Three books on parenting

Recently, I have read three books on parenting. One of them was good, one was not so good, and the third was a surprise. Let’s start with the good one.

Grace-Based Parenting Tim KimmelGrace-Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel

Dr. Kimmel observes that many parents are motivated by fear rather than faith when it comes to raising their children. This fear manifests in both legalistic and permissive parenting styles that stifle potential and discourage healthy development. A better approach is to treat our kids the same way God treats us; with unconditional love, bucket loads of forgiveness, and steadfast acceptance.

Grace-based homes are not homes without sin or regrets. They are just homes where, no matter what, you can’t be written off. (p.225)

Grace-based parenting means raising our children in an environment where they are free to be different, vulnerable, candid, and to make mistakes. It means meeting their needs for security and significance by giving them love that is secure and hope that is unshakeable. While I disagree with Dr. Kimmel’s view that we should view our kids as sinners, I wholeheartedly agree with his view that “parents who embrace grace make their homes a safe place for average kids to develop into extraordinary people” (p.212).

Grace-Based Parenting is an ambitious book in that it seeks to cover the full sweep of child-rearing from the feeding schedules of infants to sending your kids off to college. But it’s not a how-to manual because grace isn’t reducible to rules. Your kids are not like my kids and what works for me, may not work for you. Grace is less about what you do than how you do it.

That said, this book has plenty of inspiring examples which I found helpful. One insight that stood out is how we can kill grace by trivializing issues which seem huge to our children. It may be that from our grown-up perspective the issue is small, but if our kid cares, we should care, for doesn’t our heavenly Father care for us? And aren’t all our issues tiny compared to him?

To be honest, I found the pacing in this book dragged at times, but that may reflect the nature of the subject. Parenting is a tricky business and writing about parenting is trickier still. If I was to identify one takeaway from this book, it would be this: Grace-based parenting will help you help your kids to learn what the love of God looks like. And that is a very good thing.

give-them-graceGive Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

Several people have asked me for my views on this book, so let me say this: I love the title. In an increasingly competitive world, our kids need grace more than ever. Sadly, though, the title doesn’t match the message of the book which is this: Give them law. “Even though our children cannot and will not obey God’s law, we need to teach it to them again and again” (p.35).

Why do our kids need law? According to the authors of this book it is so that they will appreciate their need for grace. “Tell your children every day what God requires from them, and when they groan under the weight of it, give them this invitation: ‘Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good…’” (p.48). But why would I make my kids groan under the weight of anything?

There’s no grace in knocking a child down and then offering a hand-up. That’s as weird as getting your kids to write down God’s laws and covering their lists with little wooden crosses – which is an activity I read about in this book. “Joshua, Jordan, and Caleb are instructed to consider every one of the laws and rehearse how they have failed to obey” (p.49). These poor kids! I can’t help but think of Bart Simpson writing lines on the blackboard. “I’m a disobedient sinner. I’m a disobedient sinner.”

The grace of God is manifold and multifaceted and there are many ways to teach it to children. But surely one of the worst ways is to wrap it up in religious sermons on disobedience and law-breaking. Why not just give them grace, as the title says? Why not dazzle them with the love of Jesus, as suggested by the subtitle?

Preaching the law only makes sense if you assume your kids are hell-bred sinners. If that’s your starting point, then you have bigger problems than how to reveal grace. Here’s a far better message to tell your children: You are a gift from God and God gives good gifts!

Stop Stealing Dreams, by Seth GodinStop Stealing Dreams_Godin

This is a surprising book because it is not about parenting per se and the word grace appears nowhere in it, yet it provides such an inspiring vision of grace-based parenting that I had to mention it. Stop Stealing Dreams, which you can read for free here, is Seth Godin’s manifesto for improving the education system. Before you yawn and switch off, consider this line: “Our culture has a dreaming problem.” I agree! Much of our schooling system is designed to kill dreams and that’s a bad thing.

Dreams matter because they define the limits to which we rise. If we tell our kids they’re disobedient sinners, they’ll become disobedient sinners. But if we tell them “God had a dream and wrapped your body around it,” they’ll become people of significance.

