For starters, it seems to me that the intent of Give Them Grace is different from Shepherding, so in one sense we're comparing apples to oranges. Grace approaches parenting for the sake of the parent, focused on the adult's process of parenting. For example, on pages 57-58 a situation is described where a mother's son acts out publicly, embarrassing the otherwise in-control parent. Rather than becoming angry at the child's behavior, Grace reminds the parent that God (not parents) is in control of hearts which should soothe the parent and enable her to speak gracefully, truthfully, and kindly to the unruly child. Discipline may still be warranted, but because the parent remembered grace, her attitude shifted which in turn positively impacted her parenting.
In terms of each book's focus, Grace seeks to keep God's grace through Christ central to the parenting mindset. While discipline is encouraged, it feels more like a secondary message and is far outweighed by that of grace. Shepherding, on the other hand, is intensely practical and seeks to change disciplinary practices from the inside out. While the message of God's grace is included, it leans more heavily in the area of useful tools to help shape a child's heart so that it fundamentally can obey parents and ultimately God.
Grace's foundation is built upon the precept that if the Christian life is lived in grace by faith, then so is parenting. The authors expand on this throughout the entire book, showing how fragile and misdirected the human heart is and how desperately impossible it is to raise good children apart from God's grace. In other words, if we as sinning parents are not able to make ourselves good and right before God, then we should not expect to be able to make our children good and right before Him through our parenting, either. In both cases, we depend on and trust God for His grace to change us. This message is proclaimed repeatedly (and exhaustively) throughout the book.
|Elyse Fitzpatrick (Image source)|
The one area in Grace that delves into practical matters is the chapter on "Grace That Trains." The authors posit five categories of parenting to focus grace in: Management, Nurturing, Training, and Correction. Application using "Of The Lord" parenting is examined in these five categories, discussing what it looks like and why each is important to address (depending on the age of your children and the circumstances of the behavior) for giving your children grace. While I found this helpful, it was nowhere near as immediately applicable and hands-on as Shepherding, which addresses specific parenting struggles head-on in the second half of the book.
Coming back to my friend's original request, I want to take a moment now to try and reconcile these two seemingly opposite books so they can be useful rather than confusion as a pair of books on your bookshelf. The question is are these two books saying two different things?
|Tedd Tripp (Image source)|
After reading both books, I would definitely recommend both but with small caveats to each. Give them Grace should be read from a perspective on the ground and Shepherding a Child's Heart from a perspective in the air. On the ground, it's easy to lose the forest in the trees so a broader view of what parenting is all about and where it's headed is what Grace provides. In the air, you don't see many of the specifics of how to do the parenting, which is what Shepherding provides.
Furthermore, reading Tripp can feel at times too solution-oriented and a little bit harsh (his background is in school administration), while Fitzpatrick and Thompson can sometimes sound repetitive and lack direction. I can't say I recommend one over the other, since they're so different. So for that reason, I'm going to call both of them essential to the Christian parents' bookshelf.