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103 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2011
In the forward to Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Tullian Tchividjian says it's "the best parenting book [he's] ever read, because it takes the radical, untamable, outrageous nature of the gospel seriously and applies it to parenting." And the authors do take the gospel seriously. The difference between their book and other Christian parenting books, they say, is that theirs emphasizes grace rather than law:

"Most of us are painfully aware that we're not perfect parents. We're also deeply grieved that we don't have perfect kids. But the remedy to our mutual imperfection isn't more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children."

These two experienced mothers don't pretend that they are perfect, that their children are perfect, or that they have the secret key to perfection. They don't give readers a formula for parenting; there are no "three steps," or even specified rod dimensions (though they do say that an open hand is okay, regardless of what other parenting books have said). Instead, they remind us that it is God, and not parents, who determines a child's destiny in this life and the next, and that we need His grace as much as our children do. They also give lots of encouragement to weary, imperfect parents:

"[God] doesn't treat his dear children as `disappointments' whose disobedience and failures take him by surprise or shock him. He does not suspend his love until they get their acts back together. He already knows the worst about you (in yourself) and loves and approves you nonetheless (in Christ)."

If applying the gospel can be overdone, these authors do it proudly: "We've encouraged you to dazzle [your children] with the message of Christ's love and welcome, and then when you think that surely they must be tiring of it, go back and drench them with it again."

The only problem with this is that when we apply the gospel to every event in life, and especially when we use it to correct, children will tire of it. Not every moment needs to be a "teachable moment." Do we need to bring up Jesus' agony on the cross every time our child acts like a child?

The authors give an example of how we might apply the gospel to a child who pouts after losing a baseball game: "Yes, losing is difficult....Jesus Christ understands losing because he lost relationship with his father on the cross....He's using this suffering in your life to make us both look up and see his love."

Besides the superficial view of suffering in the above quote, this loose way of applying the gospel, especially when often repeated, takes the power out of the message and can weary the children. Something sadder than a child growing up never hearing the good news is a child who grows up hoping to never hear it again.

Besides overdoing the application of the gospel, the authors are also guilty, like the authors of many of our Christian books and blogs, of overwriting. Some of their words have become so popular (peruse, enjoin, facets, eventuate), that I expect to see them in half the Christian books I read, though I've never heard them in real conversation. Add a few phrases like, "radical message of grace," "soul-satisfying repast of grace," and "construct a methodology," with extra doses of drama and intellectualisms, and an over-all good message becomes unpalatable to readers who prefer a simpler style.

Still, the most important things to be said about this book are that it leaves room for failure, emphasizes the superiority of the gospel over the law, and is primarily about imperfect parents glorifying a perfect God (rather than themselves or their children). These things put Give Them Grace above many other Christian parenting books.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2011
I agreed to review Give Them Grace for Crossway primarily because I feel exhausted in my parenting. It sounded like a much needed refreshment. But it also sounded like something to give me a few "how-to's" on applying grace in the lives of my children.

What is ironic is that I really want is not a book that is saturated in the gospel but one that is saturated with a list of rules for successful gospel parenting. How horrible that I have somehow turned gospel-centrality into a law or an idol that I bow to!

Because of this stupid obsession with getting a list of parenting tools to jam into my already bursting fanny-pack of Christian parenting tips, I felt a tad frustrated in the beginning of this book. It was a breath of fresh air but I didn't want a simple, "chill out, God is in control". I wanted simple answers that would put me in control of my children's fate.

Give Them Grace is not your typical parenting book. In fact it actually identifies what is wrong with many "Christian" parenting books. Most parents that read Christian parenting books do so with this mindset:

Their love for their children coupled with fear makes them want a guaranteed method of handling every situation with complete certainty. They are serious about being godly parents, and they really don't want to give themselves a pass if resting in grace somehow means that they aren't holding up their part of the bargain. They need grace to believe that there is no bargain, because if there were, they would never be able to uphold their part of it no matter how hard they try. No bargains, no meritorious works, just grace. Remember, parenting is not a covenant of works. (159)

Sadly, many books are quick to offer exactly what a desperate parent desires; namely, how to control their children.

Well, What DO I Do?