Our job as parents is not to whack the sin out of our kids but to prophetically call forth the treasure God has placed within them. I have no idea what Seth Godin thinks about this, but as a father I was inspired by his book. Here’s another quote from the book:

Dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy. By their nature, dreams are evanescent. They flicker long before they shine brightly. And when they’re flickering, it’s not particularly difficult for a parent or a teacher or a gang of peers to snuff them out. Creating dreams is more difficult. They’re often related to where we grow up, who our parents are, and whether or not the right person enters our life. (Emphasis added)

As a parent, how do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a sin-manager or a dream-facilitator? I’m totally with Seth on this one. I refuse to reach for the easy tool of fear to coerce my children towards my current definition of good behavior. I’d rather ignite their God-given passion and then watch what happens.

Wouldn’t you?


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24 Comments on Three books on parenting

  1. Thanks for the great reviews. I had considered getting Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus but now I will steer clear of that. It sounds like the same parenting yuck God led me out of once I understood grace. My kids don’t need a Law beating to be well behaved or come to Jesus! What a way to create an identity crises, especially if your child is a people pleaser.

  2. Awesome reviews. Inspiring! Thank you. 🙂

  3. Sin consciousness is what I sat under most of my life in the organized church. It wasn’t until 1999 that I was blessed to be taught by a pastor who focused on righteousness consciousness. This pastor also was the man who introduced me to Jim Richards books; specifically GRACE THE POWER TO CHANGE and also to your website a few years later. I have been so liberated and now know my identity and am established in these truths. This message is the true gospel. At that time we also had a South African pastor John Sheasby come to our church. I recommend others to check out his messages> on especially his teaching in Hebrews. Thank you for your voice in Gods kingdom.

    • Readers may be interested in my reviews of Grace: The Power to Change and Sheasby’s excellent book, The Birthright.

      • Roshan Ocean // September 11, 2014 at 3:02 am //

        I have a confusing story and I don’t know what to make of it. I grew under grace-based teaching. But there was so much other stuff that I didn’t trust the motives of the church until I was starting to experience some success in my own sharing of Christ. But as it was becoming more manifest in signs, it was also colliding into a “seek God’s will” mentality that offered no rest. I did not think rest would result in success. So I started to starve myself for the Lord. It became the crisis that shut me up and shut me out. I’m inspired by everything I see here, but I’m getting a book called “Slow Church” and some by Brian Zahnd on the beauty of Christianity that may give me the outlook I need to share an appealing basis for relationship.

      • Roshan Easo // March 11, 2016 at 6:31 pm //

        I got the books. I have to say they touch issues. Slow Church is a bit on the self-help, but also let Jesus be Jesus side of things. Brian Zandh was spectacular. I wish it didn’t dissapear or I would read it again and again. Currently re-reading Classic Christianity Man Alive!! by Bob George.

  4. Thanks for the review. I’ve been meaning to pick up Kimmel’s book. I loathe parenting books because most of them make me feel terrible. No grace. Interested in Godin’s book. We homeschool for this reason.

  5. Thanks for a great set of reviews. It gets under my skin when I open childrens’ (or parents’) books purporting on the cover to proclaim grace but are really law mongering on the inside. Will be steering clear of “Give Them Grace” but the other two definitely made my lit.

  6. I like this quote: Our job as parents is not to whack the sin out of our kids but to prophetically call forth the treasure God has placed within them.

    I would suppose that those who think as the writers of “Give Them Grace…” would object that this might be a denial of Total Depravity and promote the idea that there is “that of God within each of us” and that given the right, nurturing environment, could come forth without redemption or the further deposit of the Holy Spirit subsequent to “believe, be baptised, and receive.”

  7. Psalm150:6 // August 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm // Reply

    Awesome insights aka reviews. When you write, I’m reading it:)
    Few writers get my attention/ why bother with bla bla….?
    Huge clear Kudos Thanks:))))
    Clearing waters best I’ve seen.
    Gods smiling Big when you write Im placing my bet.
    Better subject than last. Thank You!!!!

  8. Daiinah Qaamae // August 6, 2014 at 6:14 pm // Reply

    I don’t know what to say and I really don’t know how to thank you. You are really a great man. Thank you so much. I’m learning.. May God bless you and keep you and your family..!!

