« Reading Circle for Moms | Main | Coffee with the Guys »

April 26, 2007

Gary Ezzo: Philosopher?

Over at AwareParent.Net, is an interesting post about Gary Ezzo's philosophy and theology. Click here to read the full post, and feel free to comment (registration there is quick and painless.)

My wife and I have just recently completed Gary Ezzo's Growing Kids God's Way course. We learned of it through a couple in our church, for whom the couse manual is like a second Bible and Ezzo the Vicar of Christ on earth (forget the pope!). Of course, I'm exaggerating; but my satirical comments capture something of the tone of the course. My wife talked me into signing up, though I had reservations about the course because of its immodest title. My fears were quickly confirmed after I read Ezzo's introduction and sat through a couple of weeks of videos. I'll make my general concern about the course as explicit as I can in what follows:

I am deeply troubled by the brand of virtue ethics espoused by Ezzo. I am pursuing a career as a philosopher of religion, so I know something about this stuff. Growing Kids God's Way appears to be heavily influenced by Aristotle's thought on the essence of the human being (the "rational animal") and the ethical direction of human nature. In itself, this is not a bad thing - Christian theology and philosophy has, indeed, been influenced by Greek thought over numerous centuries. What troubles me is not the use of Greek categories per se, but the direction in which Ezzo's theology takes virtue ethics - a direction that I think is dismally unbiblical.

. . .

I want to be clear about one thing first: I am not accusing Gary Ezzo of uncritically adopting Greek virtue ethics. One thing that I find on both sides of the unfortunately polemically named "Ezzo debate" is a lot of lack of attention to careful details in the other side's position. What I am claiming here is that Ezzo's theological "system", if we can call it that, leans dangerously close to an unbiblical or extrabiblical account of human nature. The practical consequences of this theoretical fact, I think, are that Ezzo relies too much on the power of self-discipline and structure in the formation of human character to the exclusion of grace. I would even go so far as to say that his theological system is a sort of natural or rational theology window dressed with some hand-picked passages of Scripture that best fit the fundamental philosophical needs of the program.

Read the rest here.

I'm still reading, digesting, considering the points raised here. Your thoughts?


Posted by TulipGirl  |  03:12 PM|  TrackBack (0)  |   Words

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Yes, the key words here are EXTRA biblical & Grace. We have an awesome power to emphasize God's grace EVERYDAY in parenting. Yes, the title, Growing Kids God's Way is a bit pompous & self presuming. Was their another messiah that taught on raising kids that we didnt know about?
All said, it is great that people are attempting to consciously, thoughtfully rear their children.

Posted by: Jenny Fox Shain at April 27, 2007 07:54 PM

I should pop in. I've been recently impressed with the idea that Ezzo-ish childrearing is purely pagan. And you can't get more pagan than my fav punching bag, Aristotle.

My brother says that Aristotle killed wisdom. Hmph. Sounds about right.

Posted by: Camille at April 27, 2007 08:35 PM

This sentence sums it up for me--
"Faith is not simply a matter of self-discipline, nor is whether or not I chew with my mouth open at the dinner table an indicator of the grace I have received."

Love it!!

Posted by: skerrib at April 28, 2007 01:10 AM

You know, reading this brings me back to a thought that keeps popping up in my head. How much of a need is there to have a child-rearing curriculum within the church?

People seem to really want the direction, the fellowship, and the instruction along with the assurance that their efforts to raise Godly children will not be in vain - and do they want it so much that they are willing to look past things that are extra-biblical, legalistic, and at times, downright harmful to our children's well being, brain development and understanding of unconditional love?

Sometimes I think the answer is come up with a new curriculum: one based on an accurate understanding of Child Development, and empahsizing the principles of unconditional love, grace, mercy, etc. Oh, so many more questions, etc, but not enough time. =) Thanks for bringing this up.

Posted by: Tracy at April 28, 2007 06:39 PM

Do you not have your boys on some sort of schedule? Can you tell me the main problems you have with Baby Wise? Do you not just think a lot of people take this book to the extreme? I am just curious because I know you have a lot of wisdom and experience raising children.

Posted by: Emily Wallace at May 2, 2007 01:58 PM

"All said, it is great that people are attempting to consciously, thoughtfully rear their children."

Hi, Jenny! It's good to see you! I agree--and in my experience that "success" that is attributed to Gary Ezzo's teachings are more the result of active, involved parents who love their kids. Ezzo DOES reinforce the need to be active, involved, loving parents. However, that could be found from just about any parenting teacher or program. Unfortunately, in the long run, I've known more parents who have found that Gary Ezzo's teachings did more harm than good for their families.

Camille, you SHOULD pop in at AwareParent.net. Or at least blog those thoughts.

skerrib, yeah, that's a great counter to the silly "there's nothing glorifying to God about carrots in the hair" of Anne Marie Ezzo!

Tracy, part of me shies away from any "program" because I'm concerned about something being formulaic. On the other hand, learning about how God designed children to develop, breastfeeding, growth--that is SO helpful. And like what Jenny and I were saying, parents DO need encouragement and validation of being active, involved parents. I know these alternatives are already out there, but I'm not as familiar with them. . .

