Growing Kids God’s Way – Part 3

In the next chapter of Growing Kid’s God’s Way Gary Ezzo sets forth the importance of Marriage. Within that emphasis on marriage Gary critiques what he calls child-centered parenting.

To start out the chapter Garry Ezzo lays out what he considers to be a biblical framework for marriage. Starting from the first book of the bible – genesis.

Garry quickly settles on a complementarian view of marriage. In which he states that Eve, the first woman, was created to complete Adam.

“The woman was created because it was not good for man to be alone. God provided a companion who was suitable to meet his intimate need – one with whom he could share his life.”

p44

This complementarian view holds that men and women were created by god with different roles in the marriage. The idea proposes that women were created by god with a role to serve and complete the man. I only add this to give context to the book. As often Garry seems to often imply that the man is the sole caretaker and provider of the family. While also seeming to state that the woman’s role is mainly as a support to her husband and a caregiver for the children.

Gary then moves on to discussing the importance of marriage. He states that marriage is the full and complete family “nucleus.”

“Children do not complete the family; they expand it.”

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The author wants to make it abundantly clear that marriage is of the utmost importance within a family. And that a couple’s children should not come before their marriage.

After discussing marriage as a priority in the family, Gary states that this very marriage gives the parents authority over those that enter the family outside of the “nuclear” unit (i.e. children).

It’s a long quote but I find it important enough to quote in it’s entirety. As it seems to hint towards how the author feels about child / parent relationships.

“Parental authority is God-given and is necessary to enforce God’s moral law in the life of every child. Structure and order are important elements in a child’s development. Democratic parenting, the idea that reduces parents to an equal status with their children, was never God’s intention. If there is to be harmony and love in the family, parents must assume their God-given role by leading the family. If you remove parental authority, you simultaneously dismantle the notion of law and order in the home and society.”

p47

I feel like I need to stop a moment here and pick this apart. Parents are given this authority directly from god to directly enforce this moral law on their children. Gary states this is not an option but a mandate to do so. Parents must enforce this moral code onto their children or risk a collapse of order and society. Parents are not to be equals or partners with their children, but instead they are to become an authoritative enforcer of god’s moral code. This is my mind is highly dramatic and overexaggerated, but it’s another way that authority is given to this man and his teachings. He’s stating if you fail to discipline and practice authority over your children the world continue to fall into chaos.

Taking a step away from the book and into my own life, I can see my parents truly incorporated this mentality into their lives. Believing that if they failed to assume an authoritarian role in my childhood life it would lead me to ruin. They believed this was a mandate from god and that they would be negligent to fail to meet that mandate.

It’s painful for me to realize that my parents were lead to believe this. By this book and other influences in their lives. The culture my parents were in shaped them to believe that this was a loving and biblical way to raise your child. They were told it was unhealthy to develop a partnership with your child, and that what their children needed most was a godly sense of authoritative morality.

What they failed to see was while they were able to enact a strict moral code within our household, it often came at the direct expense of a loving parental relationship. My relationship especially with my father is characterized by this. Something that still to this day affects our relationship or lack thereof.

I’ll move back to the book as the next main point focuses on the “Problems of Child-Centered Parenting.” Gary Ezzo lays out five issues what he defines as child centered parenting. Gary’s definition of child centered parenting is “The belief that children are the center of the family universe, rather than welcome members of it.”

Without further ado I present to you the five “Problems of Child-Centered Parenting.”

