With all the options out there, finding the right parenting philosophy is challenging for anyone. Raising “good” kids is important for most (if not all) parents, but there’s a greater call for Christian parents—a call to share the faith with your kids and raise them to be obedient not only to us, but to the Lord; to, by God’s grace, see them carry on in the faith as regenerate followers of Christ. Yet, many parenting resources aimed at Christians seem designed to be little more than guides to teaching your kids morals, without giving them the necessary worldview that brings meaning to those morals. There’s something that seems to be missing—an understanding of the grace of God.
Enter: Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. In this book, Fitzpatrick and Thompson seek to show readers why the grace is so important to our parenting even as they offer practical advice on how to train our children.
In the video below, Emily and I discuss a few of our takeaways from the book:
Perhaps what I appreciated most reading Give Them Grace was something that came out of an illustration found in the first chapter. They share the story of a mom who is playing a Bible game with her three kids. Two of the kids loved the game (usually because they got the answers right), but the middle child was alternately rude and disruptive. Over the course of the game, the children’s mom asks the kids about ways they can share God with their neighbors. The oldest two give a few answers, but the middle child refuses, finally saying, “No and I don’t want to!” The exasperated mother responds, “But Jordan . . . God tells us to serve our neighbors and tell them about him. If you can’t be good, you won’t get any goldfish crackers or the blue Jell-O I’ve made” (pp. 27-28).
This might seem like a fairly familiar scene in any home and at first I didn’t think too much of it. Then I got to the end of the chapter:
Oh, you remember that little game we described at the beginning of the chapter? The idea for it is from MormonChic.com, a website written by Mormons for Mormons. If a Mormon can play the game exactly the same way you do, it isn’t a Christian game. It’s a morality game and we aren’t moralists; we’re Christians. If a Mormon can parent the same way you do, your parenting isn’t Christian. (p. 37)
That last line in particular hit me like a sack of hammers, reminding me of the necessity of, if nothing else, always making sure that the focus of my parenting is Jesus. If I discipline my oldest daughter and don’t explain to her the importance of discipline, I’m doing her a disservice. When she is disobedient, my job is to explain to her why she needs Jesus, not merely to correct her behavior (which does need to happen as well). When I ask her to apologize, she needs to understand that her actions stem from a sinful heart, not just from where she’s at in her development. And if that’s the only thing to take away from Give Them Grace, then it’s well worth its cover price.
For some parents, Give Them Grace will be a bit of a struggle. There are times when, if you’re only skimming, you might think they’re advocating for a borderline antinomian parenting style (they’re not, by the way). The difficulty some might face reading the book is that, because the focus is on bringing God’s grace into your parenting, it’s not as easy as following steps one, two and three. It’s offering more of the theological framework for parenting instead of drilling down into the nitty gritty details of specific situations—although even then, they do offer many practical examples of how grace-filled parenting looks (and doesn’t).
Filled with solid theological insights and some very candid discussion of the authors’ own failures in parenting, Give Them Grace was a very helpful and encouraging read for both Emily and myself. I trust you’ll find it as helpful as we have.
Title: Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
Authors: Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Publisher: Crossway (2011)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.