What is grace-based parenting?

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I saw a book and have heard the phrase "grace-based parenting" this week.


What does this mean?


(It seems that law and threats are often needed towards small children)
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
I think the author of this book is influenced by Sonship type teaching. Not surprising as Tullian T. wrote the forward. I have no clue whether it has anything to do with whoopings. But the description on Amazon reveals the sharp law/grace dichotomy that is at work.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Oh, so I am teaching my son the 10 commandments and their implications now (the sins condemned by each, as per the shorter catechism). Will this book be compatible? Noah already knows that we cannot get to heaven by obeying the commandments but are condemned by them except if we are in Christ (however, we are to obey these commandments as much as possible to live a holy life by the power of the Spirit).
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
We had a brief discussion of this book here just the other day, at this thread. I added my thoughts.

The book should work fine alongside teaching the Ten Commandments. And alongside whuppin'. But it challenges those whose parenting is ONLY teaching the Ten Commandments and giving a whuppin'. The problem is that many parents functionally know no way to correct and shepherd their kids other than scolding them and preaching law at them. But biblical correction, though it does use the law, is also constantly eager to develop love for God by reminding us of his goodness and grace. The book is about doing that. It takes a deep look at kids' sin and is big on encouraging them to live in light of the gospel. Very helpful to many parents, but not the only word on parenting.

Can you still give grace AND a whuppin' too?
Of course. Discipline is a part of grace. But there's also far more to grace than just that.
 
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CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Pergy, here's the official website. I gather that Tim Kimmel is the most influential name. Parenting and Marriage Help from Family Matters - Family Matters

I know people who have gravitated toward this approach. It seems to have been good for them. As I've gathered from them, the goals are to deconstruct an adversarial parenting paradigm (me vs. my child in a battle of wills) and to model God's "parenting" of us in a holistic fashion. I've noticed that parents in this vein seem to have a good deal of flexibility and a deep roster of techniques to use in their parenting. Other than Tim Kimmel, I've had recommended to me Ross Campbell's Relational Parenting and Clay Clarkson's Heartfelt Discipline.

Disclaimer: I don't have children, but I moderated a community group for my church, in which there were a number of parents who leaned this direction.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Where does this book differ or go beyond the very fine book Shepherding a Child's Heart, which we already have and really like?
 

Jeff Burns

Puritan Board Freshman
I've not read any of these books, but I'm definitely interested in doing so. The way my wife and I have understood grace based parenting in the past is to always err on the side of grace. What that looks like for us is this: if we aren't certain an act was done out of rebellion we don't discipline. If we know that our son (who is 18 months old) understood a direct instruction and refused to comply we will discipline. But, if we're not certain he understood or if an action could've been an accident we never discipline.

On a side note, I've heard some preachers who are very much in favor of the "shepherding a child's heart" method. I've heard others say it's impossible to shepherd the heart of an unbeliever and the best you can hope for is to restrain them. Is this a legitimate dichotomy?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Carelessness kills almost as many people as maliciousness in this world.

I also punish my kids for carelessness sometimes, even if unintentional.

Would grace-based parenting discourage this?
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
You mean it's not just telling my kids that I'm gracious enough not to wring their necks? ;)
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
If your older son develops a habit of not paying attention and bumps into younger siblings, hurting them. If a lack of attention results in a repeated bad consequence. Toys left out trip people. Holding plates repeatedly in a careless manner results in spilled dishes. Swinging a toy carelessly breaks or hurts something or someone.

There are hundreds of examples of punishable carelessness.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Where does this book differ or go beyond the very fine book Shepherding a Child's Heart, which we already have and really like?
Pergy, a Baptist Ukranian missionary, who is a friend of mine, wrote this review. She and her husband (a native Ukranian pastor) have in the last few years worked through a lot of the theology of parenting. She wrote a somewhat critical review of Tripp: One Mom
 

Jeff Burns

Puritan Board Freshman
If your older son develops a habit of not paying attention and bumps into younger siblings, hurting them. If a lack of attention results in a repeated bad consequence. Toys left out trip people. Holding plates repeatedly in a careless manner results in spilled dishes. Swinging a toy carelessly breaks or hurts something or someone.

