It is so, so good.
One of the chapters has really stuck with me, Chapter 4: Jesus Loves All His Little Prodigals and Pharisees. In it, Elyse and Jessica do great job at revealing the need for Jesus in both the child who has a hard time obeying, as well as the “good” little girl or boy. They both desperately need Jesus. The rebellious and the self-righteous. The prodigal and the pharisee. The rule-breaker and the rule-follower.
They encourage us to teach both “types” of children about the grace of God through confession of our own sin:
Consistent, transparent, and specific confession of sin will help children see how their parents struggle with sin in the same ways that they do. (page 71)
So, we must find ways to identify with our children. To the ones who have little self-control, instead of threatening, bribing or trying tactics like “why can’t you be more like so-and-so?”, we search our own hearts for the places in which we lack self-control, and we talk to them about our own sin and try to identify with them. Even mommy needs God’s grace.
…it is good news to younger-brother types who are tempted to turn away from the faith fairly early on because they don’t think that the gospel is for sinners. They think it is for good people who like being “gooder”. (page 71, emphasis mine)
To the proud little “good” girls and boys who have learned to follow the rules well and work the system for their reward, we must be careful not to feed into their self-righteousness and pride. We must be able to identify our own pride and self-righteousness and confess it to our rule-followers.
Specific confession of pride, judging, criticism, envy, and selfish ambition will help Susan understand her own propensities to fail in the same ways, while praising her for being a “good girl” will breed toxic pride in her heart…She won’t recognize her need for the Rescuer… (page 72, emphasis mine)
What a sad day it would be to realize that all our efforts in “Christian” parenting have only bred a bunch of proud, self-glorifying adults who don’t see their need for Christ. The gospel is not good news to them, because they don’t need it like “those sinners” out there on the streets.
My son came home the other day and proudly exclaimed “I stayed on ‘green’ all day today!” The local elementary school uses a color chart to help manage the children’s behavior. Green is good, yellow is ok, red means you have had a bad, bad day, and usually involves the principal. This chapter was heavy on my mind and I could see his pride and his desire for my approval. He then went into telling me how another boy in his class got on “red” because he had been very bad that day.
Instead of praising my son for being a “good” boy, I told him I was excited for him that he stayed on green, then I told him, “Kenneth, I am so thankful that God has given you the grace to stay on green!” Not the response he was looking for, although he still seemed to be “boosted” by my answer. He tried it again a few minutes later- “I stayed on green ALL DAY today!” to which I replied, again “Kenneth, I am so thankful for God’s grace in your life!” Then, when he brought up, again, that the other little boy had been on red, I told him “Kenneth, we need to pray for him, that he would experience the grace of God so that he can be obedient. Did you know that without the grace of God, you would be on red all the time? Mommy would, too. Without God’s grace I would be in trouble all of the time and incredibly disobedient. Aren’t you glad that we have been given the grace of God, so that we can be obedient?”
I just love this. We have has some of these conversations before, where I have suggested that we pray for his friends at school, especially those who get in trouble, and have tried to help him understand that not everyone has a mommy and daddy who live together, or who have the blessings that he has. But, I have left out this focus on grace, and on the reality of where he and I would be without the grace of God in our lives.
If you are a parent, grandparent, or teacher of children of any kind, YOU MUST HAVE THIS BOOK. Crossway has graciously offered to give away a copy to one of my readers! Here is how to enter:
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Linked up with Thought Provoking Thursday.