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February 21, 2005

What Ezzo Says About Punishment. . .

This is the last of a four part series. Thanks to elcollins and Cheryl Tyler for compiling these quotes.

Guilt and Spankings: "A child knows when he has broken the rules, and his guilt continually reminds him of his violation. Guilt is the reminder of sin. Chastisement (Ezzo's term for spanking) is the price paid to remove the guilt thus [sic] free the child from his burden. If the parents do not remove the guilt, the child lives under the weight of sin. When an offense calls for chastisement, parents should chastise. If they substitute a lesser punishment, the guilt remains, and the child will suppress it. That, in turn, leads to more antisocial behavior." (GKGW p. 212)

Spanking, Chastisement and Punishment: Three chapters in GKGW are devoted to spanking with Biblical passages to support Ezzo's theory. The type instrument to use is described as: "a somewhat flexible instrument (that) stings without inflicting bone or muscle damage…if there is no pain, then the instrument is probably too light or too flexible" (p. 217). Children as young as 14 months are spanked with three to five swats (per incident); older children receive more (an ambiguous term that could result in abuse).

Spanking Toddlers: "75 to 80 percent of all spankings will take place between 14 and 40 months. The last 20 percent will come sporadically over the next ten years" (i.e. when a child is around 13 1/2 years of age) (Ezzo & Ezzo, 1997, p. 218).

Spanking and Pain: Ezzo claims that pain (of spanking) "plays a part in the developmental process." He explains that pain is the "natural outcome of wrong behavior," and it needs to be "artificially created" (p. 199).

"Chastisement" Tool: "A wooden spoon could possibly break fingers that get in the way, cause vertebral damage if struck too high, or damage skin tissue. Nor should we chastise with a instrument that is too flexible, such as a father's belt, a wire or any whip-like object. However, a somewhat flexible instrument stings without inflicting bone or muscle damage, since the flex itself absorbs much of the shock at contact. If there is no pain, then the instrument is probably too light or too flexible." In an interview, the Ezzos say they used a wood paint stirrer on their children, but that a rubber spatula would work fine, too.

Punishment during Potty Training
: “As a general rule, parents who have trained their child to first-time obedience have fewer problems in potty training than those parents who have not. If soiling continues to be a problem with a child who is over two-and-a-half years of age, hold the child accountable for his or her accidents. By that we mean the child should clean up himself or herself, plus the soiled clothes.” (Babywise II, p128-9)

Spanking Toddlers and Removing Guilt: (BBC Interview)
Paxman: Could you explain why it is that smacking is the only way to get a child aware of guilt?
Gary Ezzo: Get, get rid of his guilt?
Paxman: Get rid of a child’s guilt, yes.
Gary Ezzo: No, I can’t, because we don’t necessarily believe that in the context in which you’re presenting it. What we’re talking about is there’s got to be removal of guilt somehow. Smacking, as we’re talking about in young children, is one of the ways. To say it’s the only way is probably—well, that’s 1993, and this is 1999. There’s been like six editions since, so….

Ezzo on the Parent / Child Relationship: "Your task is to get control of the child so you can effectively train him." (GKGW)

Parent's Job or Holy Spirit's Job?: "The job of a parent is to transform the heart from what it is to what it should be." (GKGW p 308)

Christ's Work on the Cross Does Not Apply to Children: "We cannot make a true comparison between a child's disobedience towards his parents and the parents' disobedience toward God. God does not deal with us on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what Christ has done. Someone had to pay the consequences in order to allow God's grace and mercy to be poured out. The price was pad in full by our mediator, Jesus Christ, at Calvary." (GKGW, p 317)

For more information, check out my GFI/Ezzo/Babywise archives and Ezzo.Info. Or join the discussion at AwareParent.Net or the Ezzo Board.

Part I: What Ezzo Says About Me. . .
Part II: What Ezzo Says About My Kids. . .
Part III: What Ezzo Says About Babies and Toddlers. . .
Part IV: What Ezzo Says About Punishment. . .

Update: Related conversations are continuing at Carol's Storybook, SandKsmamas Space, Wyatt's Torch, CJ's Thoughts, Happy2bMama, Batesline Blog, Anne's Cafe, Curious Goldie and more Goldie, Starbellys, Knitted in the Womb, My Bloggy Blog, Caroline, Spiritual Ingenue, Plum Crazy< and The Powers that Blog. And Hubby has quite a bit to say on Ezzo's Spanking Fetish.


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I think I offended all my Ezzo-appreciating friends on my blog. I think the man is off his rocker. Especially.... "was that (what I said) in 1993? This is 1999... there have been six..."

Get out.