There are hundreds of examples of punishable carelessness.
I would agree with these. My wife and I would probably discipline for the same things. However, we want to be very careful not to discipline the "boy" out of him. He is a very active and very rough and tumble child. This leads to a lot of falling down and things of that nature. My concern is that we not discipline to the point or "hover" to the point that he's being raised in a sterile environment, if you will. I know that's not the question in the OP, but it's a concern we have.

So, how do we still correct for rebellion, carelessness, etc. and not "exasperate" our boys al la Col 3:21.

And, as I asked previously, is it possible to shepherd a child's heart or are we simply trying to restrain?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Where does this book differ or go beyond the very fine book Shepherding a Child's Heart, which we already have and really like?
Pergy, a Baptist Ukranian missionary, who is a friend of mine, wrote this review. She and her husband (a native Ukranian pastor) have in the last few years worked through a lot of the theology of parenting. She wrote a somewhat critical review of Tripp: One Mom
I am not sure I like that review.

---------- Post added at 04:56 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:55 PM ----------

If your older son develops a habit of not paying attention and bumps into younger siblings, hurting them. If a lack of attention results in a repeated bad consequence. Toys left out trip people. Holding plates repeatedly in a careless manner results in spilled dishes. Swinging a toy carelessly breaks or hurts something or someone.

There are hundreds of examples of punishable carelessness.
I would agree with these. My wife and I would probably discipline for the same things. However, we want to be very careful not to discipline the "boy" out of him. He is a very active and very rough and tumble child. This leads to a lot of falling down and things of that nature. My concern is that we not discipline to the point or "hover" to the point that he's being raised in a sterile environment, if you will. I know that's not the question in the OP, but it's a concern we have.

So, how do we still correct for rebellion, carelessness, etc. and not "exasperate" our boys al la Col 3:21.

And, as I asked previously, is it possible to shepherd a child's heart or are we simply trying to restrain?
Believe me, Noah still has plenty of "boy" left in him.

It seems that restraining is a large part of parenting, though we also want MORE.
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
Where does this book differ or go beyond the very fine book Shepherding a Child's Heart, which we already have and really like?
Pergy, a Baptist Ukranian missionary, who is a friend of mine, wrote this review. She and her husband (a native Ukranian pastor) have in the last few years worked through a lot of the theology of parenting. She wrote a somewhat critical review of Tripp: One Mom
Somebody who thinks Tripp is too legalistic or too obedience oriented is probably not going to have a perspective shared by many on this board. There's been a periodic debate here (going on for much of the last year) about whether or not those in his camp (generally speaking) give enough emphasis to obedience.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Where does this book differ or go beyond the very fine book Shepherding a Child's Heart, which we already have and really like?
Elyse Fitzpatrick's Give Them Grace is quite similar to Shepherding a Child's Heart in terms of the parenting principles it espouses. If you already have and like Shepherding a Child's Heart, you won't find any life-changing concepts in Give Them Grace, though you may still get some useful stuff out of it. Give Them Grace is probably more insistant that the method it espouses is the only workable one, and it takes the law/gospel distinction further than I suspect Tripp would be willing to do. It also presents its message more through stories and personal examples. And I would say it's generally better written and more interesting to read. Fitzpatrick is a skillful communicator.

I've recommended both books to parents, with happy results.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I haven't read any of these books. I will say this. I had a great teacher, my Dad. The best spanking I ever received was during the summer between my 3rd and 4th grade. I got caught stealing a 55 Chevy Nomad Hot Wheels car from the local dime store. My Dad took me into my room and explained how disappointed he was in my behaviour. He didn't yell or become angry with me. He told me that he feared that I would end up in prison someday. I then noticed the tears streaming down his cheeks because he saw the danger I was headed for. I received that discipline whole heartedly knowing my father loved me and wanted what is best for us all. That was the best spanking and grounding I ever received from him. It was done in love. That was grace.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Both the Reformed and the Lutherans have a law/gospel distinction but the latter turn it into a hermeneutic.

The point among the Reformed has always been that we cannot preach the gospel without also preaching the law. The law teaches us our sin (first use) and then the way of gratitude that pertains to the redeemed (third use). The preaching of the law without the gospel induces only despair (we ought to despair of ourselves, but come to Christ, not despairingly, full of hope and gratitude). The preaching of the gospel without the law induces confusion (why do we need Christ anyway and how ought we to live?). Both law without gospel and gospel without law induce antinominianism and legalism, which twin errors always go hand in hand (listen to Ferguson on the Marrow Controversy).

