A Concise Book Review: Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

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Give-Them-Grace

What do you get when you cross multiple generations and parenting? Usually a heated discussion or at least a mild disagreement. My grandparents generation was all about hard work, discipline and conformity. My parents leaned more toward responsibility and making supervised choices. While my generation seems to swing on the side of uniqueness, individuality and freedom to make mistakes. But this book has a refreshing perspective. No matter what generation, the Gospel should drive our parenting, leaving no room for changing views and waning strategies.

Grace takes away the need to be a perfect parent. Perfection is out. Grace is in. If we know that the work is already completed. Christ already died for whatever we are going to say. Christ already died for whatever my children are going to do. He has already completely covered over our mistakes and so when God looks upon our parenting He sees the perfect life of Christ. We are free from the guilt that says we aren’t enough. We are free from the anger that explodes forth when are kids don’t act the way we think they should. The Gospel isn’t a list of what we should be doing…it is a story of what was already done. And focusing on that through parenting is freeing on so many levels.

The entire weight of our child’s salvation does not rest on our shoulders…only God saves souls. Somewhere along the parenting path, God gave me a bit of parenting advice. Though I can’t remember the particular source, the concept has stuck with me over the last few years. My children are little eternally living souls that will be in heaven or hell someday. I took that advice to personally, as I always do, and began living as if every choice I made would determine whether my child would become a Christian or not. But as I read “Give Them Grace” I became more aware of the fact that God chooses who will be saved. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that brings anyone to salvation. We read numerous accounts in the Bible about godly parents who appear to be doing things right, but end up producing evil rebellious children…and we also read of many godly servants of Christ coming from horribly ungodly parents. God can harden or soften hearts to the exact same message. So salvation is truly a give of grace, not of my doing, but a gift given by God.

You are a sinner parenting a sinner. After reading this book, things changed drastically within my own heart before my parenting strategy saw any form of makeover. I was expecting my children to do more than I could do myself. Though I knew it was impossible, in my own speech and actions, I was expecting perfection from them and never giving them any way out. And that is not how God deals with me. Though my life seems to be an endless cycle of sin, repent, repeat, God is gracious to me. He says, “I know you can’t be perfect and that is why I sent my son.” And so I should be more willing to say to my children, “I know you can’t be perfect, that is why Jesus died”…and continue to point them toward obeying out of love and gratitude for that sacrifice instead of constantly expecting them to obey the rules to perfection because nothing less is acceptable.

It’s not a child’s behavior that’s bad, it’s their heart. Long before I read this book, I could quote a long list of scripture about how wretched and sinful our hearts are, but the way I was parenting was failing to apply those verses. Bad behavior produced a punishment, usually without any further discussion. You hit your sister, you go sit on your bed. You disobey mommy, you don’t get to ride your bike. But I failed every time to get to the root of the actions and to help my children look at their behavior as God does. The book gives many examples of what a conversation might look like when you take the initiative to talk to your child about their sin instead of just automatically producing a punishment. Here is one such conversation (condensed and paraphrased from the book):

When I tell you it is time to go, it is not okay for you to start screaming and to throw yourself on the ground. First of all because it is unsafe. God put me in charge of you to keep you safe. Also, it is sinful and disobedient to act that way. That is sinning against Mommy and God. I know it is hard to do the right thing and because it is so hard you need Jesus. Do you know what Jesus did when he had to go somewhere he didn’t want to go? He told God he would do whatever He wanted him to do and he went to the cross to die for us. He knew it was going to hurt a lot but he went anyway because he loves us so much. And God showed me today how much I need Jesus too because I have a disobedient heart. I had pride and anger in my heart. Discipline hurts, but God can use it in both of our lives to make us love Him more.

In this excerpt, we see a few key points of grace filled discipline. Explaining that a parents role comes from God is a crucial way to teach a child that all authority comes from Him, all sin is against Him and to teach the ultimate source to which all obedience, love and worship should be directed. All grace filled parenting centers around the gospel so at all times we should search for ways to bring the cross into our conversations with our children. Showing them their need of Jesus right in the midst of their sin gives them hope and shows them the seriousness of their actions. And this book also points out how important it is to admit your own need of Jesus as well. Humility and repentance can be learned through our example to them.