us as authorities to examine our motives and methods behind the way we¬†teach our children.

Our objective when we teach our children is not simply to ensure…that our children are not criminals or that they “do well”. Rather, our desire is that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind. ¬†(Tedd & Margy Tripp)

Our goal is to help our students love and glorify God. How do we do this when they are bombarded with different “truths”¬†on all sides of them?

They hear one thing from their friends.

They hear one thing from the media.

They hear yet another thing from their parents and teachers.

Then they hear things from God’s Word.

Whose instruction is winning out?

Throughout the book, the term “formative instruction” is used frequently. According to the Tripps, formative instruction is “teaching that ‘forms’ our children…[it] is ‘before the problem instruction’. Its focus is interpreting and responding to life in biblical ways.” Formative instruction is the the way that we weave the Gospel, Scripture, and our view of God into the daily moments that make up life.

I love the idea that we are constantly using this formative instruction to help our students build a biblical framework before trouble/discipline hits.Times of discipline can’t be the only times that we hit our students with Scripture. if we do that, they are very likely to resent Scripture! Also, the Tripps point out a truth that we know probably all too well…

We never do our best teaching when we are in a discipline situation…if we try to do our formative instruction in the context of corrective discipline, our focus will be too narrow. We will miss the big picture – the opportunity to teach a worldview.

Instructing a Child’s Heart¬†is a book that will encourage and challenge you. Filled with Scripture and a focus on the Gospel and our great God, this book is a resource that will help you in journey as a teacher or parent. ¬†It is a book that will help to refocus your gaze on God and how our view of God trickles down to our children.

Parenting [Teaching]that exhibits a vital relationship with God in all the joys and storms of life is irresistible to children and young people. Conversely, the surest way to harden our children’s hearts to God and his ways is “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (II Tim. 3:5)

Shepherd’s Press has graciously donated a copy of¬†Instructing a Child’s Heart for a giveaway. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions expressed are my own.¬†


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Teaching Tough Students

We all have those students.

The ones who know exactly which of our buttons to push and seem to take great delight in pushing them!

The ones who moan and groan over every request we make of them.

The ones who stir up trouble among their classmates.

The ones who just never seem to obey.

And if you are like me, my patience can begin to wear thin.

The year goes on, and I get tired of dealing with the same issues again and again. Why can’t they just learn their lesson?

While¬†dealing with a group of¬†particularly difficult students one year, I was struck with the story of another person who had to lead a pretty tough group. ¬†His name was Moses, and he had the opportunity to lead the people of Israel¬†through the wilderness after being freed from slavery. Now, you need to know some things about this group of people…

They complained (A LOT).

They didn’t listen (A LOT).

They didn’t obey (A LOT).

They just couldn’t seem to learn their lesson (A LOT).

Sound like anyone you might know? ¬†ūüėČ

Poor Moses. What a group! After seeing God provide for them again and again, the Israelites were¬†again complaining because they were¬†thirsty. They ¬†were¬†personally attacking Moses – why have¬†you brought us out here to die? (sounds like my students in Math class!). So Moses went¬†before the Lord with their complaint.¬†God¬†instructed¬†him to speak to a rock and water would¬†come out for the people. ¬†So armed with the promise of God, Moses went¬†before the Israelites at the rock…and directly disobeyed God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he took¬†his staff and struck¬†it. Water still came¬†out despite his disobedience. The Israelites were¬†happy…but God was not. What’s up?

Moses was frustrated with leading this rebellious people. He grew angry and lashed out. He got results, but he went about it completely in the wrong way.

I do the same thing. Many times¬†I feel like I am figuratively “striking the rock” with my difficult students. I get frustrated. I grow impatient and angry. I let unkind ¬†and harsh words fly out. And you know what? Sometimes there may be results. That tough student may shape¬†up…but I have dishonored God in the process.

You know what is interesting? When God spoke with Moses about his sin, he didn’t specifically mention his anger. Anger wasn’t the problem – it was simply¬†a symptom of something going on in Moses’ heart.