If I abandon the "carrot and the stick" parenting method (you know motivating through rewards and punishments) then what do I do as a parent? Fitzpatrick and Thompson, I believe, offer a simple answer: get grace yourself and extend it to your kids. This book is an attempt to encourage parents to draw deeply from the well of grace themselves and then as the gospel-saturates their hearts and lives they will be in a much better position to instruct their children in the gospel.

This echoes advice that I received from a professor in seminary. His children were already grown and out of the home. He was confessing to our class much of his "failed" parenting and how he regretted much of what he had done. He shared with us the one thing he wishes he would have done as a Christian parent. Ready for it?......Just chill out. Rest in Grace; that was his advice.

And it is this nugget of advice where this book really shines. As a parent I found much refreshment from this book. I was frustrated that it did not give me 10 simple steps of how to control my children for Jesus. But at the end of the day I am refreshed and reminded of the beauty of the gospel and the mercy of God in making me a dad. My children do not need me to beat them over the head with the gospel--what they really need is for me to get the gospel and let it overflow into their lives. I need to chill out. I need to rest in grace and enjoy myself--and hopefully in the process my children will catch on to the beauties of grace.

One Negative

The authors are very quick to point out that their suggested dialogue in the book is just that--suggested dialogue. But as I read through many of these I began feeling the weight of "saying it right" that is in many of the other parenting books. In my opinion the others are guilty of trying to make every moment a teachable moment and actually not living in the grace that they are speaking of throughout the book.

I had a real problem with this in the second chapter on "how to raise good kids". I absolutely agree with the underlying theology of this chapter. I do believe that so much of our parenting is an attempt to raise good little Pharisee and not Jesus-loving sinners. But I would have a hard time parroting some of their dialogue with my children:

"Rather than telling Rebekah that she's a good girl, we could say, "I noticed you shared your swing. Do you know what that reminds me of? How Christ shared his life with us. I'm so thankful for God's working in your life that way. I know that neither of us would ever do anything kind if God wasn't helping us. I'm so thankful." (42)

I get the intent behind this statement. But I am not certain that it is really necessary to speak in such a way. For one it does not do justice to the imago Dei. Yes, ultimately we must push our affirmation of others upwards to reach its true origin--the goodness and grace of our Creator. But there is a way of praising creation that echoes in praise to the Maker without explicitly debasing the creature.

Honestly, the greatest danger will be for people like me that pick this book up looking for 10 ways to control your children with grace, try to follow the verbiage to a tee, and miss the overall message of the book.

The overall message of this book is a much needed refreshment. I need to be reminded that the gospel is for parents too. I also need to be reminded that my children's salvation is dependant upon the God of grace and not my parenting. Yes, I want to parent to the glorify of God--but the way that happens is by drawing deeply from the well of grace.

I would encourage all parents to read this book. In fact I would almost encourage parents to get this book and stop reading so many other ones. Chill out and rest in grace. This book will, for the most part, help you to do just that.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2014
I have an 18-month-old. He usually behaves pretty well. For an 18-month-old. I think. You see, I’ve never had one before, I haven’t made a whole lot of observations of 18-month-olds, and I don’t ever remember being one.
So should you take my review of this parenting book with a grain of salt? Maybe more than one grain? Sure, yes. Always do that. I try to season my words with salt already, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

But here at the outset I want to deflect the criticism that someone who’s only barely a dad would say anything, positive or negative, about a parenting book. I want to deflect that more-than-justified criticism by saying that in this review I stuck to the things I have some training and background in. I don’t know whether my method of spanking or not spanking (can I just leave it at that?) “works” yet. I don’t know what kinds of talks are best to have with a perpetually lying third grader. I don’t know what to do when a three-year-old absolutely refuses to eat something she loved just yesterday.

But I have had a bit of exegetical training in my time. I’ve at least sat in a lot of classrooms where people who knew theology talked about it in my hearing. And the book I’m reviewing is a theology book if it’s anything.

So here we go. On to the review...


I recently read Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, written by Christian counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick with help from her daughter, Jessica Thompson.