I think that Tripp in Shepherding has both. This is not to say that his book merits no criticism. What book (other than the Bible) doesn't? I do not know about Ms. Fitzpatrick's book. Both law and gospel are needed in childrearing, just as they are in divine proclamation and teaching.

Perg, if grace-based means no law, you are right that it's problematic. We must touch the conscience in dealing with our children. The law does that, even as the gospel is the balm for the wounds that the law discovers. I must say that I did glance at Charlie's cited One Mom review and found it misguided in several important respects, while surely well-intentioned.

We need both law and gospel, rightly understood, and adroitly applied. May God give us all the wisdom to do so. We will surely make many errors, and commit many sins. Thanks be to God that He is the one who secures our children's welfare and that our mistakes don't do them in. We must endeavor to walk in His way with our children. But we will not do so perfectly (or even close to it). Again, thanks be to Him that He who has begun a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Where does this book differ or go beyond the very fine book Shepherding a Child's Heart, which we already have and really like?
Elyse Fitzpatrick's Give Them Grace is quite similar to Shepherding a Child's Heart in terms of the parenting principles it espouses. If you already have and like Shepherding a Child's Heart, you won't find any life-changing concepts in Give Them Grace, though you may still get some useful stuff out of it. Give Them Grace is probably more insistant that the method it espouses is the only workable one, and it takes the law/gospel distinction further than I suspect Tripp would be willing to do. It also presents its message more through stories and personal examples. And I would say it's generally better written and more interesting to read. Fitzpatrick is a skillful communicator.

I've recommended both books to parents, with happy results.
Hmmm.....

I might just stick to Tripp's fine book then.

I usually get suspicious at books which espouse one method and state repeatedly that their method is the best or the most biblical one when it comes to parenting. The more certain the author is, the more suspicious I become sometimes. (I threw Gary Ezzo's book away a while back over his dogmaticism over ignoring your crying baby at night and over his dogmatism and insistence that his way was "the" biblical way).

Also, I am a hearty believer in the 3rd use of the law. Me and Noah review the Shorter Catechism much concerning the sins covered in all of the 10 commandments.


Also, while I am a baptist, I don't believe in treating your children like total pagan degenerates. God has brought my children into a Christian family and has given general promises about their salvation if I raise them up in the way they should go. Whether I call them "covenant children" or not, they are being raised "under" (if not "in") the outward administration of the covenant of grace and I am hoping that they will praise God from their mother's breast and will not remember a time of rebellion before they are cognizant of their salvation.

Plus, the biggest reason right now is....if Tripp's book is enough, I don't have another 10-20 bucks to spare for re-reading very similar books.

---------- Post added at 01:35 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:34 AM ----------

Both the Reformed and the Lutherans have a law/gospel distinction but the latter turn it into a hermeneutic.

The point among the Reformed has always been that we cannot preach the gospel without also preaching the law. The law teaches us our sin (first use) and then the way of gratitude that pertains to the redeemed (third use). The preaching of the law without the gospel induces only despair (we ought to despair of ourselves, but come to Christ, not despairingly, full of hope and gratitude). The preaching of the gospel without the law induces confusion (why do we need Christ anyway and how ought we to live?). Both law without gospel and gospel without law induce antinominianism and legalism, which twin errors always go hand in hand (listen to Ferguson on the Marrow Controversy).

I think that Tripp in Shepherding has both. This is not to say that his book merits no criticism. What book (other than the Bible) doesn't? I do not know about Ms. Fitzpatrick's book. Both law and gospel are needed in childrearing, just as they are in divine proclamation and teaching.

Perg, if grace-based means no law, you are right that it's problematic. We must touch the conscience in dealing with our children. The law does that, even as the gospel is the balm for the wounds that the law discovers. I must say that I did glance at Charlie's cited One Mom review and found it misguided in several important respects, while surely well-intentioned.

We need both law and gospel, rightly understood, and adroitly applied. May God give us all the wisdom to do so. We will surely make many errors, and commit many sins. Thanks be to God that He is the one who secures our children's welfare and that our mistakes don't do them in. We must endeavor to walk in His way with our children. But we will not do so perfectly (or even close to it). Again, thanks be to Him that He who has begun a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Peace,
Alan
Thanks, good thoughts.
 