And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (Numbers 20:12)

God got¬†right to the root – Moses was angry because¬†he didn’t believe God.

I realized that my problem with these difficult students was not my impatience and anger. My real problem was that I wasn’t believing God.

  • That He¬†was the one who had placed these students in my life (Rom. 8:28-29)
  • That¬†He would give me the grace and patience to lead them (I Thess. 5:24)
  • That¬†He¬†is the one who could¬†change their hearts…not me (Jer. 24:7, Ps. 51:10).
  • That¬†He is enough for me…no matter what kind of students, the kind of day, or the kind of school year that I may be¬†facing (Ps. 16:11).

When I don’t believe God’s promises and react wrongly to my difficult students, I have not glorified Him. I have not shown them the greatness of their God. I haven’t shown them a glimpse of His character. Even if they shape up and became a model student, if I have not showed God to them, I have failed. After all, the sole purpose of our life (which certainly includes our teaching, discipline, etc.) is to glorify God.

In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestinedaccording to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:11-12).

 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).

Moses failed to believe God, and as a result,¬†God was not glorified among His people. I don’t want to make the same mistake in my teaching!

So how can we make sure we aren’t “striking the rock” as Moses did?

  1. Stay in a close relationship with the Lord – stay in His Word and spend time in prayer. We can’t show our students someone that we don’t know very well.
  2. Memorize & meditate on God’s Promises – this goes along with #1. It’s hard to believe and depend on the promises of someone that we don’t know. What promises do you have trouble believing about God and His working in your life? Commit them to memory – write them on index cards and stick them around your home and classroom. When you are tempted to doubt, preach those verses right back to yourself.
  3. Remember God’s work in your own heart – how many times have I repeatedly disobeyed God? Over and over again in His Word, He tells me what to do. Over and over again, I choose to do my own thing and suffer the consequences. I repent and turn back to Him…and do it all over again. I’m a pretty slow learner. I’m not too different from my difficult students! Yet God has shown me such amazing love and grace! How can I not let that same love and grace spill over to¬†my difficult students?

How about you? What characteristics or promises of God help you in dealing with challenging students?

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The Dangers of Good Kids

We all have our “good” kids.

The ones who are responsible, turn in their projects and homework on time, and get good grades.

The ones who never have to stand out minutes from recess, get demerits, or detentions.

The ones who don’t cause us much (if any!) trouble!

We are relieved to have these students in our classroom, because there are some others (ahem) who are quite the opposite. Those other students tend to take up a lot of our time and energy.

Our “good” kids can slide through the year, and we assume that they are doing just fine spiritually. It’s Johnny and his disrespectful attitude ¬†or Janie and her rebellious heart that we are worried about.

But many times, our good kids need us to get involved in their lives just as much as the tough students need us.

Here are a few issues that can tend to affect these good kids.

Pride  & Hypocrisy

Some students take pride in their clean records. They look down on their classmates who are always getting in trouble or struggling with low grades. Many times this pride will become evident to others, but sometimes students (and teachers, too!) can hide it behind false humility.

Have you ever thought about the type of students the Pharisees would make? Talk about rule followers – these guys were champions! They had a loooooong list of rules and they pretty much followed them all to a “t” (and my students struggle with the 5 rules in my classroom!). The Pharisees¬†were very religious and very proud of their accomplishments…but¬†they didn’t have a heart for God. Christ had some hard-to-hear words for these religious leaders of his day.

‚ÄúWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. ¬†So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28)

We need to be so careful as teachers that we don’t emphasize outward keeping rules over a relationship with God. Now, the two aren’t exclusive – after all, God does¬†say, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). But following God’s commands should stem from a love for Him…it’s not about obeying commands just for the sake of following the rules. With the help of the Lord, we should always seek the hearts of our students and not just what is seen on the outside.

For these students, we need to lovingly show them God’s view of pride.

