If you are a parent; if you are a grandparent; if you think you might ever become a parent, buy and read this book. When I first received the book from Crossway, I thought that it would be another one of those "Here's the five things that you need to do to be a successful parent" books. I was wrong.
This is no ordinary parenting book. In fact, I would argue that it isn't even primarily about parenting. This book is about the gospel. The gospel is articulated so clearly and so powerfully, that you might take parenting out of the equation, plug in anything else, and still have a superb book. I suppose, then, that I should have added a phrase in my first sentence: "Even if you don't plan on ever having any children, buy and read this book."
I understand that these kinds of statements tend to make idols out of books and authors. That is not my intention. Give Them Grace is a unique book, but it's not because of the eloquence and genius of Fitzpatrick and Thompson. It is by no means a perfect book. The examples of conversations with children are often unrealistic. None of my children are going to sit and listen to me talk about the gospel for four paragraphs when they are furious with me for grounding them from the Xbox. The language sounds more maternal and so some men may get weary with the book. Yet I speak so highly of Give Them Grace because it is built on the glorious and praiseworthy gospel.
There is no shortage of Christian books on parenting. Aren't they all built on the gospel? Isn't that why they're called "Christian"? What sets this one apart?
Many books on parenting only give a part of the message; they fail to communicate the whole gospel. What they end up accomplishing is to obscure it. Here is how Fitzpatrick and Thompson diagnose the problem:
"How could a Christian book on parenting obscure the message of the gospel of grace? It could do so if it falsely claims that parents are able to manufacture their child's ultimate success by a sheer force of will. Of course, in these books, this sheer force of will won't be called "your force of will." Rather, it will be called other, more spiritual-sounding names like Ã¢â¬Ëmeeting their deepest needs' or Ã¢â¬Ëconsistent' or Ã¢â¬Ëdevoted' parenting" (p.160).
These books send the message that the child's success and happiness depends ultimately on the parents' ability to use the correct methods.
"This is the message of every book about parenting that is not rooted in the grace of God demonstrated in the gospel. Just as a book on prayer would not be an essentially Christian book if it never mentioned Jesus's high priestly mediation or the deep assurance that forgiveness of sins brings, so "Christian" parenting books are not Christian if their primary message is law. If their message isn't rooted and grounded in the truth that you and your children are deeply sinful yet deeply loved, in reality it's nothing more than a glorification of the will and work of the parent" (p. 161).
Although these paragraphs are near the end of Give Them Grace, they sum up the heart of its message. As Christian parents, our parenting must be essentially Christian; which means that it will be fundamentally different from the way Muslim or Jewish parents raise their children. It must be built on the gospel, reflect the gospel, and be a testimony to the gospel.
Today I am departing from my normal format and reviewing a book for parents, not children. I am a big fan of Elyse Fitzpatrick and when I was given the opportunity to review this book I was very excited. I also thought the subject would be of interest to many of our readers. Hope you find this helpful!
From the Introduction to the final page of this book you are confronted with the gospel of grace. The authors use stories, anecdotes, probing questions and lots of Scripture as they point you away from the constraints of the law and toward grace. While they offer advice, they careful to point out that there is no formula for raising kids.
"Giving grace to our children is not another formula that guarantees their salvation or obedience...Our children will be saved only through the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit, who works at the direction of our faithful heavenly Father. He's the faithful, powerful, soul-transforming One."
Positives: There are so many things I liked about this book, I will try to focus on a couple of the highlights here. One of the aspects I most appreciated was how the authors teach that no parent can change the heart of their child. All of our efforts to be good parents do not produce salvation, only Jesus can save them and transform their heart. To drive this home the authors wrote:
"Spanking doesn't transform the soul, only Jesus Christ does."
This truth should drive us to pray. It should also cause us to teach our children (and ourselves) to cry out to God for mercy, forgiveness and the strength to fight the stronghold of sin. While I believe that spanking is a tool that parents should use as they raise their children, we need to understand that spanking alone will not save them.
Another aspect I really enjoyed was toward the end of the book when the authors were talking about a "successful" family and how we define if we have been good parents. Here is what they say:
"But what if we're measuring success in the wrong way? Could it be that our perception of success isn't God's plan for us or for our family? What if he's going to use our failure and our children's rebellion to make us humble comforters of other sufferers for his glory?...[D]on't we have to be willing to say that the chief end of our parenting is not our own glorification as great parents but rather that we glorify God and enjoy him forever, whatever that means?"Ã¯Â»Â¿
This book is a tremendous resource for parents as they seek to raise children who love Jesus and live under the power of His grace.
Talking Points: There are questions at the end of each chapter which would be great to use if you wanted to read this book with a friend or Bible Study group. If you are reading it on your own, I would still recommend you take the time to answer the questions too!!
I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishers for this review.