The book was basically an excuse to teach theology to people (specifically parents) who are desperate for any help they can get, even if it’s theology—and to be clear, I think that’s a great idea! I wasn’t actually familiar with Elyse’s background when I first picked up the book, but the more I read the more I knew this was someone who had training in biblical studies. Again, a good thing. She deals responsibly with the Bible. I liked this little statement, for example: “Justification is a word that simply means that our record is both ‘just as if we had never sinned’ and also ‘just as if we had always obeyed.’” And this one: “Grace is stronger than all our work and all our weakness.” I got the distinct impression several times that I was reading a systematic theology chapter whose applications were all made to parenting. And very few times she used theological jargon—“the already and the not yet,” the “covenant of works”—that will befuddle some readers. But I think these are actually good things.

Another positive came in the numbers of great illustrations of the kinds of trials moms face. All those stories rang true for me, borne as they clearly were out of a lot of mommying with kids of all ages.

The grace we are supposed to give our kids is something we should also receive from a gracious God ourselves, and that is a welcome message to a heart which wants my kid to be good:

"How can we tell whether our efforts at parenting are motivated by reliance on God’s grace or on self-trust? How can we know whether we’re trying to obligate God or serve him in gratitude? One way to judge is to consider your reaction when your children fail. If you are angry, frustrated, or despairing because you work so hard and they aren’t responding, then you’re working (at least in part) for the wrong reasons. Conversely, if you’re proud when your children obey and you get those desired kudos—Oh! your kids are so good!—you should suspect your motives. Both pride and despair grow in the self-reliant heart."

Good! And so was this:

"There are no promises in the Bible of salvation or even success for faithful parenting. In fact, in the story that’s normally called “the prodigal son” (Luke 15), Jesus described a good father who had two lost sons. One son was lost to immorality and the other to morality. Of course, in this story, the Father is God. If we say that good parents (as if there were such a thing!) always produce good kids, then God must not have been a good Father. You know that it’s blasphemous even to think that way. Remember also that Jesus poured his life into twelve men for three years, and one of them betrayed him and fell utterly, and another denied him but was ultimately saved. Why were Judas and Peter such failures at Christ’s hour of need? Was it because he hadn’t taught them well enough, or did God’s sovereign plan have something to do with it?"

Insightful. Spot-on.

I also found it helpful when Elyse talked about how the genre of the Proverbs should adjust our expectations for how to apply them.
Another positive: the David and Susan story, mirroring the two sons in Luke 15, was artfully done. David corresponded to the prodigal son, Susan to the older brother, so this little insight helped me:

"Teaching David that he and Susan and Mom and Dad are all lost, all sick, all in need of salvation is so very crucial, whereas saying things like, “Why can’t you be more like Susan?” obliterates the gospel message. It tells David that there is something intrinsically wrong with him that isn’t wrong with Susan. It destroys his hope of ever hearing God’s benediction of goodness over his life. It breeds unbelief and despair. And, it is false."

The basic message of the book can probably be summarized in the one acrostic the authors allow themselves to indulge in (which seems to me to be the appropriate number for acrostics in any given book): MNTCP—Management, Nurturing, Training, Correcting, and remembering the Promises of the Gospel. There are times when you just need to manage your kids: “Don’t touch that! Put on your shoes! Get out of the street!” But there are times when nurturing or training or correcting is the appropriate biblical solution to a given circumstance.

But the focus of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s book is on “P,” Promise: telling your kids of God’s promises in the gospel. And this is where I find myself humbly and fearfully nervous. Not condemning, not necessarily disagreeing, not sure of a better way, just nervous.

Let me be absolutely clear: I’m a man of my generation, and I have most certainly found myself talking just like Elyse Fitzpatrick over the last few years. God-centered living: check. Grace-empowered sanctification: check. Only by God’s grace can children (or anyone) do anything good: check, check, Honey Nut Chex—my favorite. And I’d like to think I came by these conclusions honestly, although certainly not without help. I remember as an 18-year-old counselor at a Christian camp arguing with a more astute junior higher that, according to Romans 8:8, unregenerated people cannot do anything to please God.

But my dissertation taught me a lesson that will take me a lifetime of grace to live out: I want to be very careful to talk like the Bible does, to try to mimic as best I can its own balance between, for example, imperatives and indicatives. Frankly, I’m afraid that in the rapidly proliferating number of Gospel-Centered books I sense a bit of a pendulum swing from the former to the latter. We’ve seen that legalism doesn’t work, so let’s swing over to grace!

