Book Review: Give Them Grace
This is Katie Jordan's book review on Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson (Crossway, 2011, 208 pages). You can purchase Give Them Grace online or in the bookstore.
Is obedience ever a bad thing? If our children listen to us and obey us doesn’t that mean that we are doing the right thing as parents? These are questions that Elyse Fitzpatrick looks at in her book on parenting, Give Them Grace. Fitzpatrick is writing as someone whose children are already grown and is very candid about the fact that she did not have the right understanding of grace when she was raising her children. In this book she explains that there is much more to Biblical parenting than just having obedient children; the heart is what really matters.
This book is written by Fitzpatrick as well as her adult daughter Jessica Thompson. While Thompson is able to provide examples of current parenting situations she is walking through, most of the book is written by Fitzpatrick with her daughter just intersecting in certain chapters. It is broken down into two sections, “Foundations of Grace”, and “Evidences of Grace”. In these sections the authors walk the reader through the truths of the Gospel and how they apply for parents in all situations. The chapters all deal with very real issues such as how to parent around unbelievers, how to discipline with grace, how parents ought to model repentance, how to parent both believing and unbelieving children, and more.
The desire of this book is that parents would parent their children with grace as opposed to moralism. Fitzpatrick sets the stage for this by asking the reader if they would characterize their parenting as “Christian Parenting”. Her point is that many of us teach our children good moral principles for the purpose of obedience. Things like observing the law, caring for others, and the like. While these are good things to teach children, they are not distinctly different than what an Atheist, Muslim, or Mormon might teach their child. Fitzpatrick explains that the difference in our parenting is our constant pointing to Christ. This seems rather simple and as a Christian parent it is easy to agree that we need to preach Christ to our children. But without even realizing it we end up preaching the truths of Scripture (morals) to our children while leaving out Christ as the central focus. Fitzpatrick writes, “In an effort to teach our children about the Bible, we frequently employ the stories in the Bible as a way to compel obedience” (28). An example of this is when our child disobeys and we remind them of a specific fruit of the spirit, compassion for instance. This is a good thing; we ought to teach our children about compassion. But if we stop at telling them to be compassionate, we are no different than non-believing parents. Rather, we are to teach our children the importance of compassion, while using the Gospel to explain God’s compassion to us and thus our true motivation to have compassion on others.
I loved this book. Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite contemporary Christian authors due to how readable her books are while still being rich in theological truth. There are several attributes about this book that I found to be very beneficial. Each chapter ends with a section asking specific questions about the chapter so that the reader can both review what he/she learned as well as cement it in their minds. There are helpful appendixes at the back of the book that parents can use for quick reference and further study. Every chapter is full of very applicable analogies that help to make the teaching stick with the reader. There are also sample conversations that walk the reader through a number of situations and how to apply the Gospel.
This book teaches parents how to parent with Christ as the focal point, and in reality teaches Biblically helpful truth regardless of whether you are a parent or not. I greatly benefited from the teaching on making sure that I speak and act in a way that keeps Christ as the focal point. It is amazing how often I act in a moralistic manner and miss the opportunity to point out Christ to others. I was convicted about how often I act in a way no different than a moral atheist. I need to combat the moralism I fall into, with the grace I have been shown. This book is radically different than other parenting books. It is not teaching the reader how to have successful and happy children. Rather Fitzpatrick says that it is a book for weak sinful parents with weak sinful children realizing that the main thing that our children need is to be dazzled with the gospel of grace. There is indeed much more to being a parent than simply requiring obedience. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.