1. This is not another book full of parenting rules to follow. Instead, it focuses on grace-filled interactions with our children and a greater dependance on the Holy Spirit to guide our parenting.
2. It is full of grace-filled truths for the weary parent. God is in control. Through our best (yet still insufficient) efforts, as well as through our failures. Only God can bring heart change.
3. It brings biblical clarity to our ultimate purpose as parents.
4. There are practical sample conversations peppered throughout the book, which help put feet to what this might look like with my own children.
5. There is an emphasis on the role of prayer in our parenting, including a look at some biblical models for shaping our prayers.
6. It addresses gray areas such as how our kids dress, who we allow them to be friends with, and what movies to let them watch. It provides us with biblical principles to help guide our decisions.
7. Give them Grace offers continual reminders that our own walk with the Lord matters. How we relate to Jesus will affect our parenting and ability to give our children grace.
8. It tackles the balance of God's sovereignty and our own role as parents.
9. Chapter 4: Jesus Loves All His Little Prodigal and Pharisees. This chapter is amazingly good. It looks at the hearts of both the "good little girl" and the little rebel, and well as the role our own confession of sin has to play in how we parent both types of child.
10. There are great application questions at the end of each chapter, which have an emphasis on listening for what the Holy Spirit might be trying to do in our lives.
Give Them Grace helps us look at how to parent, if all we had was the Bible. Only God's grace can change the hearts of our children. Only through Jesus' righteousness can our children be right in God's eyes. When they disobey, point them to Jesus. When they obey, celebrate with them that they were able to obey, because of Jesus.
"Parenting with grace isn't another set of rules for you to follow. It's a story that you're to rejoice in. Share the story with your children. Show them the Savior. Show them Jesus. Dazzle them with his love."
Disclosure: I am a reviewer for Crossway books. I was given a copy of Give Them Grace in exchange for my review of the book. All opinions here are my own.
With some parenting books, it is hard to read them cover to cover. Often times when reading a parenting book I'll go to the table of contents and flip to the section that covers the age range of my child. "Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With The Love of Jesus" by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson is different, you will not only read it cover to cover, but also find yourself reading it again and again. This book will help you to see that your child's biggest problem isn't their sinful action, but their sinful hearts. When reading this book you will see that your parenting can never be good enough, but only God's grace can make your parenting sufficient to transform your child.
This book is written without being divided into practical application for the age range of children. The reason for this is because when dealing with toddlers, teenagers and even adults there is no difference with the root of issues that come up. Kids, just like adults, don't need more rules to make them good and bring them closer to God. "Give Them Grace" does not ignore the need for rules, training and discipline but it gives the crucial reminder that all of that is meant to lead to kids to Jesus. "We are commanded to give them the law so that they will be crushed by it and see their need for a Savior. The law won't make them good. It will make them despair of ever being good enough and in that way it will make them open to the love, sacrifice and welcome of their Savior, Jesus Christ."
It isn't just kids who need Jesus, but also parents. The task of parenting is impossible without God's grace. Our best effort at parenting might produce "good kids" but it won't change their hearts. "Raising good kids is utterly impossible unless they are drawn by the Holy Spirit to put their faith in the goodness of another. You cannot raise good kids, because you're not a good parent. There is only one good Parent, and he had one good Son. Together, this Father and Son accomplished everything that needed to be done to rescue us and our children from certain destruction." One of the things I appreciated about this book is the humility of the authors. They don't claim to have it down or be good parents. They are in the same boat as all of us and write with humility as they proclaim their own need for grace.
I wish Crossway would allow me to give out one free chapter of this book for you to read because by just reading one chapter I know you'd be convinced to buy the whole book. Even if Crossway would allow me to give away one free chapter to convince readers to buy the book, it would be hard for me to pick just one that I think people should read because they are all so good. If you want to apply the gospel to parenting and have your parenting be saturated in the gospel then I could not encourage you enough to buy this book.
A quick note to the men: this is the first Elyse Fitzpatrick book I have ever read. My wife has read me selections of "Because He Loved Me" and I thought that book sounds good, but the cover is to feminine for me, maybe I'll read it when an edition comes out with a camouflage cover. Next my wife shared portions of "Comforts From The Cross," the cover was less girly, but I feared losing man points because this wasn't "Strength From The Cross." Please don't make the mistake that Elyse Fitzpatrick only writes for a female audience. This book isn't just for mom's, but also for dad's.
Excellent book on parenting! This book came to me at a great point in my life, just as I prepare to celebrate the birth of my first born. I am so thankful for the radical grace filled approach to parenting that Fitzpatrick advocates in this book. She says to not fill your children with rules and laws and regulations but to instead give them grace. I hope I can remain faithful to the truth this shows as I grow as a parent. Anyone with kids or grandkids should read this book.