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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