Little Lessons: 5 big parenting truths I learnt from Dr Paul Tripp

As parents, we tend to think after parenting for a few years that we are “experts” .

That’s quite a scary place to be. When we think we know it all, we stop being humble, we stop learning. I’ve fallen into that trap too…Particularly as a parent blogger, the pressure to act like I’ve got it all under control is ginormous; it’s very real. So I’m thankful for the existence of real experts who dare to speak the truth.

Most truths hurt. They don’t aim to flatter. They aim to reveal the points of failure or insecurity in our lives, not to put us down, but to help us grow and make changes that are most needed.

I attended Paul Tripp‘s seminar at ARPC last weekend. And here are some of the truths that I picked up.

1. The target is the heart, because the problem is the heart.

Parenting books and websites often dish out expert tips to deal with this and that behaviour. But as we’ll find, using external rewards, guilt, punishment, consequences, and threats work temporarily at best.

I often focus on behavioural control too. I guess it’s easier to try to fix what we can see. But the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. We need to draw the connection between their behaviour and the thoughts in the heart, in order to reveal the ugliness of what’s in there, and point them to the need to ask God for help.

“Behaviour is an overflow of the heart. Lasting change in your child’s behaviour always travels the path of the heart.”

Dr Tripp provided us with questions that can help us to make the heart connection with our children:

  • What was going on? (Just to have a brief understanding of what happened)
  • What were you thinking and feeling as it was happening? (Getting into the thoughts of the heart)
  • What did you do in response?
  • Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish? (Revealing the motives of the heart)
  • What were the results?

I tried this on Vera one day, and she was able to articulate her feelings. Specifically, she used the words “confused” and “sad” when I asked her how she felt when JJ had the chance to turn off the lights at bedtime, and she didn’t (and she started to whine because of that). She then went on to share that because it was something she liked to do too, but she doesn’t get to do it because of her brother.

I haven’t tried this with JJ, and I think he’s not yet at the stage where he’s able to verbalise or describe his feelings. But I hope to try this soon nonetheless, even if I have to provide him with some words to help him along.

2. The battle is about authority. This battle is best fought when young.  

Daily battles about food, sleep, or whether to buy the toy or not, are not actually about food, sleep, and toys. It is about authority. Whenever our kids push the boundaries that have been set, they are challenging our authority.

Sure, there are some things that can be negotiated and some that have room for compromise, and we don’t want to exasperate our toddlers with excessive rules or “No’s” with no reason as well. But when it come to the crunch, they need to know that parents have been appointed as authority figures in their lives. They need to learn appropriate submission to authority.

3. Parents have an ambassadorial authority.

I think Dr Tripp said it most eloquently:

We are the visible representation of the invisible authority of God. So each time we exercise authority, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God.

Questions to ponder: What picture of authority are we giving our child? What do they see in our face, tone of our voice, feel from our hand, when we exercise our authority?

4. Discipline is the other hand of love. Discipline is love.

That is why we shouldn’t discipline out of anger, as it’s inconsistent and scary for a child. Discipline is about bringing our children from a place of danger back to the circle of safety. Its purpose is rescue and restoration, not to express irritation or anger.

Children need firm, loving discipline. Discipline that is not careful and restrained hurts the child.

Here are some tips from Paul on how we can exercise restrained, loving discipline.

When to discipline?

  • only in instances of clear rebellion to authority


  • take a minute to get our heart right before meting out discipline, to ensure we are not reactive
  • invite your child to a private place (try not to do it when others are around, not even in the presence of family)
  • set your child on your lap and discuss the offence (make sure he understands what he did wrong)
  • secure an acknowledgement, give your child an opportunity to confess what is wrong
  • pray aloud for your child, ask for grace and tender obedient heart
  • announce number of spanks or another appropriate consequence (to set ourselves limits)
  • administer the discipline
  • comfort and speak love to your child so he understands that discipline is love

5. It takes character to go after character.

Parents need to examine ourselves too. Perhaps one of the biggest lies that we’ve bought into is the belief in self-sufficiency – That somehow by trawling and accumulating all the modern parenting wisdom floating around on the internet, we are able to do it on our own.

The truth is we all need grace to bring up children of character. And we need to be humble and open to correction ourselves.



I’m really glad that I managed to attend this seminar; I’ve never picked up so many gems in one sitting! If you’re keen, you can check out his parenting books and DVDs here.

Now it’s your turn. What have you learnt this week? What has life or your kids taught you? Hope to hear about your lessons every Thursday. 🙂

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Little Lessons: Sometimes kids fight over the silliest things

One night, after saying our prayers, JJ said his usual jubilant “AMEN” LOUDLY to the angst of his sister who has always expressed unhappiness over his noisy shouts of amen.

She was more upset than normal and ignored my usual “it’s okay, Vera, no need to get upset over this…”

So I had to bring her out from the room and explain to her that JJ enjoyed praying and expressing himself with a loud shout of praise and amen to God. It wasn’t that he was annoying her on purpose (though at the back of my mind I did wonder if there is that possibility too.)

I told her that we all express our love and joy in different ways, some through loud noises, some through softer words. None of us are wrong in preferring one way or another but we show love and respect by accepting and tolerating our differences.

I then reassured her that JJ loves her and that I do too. “We are unique and different but we love each other all the same.”

A hug and kiss later, she seemed much better. As we climbed back to bed, I thought about how she might have felt “unloved” because of how JJ  seemingly ignored her wishes.

