There are many words that have come to mind over the course of the last ten years of my parenting journey. Words like, “delighted,” “surprised,” “frustrated,” “gentleness,” “baffled,” and of course, “love.” There is one word that has continued to surface over and over, probably because it’s one of the things I long for and appreciate most in my own life:
I am a reader, and also a planner. If at all possible I like to know what I’m getting myself into ahead of time in situations. Before our firstborn arrived I armed myself with books about “What to Expect” (most moms will know what book series I’m referring to here), as well as parenting magazines, baby care manuals, and e-newsletters. It’s funny now to think I had never changed a single baby’s diaper (it’s true) before the arrival of the first Himstedt. Seven unbroken years of diapers later, I consider myself an expert. All that reading really helped boost my confidence in a number of child care and parenting dilemmas.
Getting back to the topic of grace, I began to search for a book on the subject. The definition of grace, in the Christian sense, is God’s unmerited favor toward us as sinners. We don’t deserve His forgiveness and kindness, yet He freely offers it to us anyway. It’s the template by which He parents us. Being me, I wondered if a book existed on how to parent with grace.
It does! It’s called Grace Based Parenting, by Dr. Tim Kimmel. This blog post is actually a book review of sorts. This is a book I highly recommend whether you are just starting the parenting journey, or have already reached the teenage years with your kids. One of my parenting goals is to raise kids who will come to Rambo and me for advice and will feel they can bring any thought, issue, or problem to us without fear of condemnation. At the same time, neither of us wants to encourage or accept that which is displeasing to God or behaviors or attitudes that are harmful to the individual or our family. It’s a delicate balance which our perfect Father exhibits flawlessly.
The rest of us not-so-perfect parents should get this book. Dr. Kimmel describes grace-based parents as those who “maintain a realistic attitude about the sinful nature with a compassionate desire to help children rise above it and flourish in the plan God has for them.” He further explains that “the primary word that defines how God deals with His children is ‘grace.’ Grace does not exclude obedience, respect, boundaries, or discipline- it champions them. But it determines the climate in which these important parts of parenting are carried out.”
There are many practical ways this book has been beneficial to me. It has helped me define what it is that children really need. It has helped me avoid legalism and harsh responses. It has helped me define the tone that needs to be set in our home. It has me planning for the future when the kids get older and more opinionated and I need to decide what things are “majors” and what are “minors.”
I enjoy reading books with a conversational style, and this is definitely one of those. It is full of anecdotes and examples from Dr. Kimmel’s years as both a parent and an expert in the field of Christian parenting. It gets bonus points for being humorous, a definite plus for me in any type of reading material.
The following paragraph written by Dr. Kimmel summarizes why I found the message of this book so inviting:
“A grace-based environment changes the way children view their parents and the choices their parents make on their behalf. It also gives their children a more attractive look at their parents’ faith. Parents who operate by grace instead of a checklist or conventional wisdom are easier for their children to trust. When your children’s lives are falling apart, they are more inclined to turn to you.”
What is more important than our children seeing our faith as attractive? This should be our most important goal as parents.
I hope you get this book (maybe as an audiobook if you dislike reading?), and that you enjoy it as much as I have.