How about just KNOW YOUR CHILD. LOVE YOUR CHILD. TEACH YOUR CHILD. The more God blesses me with little onese, the more I see that it is really quite simple.

Posted by: Anne at February 21, 2005 10:12 PM

Honestly, this guy is nuts. Spanking is the last resort for my son and we've realized that he reacts mostly to having things taken away. I know some kids that respond to a sharp rebuke and others that don't even flinch at a spanking. Different kids, different methods.

Posted by: Rey at February 22, 2005 01:37 AM

I totally argee with Anne and wish my father would have followed that way. Ezzo wasn't writing books when I was a child, but some of his ideas were around then. For whatever reasons, I continued to wet the bed occasionally up to six years and my father spanked me to discipline me for my "disobedience." My father also refused to allow me to express anger or disagreement and would not allow me to cry when I was spanked. Consequently, I grew up hating him and I loathed him even more when I heard him preach (he was a pastor) about how well behaved his children were and how he had no problem with us during adolescence. The reason he had no problems was there was zero communication, zero relationship, between us. Even though I am a mother now, I struggle to over come my anger. I can only imagine what Ezzo kids feel.

Posted by: Dogwood Blue at February 22, 2005 01:44 AM

The whole chastisement issue was what really caused us to take a step back from things. If he had applied chastisement in the way GK recommended, we would have beaten our youngest black and blue. We had to stop; we knew it was frustrating him. And we never could bring ourselves to spank with anything but a bare hand.

This past sunday our pastor talked about chastisement, and I find it interesting that the use of the word "chastise" in Hebrews 12:5-11 means "teach" and I believe it is where we get the word pedagogue. Not the same kind of chastisement.

Posted by: Kim in ON at February 22, 2005 01:59 AM

Unfortunately I bought into this concept of Ezzo's as my daughter got past babyhood, "Your task is to get control of the child so you can effectively train him." (GKGW)

Now I'm trying to change my thinking into viewing it as God needs to get control of me, so I can be in control of myself and the situation and guide and teach my child.

(I love your picture at the top, by the way!)

Posted by: Anne G. at February 22, 2005 02:10 AM

Why do I react so strongly to Ezzo-style parenting? If I screw up with some parenting styles, I end up with a brat. If I screw up with Ezzo's teaching, I end up with a seriously ill child. (yikes, that sounded a little strong! :o)

Posted by: sparrow at February 22, 2005 04:35 AM

Anne G.,

Unfortunately I bought into this concept of Ezzo's as my daughter got past babyhood, "Your task is to get control of the child so you can effectively train him."

Me, too. And I thank God for pouring out His grace on me and my kids, and that he brings much healing to families.


I'm really, really sorry for what you grew up with. As Cheryl said on another thread, it often seems those who are the best intentioned make the biggest mistakes. I think that goes for a lot of Christians. . .

I don't know what, as Christians, it is so easy for us to get caught up in a performance-oriented lifestyle. I know when my kids were younger, I was so worried about what other people thought, worried about them judging me based on my kids' behaviour, worried that I "looked" like a compentent mother. . . I'm learning, slowly slowly, to rest in what Christ has already done and draw upon Him for my identity and strength to live. . .

May God continue to bring you healing and peace. *hug*

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 22, 2005 06:20 AM

I was discussing some of these things with dh and we came to the conclusion that this is not a happy man! And we wonder is he ever even allows himself to have fun. How can one live a normal life being so rigid?

Posted by: Lyn at February 22, 2005 04:30 PM

I am so glad that I never read any of these books. I read pregnancy books but I never read any parenting books. I was 21 when my son was born - he's now 11. Based on how I was raised I knew what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do. How many of us said to our parents "When I'm a mom (or dad) I'll never do that to my child!" Yes, I have had to adjust my thinking about some things and I understand my parents more now in some ways, but I still remember my goal as a parent. My goal is this - when all is said and done, what kind of relationship do I want with my child? Do I want a relationship built on anger and hate where my child doesn't even want to visit or speak to me and wants to leave home the day they turn 18 and spends almost every spare minute away from home until that day? That was the relationship I had with my parents. No, I wanted a relationship built on trust, love, and caring. My child would NEVER doubt my love for him as he would be told I love him daily. It's been 11 years and I believe that I am reaching that goal. He's even stated that when he goes to college he wants to continue living at home and commute to school. I consider that an accomplishment. Some may say he's too attached, but I want to be able to give him the freedom to find himself while still having the safety of home.