Jared

Puritan Board Freshman
I heard C.J. Mahaney say in a sermon that he tries to never discipline his children without also giving them hope through the Gospel. This sounds really similar to what you all are talking about and it sounds like a great idea. But, to be honest I don't have a clue as to how to implement that. My children are 3 1/2 years and 5 1/2 months so I have some time to learn but I'm not sure which resources I should look to.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
We are reading through "Gospel-Powered Parenting". Amazon.com: Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting (9781596381353): William P. Farley: Books

So far, I am thinking this might be the one I will recommend in the future.
There are many good things in that book, but I found it quite different from the others we're talking about here.

Both Tripp and Fitzpatrick define "gospel-powered" as steering kids toward a life that's firstly about deeply believing who they are in Christ and only secondly, flowing from that, about behavior. Farley is more likely to think of "gospel-powered" as being a parent who lives in obedience to God and does the parental things a parent should. Despite the title, his approach is quite different than what we typically hear from the "gospel-centered movement" folks today.

Like I said, both have many good points. And there is some crossover. But I don't quite put Gospel-Powered Parenting in with the same movement the others are part of. And I'd recommend it mostly to parents who are already very secure and able to read it without feeling guilty.

(For those who care... One similarity is that both Farley and Fitzpatrick make a big distinction between saved and unsaved kids and fail to really have a category for covenant kids who may or may not be converted yet.)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
My own :2cents:

First, with respect to David Tripp, I have read and reviewed his book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands and believe it is well done. As Dr. Strange puts it well, nothing is perfect beside Scripture. I take great issue with his terminology of "incarnating Christ" as I believe it not only fails to recognize the uniqueness of the incarnation by using the language so liberally but it also has a tendency to make people forget that Christ still is incarnate. We can't and don't need to incarnate Christ to others. He's already incarnate. He uses the term to refer to our role as ambassadors of Christ. Some might consider it a quibble but I consider this issue to be significant and wish people would stop using this terminology as it is potentially dangerous to people's understanding in the long run.

That said, the book is excellent and reflects his larger understanding of discipleship. He is by no means either legalistic or antinomian. In fact, I find him refreshing in the idea that he wholly rejects the idea that we can reduce people to "systems" or "models" and that we need to have a broad understanding of theology and the Bible. The point in counseling (aka discipleship) is that we are not gurus offering magic bullets from the Scriptures but we are merely those who are able to point people to the Word and what it says and let Christ through the Holy Spirit transform and sanctify as only God understands the heart and the solution to its condition.

Secondly, I have no read Elyse Fitzpatrick's book but I did listen to the interview Mike conducted with her on the White Horse Inn. It was so good that I ripped the CD into an MP3 and sent it out to the Elders in our congregation. She doesn't get too much into the book itself but makes some observations that are very true and I will attempt to recapitulate what I largely agree with.

Her point is that women and children especially need the Gospel. Mothers, especially, are extremely bogged down in the difficulty of raising children and they often feel guilty about how well they're doing raising their children. If I sampled most Mothers who are doing even what most would "expect" them to be doing they are probably regularly wracked with guilt about their failings as Moms, as wives, as examples to others. So what kind of Bible studies do we normally see them involved in? What kinds of books are normally written for them? Books about how to be a better Mom or a better Wife or a better Homemaker. Lots of "how to" and more instruction so they can feel even more guilty about how they're falling short of the "Law".

As Dr. Strange points out, it's not that the Law is to be neglected but Elyse pointed out in her interview that men typically are given good doses of theology while women's studies in the Church are always focused on the "how to". We need to be filling women's lives with the same rich theological content. Quite frankly, if anyone needs the kick in the seat of the pants about working harder it's not the women but the men in the Church. It is interesting that the sex that consistently outworks the other is the one that is given the steady diet of law in the books that fill the "Christian" scene.

With children, the point Elyse made likewise is that children SS material is typically very "law oriented". Enough said on that as most who have spent any time reading materials even from GCP will conclude the same. Again, it's not that the law is bad but children need to learn the nature of grace. They need to hear the Gospel regularly.