All she seemed to need at that point was reassurance of love…and to know that it’s not true that behaving differently equals “unloving”.

I reckon this lesson will take many repeated reminders and experiences to really sink in, but I hope a small seed has been sown. And hopefully she’ll grow to appreciate the beauty of their differences one day.

Little kids can be rather rigid and insistent on their own ways at times. How can we teach them to be more accepting of differences? I learnt that it is a slow process, a process that begins with us communicating our love and acceptance of them, for who they are…

Do you have similar experiences too?

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The daddy dance

Dear daddy,

I watched as you whirled with Vera tonight,

in a gentle and precious dance.

She had wanted to dance

and you were the obvious partner.

Round and round the room you went,

lost in the rhythm

of joy and delight.

Vera too, moving in sync.

Some comical moments,

but I felt your heartbeat for her there and then,

the depth and breath of your love

like the waves of your hands.

I felt a warm glow of pride,

seeing you so close to her side.

Her face, lit with glee

as she leapt and jiggled and turned.

With your hands, you guide her

Swirl, twirl and glide her.

With your eyes, you delight in her,

and she thrives in your embrace.

We may never know

the significant of this little impromptu dance,

but the memories that you create

with every word of affection,

act of attention,

will dance forever

in her growing heart.


This poem is dedicated to all daddies this Father’s Day. You have a special place in your children’s lives.
May you always take time to dance, delight and sprinkle love all over your children.
Happy Father’s Day!

Some days, other days

Some days, I can’t wait for you guys to grow up.
Other days, I wish that time would just be still.

Some days, I wonder what made me even think about childbirth and procreation.
Other days, I wonder what grace has given us this beautiful privilege to have you both in our lives.

Some days, I slip into an abyss, overwhelmed, angry and defeated.
Other days, I’m contented, mostly because you guys are too.

Some days, I wonder about life on the other side – as a carefree woman, worker, wife.
Other days, I cry upon thinking paranoid thoughts of what life would be like without you.

Some days, you blow my stresses away by your funny words and uninhibited displays of love and wonder.
Other days, you add weight to my already heavy heart.

Some days, you drive me up the wall.
Other days, you make me double up in laughter.

I never knew the intensity of human emotion
Until you wandered into my life.
Regardless of these ups and downs (that I’m now used to)
I realise that all of these are but a whisper
When compared to the joy of eternity
That I will get to savour with you.
Children, my children,
You give me a taste of the glory of heaven.
And help me look forward to the days to come.

Love you both with a love that’s bigger than my own,


Celebrating love in the storm

We turned 5 years old last Friday as a married couple.

It was a funny anniversary celebration. I like to call it “love in the storm”.

I was having a pretty tough week. Everything at work didn’t seem to be running in order. Then JJ was diagnosed with the dreaded HFMD. (Our first case in the home.) My mum had fallen ill too, so I took the graveyard shift caring for JJ and scraped by some touchy work issues with lots of caffeine and prayer.

To be honest, I didn’t feel at all in a celebratory mood. I think he may have felt the same. But celebrate we did. We felt it was important to get some time out. To de-stress a little, and re-focus on our marriage.

We went for breakfast at our favourite brunch place. (I love their turkish bread with vegemite.)

After breakfast, we wandered around the stores and spotted a sign that reminded us of our honeymoon.

And cards that remind us to say our I love you’s and our Ps and Qs.

We held hands and relaxed at one of our favourite chillout spots. We did devotion, and shared our innermost thoughts. You said you wished to build your knowledge in a specific area of work. I said I wished for more time to write and journal (as usual), and more time to focus on growing spiritually, and to teach our children about God.

Later that day, we renewed our vows at Fort Canning, where we held our wedding. It’s something that we do every year. As we say the same words year after year, it’s almost as if the meaning sinks in further into our hearts and starts to form roots of its own.


It wasn’t fly-me-to-the-moon-romantic. There were no flowers, no expensive dinners. The day was peppered with work-related calls and emails. It  also got a little hot and balmy in the afternoon. Yet at the end of the day, I felt lighter, happier, perhaps just glad that we’d managed to spend the day together. That we’d stolen away from the crazy days we were having.

It’s funny how a day spent with you can help me regain that sense of sanity and balance.

The reason why we celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and other special occasions is to look back on the road we’ve travelled and marvel at how far we’ve come.

Another reason is to appreciate the now – to see what we have as it is, beauty in the mess and mess in the beauty, to be aware that what we have is fragile, that our marriage and family needs a lot of work in order to thrive.

We also take the time to articulate the future we want to build as a family. And finally, to thank the One who continually enables our weak human hearts to love and keep loving through this life-long journey.

This celebration, I felt it was a struggle to shift my eyes from the storm clouds and rushing waves to focus on US. Just us. Not even the kids. (Well okay maybe just a bit of kids.)

And when I did that, I saw that there is a lot to be grateful for, even though our hearts are not as still as they should be.

Then I realise that this is love. Love is being grateful even through the trials of life. Love is clinging onto each other when we’re walking down a rocky path. Love is supporting the other even when it feels like the sky is falling.

Thank you for loving me ever so fully.
You have helped me become the wife, mum, and woman that I am today.
You have helped our family to thrive and grow.
You have provided for us selflessly with those nights of hard work.
For you, I will always be grateful.
And to you, I pledge my love.

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