Sunday Serenity – Reviewing “Give Them Grace”

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Hope your Sunday is going well and that your are feeling refreshed!  I took a little nap on the couch after church and lasagna (which was from the freezer for when baby comes – but there were four casseroles, enough for one of those “baby is coming soon so I can’t bear to be on my feet making lunch right now” kind of days 🙂  It still amazes me when I think about it that Meriwether, John, and I were all able to nap while four children played quietly in the other room and Greer napped upstairs.  So thankful for the blessing of my sweet children!! Greer did one better by coming out of her room after her nap, taking off her diaper and pants (with a little help from Gabriel), pulling up the little ducky pottie, and proceeding to deposit her #2 into it, all while I lie on the couch cheering her on.  Good job baby!! I think I mentioned that she’s been in a bed that she can get out of by herself lately so she can get us up once she’s awake so we’ll take her pottie.  Only one poopie diaper in the two weeks since we started that, so I would say it is working!!  Now we’ve all had our dessert from lunch – cheesecake – as our 6pm dinner, and we’re settling in for the evening.  I love how much relaxing goes on on a Sunday at our house!  Normally we would be at our evening church service, but since about 7 months along it has been too much for me to go back out in the evenings on a Sunday and I was ending up exhausted on Mondays.  So this is working for us right now 🙂

On to the book — it is called Give Them Grace and was written by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.  I haven’t finished it, and, unlike the last book, it is quite long and very “dense” with good things.  So I am just going to review about two chapters at a time for you.  It definitely is addressed to Christian parents, and does not seem to hold any other parenting advice aside from that view, although I haven’t made it to the “application” part of the book yet, so perhaps there is stuff in it later that would be more universally applicable.  There are only ten chapters altogether, but each one is pretty deep and takes a while to really digest 🙂

Here’s a picture from Amazon:

In the introduction alone I underlined quite a few quotes 🙂  The point of the book is about raising children from a distinctly Christian perspective which relies on the grace of God for our children’s behavior and salvation rather than from a moralistic perspective in which we use the Bible as a set of rules for them to follow without showing them the grace that saved us.  On the back cover it says, “Every way we try to make our kids ‘good’ is simply an extension of Old Testament Law – a set of standards that is not only unable to save our children, but also powerless to change them…We must tell our kids of the grace-giving God who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters.”  The author Elyse is the mother of co-author Jessica, and she freely shares how she raised her children in just such a moralistic manner, rarely speaking to them of grace, helping those of us who may have fallen into the same trap at times to see where we might improve our own parenting.  Here is a favorite quote of mine in the introduction, very long as most of the passages will be: “When we change the story of the Bible from the gospel of grace to a book of moralistic teachings like Aesop’s fable, all sorts of things go wrong…Good manners have been elevated to the level of Christian righteousness.  Parents discipline their kids until they evidence a prescribed form of contrition, and others work hard at keeping their children form the wickedness in the world, assuming that the wickedness within their children has been handled because they rayed a prayer one time at Bible club.  If our ‘faith commitments’ haven’t taken root in our children, could it be because they have not consistently heard them?  Instead of the gospel of grace, we’ve given them daily baths in a ‘sea of narcissistic moralism,’ and they respond to law the same way we do: they run for the closest exit as soon as they can.”

Even in the introduction – and all through the 3 chapters I’ve read so far – there are several instances in which they share a sample “conversation” about how to handle a situation with a child in a new way, which is always this looonnnnnggg conversation with the child about how they could have handled being angry at the sibling, or how they could have shared better, or what have you.  That would be a complaint I have about the book – sure, the example of some helpful words is nice, but as with many other parenting books I’ve read, they make it sound like you have all this one-on-one time available to spend thirty minutes discussing the issue with a child whenever he sins.  I think there is a place and a time in which you will find that you do have the ability to thoroughly cover a topic with your child, but in reality, these long, drawn-out conversations about the issue and what the Bible says about it etc, etc, are few and far between and certainly cannot occur whenever the child is misbehaving.  Maybe if I just had two or three children I would not feel like this is so annoying, but seriously, I find this all the time in the books I read (I specifically remember enjoying Don’t Make me Count to Three but constantly rolling my eyes at her super-involved discussions with the three year old about her shortcomings.) and there doesn’t seem to be the recognition that a lot of people who will be reading the book have a bit more going on since they probably have many children and are quite-likely homeschooling, so sometimes an abridged version is helpful 🙂  I know that the co-author Jessica had three children at the time of the writing and was homeschooling, but I’m pretty sure this means a baby, a toddler, and a 5-yr old learning her letters and not what is going on as you add to the brood and schooling demands increase.  Just my personal issue I know 🙂