Posted by: TulipGirl at May 5, 2007 12:12 PM

Hi, Emily!

Those are good questions. I do have experience of raising boys to age 11--but beyond that my experience is limited. Any wisdom I have, is by God's grace, making mistakes, and learning from my mom and other women God has put in my life.

I have had my boys (and myself) on various routines through the years. I think rhythm is good. I have a problem with routine and rhythm focused primarily on a schedule of eating and sleeping. I've found routines that use eating/sleeping as benchmarks make it harder for a parent to discern hunger/sleep cues, realize when a child has low blood sugar and needs a snack, or respond with a nap when a nap is needed when it isn't "time" for it. At the same time, each day tends to have the same pattern, and usually eating/sleeping are at predictable times.

"Can you tell me the main problems you have with Baby Wise?"
Babywise is based on misinformation about infant growth and development, misinformation about the physiology of breastfeeding, and makes claims that are unsupported by what we know about how God designed infants and mothers.
While it may "work" for some infants/mothers, often the physical growth, sleep, and attachment problems that have been associated with Babywise are not immediately evident. So a mother may be judging it to "work" for her baby, when later problems crop up that weren't discernible in the beginning. A mom just can't know whether it will "work" or not until it is too late.
The materials that are equivalent to Babywise, but written for a Christian market, are sloppy in its hermeneutics and present as Biblical principle what is really man's opinion.

"Do you not just think a lot of people take this book to the extreme?"
Yes and no. The book is written as "if you follow this book, it will work." It is written to be taken wholly. And so if it isn't "working" then the parents are blamed for not following the principles closely enough. Which, can lead to taking it to an "extreme." But in all honesty, every parent I've known who used Babywise used "flexibility and common sense"--even those whose children had severe problems. The problem wasn't the parents being "extreme"--the problem was that the material upon which they were making decisions was flawed. You can be a common-sensical, loving parent--but if you think false information is accurate, your decisions may suffer from that false information.

If you haven't read them already, I recommend reading the "Been there, done that" experiences of these parents.

Hope this is helpful! And I'm sorry for the delay in responding. . . I'm a bit slow these days. I'd like to hear your thoughts, too.

Posted by: TulipGirl at May 5, 2007 12:27 PM

Thanks so much for responding!

I can see how problems with routine and feeding/sleeping scheduling can develop with breast-fed babies simply because the mother has really no idea how many ounces of milk the baby is getting. Consequently, routine and scheduling is hard. However, with bottle-fed babies (and mine is) I have found that he is most happiest when his routine (not rigid by any means) is followed in a general format.

I agree that common sense must be used with Babywise. However, I think that the book does a good job of informing the parents about "how-to" things...even if I don't agree with all of them...and I don't.

Also, as far as scheduling goes, I believe that God has entrusted us with these children and he wants us to use common sense and whatever else it takes to exercise our parental authority in a loving way. In the end, we know what is best for our children because they don't...especially the earlier the age. This is the area where I think Babywise does some good.

Again, I agree that it can be overly rigid at times and the reader needs to use discretion. But, as with any book, I try to glean the and leave the bad.

Posted by: Emily Wallace at May 5, 2007 10:25 PM

"I can see how problems with routine and feeding/sleeping scheduling can develop with breast-fed babies simply because the mother has really no idea how many ounces of milk the baby is getting."

Actually, the increased problems with breastfed Babywise babies isn't related to the inability to measure how much a baby is eating, but with the breastfeeding information as a whole that is given in BW being inaccurate (especially the section on how to address concerns about milk supply.) While it is not an immediate issue of concern for you and your little one, if you'd like to learn more about it, I recommend this article and its links that explain breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding and Babywise: The Realities

Posted by: TulipGirl at May 6, 2007 10:29 AM

"However, with bottle-fed babies (and mine is) I have found that he is most happiest when his routine (not rigid by any means) is followed in a general format."

The concerns that I have with Babywise are not limited to breastfeeding/milk supply/delayed growth. I'm glad y'all have found a rhythm that is good for you and your little one. I do encourage you to continue reading about normal infant/child growth and development, and be super-cautious about using any of the materials by Gary Ezzo for toddlers/older children.

And I know that the Lord gave you little Jackson, because you are the mother he needs--and he is the baby you need.

Grace and peace,

Posted by: TulipGirl at May 6, 2007 10:57 AM

Tulip girl, This is my first time to your site. The Ezzo conversation caught my eye! I find the teaching to be quite destructive also.

In response to the search for a Biblical Parenting program, I would recommend Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart. It is not really a program. But, a program would perhaps always err on being extra-biblical.

Anyway, check it out. Ted's teaching is much the way I was raised & I am SO thankful. The idea is to nurture your children in the Gospel. Not just teach behaviorism.

Posted by: Erin at May 7, 2007 05:34 PM

Yeah Erin found your site through me. :) (Hi Erin!) ;)
Alexandra - Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to hear stories about you and your boys - I get inspired...esp about what's to come. I can't wait to sit quietly at coffee with my boys - how nice!
Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Trish at May 8, 2007 06:57 PM

In My Garden
Recently Written
Book Blogging
Friends and Fans
Good Stuff
Blog Goodies