Week in Books 2010, No. 12

Grace-Based Parenting is a book discussing how to avoid falling into the common traps of legalism or license in parenting, and instead how to parent with grace, as our heavenly Father parents us.  Rather than being consumed with kids’ outward looks and behavior (as legalistic parenting is) or being driven by laziness and a need for constant approval (as parenting with too much license does), grace-based parenting requires a lot more thought and discernment but ultimately cares more for the state of the child’s heart.

Tim Kimmel points out three driving inner needs children have: the need for security, the need for significance, and the need for strength and how parents can meet those needs on a daily basis by offering our kids love, purpose and hope.  He discusses how to think about love for our kids (he defines love as “the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost”) in a way that will give them the most security, how to help a child find his or her unique purpose and significance by affirming him, paying attention to him, and showing grace when we need to correct him, and how to give children hope that will strengthen them by helping and encouraging them in their struggles.

Many of the points in the book brought out the need for parents to be authentic.  For example, in the section on hope Kimmel points out that kids “need to be encouraged by our example to put their hope in God.  They need to see us turning to God with confidence when we are afraid, out of energy, out of ideas, or out of money.  They need to see how we have trusted Him to overcome our helplessness in every situation.”  I think my tendency is to avoid situations where the kids see me as vulnerable, as if that would cause them to question my authority.  The reality, of course, is that kids can’t understand how to deal with their own struggles if they never see ours.  I don’t think we have to go overboard on this and dump all of our sin problems on our kids, but it was a good reminder to think about how I can model Christian life to my kids without being (or trying to appear) perfect.

Kimmel also outlines four things that kids need in grace-based homes: the freedom to be different, the freedom to be vulnerable, the freedom to be candid, and the freedom to make mistakes.  He urges parents not to value symbols over substance in our families – rather than asking yourself “What will my friends think if my kid does/wears/listens to/says ___” ask yourself “Is this action or attribute actually contrary to God’s word?” and then put the Bible and your kid ahead of what other people will think of you.  I thought Kimmel’s illustrations of how he and his wife handled his son’s request to bleach his hair  and get a tattoo were great examples of being thoughtful and Scripturally grounded in parenting rather than flying off the handle with a knee jerk reaction.

I have to admit that Kimmel’s writing style annoyed me a little bit (too flippant in some spots, way too clicheed in others), and I disagreed with some of his applications and examples.  I thought in a few parts he stretched examples too far in order to try to make a point.  However, I think the underlying principles of this book are sound even if the writing and examples aren’t exactly what I would have chosen.  Overall, I would recommend this book because it’s thought provoking and challenging, even if you wind up disagreeing with parts of it.

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9 Responses to Week in Books 2010, No. 12

  1. I just read this a few weeks ago and already loaned it to a friend. I agree that it is very thought-provoking and challenged me to think through why I say no as a parent. The idea of embracing our child’s uniqueness and asking if it’s a sin issue rather than does it annoy/bother me really stretched my parenting ideas. I also loved the point he made to not to pigeon-hole our parenting style but rather be open to changing styles and tactics for each child’s best interests.

  2. I read this one, too, Catherine. I liked it and got a lot from it, I think, but like you, I didn’t always like his delivery.

    Here’s my rather gushing review, if you’re interested–>

    http://hopeistheword.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/grace-based-parenting-by-dr-tim-kimmel/

  3. Catie says:

    I think I may have to read this! Sounds good. I actually just read a book, “Don’t Make Me Count To Three” by Ginger Plowman. Sounds sort of like the same concept. I really like the idea of being a bit vulnerable to our children, too. I grew up in a home where that was NOT the case, and my parents were very unapproachable. Not something I’d want for my children.

    The only thing is, right now our DD is 1 1/2 so it can be really tough sometimes to use this approach, b/c I can’t always explain things to her. Right now, she just needs to know Mama said No and that means No. What do you think?? Any ideas!! THANKS!

    I just found your blog in the last week or so and I’m really loving it, btw! :)

    • I like Don’t Make Me Count to Three too, but I would say Grace Based Parenting is more about a general philosophy of parenting rather than a list of specific prescriptions.

      I don’t think you need to dump on your 1 1/2 year old – but sometimes if you get impatient maybe you could say “I’m so sorry I was impatient with you, Mommy was wrong to do that. God’s word says ‘Be patient with everyone’ so I should have been patient even when you ___. Can you forgive me?” I think it’s more about an attitude of being willing to admit when you’re wrong and letting your kids see that the standards apply to you too.

      Congratulations on the new baby on the way! I’m glad you found my blog. :)

  4. Heather L. says:

    I started this book but then it was recalled to the library. I agree that the writing style was annoying — and I think will turn some people off who need to read the book. Without having read all of the book, I think I really do agree with the general principles and look forward to reading all of it. There is another along similar lines which I really found helpful — can’t remember the title of the book but it is by Clay Clarkson. There is one chapter that I do not agree with theologically but that is easily overlooked.

    BTW, I feel like Google reader is not really keeping me updated. I’ll need to pay attention more, but when I click through I’m finding a number of posts that I haven’t seen yet.

    • I’ll have to look for the Clay Clarkson book, thanks Heather! I’m not sure what’s up with Google Reader. I subscribed myself to the feed to try to monitor it, and I haven’t had any trouble, but maybe that’s because I’m signed in as myself. Hm.

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