The first part of the book, “Foundations of Grace,” has four chapters, so I will review it over two Sundays, Lord willing 🙂 The first chapter is called “From Sanai to Calvary” and is mostly about God’s law, and some different forms of obedience which we strive to instill in our children: “Initial Obedience” (which encompasses some concepts that will ultimately protect our children and which will help them “function within the family and society.” – Things like obeying the simple commands of “No,” “Stop,” “Come here,” “Put that down,” etc.); “Social Obedience” (basically learning to follow the “social conventions” (i.e. manners) of a particular culture – like saying, “Please” and “Thank you,” and refraining from burping in public – in America – or burping at the table to show satisfaction in some other countries); “Civic Obedience” (learning to be “law-abiding citizens” – something all responsible parents strive to teach their children like not beating others up, not stealing, and the like); and “Religious Obedience” (things that we teach children about living a life of faith, within the context of a family of faith, before they come to faith themselves such as: thanking God for our food, giving an offering in church, standing or sitting quietly at certain times during worship – basically outward conformity to religious exercises which are not a proof of “regeneration” – more on this in a minute.)

I didn’t underline much in this chapter – I think I was reading it one night at the ER with Greer after she had fallen down the attic stairs and wouldn’t stop crying to go to sleep that night, so I probably didn’t have a pen handy – but am looking back at it to see what struck me.  In this section about “religious obedience” the authors are careful to say that you shouldn’t be teaching your children that they’re being “good” if they are pretending to pray and that they are pleasing God with this behavior – rather, that we are thankful when they are obedient in this way because it means that God is helping our child learn to obey and that some day they will want to talk to God, but for now we are recognizing that they overcame a lot of temptation in order to obey our request.  Similarly, when they can’t observe our rules about worshipping together, we shouldn’t be telling them that are being “bad” but should explain to them how their disobedience is disruptive to others who are trying to pray, and that they have become a distraction to them and will be disciplined if it continues.

Elyse says, “There is a marked difference between this kind of gracious parenting and the moralistic parenting I did when I was raising my children.  I would alternately tell them that they were good when they sat quietly or tell them that they had to close their eyes and pray or be disciplined when they were bad.  My parenting had very little to do with the gospel.  I assumed my children had regenerate hearts  because they had prayed a prayer at some point and because I required religious obedience from them.  This resulted in kids who were alternately hypocritical and rebellious.  It taught them how to feign prayer, without pressing them to long for the Savior who loved hypocrites and rebels.  Religious obedience is probably the most difficult and dangerous form of obedience simply because it is so easily confused with conformity to God’s law.  It’s the place where most Christian families go terribly wrong.  Yes, we are commanded to teach the Word, prayer, and worship to our children, but their acquiescence to these things won’t save them.  Only the righteous life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ saves them.”

So to wrap up this first chapter, the authors go on to discuss something different for our children to obey – “God’s Beautiful, Holy, Good – and Crushing – Law.”  Paul talked about God’s law by saying (Romans 7:12), although it was “holy, righteous, and good,” it could never bring sinners to life because “no one could obey it.  He confessed that all his obedience (and it was extensive) had no more value than a pile of manure. (Philippians 3:8)”  They go on to quote the many places where Paul discusses this in the New Testament.  The book goes on to say, “These words about God’s law and our condition of lawlessness should make us stop and seriously question how we use the law in our own lives and in the lives of our children.  When we seek to have right standing (justification) before a holy  God through compliance to it, we are severed, cut off, separated from the grace and righteousness provided by Jesus Christ.  We are on our own…When we teach our children to do the same thing, we are drowning them in a ‘ministry of death.'”

One last thing from the chapter – “Even though our children cannot and will not obey God’s law, we need to teach it to them again and again.  And when they tell us that they can’t love God or others in this way, we are not to argue with them.  We are to agree with them and tell them of their need for a Savior.”  Anyway, you can see my point that the book has a lot of things to digest and that it says some things most of us Christian parents need to hear.  Now that I have gotten this far along, I think I will end this review with just the first chapter for tonight.  Hope this was helpful to you if this was a book you thought you might like to read but hadn’t had time for yet – or is one you might be interested in purchasing.  All for now, and we’ll back to the regular program tomorrow with some musical musings, a run, and possibly a recipe 🙂

 

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Serenity – Reviewing “Give Them Grace”

  1. I could have totally used some grace for my toddler today! She refused to nap and as a result we had the worst afternoon/evening. It’s in those moments all the rage and anger in me wants to come storming out. My mom gave me a copy of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” which I have yet to read (although my husband has read most of it) it sounds like this one may also be a good one to add to the mix. Thanks for posting the review.

    • I know how you feel!! Shepherding a Child’s Heart is really great – gives you lots of food for thought that probably hadn’t been obvious to you in the past (at least it wasn’t to me!) The only problem with some of these is that when I read them I keep thinking — ok, now what?? How do I apply this?? But they always have helpful ideas — just not til the end of the book usually 🙂 We have read several other books on child training and discipline as well, so that has been good to help me learn how to patiently discipline rather than thinking I just need to patiently bear the disobedience. More of the review to follow – it was just so long that it is taking longer than I thought 🙂

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