At the heart of Julie Lowe’s Child Proof is a simple word of encouragement to Christian parents: “Instead of ‘how-tos’ and formulas, we rely on who God is in relationship to us.”

Nothing tempts me as a parent more than the promise of a new set of rules. I am constantly tempted to place my hope in rules and regulations for my kids that seem to guarantee results. I wonder if new sleep regimens or fail-proof discipline systems will finally solve my parenting conundrums. Lowe guides parents back towards the gospel of grace, reminding us that we can only parent “when we are emptied of our own sense of competency and realize that the task requires far more than we have in us” because parenting “must be done in dependence on the Holy Spirit.” Instead of measuring the success of our parenting in terms of results, we must remember that our children are “moral responders who will choose whether they will become wise and learn from discipline, or whether they will be foolish and hardened in their response.” I found much needed encouragement in her clear admonitions from scripture.

In my own years as a parent, I’ve been learning the lessons in this book first hand, but it was refreshing to see my parenting philosophy spelled out so clearly. I was grateful for the way that Lowe continually steers parents away from simplistic formulas and back to the wisdom of scripture. Though the Bible offers few specifics on parenting, many of the general principles about how to handle conflict apply to parents in unique ways. She encourages parents to become experts on their own family and to apply grace with creativity and persistence. Our ultimate parenting goal should be to disciple our children to be people “who can take an honest look at themselves and confess their sin.” There are no shortcuts or magic bullets. Rather, we must produce in our homes “an atmosphere of grace that is practiced generously in family relationships.”

Lowe is a foster parent herself and has also dealt with unique parenting challenges as a professional counselor. All of these experiences inform the wise counsel found in this book. I was reminded of the powerful words from the hymn Amazing Grace, which remind me that “grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Grace brought us to faith and is working in our lives; Lowe reminds us that we can trust God’s grace to instruct our parenting. Because her book is saturated with reminders of God’s grace, Child Proof is an excellent source of encouragement for parents who are wearing themselves out trying to follow a formula or for parents who’ve already discovered all their idealistic formulas really don’t work in the trenches. The gospel is good news for parents, and Julie Lowe makes that abundantly clear in this book.

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Another recent parenting book, Start with the Heart by Kathy Koch, challenges parents to motivate their children, not just attempt to modify their behavior. Most importantly, Koch reminds parents that before they can begin thinking about the hearts of their children, they must begin with their own hearts. Few parenting books that I’ve read have the courage to call out parents like this one does, reminding parents of our high calling to “rise above our circumstances, stop blaming our past, and choose to develop the character qualities that lead to health and life” because “if we don’t, our children most likely won’t.” Koch encourages parents to be self-reflective throughout the book.

I appreciated the thorough list of briefly-described character qualities our children need most. Koch also does a nice job of laying out her theory on what motivates children. I did find some of the examples and suggestions to be rather simplistic. Her advice often sounded hypothetical rather than tried-and-true. Kathy Koch lays a foundation for parents who want to understand how to motivate their children.