Gary Ezzo comes to Tulsa

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Every year around this time, Gary Ezzo, creator of a popular system for child-rearing and discipline (including books like Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way), holds an annual "National Leadership and Alumni Conference" for his organization, Growing Families International.

And every year, conservative Christian bloggers who reject Ezzo's approach as physically dangerous and unbiblical hold a special Ezzo Week emphasis to educate parents on the problems with Gary Ezzo and his teachings. Blogger TulipGirl launched Ezzo Week in 2004; you can read through her archive of material on Gary Ezzo, Babywise, and Growing Families International .

This year Ezzo's conference is being held in the Tulsa metropolitan area at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, which is why I'm making a special effort to make my Tulsa readers aware of the other side of the story. The last time the Ezzo conference met in Tulsa, Tulsa Kids ran an excellent article featuring interviews with moms who had used Ezzo's feeding plan and whose children struggled with failure to thrive, and with people who had been involved in Ezzo's organization. The author of that piece also wrote two earlier pieces for Tulsa Kids: Babywise? Be Wary! Part 1, published in January 2000, and Babywise? Be Wary! Part 2, from February 2000.

As parents-to-be, we heard glowing reports from many of our friends about Babywise, Ezzo's plan for getting babies on a feeding schedule ("Parent Directed Feeding") and sleeping through the night within two months, and Growing Kids God's Way, which emphasized "First Time Obedience." Last year I wrote about my regrets in following the Ezzo approach:

That approach to discipline alienates parents from children, and sets mom and dad up as scorekeepers and penalty managers. I found myself denying myself the enjoyment of time with my brilliant, funny, and beautiful kids for the sake of teaching them a lesson. And a child's natural desire to please mom and dad turns to despair -- the feeling that nothing he does will ever be good enough, so why bother trying?

It is hard to ditch the Ezzo mindset. You're confronted with regrets over years wasted and damage done, as the letter on Quiet Garden discusses. There's also the inner Ezzo nagging you that you're being too lax, too lenient, that you're spoiling your kids. But I'm starting to think that the worst kind of spoilage would be if my child no longer felt connected to me, if my child felt alienated from me, no longer identifying with my values, uninterested in my advice, unwilling to learn from my experiences.

I'd rather work alongside my children, enjoying their company, sharing laughter, and guiding them down the right path -- not like the guy back at the gas station who gave you directions but like the sherpa who is with you step-by-step up the treacherous mountain trail.

If you know young parents or parents-to-be, or those who teach and mentor new parents, please send them a link to this article and encourage them to tune into to TulipGirl's blog for Ezzo Week 2010.


Voices of Experience on
A timeline on controversy surrounding Gary Ezzo, his methods, and his estrangement from churches and family members


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beau said:

aaahhh... sad baby... happy baby!

Sorry, don't mean to detract from the article. The pictures were just adorable. Those are yours?

Children are so precious. They must always know that their parents love and support them.

Disclosure: I am a member of First Baptist Broken Arrow, though I was unaware that the conference was to occur there, and don't have any plans to attend.

Having had twins in 2005, we first felt that the Babywise method was too stringent and opted instead for what we thought was a more moderate and enlightened method. Over time, however, due to absolute exhaustion on our part, etc. we found ourselves borrowing heavily from the Babywise philosophy and ultimately we pretty much implemented it fully. It worked extremely well, provided us a degree of sanity, and produced children that slept through the night (in their own rooms) and were happy during the day. We never felt like score keepers, nor that we were alienating our children. If one does, then I question their implementation of the philosophy. For years since, anyone that sees the utter lack of drama at bed time in our home is amazed and wishes they had such kids (they also wish their kids napped 2-3 hours a day like ours still do at the age of four). We've had a number of pregnant friends vow to send their newborns to live with us to receive such training. We just give them the book and tell them to use common sense in implementing it. Those that do, seem to have a very positive and peaceful experiences as new parents just like us.

I'll be blunt: it makes me absolutely sick that this travesty is being held at First Baptist, BA.

Not sick at Ezzo: he's got a right to air his views.

I'm sick of Baptists falling for every program that claims to be conservative and Christian and biblical. So help me, we fell for the purpose-driven drivel. We fell for forty days of purpose. We fell for FAITH evangelism (not that it's a bad method; I refer to the idea, widely promoted for the first few years of its existence, that the program would be the key to the revitalization of the SBC). We fell for the cute and trendy idea that renaming Sunday School "caregroups" and such would see them grow. Sometimes I think that the SBC as a whole will fall for just about anything, and it drives me nuts. We're smarter than that, or should be.

And now, you're telling me that First Baptist, BA, is hosting this claptrap? No doubt on the recommendation of someone who knows someone.

No doubt. No doubt at all. That's getting to be how things are done in the SBC.

Thanks, Beau. It's the same fellow, at 33 months and 10 months, respectively. Well said.

Nathan, thanks for your comment. The feeding/sleeping schedule worked well with our first. I'm glad it was helpful for you. The problem with using "common sense" to temper the Ezzo plan is that it's not just presented as something that works more often than not. It's presented as "God's way." A young Christian couple with a desire to please God and to raise up their children to be self-disciplined and responsible, and perhaps with a lot of doubt about their ability to be good parents, will be afraid to deviate from the plan for fear they'll spoil the child or somehow deflect God's blessing. You can get into a mindset where if the plan doesn't work, it's your fault because you weren't diligent or consistent; it's never because the plan was flawed.

Edmund, I don't know whether this event is an official FBCBA event or GFI is just renting the facility. Good points about faddishness in the SBC, but of course the problem is even more widespread -- plenty of other churches chase fads; so do cities, for that matter.

Sue said:

I wonder what the church used as qualifications to allow them to have the conference there. Are they aware of the divisiveness in churches that this program has caused? I know that they have written about it in the churches he was at in California but I don't think anyone has yet written about the problems Ezzo has created in his new church in Charleston, South Carolina - Seacoast. I am a former member as are many of my friends. When I had my first child, I took the classes, even met the Ezzo's and after about 6 months, quickly realized what a huge mistake I was making. When I approached the pastor, he said the program was "working for many in his family". So, the Ezzo's have left their own family in California to find "new family" in Charleston for the simple fact that their own adult daughters have nothing to do with them.

It's divisive alright. They want the parents to hang out with other "like-minded" parents - meaning if you don't implement the "Growing Kids Ezzo's Way" program, you aren't "like-minded".

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 13, 2010 5:45 PM.

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