A Parenting Manual for Bad Kids
Many parenting books promise fast results for raising children who always obey, toddlers who never talk back, and teens who keep the faith. The marketers of such books get that we consumers will buy almost anything if it promises speedy outcomes and comes in a tidy list of dos and don'ts.
In their new book, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Crossway), mother-daughter writing team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson write to challenge the assumption that if we raise "nice" kids, our parenting task is complete (17). They believe God has something far greater for parents than raising the most moral kids on the block. Writing from the experience of a mother whose children are grown (Elyse) and a mother currently parenting young children (Jessica), they offer a reflective look back at what should have been, and a helpful look forward at what parenting can be, by God's grace.
Give Them Grace is divided into two sections: foundations of grace and evidences of grace. In the first, Fitzpatrick and Thompson present the gospel story and its implications for parenting. They assert that we often spend our time parenting by rules alone rather than reciting the story of redemption, which provides our children a way to follow the rules. They emphasize that salvation is all of God, which is a parent's only foundation as they raise children:
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 are 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 (50).
While our primary goal shouldn't be raising obedient children, teaching obedience is still a large part of parenting. The authors list four types of obedience (initial, social, civic, religious) and show how to differentiate this obedience from true Christian righteousness (30-32). By weaving in examples of how to respond to children when they disobey, they teach parents the importance of pointing children to Jesus, the only Son who obeyed perfectly. They call this "gracious parenting."
The second section, evidences of grace, explores the nuts and bolts of applying grace to parenting. While the authors steer clear of a simple cause-effect parenting strategy, they provide tools for parents in light of the grace-filled framework already established. They provide a chart for parents to use as they think through parenting "of the Lord" (taken from Ephesians 6:4). The chart has five distinct categories: management, nurturing, training, correction, and promises (89-92). Each category includes an example for the believing and the unbelieving child.