I remember when my son was about 3 or 4 and my pastor was saying that babies as young as 2 months were manipulating parents by crying. I just looked at my husband and we shook our heads. I had a wonderful midwife who took the place of a mother in many ways since we lived away from our family when our son was born. Her best advice? Learn about your child. I can say that the first 3 months were hard with little to no sleep, but he put himself on a schedule and we persevered. Spanking has always been a last resort for me - I was spanked as a child and still harbor resentment from it - and we haven't spanked in many years.

We just did what came naturally and that's pretty much what we still do. Before we heard the term "attachment parenting" we nursed and co-slept. We still cuddle and read a bedtime story together at night. My son has had many compliments about how helpful and generous he is. We had some people try to be "helpful" when my son was a baby and we even ended a friendship because their child-raising ideas didn't mesh with ours. They got mad at dh and I for not "doing it their way" at their home, even though we were adults with our child.

For those who read the parenting books just remember that no one is perfect. I've heard many people say "I read the books but don't do everything I read" or "I don't follow them religiously". Why try to follow them at all? Learn about your kids, enjoy your kids, trust your own instincts and if you need advice speak to a trusted friend or your own parents if you have a good relationship. Remember that babyhood passes, childhood passes, but a relationship with your child should last forever.

Posted by: Christina at February 22, 2005 06:51 PM

I go into detail about Ezzo over at my blog.

Any way you look at it, Ezzo sees only a malevolent universe, and babies as part of that malevolent universe. In a very real and ontological sense, Ezzo hates newborns. Jesus teaches us to “suffer the little children”. Ezzo seems determine to invert the word order.

Posted by: Protagonist at February 23, 2005 06:18 AM

When it comes right down to it, Ezzo is really just cloaking Behaviorism in religious terms. The ages that end up getting spanked and punished the most are the ages when the child is too young to comprehend the reason pain is being applied--but, if you apply pain after certain actions on a consistent enough basis, the child will associate that action with pain and stop. There's no heart change, it's just a conditioned response.

Posted by: kathryn at February 23, 2005 09:13 AM

It's unbelievable to me as I read these quotes that I bought all of those lies. I really and truly believed them, and spouted those ridiculous phrases to anyone who would listen.

I'm thankful that both I *and* my children experience the grace of God each day. And thanks Tuplipgirl:-) for shining a light on this darkness.

Posted by: SandKsmama at February 23, 2005 03:22 PM

I just started reading some of these sites & links on Ezzo. Some folks from our church recommended his stuff to my wife back in 97' and she attempted to implement them with our first daughter. Well, my wife was having an incredibly tough time producing milk (at the time we didn't know it) and our daughter almost starved to death because of the silly "schedules". By God's grace, we jettisoned Ezzo's tactics immediately. (I actually just found the whole tape series & manual which we had stored away-It is going to promptly be tossed into the garbage.)
Tulipgirl, I saw that you didn't not recommend "Shepherding a Child's Heart" which was the next "highly-recommended" book from our church friends. I really starting to question that as well. He really relies heavily on spanking. I'm going through some really confusing times now as we try and raise our 4 daughters (1 more on the way). We were given "Grace Based Parenting" by Tim Kimmel and I'm in the middle of "Romancing Your Child's Heart". Maybe these two might help us to formulate an overarching philosophy to loving & raising these little girls.
Any thoughts on how you and your husband approach this would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by: Harry at February 23, 2005 05:16 PM

Tulipgirl, you have inspired me... here's my post.

Posted by: Goldie at February 23, 2005 10:03 PM

I've just begun using the "naughty step" and it is going quite well. Thanks Super Nanny. I think it is backward to hit our children when we are trying to teach them not to hit each other, I think it sends mixed messages.

Posted by: Joyella at February 24, 2005 03:57 AM


I just responded to your response over at Disco's blog. Sorry, it's a long response...

Posted by: Greg at February 24, 2005 02:26 PM

Hi Harry,

My wife and I recently started a new twist to our devotional time together. The agreement is that I can select a book that I would like her to read, and in return she also selects one for me. Then we have also agreed to read at least one chapter during the week and then write a 2-3 paragraph summation of what was learned or gleaned from the book and share it. My wife choose Families Where Grace is in Placefor me. So far it is a pretty good read and I am sure I may have a blog or two about it in the coming weeks. Another good parenting book is Heartfelt Discipline by Clarkson.

Lastly, while I found a few things in Tripp's book useful, after page 100 it goes south very quick, and I blog about it here. In my view, it is one of those books, where the nuggets of truth you can find are not unique and you can find them in other parenting books, without the other dangerous stuff like 1) Spanking an infant because it is showing signs of "rebellion" if it struggles during a diaper change; 2) Not allowing Christian parents to choose spanking if that is a tool they feel they need, rather stating through out the book that spanking is "Commanded", "Mandated" by God to be carried out on His behalf for the children He has given you. And this is just the beginning of the problems I see with his book. Good luck in your search.

