Book Review: Give them Grace by Fitzpatrick and Thompson
Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011). Paper. 216pp. $14.99.
As parents of young children, my wife and I are interested in parenting books. Thankfully there is no shortage as hundreds are published every year, Christian and non-Christian. The primary theme of many, however, is law: steps to follow to produce better behavior in children. With that in mind, in Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson present something new to parents, or actually old, which is often missing—the gospel of grace.
The first part of the book lays out the foundation of grace. Parents must teach children to obey rules but must distinguish this from true righteousness. Failing to do so leads to moralism, but Christian parents should allow God’s holy law to crush their children and then point them to the gospel of grace provided in Christ, without which they are incapable of offering true obedience. Parenting cannot transform children; only the grace of God can.
The second part builds upon the first. After salvation by grace the law of God is still important. While children will not obey it perfectly, they now have the desire to do so and grace trains them to obey, restores them when they do not, preserves them to the end, and enables them to be discerning witnesses to their friends. The authors provide a helpful acronym for this training: MNTCP—“Mothers Need To Constantly Pray” (92). Parents not only manage their children’s behavior but also nurture, train, correct, and point them to gospel promises. Finally, parents need grace too: even if their children rebel from the truth parents may trust that God is sovereignly working all things to his glory.
A great strength of this book is that the authors believe “Everything that isn’t gospel is law” (36), and show the importance, priority, and use of both in Christian parenting. Therefore, neither legalist nor antinomian, they ground the ability for true obedience in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. The extras are also helpful: every chapter is followed by reflection questions for parents, and one appendix provides several examples of MNTCP parenting for various scenarios.
However, something else that could have been included is more examples regarding older toddlers beginning to reason. The authors believe that “toddlers don’t need explanations” (102) and should be disciplined only according to the management category (103). Having a two-and-a-half year old, however, I know that explanations are possible, though not quite to the next stages of nurturing, etc., more applicable to older children. Therefore, it would have been helpful to have examples tailored to varying ages of children’s reasoning capabilities.
Overall, this is a refreshing gospel resource that points not to more law as the first measure of parenting success but rather to the grace of God which saves children and then trains them truly to obey his will. For these reasons I recommend that it find a place on any parent’s shelf.
By Brandon Hoffman, MDiv Candidate