On to the point of parenting, from what I heard from Elyse it was similar to my own philosophy though I'm certain we might differ a bit. I'm not the standard of righteousness here. Her point was not to eliminate discipline or law-keeping but to orient our lives and our expectations that we live by grace. In my own children's lives, as others pointed out, we always present grace after law has been administered. We pray for the grace of God in our children's lives. We even occasionally forgive what the kids know should otherwise be punished to provide a picture of grace to the kids. The point is that the family should be oriented on the idea that the salvation of our children is not ours to achieve and even our best efforts of parenting are mixed with sin. We fail and need Christ to cover our sins. Even our best efforts cannot convert the child and so we pray.

Now, let me shift trails and combine a few ideas and add a few new ones. One of the big problems in our "conservative Christian" communities is sort of a reliance on systems to guarantee what God does not guarantee to us. We have folks that speak of parenting in such a way that, if the proper diligence is followed, our kids will turn out right and some might even say that if they're not saved it is a failure in parenting. We've even had recent discussions that the reason the Church is going downhill is because we're not following the proper "system" of Family Integrated Church and, if we can just get back to that recipe that God laid out that, Voila!, we'll have healthy Churches and revival.

I am not a fool and I know that certain things are neglected to our own destruction. It's not as if I would throw out the means of grace because they represent some way of doing things that is too systematic. Nevertheless, where I agree with Tripp fully is the idea that we are just like modern man when we look for systems or models to solve problems of the human heart that only God can solve. If somebody were to ask me whether they needed this book or that book I might recommend one or the other but this question is very germane to me right now because I really think what parents need most of all is a deeper and deeper and deeper understanding of the Word and the grand story of Christ's redemption in it and the relationship of the Law to His Work.

Our Churches need to be about the business of encouraging one another daily while it is called Today. Fathers and Mothers and children and adults need to be confronting sin in one another and placarding Christ as they exhort one another not to shrink back but to lay hold of Christ. The problem is that we're saturated with many "how to" books and more systems and so we treat the Scriptures like an Encycopedia. Sure, there's lots of good stuff in an Encyclopedia but each article stands on its own with no relationship to other articles. When you need information from an Encyclopedia you just grab the article you need and then you apply it. Scripture is not like that. It is living and active and we grow as we interact with it. It has a story from beginning to end and God gets larger and larger throughout and we see more clearly the deceitfulness of our hearts and the fact that we cannot trust in models or systems and we can't even trust that a verse from the Word is going to be able to be "pasted upon" a situation and solve what only God has the power to accomplish.

Anyway, I don't know if that helps but that's my general advice. We need the rich view of sanctification that the Scriptures present. I think the best initial book for any adult would be to start studying the WSC and WLC to given them a framework for understanding the Scirptures and it is the Elder's responsibility to continue to mature adults and children to equip them for the work of ministry (Eph 4) as they encourage one another daily in this life for the days are evil and Christ alone can conquer and keep the human heart.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
We even occasionally forgive what the kids know should otherwise be punished to provide a picture of grace to the kids.
While this may seem weird to some people, I taught my kids to ask for mercy and grace. After they did something wrong, If they asked for mercy I would forgo the punishment and even show them after their plea for forgiveness that I whole heartedly loved them and expected them to keep up the fight to do what is right. I really believe 1 John 1:9 is one of the most important scriptures in my life as an adult. It is for children also and I tried to show it to them by openly repenting in front of my kids and seeking for that same forgiveness. I love 1 John 1:9.

(1Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Rich:

It will not do for me simply to designate your comment as helpful: it was spot-on.

I did not have the time to say what you said more fully in your comment, but it is precisely the kind of thing that I've been saying for a long time. In my years of ministry, Rich, I've witnessed exactly what you said about our wives and mothers: they especially need the gospel and often get little but law. And this all against a broader background in which justification has not been understood, sanctification has been reduced to a trivialized fearful life in which we cannot really deal with how sinful we are, and in which the greatness of God's love and grace is continually undersold.

As President of the Board of GCP, I take what you say there seriously. We are quite aware of the challenge of this for our graded curriculum and have been revising it in recent years to reflect more self-consciously the kind of redemptive-historical approach that you cite here, that of seeking to locate our lives in His. You may PM me if you have any particular on-going concerns about curricular matters. We always appreciate the efforts of those in our churches to make our material sounder. Bottom line: we want that rich approach to sanctification that you mention above. It is so needed and, so often, lacking.

Peace,
Alan
 
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