In his book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp uses the term “circle of blessing” as a way to help parents conceptualize their role in training their children . Even though his book is quite controversial (and I do not recommend it), the circle of blessing can be a useful training tool for Christian parents that could easily be overlooked by its critics.
I have taken Tripp’s idea and created a free parenting printable.
You can click the picture to view it larger and print it out if you wish. Here are some tips on how you can use this training tool with your children.
Introduce at time of peace
As you show it to them, ask them what differences they notice between the children pictured in the circle of blessing 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).
The blessings of obedience
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.
- They will get along with others
- They will experience God’s peace
- They will be trusted to do the right thing
- They will feel connected to others
The results of disobedience
You will also need to explain that there will be some sort of response on your part 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, you care about them too much to leave them there. Your job is to show them the way back in through teaching, discussing, training and correcting.
A way back in
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:
- Understand what happened and why it was wrong
- Admit your part
- Apologize (this cannot be demanded or forced)
- Make it right
- Have a teachable, soft heart
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. Your job is not to force them to obey. You are simply there to teach them about God’s best for them.
Heart of the Matter Cards
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.
Always be willing to welcome them back in with open arms. That is what God does for us when we repent. He is never far, no matter how far we stray from Him. This is the perfect opportunity to share the hope and truth of the gospel. Jesus came for sinners and covered all our sins: past, present and future.
A note to parents
First, this tool is best suited for children 4 and up. You will have to adjust the language to fit the developmental stage of your child.
Second, this tool is best when used as a training tool – a way to teach the concept of repentance and restoration. It should not be implemented solely as a corrective measure in hopes of bringing a child into compliance or “under control.” It is not intended to bring shame or guilt, but rather provide an opportunity for the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We cannot convict our children of sin. That is not our job. Our job is to teach God’s best for them, illuminate the path to repentance, and help them grasp God’s deep love for them and His heart of forgiveness.
Finally, the goal of this tool is not to create perfectly behaved children who never stray outside of the circle. That is not possible. We are all sinners and tainted by the Fall. When we use this tool, with humility and gentleness, we can approach our children as a fellow sinner who knows the One who can show us the way to a clean and restored heart.