Document created on 5/17/00, primarily for parents taking GFI classes. When this essay was submitted to GFI, I was told by Anne Marie that this essay was perfect for either Along the Way (newsletter to contact moms) or The Community Perspective (newsletter for GFI mailing list), but it was never printed by them. This essay appears as it was originally submitted to GFI.
Like many of you reading this article who have attended one or more of the classes offered by Growing Families International, I have been shocked and stunned by the level of controversy surrounding the materials GFI produces. Many of the principles have been taught in churches I have attended all my life and I just assumed that much of the controvery had to deal with issues that good people have differed over for generations (such as spanking). At times I have found myself thinking, "Well, I am not surprised that the world would find fault with some of the things I think are important as a Christian parent; after all, they don't have the same belief system or worldview that I have." But the controversy spreads far beyond just criticism from a worldy perspective. Is it possible to have materials such as the ones from GFI that can bless lives, turn hearts to God, rejuvenate family life, and bring restoration to splintered families? Absolutely! But, if we are to grow in our walk with the Lord, as Christians we need to be able to examine criticism that comes our way through the filter of God's Word and determine what, if any, issues we need to be willing to address in our own lives. It is my goal, with this essay, to provoke self-examination regarding some specific areas of criticism for the ministry of GFI in general, Preparation for Parenting (also Babywise), Preparation for the Toddler Years (also Babywise Book 2), and Growing Kids God's Way. It will be impossible for me to address every area, but I will attempt to address those I find the most serious.
One of the biggest criticisms of churches and people that use the GFI materials is the judgemental and divisive attitudes people exhibit toward others that have not made the same parenting choices or chosen to attend the classes. In Matthew 7:1-2 we read, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Some falsely assume this passage gives a blanket command not to judge at all. On the contrary, the caution deals more with the motive and manner of judging than the concept of making a judgement. If you continue in the context of the passage, Jesus continues in verses 3-5, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." We are commanded to be willing to bear other's burdens and help each other grow in Christ (Gal. 6:1-10), but we must be first willing to do self-examination before judging others. So, how about it? Are these things true of you?
Another criticim is that in application of the materials, some parents end up having problems because they elevate the application to the level of biblical principle or apply the ideas in a legalistic, inflexible manner. In some cases, this has resulted in problems as simple as a parent being frustrated because after a time of consistency, the child still seems to be struggling with a basic "behavior" issue. But in other cases, it has resulted in something as serious as a baby not growing growing in a normal fashion. So, how about it?
Any time we use Scripture in the process of formulating opinion or philosophy, we are responsible to rightly divide the Word of Truth (II Timothy 2:15). Some have made the accusation that Scripture verses are taken out of context in the materials. Have you examined the verses used as support to see if they really do support the point that was made? Have you taken seriously the responsibility to examine everything being taught so that you know whether or not it lines up with your interpretation of Scripture? While it will be a matter of personal belief in this one area of criticism, it is the responsibility of each person taking any class based on the Bible to discern whether or not the teaching is in line with the Word of God. Crucial in this process would be separating the vehicles for application from the principles.
Preparation for Parenting (PFP) has its own unique set of areas of difficulty, and although some of them are addressed above, I wanted to take the time to add some frank caution with regard to the use of PFP and Babywise. Since January of 1999, I have been answering questions about the application of PFP in a formal manner for GFI. As a Contact Mom, I have answered a lot of questions, but most of them have centered on lactation issues. Because I agree with the overall concept of order and routine in a day, and it is my personal preference to let my babies learn how to settle to sleep on their own, I find many of the practical suggestions to be helpful. In our own family, we never had a doubt as to our own priorities, and how much of a role we would let any book take in our home. When we had a need to deviate from recommendations in the book, we did so with absolute confidence that God would give us wisdom in every singe situation in our parenting (James 1:4-8). Because of my own mindset, the strength of my own convictions, and my willingness to help other moms that were struggling, I was glad to work with moms that were trying to find a balance in using PFP and Babywise. I think it is absolutely possible to read either book and have a balance in the way the materials are applied. But I am learning from my own interactions with people that not everyone has that same confidence. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different areas of strength. It is not surprising to me, then, that some would have a difficulty with finding balance in application. Take for instance a first-time mom, who along with her husband is a new Christian. They may not have the confidence to question and evaluate. Sometimes, new Christians are so eager to grow in the Lord, that they miss messages given in the video series that urge parents to think for themselves. PFP and Babywise are not intended to provide all the answers. Or it could be something as simple as a mom and dad so desperate for sleep that they ignore warning signs. Worse yet would be the parents who selfishly desire that a new baby in the family will not change anything about the family dynamics. I have talked to enough moms personally over the last 17 months to know that concerns expressed by some lactation professionals and medical professionals are true. There are moms who have struggled with milk supply or lost the ability to breastfeed altogether because they had a schedule for feeding instead of looking to repeat a cyclical pattern. While both PFP and Baby wise say not to have a strict schedule, there are still admonitions to try to achieve certain intervals between feedings which could lead some moms to think that they will not be "successful" with the principles if they allow the baby to nurse too close together. I have talked to moms that have grieved over the loss of breastfeeding because they were not discerning in how they applied the materials. In my page on routine I