In his book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp uses the term “circle of blessing” to help parents better conceptualize the underlying heart causes of misbehavior. Even though his book is quite controversial (and I do not recommend it as a whole), this concept of a circle of blessing is a wonderful tool for parents that could easily be overlooked by its critics. I have taken Tripp’s concept and created a (new and improved!) free parenting printable that can be used for training and discipline by Christian parents.
You can click the picture to the left to view it larger and print it out if you wish. Here are some tips on how you can use this parenting tool with your children:
1) Introduce the circle of blessing to your children at time of peace. As you show it to them, you can use the terms “in the circle behavior” and “out of the circle behavior.” Ask them what differences they notice between the children pictured in the circle and the ones on the outside. Point out the condition of the two hearts. Also point out those things that are in place to help them stay inside the circle (rules, God’s word, their conscience, etc).
2) Next, talk about some of the blessings they will experience when they are inside the circle. Here are a few, but see if they can come up with any of their own.
- You will get along with others (have right relationships).
- You will experience God’s peace.
- You will be trusted to do the right thing.
- You will be able to participate in family fun and feel like you belong.
- You will be able to enjoy your everyday blessings such as play time, story time, technology time, etc.
3) You will also need to explain that there will be consequences if they choose to leave the circle. You can tell them that the safest (and most fun!) place for them to be is inside the circle and if they leave (with bad behavior or a bad attitude) you care about them too much to leave them there. Your job is to get them back in and you will provide consequences to make being outside the circle uninviting (including: time out, removal of privileges, missing family activities, etc.).
4) Your children will now likely want to know how they can get back in the circle. You can brainstorm together, but here are some suggestions for concrete ways you can explain the concept of repentance:
- Agree that what you did was wrong.
- Admit your part in what got you out of the circle.
- Say you are sorry. Ask for forgiveness (don’t for get this part).
- Make it right with the person you offended.
- Have soft heart.
- Accept your consequence.
5) You may want to put the poster on a cork board and use a push pin to show where your children are at various points in the day, during good times and bad. This way they will be able to visually track the condition of their heart over the course of a day or week.
6) You can let your children know if some of their behavior is heading them outside of the circle. You can give a warning, but do not make it your goal to keep them from leaving. Sometimes they will have to learn where the edge of the circle is by going outside of it. If we evaluate our parenting on how much time our kids spend inside the circle, we may find that we begin to widen the circumference of the circle to accommodate their behaviors and choices. Once they have broken a rule, they are outside the circle. They need to clearly know whether they are in or out.
7) Consider using our Heart of the Matter Parenting Cards with your children at the point of transition from outside to inside of the circle. These cards help children to see the connection between their behavior and the condition to their heart. You can learn more about how to use these cards here.
8) Always be willing to welcome them back in with open arms when they show the true signs of repentance (see #4 above). That is what God does for us. He is never far, no matter how far we stray from Him. Of course, this does not mean that there won’t be any consequences to fulfill once they are back in the circle. Often there are repercussions from our poor choices. Even genuine repentance cannot erase those consequences.
This tool can be used with children of any age, you simply have to adjust you language to fit the developmental stage of your child.