I promised to look into “Growing Kids God’s Way” by Gary Ezzo and here I am trudging through the book. Why would I bother with an old outdated course like this? Because this is one of the things that shaped my parents, and helped guide them as I was just a child. They attended several of these courses all from the book “Growing Kids God’s Way” during my kindergarten through elementary school age years.
These classes instructed my parents on how and when to discipline me. And then backed up their recommendations with scripture to give them authority. My parents would then come to me and use this discipline as they were instructed to. All this was done in the name of god.
All direct quotes in this article are from the 5th Edition of Growing Kids God’s Way by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo unless otherwise noted.
As I’ve done before in my book reviews, I’ll put direct quotes as they jump out to me while I read. I’ll more than likely have to split this into several different posts as the whole book is a bit lengthy. I’m working on making this a bit more understandable than just piecemeal quotes, and I’ll try to edit it to be a smoother read.
In this introductory section of the book Garry Ezzo gives the foundational ideals that he bases the rest of his teachings on.
“Can an unregenerate child conform to the external demand of God’s moral law? We believe that not only can a child conform to it, but he should be trained in it. By doing so, we not only introduce our children to the standard of God’s moral law, but also to the grace of God”p10
Gary places a high importance to adhering to the moral laws that he claims are put forward in scripture. Put into simple words, Gary Ezzo believes that placing a unsaved child in a home with strict moral laws that he claims are directly from the bible will demonstrate God to them or act as a witness to them. These rules will, in some way, demonstrate the grace of God.
Gary Ezzo lays forward three assumptions that he uses going forward.
Gary’s Three Assumptions. (from page 11)
- “The goal of parenting is to raise, by way of salvation, a morally responsible and biblically responsive child” Micah 6:8 is referenced.
- “The bible does not provide us with exact details on how to raise children” “It provide moral principles governing godly living but does not specifically lay out the how-to’s of training”
- “Since the goal of parenting is to produce a morally responsible child, and since the bible is not specific on how to accomplish that goal, we believe that all child-training principle, practice, methods, and theories should meet two important criteria:”
- “They must advance the righteous goal of raising children” (Eph 6:4)
- “They must be compatible with the breath of biblical theology. In contrast, any theory that detracts from, is antagonistic to, or restricts the Bible by creating unbiblical prohibitions and assertions will be inadequate. The methods of training must advance the goal.”
His first assumption does come with it’s own problems. I would take issue with the fact that he insists true morality is tied with salvation, but I know many Christians hold this view. And I find it at least to be on brand with what many Christian’s would believe.
Instead of stopping at the second assumption (which I would 100% agree with myself), he blows right by it. Taking this a step further, and insisting that he has found a method to sort through all of the answers to find a truly biblical parenting method.
This is where Gary lays the foundation for the rest of the book. On the foundation that everything he is presenting is biblical.
Within the fundamentalist community the bible is seen as having the ultimate authority on everything it speaks on. So if Gary ties his words to scripture then he is also given this authority and importance.
Gary then moves on to discussing the fallen nature of man.
“When we say that an infant is born with a sin nature, we are not referring to his ability to make right and wrong moral choices. Newborns do not make such cognitive decisions, but the propensity of sin lies within their natures. Every child is subject to the base elements of depravity.”p16-17
This is the teaching I just finished writing about. The idea that at a person’s core they are depraved and sinful. This lays even more groundwork for what Gary will present in the future. And for the author this is the very reason children are drawn to “sin” or disobedience.
“In early parenting, external pressure is necessary to bring about acceptable behavior even though a young child has no cognitive understanding of the reason for the behavior. The fact that a child has no moral understanding as to why food should not be intentionally dropped from his highchair does not mean we hold back instruction and restriction. There is a reason for that.”p17-18
Gary immediately jumps into the application of his belief that at their core children are sinful and wicked. He states that a child must be forced into obedience even if they have no understanding to why their behavior is wrong. With his first example referencing a child throwing food from their highchair. This is a situation where Gary believes that a child must be forced into proper behavior.
“Children first learn how to act morally, and then they learn how to think morally.”p18
The author again emphasizes that children must be first forced to act and behave in a moral manner. This comes before a child even has a chance to develop the social awareness and understanding of what they are doing.
Gary then focuses on periods of time in a child’s life that he feels are more difficult than others. The first period is 14-40 months. And he warns the parent to expect the greatest amount of conflict with the child at this point.
“These conflicts are the direct result of the child balancing his own personhood and self-serving desires with the moral standards that require him to focus on others. Parents should expect conflict during this primary stage and should consider it a time of growth for both parent and child”p19
Please note how the author describes a 1-3 year old child. He specifically calls them self serving and indicates that this needs to be corrected. Even within my own college courses on childhood development I remember this stage as being described as a stage where the child is still developing their own social skills. A stage where it is normal and expected for them to be self centered and ego centric. Instead of seeing this as a stage of development he sees it a battle of wills.
Gary then warns parents about several types of parental styles to avoid – authoritarian and permissive. And he promises that if parents can follow a biblical path they can avoid these pitfalls. He also again stresses the importance of leading your child to salvation.
I believe I will close this post here, having just really reached the end of the introduction. My largest red flag is this section is the fact that the author feels it necessary to instill obedience in a child that has no understanding of any of the greater picture. As in his words, “Children first learn how to act morally and then they learn how to think morally.” And the language within this makes me extremely uncomfortable as Garry uses a young child as an example of being out of line and needing correction for throwing their food from a plate.
Also I know I’ve mentioned my thoughts on sin nature before, but this also concerns me. Especially as this is clearly a foundational part of Gary Ezzo’s theories on child rearing. That children are at their core sinful and fallen.
I would expect a slight focus on salvation as well with a Christian author, but this book drives forward a heavy handed driven focus towards salvation. As the author finds Salvation to be pivotal to the future morality of the child. See my section in the post on his three assumptions and read the first one closely if you think I’m exaggerating.
I look forward to reading more of this, and learning more about how my parents were thinking as they raised me. And especially as I learn more about why they were motivated to discipline me in the ways that they did.
3 thoughts on “Growing Kids God’s Way – Part 1”
You are stronger than I am. Reading through these outdated books makes me so mad. I’m trying to move into what we do instead. Where do the children of this level of fundamentalism turn to know how to raise their kids in a faith that crushed them in some ways?
Thank you. In the past, I’ve found some good content from Cindy Brandt. https://cindywangbrandt.com/ She has a book called Parenting Forward and her FB group on the topic https://www.facebook.com/groups/rcugroup/ is extremely helpful as well.
It’s certainly not easy to move forward. Especially when the foundations of how you were told to parent are completely based on evangelical Christianity. But it certainly is possible. A big part of my own realization as a parent (outside of fundamentalism) was that there is no perfect formula to parenting. I grew up hearing how if you do x or y your children will turn out “right,” but that simply isn’t true. Also learning how to teach my eldest child that she has her own free will and autonomy was a hard part for me. And trying to teach her that many different people have different ideas and beliefs and that she has the free will to choose her own beliefs one day. Hopefully I can try to help equip her to be her own little person.
I wish you all the best as you raise your own child/ren.