  • “Child-centered parenting attacks the husband-wife relationship by reducing it’s biblical significance.”
    • The wording is confusing and obtuse but later text clarifies. It mentions that anything that reduces or lessens a marriage primes the couple for troubles.
    • This is honestly the only point I can semi-condone (minus the biblical underpinnings). If a parent places their sole focus on the children it will lead to a neglect of the marriage relationship. However, I will say children should also be given a level of importance, and time should be spent with focus on children as well as the marriage relationship. It’s a simple matter of balance. It doesn’t need to be all about the children or solely marriage focused at the neglect of the parent’s relationship with their children.
  • “Child-centered parenting reverses the natural process of moral development by prematurely creating within a child a false sense of self-reliance.”
    • Gary Ezzo feels that it’s a negative thing when children are allowed to gain their own independent thought and actions at an early age. In the author’s words “The child becomes, in his thinking, self sufficient prior to the establishment of needed self-control.”
      • The author seems to indicate that the parents are needed for an external level of control over the child’s sense of morality. He feels that a child is not capable of this without a direct level of control by the parent, and that any level of independence of this system give the child too much confidence.
      • Personally I feel this is a rather degrading view of children and gives them very little credit. Though this harsh view may be due to Ezzo’s views on sin and the sin nature of children. The view that all children are born wicked and have a tendency towards sin.
      • In my own mind, I feel that children must be allowed some level of independence in order for them to develop their own sense of morality and world view. When external pressure is constantly applied, a child will probably be compliant within their parent’s view of morality. But this does not allow for any independent thought or actions outside of their parent’s worldview. Which, I would cynically point out, is probably the point.
  • “Child-centered parenting fosters family independence not family interdependence. Children who perceive themselves to be the center of the family universe too often grow into selfish independence.” “Other people (parents, siblings, and peers) matter only to the extent that advantages are gained by maintaining relationships. What the child can get out of relationships, rather than what he can give, forms the basis of his loyalty.”
    • Once again the wording is painfully difficulty to sort through. But it seems that the author is saying that children will grow too dependent on what others have to give within a relationship if the focus shifts to the child. Gary seems to be saying that this allows for a selfish child that will only want to take from a relationship and not give anything in return.
    • I would point out this is discussion of children. Why does the author feel that a child has to give something to a relationship with their parent in order to receive something back (like love and affection)? A CHILD should not be required to provide something to a relationship within their family in order to receive anything from it. Mr. Ezzo seems to be promoting a transactional type of relationship in which the child must first show the parent love and affection in order to receive it. A child will only be able to reciprocate the feelings and emotions they are taught and shown by those around them. Demanding a child to be the first one to demonstrate these feelings is foolish.
  • “Child-centered parenting magnifies the natural conflict between the natural way of the child and his need for moral conformity. With child-centered parenting, the standard is perceived to be the problem rather than the faulty philosophy.” (Italics are the original authors)
    • I hate that I’m able to understand this. Gary places italicized emphasis on “natural way of the child.” This natural way is the child’s supposed sinful nature, the wicked and fallen part of the child. When he mentions moral conformity it is in regards to the moral law laid out by god within the bible which the parents are then enforcing on the child. He’s saying that these two supposed sides are at war within the child.
    • Allowing the child to be the focus, according to Garry Ezzo, lets the child’s “sin nature” also be the focus. Instead of god’s moral law that the parents are enforcing on the child.
  • “Child-centered parenting, for some, comes perilously close to idolatry. When a child’s happiness is a greater goal than his holiness, when his psychological health is elevated above moral health, and when he, not god, becomes the center of the family universe, a subtle form of idolatry is created.”
    • This “problem” certainly brings anger forward within me. In the author’s eyes the child’s happiness and psychological health is to never be placed of higher importance than their spiritual holiness.
    • This own idea played a role within my own life. I was taught that spiritual health and wellness directly played a part in my mental and physical health. And led to me internalizing the belief that my psychological problems were directly related to my lack of holiness. I felt that if I had more faith, obedience, and trust in god my psychological problems would resolve.
    • A child’s happiness will not always be placed as the most important thing when raising a child. As a child does desire and want things that they feel would bring happiness, but in reality these things would only cause harm. But placing a child’s holiness and ability to comply to a strict moral code as the utmost goal in parenting a child is worrying.

The author then moves to a section where he lays out several guidelines for parents to help prevent this child-centered parenting from occurring. And most of them at face value are pretty innocuous. He stresses that parents must continue maintaining the relationships they had before they had kids – going on dates and continuing to be there romantically for their partner. He suggests oddly that bringing friends into the home for a meal or dinner will prevent child-centeredness. As in his mind this forces the children to learn to serve and minister to others. His final suggestion is “couch time” a dedicated time for parents to spend together after both partners are done with work. His odd twist, however, is that children should be intentionally present for this, but forced to be silent and not participate.

Conclusion

In my mind this chapter seems to take something that is a legitimate concern and twist it into a larger concern than it should be, at the expense of a healthy relationship with a child. Finding time to romantically cultivate a relationship is indeed a lot harder for a couple after they have kids. But forcing children to the sideline intentionally is not wise.

Also this chapter raises some clear red flags to me about the way Gary Ezzo continues to point out the necessity and importance of children following this moral code. His stress on the supposed biblical mandate of parents to enforce this is also a huge red flag. To the author a child’s obedience, to this yet unexplained moral code, is key. And their obedience is placed as a higher importance than the child’s happiness or psychological health. Garry has also laid out additional reasons within the chapter as to why he feels a parent must hold their child to this standard.

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