Pride and arrogance and the way of evil  and perverted speech I hate (Prov. 8:13b)

¬†But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‚ÄúGod opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.‚ÄĚ (James 4:6)

But we also need to show them the greatness of their God! Only when we see God as He really is can we see ourselves as we¬†truly¬†are. Help them¬†to¬†see His forgiveness of their sin and His grace that gives them the gifts that they have. ¬†When I am focusing on all that I have been forgiven of, I don’t have time to look at all the things that¬†others need to be forgiven of.

Love of Approval

I have always been more of a rule-keeping “good girl” – and many times I did really want to please the Lord. But I also loved the approval of others. When I obeyed, I found out that life worked out pretty well. I would look at the other kids in my class who were getting in trouble, and I just didn’t get it. It seemed so simple – just obey the rules and you won’t get into trouble!

Yet, I had my own idol to deal with – the idol of approval. Oh, how I craved it (and still do!). But I should not be controlled by what others think about me – I need to be controlled by God’s love for me. I need to live for Him, not for others.

 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (II Cor. 5:14-15)

When I had the opportunity to work with some inmates in a detention center, I realized that this “squeaky-clean” church girl had a lot more in common with these inmates than I would ever have thought. Some of them were in there because they wanted the approval of others and so they______________ (fill in the blank). We shared the exact same idols in our hearts –¬†they just¬†manifested themselves differently in the circumstances we found ourselves in.

Performance Treadmill

In his book,¬†Transforming¬†Grace,¬†Jerry Bridges uses the term “the performance treadmill” to describe the idea of the desperate, continual working to gain God’s acceptance instead of realizing that God’s acceptance is not based on our work.

Some of our good kids genuinely do have a heart for the Lord, but they don’t have an accurate understanding of God.

Perhaps some are trying to earn their salvation – for these students, we need to show them Scripture that helps them to see that their good works do nothing towards salvation. We can only be saved through placing our faith in Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Is. 64:6)

Some students have accepted the Lord as their Savior, but they are trying to earn God’s approval and acceptance – even though it has¬†already been given to them at salvation! They keep all the rules because they want to impress God, ¬†or they feel that God will love them more the better they are.

Jerry Bridges uses the example of the disciple Peter to help us see God’s unconditional love. Peter had some pretty big failures in his life – but God still loved and blessed him despite his failures.

God blessed Peter, not in spite of his sins, but¬†without regard to his sins. That’s the way His grace operates. It looks not to our sins or even to our good deeds but only to the merit of Christ. (Jerry Bridges)

We need to help these students see that God’s love for us is not dependent on our performance. It is unconditional!

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jer. 31:3b)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

As teachers, do we show God’s unconditional love to our students? Or does our love/treatment ¬†of¬†them depend on how their day is going? One thing that I have implemented¬†this year is giving¬†each of my elementary students a hug or a handshake (their choice) at the end of the day before they leave the classroom. My hope is that this ¬†small gesture can help to show them that no matter how their day went, I still love them.


Some students don’t fall into the above categories – they genuinely do want to serve the Lord and are seeking to live lives that are honoring to Him. They understand God’s unconditional love.

But it’s hard to be the “goody-two-shoes”. It’s hard to always be standing up for what’s right and being laughed at or left out. They may not vocalize it or show it, but we need to encourage them! Find little times to share a smile or an “I’m really proud of you…”

Drop a quick note to them – who doesn’t love getting mail or discovering a note tucked inside of their desk?


Just because our good kids are the “easy” kids in the class doesn’t mean that they don’t need help, too! May the Lord help us reach¬†all¬†of our students!

What other struggles do you see pop up in the lives of your good kids? How do you find is the best way to approach and help them?


A few of my favorite resources…

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges – an amazing book that really helped me in the area of working so hard to gain God’s approval.

Sidney & Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs¬† by Phil Vischer – This is probably one of my favorite books to read aloud to an elementary class. It deals with both types of students – the students who struggle to obey all of the rules and the students who find it easy to follow the rules and pride themselves on their achievements…and shows them that God¬†doesn’t love them based on what they do – He just loves them.



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