In Give Them Grace, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson aim to encourage parents to dazzle their children with the grace the parents themselves have first experienced through Christ. The book is separated into 3 parts with each part showing a different angle of how grace is crucial to family life. This book departs from many parenting books in its avoidance of giving very specific instructions or checklists on how to get children to obey. On the contrary, the authors stress that children should be directed to put their faith in Christ who has obeyed in every single way to commands of His Father. Instead of demanding obedience through threats or punishment, the parent is to show how Christ has taken all the punishments we deserve for our sins already. Indeed, children are recipients of God’s grace and it is to their gain to be exposed to God’s grace at an early age. Fitzpatrick and Thompson argue that we force children to obey rules when they simply cannot do so using their own efforts. This is not to say that children can disobey rules all they like but the basis for parenting should always focus on the gospel of grace. The book does provide a framework by which gospel-based parenting should look like: Manage, Nurture, Train, Correct, and Promise. To illustrate this framework, an appendix included shows how these five elements could be used to in everyday life (e.g. when a child is angry) to remind one’s children of the grace found in Christ alone. The authors advise wisely that parents should not apply their illustrations blindly but to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit on how to deal with specific situations.
In reading this book, I applaud the authors for helping readers see that grace is what saves and sustains both parents and their children. Without children of my own, I can only observe from afar the frustrations and challenges of raising godly children. Indeed, there are many sincere Christian parents who, despite their best efforts, have raised children that end up rejecting Christianity altogether. This book encourages parents to not give up on their children but trust in the powerful grace that flows from Christ. However, I did find the book to be repetitive at times and the content drifts somewhat off-topic as the bulk of content were dedicated to discussions between law and grace. I understand the authors are trying to eradicate any form of works-based mentality that parents may have but much of the book seemed more intent on examining the doctrine of justification by grace rather than about parenting. Much of the book could actually be removed and constitute an entirely separate book on the doctrine of grace. Naturally, one could see how the gospel is supposed to impact all aspects of our life including parenting but how it practically works out in the act of parenting seems to be left unanswered. At the end of the book, I still cannot see how the authors reconcile the need for grace while upholding discipline and obedience. For sure we are to preach the gospel to our kids by reminding them of their sinfulness and need for God’s grace. Moreover, we can certainly tell kids to obey because Jesus obeys but what are we to do afterwards if the child disagrees? Do we simply keep on repeating those words and hope that it sinks in one day? How do we stress obedience while asking our children to fall back onto God’s grace? In essence, my question for the authors is this: In the context of parenting, how do we teach our kids both the doctrine of justification and the doctrine of sanctification?
In summary, I do recommend this book for parents who have become tired or discouraged over the years from the disappointments in parenting. The authors remind parents that godly children are the result of the gospel transforming their lives not a product of the parents’ successful parenting methods. The role of parents is to display the grace that they have experienced through Christ to awaken their children to their own sinfulness and their need for a Saviour.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.