  9. Love hearing your feedback about the topic of parenting! It is sooooo important we know how to be grace filled towards our children. These relationships really prove that we are full of grace or not. I haven’t read Tim Kimmels book but he has a very amazing game called the ‘flag page’ for kids. It helps discover what your kids strengths & passions are. I highly recommend that!!
    I also recommend Love and Logic for parents/ teachers/ caregivers that want to parent in a grace filled matter. They have many books and resources that I have found to be amazing and have empowered me to love my kids through discipline. It’s a complete mind set shift which can take some mind renewing but worth it!! I’ve become a parent facilitator for Love & Logic because of the deep impact they’ve made in our family. I found them through another amazing book on grace parenting called loving your kids on purpose by Danny Silk.
    Love and logic’s main principles are sharing control, sharing the thinking, consequence with Empathy & building a child’s self-concept. They teach practical skills not just theory that’s impossible to know how to implement.
    Thanks again for the great post Paul:)

  10. Thank you for these recommendations.

  11. You did well to finish reading ‘Give them grace’. I couldn’t cope with the constant dig at Mormons and the disparity between title and content. Saying that I don’t envy anyone writing a book on parenting. How do you not make it about the ‘right and wrong’ way to raise kids? John and Bev Sheasby also do an audio teaching which is worth a listen. Take home message is that you got the Spirit to help you.

  12. Paul, how your work is a huge on going enriching and blessing in my life and others I know here. I share your work a lot! Thank you again for all your hard and super work! …

    I am a woman, and we speak and think differently in many way from you guys. Though I have shared Gospel grace with guys with good results too, I have found at a distance our differences are more of a hindrance. Note how none of your Jedi Knights of Star Grace are women. There are women in Gospel Grace ministry, but our forte is more close up work in Grace. Anyway, many continuing joys in Jesus to you, and may the Lord continue to greatly work His Gospel Grace through you! With love and joying with you in our Grace-ious Jesus, Lynn

    • Hi Lynn,
      Thanks for your comment. I noticed the absence of women when I made my HyperGrace videos. I’m open to suggestions. Basically, the grace preachers I included were those whose books sit behind me on my bookshelf and yes, they’re all men. Actually, now that I look again I do see some books by ladies but they tend to be on focused subjects rather than the gospel of grace generally.
      I had to trim your comment because it wasn’t about the post above. But thanks for taking the time to write.

      • Leah Waggoner // May 12, 2015 at 3:38 pm //

        Amazing woman grace teacher named Tricia Gunn. Wrote Unveiling Jesus. Also a twelve part teaching on downloads and DVDs available on web. Ease check it out. It’s amazing and SO perfect from women to women!!

  13. john macdonald // March 11, 2015 at 7:45 am // Reply

    Its crazy to think that ignorant parents would purchase Give them Grace and then slowly kill there kids! Its sad when we go to a so called trusted source (Christian bookstore) and find that the vast majority of whats being marketed is high expectations based on the wrong information! The Grace revolution has won and will win in the end! Grace Wins!!

  14. I love your review on ‘Give them Grace.’ I read the book about two months ago and I totally a agree with you!! As I read it, I kept thinking, ‘But we have died to the law, we are no longer under the law, and the Old Covenant of law is obsolete. Therefore, why in the world would I want to expose my children, who are believers in Christ, to something the New Testsment refers to as a ministry of condemnation and death, to something that will only cause them to struggle with sin even more, and something that will only distort their view of the AMAZING Father they have?’

    Thank you so much for doing this review!

  15. Mystic Mama // July 27, 2016 at 2:04 pm // Reply

    Have you read L.R. Knost’s book, “Jesus, the Gentle Parent”? AWESOME.

  16. Dera sir,
    What you said is right , but i have a Question, does not the Lord give test
    He Dose Gives test in every single life but how to face those test how to face the problems, it is not just the grace but the law it makes us firm for the extreme conditions. That is why we tell our children to obey tge Law.
    Many or i may say everyone has done mistakes (if not then i am sorry ) but we learn from those mistakes & make a rule about not doing that mistake again, dose we not..?(here also the rule came , the law) the law makes u sinner but by the help of Lord Jesus Christ you are also called the Children of God. (That is what we teach in our sunday school).

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