In Him,


Posted by: {{{Candleman}}} at February 26, 2005 02:34 AM

What a pretty blog (its my first time here, and I'm glad I get to come back)!

When I was pregnant the first time, my in-laws gave us a set of the tapes-n-books. They asked my husband all the time if we were going to follow the "exceptional" ideas, so he tried to get me to at least read the stuff. On average, I made it through three pages before I got livid. He was the only one home, so he took the brunt of "livid". After a 47 pages (its odd the specifics you remember), he decided it was a bad idea to even have it near me.

Now, THATS a conditioned response :)

Posted by: Lucy at February 27, 2005 01:53 AM

oh my.

that man is an excellent example of what happens if you parent his way.

I feel bad for the parents (and their children) who are being told that they are wrong for demonstrating love to their children. What incredible anti-christian non sense!

How, can any logical person believe that a child can grow up to form a solid and affirming relationship with others and especially God, when they were not allowed to have it with their own parents?

On a side note, I have recently changed the way I parent drastically. I love the results. I no longer feel I have an oppositional relationship with my child. When you are not obsessed with trying to change your kid, it makes possible the ability to actually enjoy them!
p.s. i am from sarasota, and joined the sarasota christian womens group. I look forward to getting to meet you one day.

My new parenting philosophy can be summed up as follows.

My job as a parent is to show my child how to love others, and themselves. It is showing them how to meet their basic physical and emotional needs in Godly ways. It is showing them how to build relationships. It is to teach them how to develop and exemplafy the fruits of the holy spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity
And it is about giving them a purpose for which to live their lives.

That is sorta my "parents creed" so to speak that I try to remind myself upon waking. Sometimes I find myself tempted to think my goal is to just get mykids to obey me, even at the expense of developing or modeling the above virtues.

Posted by: paige at July 11, 2005 05:16 PM

I'm a fairly new first time Mom with a 14 month old son (I guess new is a relative term here). My husband and I have started talking about actual discipline. We currently say no, etc, take things away when required, and move him. He is very obedient, most of the time, and knows what he shouldn't touch (although that doesn't always translate into what he doesn't touch). We're just kind of at a crossroads about what to do.

Our church recommends (along with friends, my inlaws, etc) Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tripp. Ok, but I still feel like we are in a no man's land here. Tripp recommends spanking even for children as young as our son, which I am not comfortable with....

I'm not sure what I am trying to say here. I disagree with Ezzo, but I am not sure that I entirely disagree with Tripp. My husband agrees with Tripp, but he hasn't ventured out into spanking, although he does smack our sons hands (and encourages me to do likewise) when he WILL NOT obey.

I guess I sound very confused and unsure. I don't really have any guidelines for what would be good for us to read, what is biblical, what we should do.

Any help anyone can give would be great. And very appreciated.

In Him,

Posted by: gwen at July 13, 2005 11:36 AM

My wife and I use Ezzo's teaching and love it. We've found that the kids are more attuned to learning, imagination and growing as Christians when they have the right foundation. Fortunately, I've been through the 1993 and the 1999 course editions and can tell you there is a huge difference. I can't believe anybody would think otherwise. I've been in lots of other courses that have changed over time (college, Sunday School, Bible study, etc.) why wouldn't this one?

Keep in mind the main goal of this program is the heart. Behaviorism is nowhere to be found here. Its funny that somebody would write that because "the heart" is the focus of things like Building the Moral Warehouse, The Five Mandates for Dads, etc. Its all about the heart. Spanking is really overrated in this course. The main issue is the work done before hand. The more positive encouragement, verbal praise, and dialogue you do ahead of time the less you'll have to deal with spanking. Besides Ezzo, Dobson, and others all believe in spanking, that it occurs mainly before the age of 5, and that as you grow older many kids respond better to a loss of priviledges.

Overall the program has been easy to implement even with a special needs child in my family. The main thing for me and my house is a love of God which we demonstrate to our children. How can we expect our children to have a love of the Lord without a great relationship with their parents. Buidling a strong family identity, putting the marriage first, etc. all are part of what it takes. This program provides for that and has been a joy to be a part of.

Posted by: PC at May 13, 2006 10:21 AM

ezzo is nuts
if there is a hell
he will be there for the damage he has done

Posted by: richard at March 25, 2008 12:40 AM

as a CHRISTIAN social worker, I would report a parent utilizing such harsh Ezzo style discipline to child protective services. this is sick.

Posted by: amy baker at May 12, 2008 12:41 AM

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