I got a few hints of the pendulum swing in words like these:
• “In what ways do you use the Bible as a rule book instead of as the ‘good news?’”
• “If you believe the Bible, we are sure you realize that neither we nor our children are truly good. ‘Good girl!’ ‘Good job!’ ‘You’re a beautiful princess!’—that is the unceasing refrain as parents seek to create their version of successful, good children…. Our encouragement should always stimulate praise for God’s grace rather than for our goodness.”
• “What you need as a praying parent is a deep drink of the great love of God, your Father, not more commands to pray.”

Let me say immediately, however, that the authors of this particular book are not guilty of a full swing; they have not taken the opposite tack all the way. They do have a significant place for family rules, they are definitely conservative Christians who are opposed to worldliness, and they give a great quote from Bryan Chappell to prove all that: “Grace does not forbid giving directions, promises, corrections, and warnings. Only cruelty would forbid such help.”

But I’m still nervous. I need to be careful about saying “Good boy!” when my son puts his blankie down on command? Do I really have to say, “My son, your action is a faint picture, by God’s grace, of the character of Jesus!”? Yes, it has to be possible to puff our kids up so much that they feel they’re gooder than they really are. But—limiting my comment to my own experience as a dad and a son—I can only see the pleasure my son gets from my pleasure in his good deeds as a good thing, an echo of a born again child’s relationship to his heavenly Father. My son is not (usually?) complex enough to think, “I’m going to earn dad’s favor by being good!” Instead, when he takes pleasure in my approval, he is being driven by the best motivation at his disposal. That, in turn, should train him to be ready to delight in the smile of God on his life—right? If I meet all his efforts at obedience with a mini-theology lesson, won’t I discourage him? Can’t I just love him and delight in him as my son? It’s true that he may turn out to be a lifelong rebel against God, but that won’t be because I trained him to be motivated in part by my smile on his good behavior.

One recurring feature in the book will provide an almost visceral illustration of what can go wrong with a pendulum swing: the multiple scripted mom-to-child talks. Mrs. Fitzpatrick provides many paragraphs of gospel-centered sermonettes moms can deliver when their progeny misbehave:

"Sweetheart, I will discipline you now because I love you, and you must learn to control yourself. When I tell you that it is time to go, we must leave. I know you didn’t want to go, but when we don’t get what we want, it isn’t okay to start screaming and throw yourself to the ground. There are two things you must understand: first, you were being unsafe. God has put me in charge of you, and he has told me to keep you safe. When you lie in a parking lot with cars around, you could get hurt. So, when I tell you to come, I am doing what I believe will keep you safe. Second, when you don’t get what you want, you are not allowed to start screaming and crying. You are sinning against God and against me when you disobey and complain. I understand that you didn’t want to leave the park. I know how difficult it is to show control when you don’t get what you want. And because you can’t control yourself, you need Jesus. Do you know what he did when he had to go somewhere he didn’t want to go? He told God that he would do whatever God wanted him to do. He did that for you, and he did that for me. The place he didn’t want to go was the cross. He knew the cross was going to be hard, and it would hurt him a lot. But he did what he didn’t want to do because he loved us. But I want you to know that you’re not the only one getting disciplined today. Today God showed me his love by disciplining me, too. He showed me ways that I was being disobedient in my heart, too. He showed me my pride and my anger. Discipline hurts, but I have faith that God will use it in both of our lives to make us love him more."

I have an 18-month-old and a little unborn mom-kicker, so I need to be careful not to assume I know better. But I just couldn’t find myself saying the things Elyse mapped out. (Kevin DeYoung said the same thing hilariously and gently in this post: One Amazon reviewer pointed out that the gospel is going to sound hackneyed after a while if moms and dads use these scripts as frequently (and make them as lengthy) as Elyse seems to suggest.

Again, Elyse leaves plenty of room for merely “managing” children. Not every misdemeanor with the cookies should result in a gospel homily. But I still felt these talks were overdone.

Sheesh. It feels so awful to criticize this book. The authors sound like women straight out of Proverbs 31 whose husbands are blessed to be married to them. (“She writeth a Crossway book and selleth it.”) I do think legalistic parenting is a big problem, and I honestly and genuinely hope lots of people will read this book. I would not be afraid to recommend it to anyone but those on the antinomian extreme of the pendulum swing.

