Much of this chapter discusses how much choice and independence should be allowed to a child. And this is directly related to how Gary Ezzo views children. As a reminder from previous chapters, Gary feels that children must be forced to follow a Christian moral code. Regardless of whether or not they understand the why, young children must follow it. Gary states that a child must not be allowed to have freedoms or choices that are outside of a child’s moral understanding. And as the child learns more developmentally and spiritually their freedoms can be increased.
The first example Gary uses in this chapter is a 11 month old. A child at 11 months was allowed to freely climb and explore their own home, but then is expected to sit and not explore when the family is visiting a friend’s house. The author states that this type of conflict causes confusion in a child. And that the child should not have been allowed the freedom to explore at will at their own home. The child should have been instructed on strict boundaries.
I’ll interject here to point out that Gary Ezzo has instructed parents (in his other books) to blanket train their children. And this could be the very type of discipline and instruction that he is hinting at here.
“In its simplest form, blanket training consists of 3 actions: (1) place a young child (usually an infant or toddler) on a small blanket, (2) tell that child not to move off the blanket, and (3) strike that child if they move off the blanket.”R.L. Stollar at https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/blanket-training-is-about-adults-not-children/
I know this is a bit of a rabbit trail, but I also looked over an older edition of “Growing Kids God’s Way.” And found a story about how he recommends a nine month old to be disciplined for her “disobedience” of arching her back in her high chair. These pictures come from “Growing Kids God’s Way” 4th Edition pages 171-172. This wasn’t included in the fifth edition of the book, but I feel that it clearly illustrates what type of obedience is expected from a toddler.
We then move to back to chapter fourteen for another example story. This small story ends with the “moral” being that children should not tell their parents they are going to do something. Instead they must always ask their parents if they plan to do something. The minor example used is a child telling their parent they are going to go play in the backyard. Ezzo is clear that the child should have never been allowed to presume the parents permission.
The next major story involves a parent that allows their small child to dictate little choices and preferences throughout the day like which cup he wants or what type of juice he wants to drink. In this story everything is fine until the parent sets an ultimatum that the child must eat at this time. The child then throws a tantrum.
Gary Ezzo then elaborates on why this child threw that tantrum. He feels that because the child was offered no resistance throughout the day. The child was able to have their choice of food and breakfast, and he sat on his mom’s left leg instead of her right (which he was told to do). All of these choices and freedoms left the young child feeling like they are “falsely self-sufficient” and “wise in his own eyes.” Gary concludes this story by saying that, if you allow a young child to say no repeatedly to a parent over trivial matters it will teach them that they can say no to a parent anytime they wish.
“Developmentally, young children prior to the development of a self regulating moral conscience cannot handle the power associated with decision making.”Growing Kids God’s Way 5th Edition p223
He feels that the power of choice is not something that young children should be given. A parent should tell a child what is going to happen and the child must accept it. If your child demands another option it is because they are “addicted to choice.” Children must learn to be content to live their young childhood years without choices being presented to them.
Moral of the whole chapter is – young children should not be allowed choices. And if they push back against the idea of having no choices then that “proves” that they are just wicked sinners and are addicted the power of their own choices. In order to prove that they are morally responsible enough to make their own choices, they have to accept the authority of their parents and realize that their parents have full control. Then they can finally be allowed to make their own day to day choices – like if they want apple juice or orange juice.
As a closing note let me just say, depriving children of any choices will not help their growth. You may be able to force your children to accept your choices and will for them while they are under your authority, but they will still have a time when they have to make their own choices and decisions. Instead of forcing your children to accept your decisions, help them learn and grow by letting them have some freedom in their choices; and teach and model for them how to make good choices.
Also on a very personal note this type of extreme control over my childhood has feed into my own anxiety. My choices all through my childhood through early adult life were dictated for me, both my my parents and the college I attended (PCC). And it’s hard to break away from that and realize you have your own agency and free will. I’m about to turn 29, and I still have trouble answering the question what do “I” want. And choices (especially big ones) fill me with a heaping pile of anxiety. I was trained to rely on others to guide my choices. So breaking free from that takes a lot of strength. – Him