As our son gets older, I am beginning to realize more and more that I need good, wise, and Biblical counsel in parenting. Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson, do just that in their book Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. I had never heard of Elyse until I went to an Association of Biblical Counselors conference at the start of this year hosted by The Village Church, where Matt Chandler is pastor. After hearing her speak, I knew I needed to have her on my radar.
The book explores legalistic versus grace based parenting. To do this, from the beginning she tries to make explicit what we should aim at as parents. Is it raising good kids? Being good parents? Is being good the point? She argues that it is not. She also argues that rules are not the answer in parenting. So are you starting to wonder what you might be left with? Good! You should pick up the book and find out. But here is a taste.
In the first four chapters which make up the first section of the book, the authors build a foundation for what grace is and how it is vastly different from living under the law. This part is rich in Scripture and traces out how Christ has set us free from the law by fulfilling it in our place and now offers us grace, grace which transforms our hearts and causes us to love Him. We however continually try to earn our grace by our works. We think God cannot or doesn’t love us unless we can “be good”, however, it is when we realize that Christ has already loved us completely despite what we have done that we are set free to love and live God honoring lives, not bound by regulations and guilt, but with freedom and desire to pursue Him.
The rest of the book (six chapters plus some helpful appendices) works this out for parenting. As parents, we will have rules that our children must obey, but like us, they will tend toward misconstruing the law we set. Either they will be prideful at their ability to keep the rules or rebels as they seek to break the rules.
It is here that the book becomes very practical as the writers offer suggestions for showing grace that helps our children to realize that outward conformity is not what we are aiming for, but a heart that genuinely desires to want to obey. More than raising children that want to obey us, our aim as parents should be to help our children see the glory of God’s grace, so that they come to love Him.
I hope this review has whetted your appetite, picked your curiosity, or perhaps have you questioning how this could play out in life. The book does have a few downfalls, as they all do. A couple of weaknesses for me was that some of the suggestions are too formulaic and many of the scripts of possible alternative responses are, well, not going to happen when you have a child crying, screaming, fussing, and fighting. However, they do offer a model starting point that helps to steer the reader in a good, if ambitious, direction.
In all, every parent would benefit from reading this book, if for nothing else than recalling the wonderful grace we as believers have received and the encouragement to show this grace in our parenting.