I have used this book review as a vehicle, really, to get at a broader potential problem. And to practice something I’m trying (by grace!) to inculcate into my own too-sinful life: a careful, scriptural balance. We can’t go from trusting in our rules to trusting in our accurate understanding and explanation of grace (or, worse, grace-based slogans like “Gospel-centered”). Let’s have all the right rules, all the right explanations of grace—and then trust in the God who gave us both. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” God gives the increase to our labors.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 19, 2011
Are you a parent who wants perfect kids? Adjust your parenting style to any number of the hundreds of books on parenting currently in print and you'll be the successful parent you've always wanted to be with the successful children you've always wanted!

Sadly, this is the message of many parenting books that draw the hopeful and discouraged to their pages with each new publication. In Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, mother and daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson want parents to be the best Christian parents they can be, raising Godly children. So what makes this book any different? The answer is found in the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ. The path to successful parenting isn't found in what parents do or even how children react to what parents do. Such a method leads only to law and, as the book cover says, the law is "a set of standards that is not only unable to save our children, but also powerless to change them." Not only do they take aim at the path to successful parenting, but they offer a rethinking of what it means to be a successful parent.

Much of the book is focused, not on the behavior of the child, but rather the belief system of the parent. You won't find very much in the way of the "how-to's" of child discipline, but rather solid principles intended to have parents examine their own attitudes and understanding of the concept of grace. Further, this idea of grace is firmly grounded in what believers have been given through Christ's finished work on the cross in paying God's penalty for sin and obtaining our right standing before God. Based on the parents' understanding of gospel work in their own hearts, the authors then answer the question of successful parenting - that is pointing our children to God by modeling the grace of God in our lives.

There were two chapters that I appreciated the most: one ("The One Good Story) offers wise principles for pointing our children to the grace and love of God in various situations. For example, the question often comes up (at least it does in my family) of which movies to allow children to watch. Instead of giving a bulleted list of do's and don'ts, the authors offer several questions to ask about how that movie (or other entertainment medium) will either point to or prevent them from seeing gospel truths. In their own words, "Our hope is that if we have taught them how to discern the one good story and judge every other story by it, they'll be better equipped to answer the wicked Imposter's lies when they hear them." (p.120) They also touch on the subject of modesty and, instead of going straight to the obvious question of "is it revealing?" they suggest principles that will get to the heart of the child and not simply outward appearances.

The second chapter I appreciated the most was Chapter 9 ("Weak Parents and Their Strong Savior") in which the authors gently point out that sometimes, even after all our best efforts and trusting in God, our children may not live as believers. This chapter dealt with seeming failure as parents. But even here, the authors point us to the fact that God is honored and glorified in everything. In what was perhaps the most poignant statement of the chapter, they write "What if he has called us to Jeremiah's ministry rather than to Daniel's? Is there room in your parenting paradigm for weakness and failure if weakness and failure glorify God?" (p.149)

Perhaps the one negative aspect of the book is the examples of conversations between parent and child. The table in Appendix 2 ("Common Problems and the Gospel") is helpful in keeping our focus on Christ and the gospel in various situations, but the examples of conversations given seem too overblown and forced. While I certainly want to teach my children the beauty of the gospel and of Christ, it seems more than a little forced to relate losing a baseball game to the suffering of Christ. There are times when we as parents simply need to be there for our children, encouraging them when they fail/lose and helping them to do better next time. Does this mean that we are ignoring the gospel and only promoting selfish little bootstrap hoisters? Absolutely not! However, the adage "too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good" seems to apply here.

Give Them Grace gives us a much needed reminder as parents that changing our children's hearts and the outcome of our parenting is not dependent on us. Oh yes, God uses this tool for this change but ultimately it is God who does the changing. I was encouraged to continually point my children to the love, beauty and grace of God that is ours because of Jesus. (4/5 stars)

(Thanks to Crossway's Homeschool Book Review program for providing a copy of this book.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2011
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 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 is most helpful as the writers offer suggestions for showing grace (like we have been shown) that helps our children to realize that outward conformity is not what is sought, but a heart that genuinely desires to want to obey. And more than raising children that want to obey us, or 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 real life. The book does have a few downfalls, as they all do. A couple 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 provide 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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2011
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.

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, 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.


A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2011
I have to be honest. For years most Christian parenting books have disappointed me. Why? So very many of them involve some step-by-step program which practically guarantees to produce godly offspring. Behavioral modification, threats, rewards, manipulation and more feature largely in many of these methods. I disagree with this approach. To me, it is legalistic. It ignores the uniqueness of every child. It also ignores God's supernatural, creative plans and purpose--and His grace.

This book is different. Its focus is on giving children the message of the gospel. The message that they need grace. Desperately. We all need God's grace, and we can speak to our children daily and point the way to the Cross.

So, if I essentially have agreed with showing children God's grace and speaking to them of His grace for years, you would think that I like this book, right?

And, I do. Yet, some of the suggested ways to address children's sins with them seemed awkward to me. Yet I think it is mostly a matter of word choice. Each chapter concludes with helpful questions to ponder and potentially discuss in a group setting.

The basic foundation of this book is solid, in my opinion. Yet how it is applied will look different in each family. And that is okay. I think the authors would agree. I would encourage Christian parents to read this book and think and pray through how God would have them apply its message in their own families.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway Books in exchange for a fair review. Opinions expressed represent my own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2015
I have very mixed feelings about this book. The first half is basically a treatise on grace in parenting. How does your parenting, as a Christian, look different from the parenting of someone from any other religion (or someone who has no religion at all)? It seems like a question every Christian parent ought to ask him- or herself, but I've never seen another parenting book even mention it.

This section of the book was very hard for me to read. I often had to put the book down and think and pray about what I'd just read. Sometimes I decided the authors had a good point. Other times, I ended up not agreeing with them. A few things bothered me about this section. Mainly, the constant lecturing given in the examples. Long speeches given to preschoolers, for example. Only much later in the book do the authors admit that kids don't often want to listen to speeches, and that other methods may be necessary. The other issue I have with this section (and, actually, the book as a whole) is that while the authors are busy touting grace over law, they forget that without the law we never realize how much we need a Savior and how much grace he truly extends to us. This seems to me a glaring omission.

The second half of the book spoke to me much. much more. It was easier to read, less dogmatic, and just spoke to my heart. My takeaway in this section made plowing my way through the first half of the book more than worthwhile. Specifically, I loved what the authors had to say about our silly, worldly idea that good parenting in means good/saved kids out. And that our joy in parenting should not be based on our children's behavior. The example of Paul's life, so filled with difficulties, was excellent.

Because this book really touched me and helped me to better understand some things I think God has been trying to tell me for a while, I give this book 4 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2011
Very good book. Parenting is one area where we are all really prone to fall into the "it's all about the rules" mentality and this book is one resource that can help us get beyond that (and understand the proper place for rules and boundaries). I think the most helpful chapter, though, might be the one about understanding how God's grace applies to us a parents.

The practical application might be a bit of a weakness. Often what is given as a example of what to say to your child in certain situations comes of as wordy. The content is great, but the practicality in the middle of a difficult situation seems limited. The concepts at the root, however, are solid.

By coincidence, I was also watching Paul Tripp's DVD series "Getting to the Heart of Parenting" as I read this book. I would highly recommend watching that series in conjunction with this book because Tripp's practical application of the same concepts is very, very helpful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2011
In Give them Grace, Elyse and her daughter share lessons learned in parenting with grace. Too often, we parents set rules for our children and give rewards for obedience and discipline for obedience. Then, as Christian parents, we teach biblical stories that come across as good lessons on obedience versus disobedience. While parents need to set boundaries for their children, and Christian parents need to teach biblical stories regarding obedience and disobedience, we are only reinforcing moralism in our children, teaching them to be good because God will be upset if they don't rather than teaching them about grace.

What is needed more than ever is a shift in parenting emphasis from 'goodness' to grace. The emphasis in parenting needs to center on Jesus Christ and his completed work on Calvary, not on our own behavior and goodness. Combining solid biblical references with personal examples this mother daughter duo bring a much needed 'call of grace' to the parenting table. Throughout the book parents will no doubt reflect on their failures as a parent, but be drawn to rest fully in the grace of Christ. When this happens, it equips them to parent by grace, instilling in their children the life-changing gospel of Christ rather than the failed system of moralism. A great reminder for all parents of the high call of parenting. I would also encourage anyone who works with children to read this book, for no doubt they will be reminded of the great importance of teaching children the gospel of grace!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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