address this more completely. If you are desiring to breastfeed your baby, you need to know that your baby can still establish good sleeping habits even if you don't follow the book to a "t". The Ezzos say that a legalist is a person who rejects or fails to consider context in any given situation. If God designed breastfeeding to nourish our babies, then it is considering context to learn about the dynamics of breastfeeding so you do not sacrifice what is best on the altar of achieving the perfect schedule. Deciding to formula feed to keep the perfect schedule is rejecting the context of God's wise design. The other area where I have seen parents struggle with applying PFP and Babywise is letting babies cry for long periods of time and not being sure how to handle a baby that just wasn't settling in for sleep. Again, I would give the caution that you must have the confidence in the wisdom God has given you as parents, instead of worrying about what the PFP or Babywise book says. Sure there will be times that you wonder if you are doing things "right" and want some encouragement from someone in person. God wants us to support and encourage one another. But again, there should be a balance. I think moms need to be more willing to consider opinions outside the GFI community too. In Titus 2, God set up the ideal circumstances for discipling young moms--older, more experienced women are to do the teaching. While it is possible that a Contact Mom can be that Titus 2 woman in your life, make sure that you are not overly dependent on that relationship instead of turning to God, your spouse, or other experienced Christian women around you. Along with all of that, you should also be willing to trust that God created your body with specific physiological responses when your baby cries. Don't be afraid to respond to some of those physiological responses. Your parenting needs to have a blend of steadfastness to what you believe is best and the compassion and mercy that Jesus Christ also modeled for us. You should know without a shadow of doubt that the decisions you are making for your baby are based solely on what you believe (with your spouse) to be best for your baby--not on what others think or on selfish motivations for your own convenience. Those are questions that only you as an individual can answer.
Any time a person, a book, or a ministry is helpful to us, it is too easy to elevate any of those things to a level that lacks balance. We can have the best of intentions and still be wrong. Every single interaction I have ever had with the Ezzos has been gracious and kind. Their sincere desire is to encourage and help Christian parents in an area where there has been a lack of encouragement in any formal way among most churches. Their ministry grew way more quickly than they could have ever anticipated, and it has had its growing pains. No person is perfect, and if we look at the examples of other strong leaders in the Bible like Moses, Peter, and King David, we realize that God is not only interested in perfect vessels. If you truly value the ministry of GFI, be willing to take responsibility for how you apply the materials, and be willing to share with the Ezzos areas where the materials have blessed you and areas where you have modified things to compensate for some weaknesses. They don't expect everyone to love everything they say, and they sincerely desire to keep growing and building their ministry so it can better serve the Lord.
Addendum, November 3, 2000. In mid August (2000) I resigned my position as a contact mom due to many different reasons. First and foremost, I had concerns regarding the baby materials and problems I was seeing resulting from their use. The role of the Contact Mom is to provide support for moms using the baby materials from GFI. During the time I served in a volunteer position as a CM for GFI, I spent a great deal of time clarifying and modifying the advice in Babywise (BW) and Preparation for Parenting(PFP). I came to the conclusion that if the materials needed so much clarification and modification to enable a breastfeeding mom to use them and maintain her ability to breastfeed long-term, then perhaps they should not be used or recommended at all (at least in their current form). I would be untruthful if I said that the controversy swirling around the ministry of GFI had no part at all in my decision to resign. Around the time of my resignation, John MacArthur released a statement of concern over the Ezzo's problems at Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship, and there was concern expressed by our pastor regarding the situation as well. I believed if I could not be in complete agreement with the direction and ministry of GFI, it was the most honest and ethical decision I could make to resign. I would encourage anyone still involved with the ministry of GFI who has not done so to set aside personal preference and bias and really examine the controversy surrounding the ministry. Read with an open mind and then ask questions with an open mind.
Links for more information:
My stated concerns and recommendations to GFI with regard to BW and PFP
dated Dec. 15, 2000 in a letter to Anne Marie Ezzo
My recommendations will probably seem extreme, but as I have prayed over it, considered all the moms that I have talked to, talked through this with [my husband] and other contact moms, I just can not think of a better, safer, more ethical way to handle it. I am not in [GFI's] shoes, however, and know that you [refers to the Ezzos] have other issues to consider that will not impact me personally.
If someone has already read BW or PFP and they want support for developing a routine without possibly damaging milk supply, then I'm more than glad to help [see my page on routine for more information]. I found the idea for the sleep/feed/wake cycle to be tremendously helpful, and I'm an organized practical Mom who loves routine. But I suggest significant modifications for the baby materials so that breastfeeding can be maintained. Until the materials are updated to remove confusing references and inaccurate information I simply cannot recommend them to anyone. I'm concerned about the "the baby materials WORK" mindset. I have to ask: "At what cost do the materials work?" I was one of the ones that didn't understand how it was really possible for moms to "misunderstand" or "misapply" the materials to the point that their babies were not gaining or that their supply was dropping. But, then I became a contact Mom. I began taking lactation calls and hearing moms who were suffering because of mistakes that had been made. I realized I was prideful to think my own experiences were indicative of what everyone else experienced. Babywise and Prep just don't leave enough room for babies and moms who fall outside the range of what they establish as the "norm." The longer I was a CM, the more moms I met that had experienced real problems with the materials (including contact moms). I agree that moms and dads should take responsibility for their own choices. But I also believe that materials with medical flaws in them should have authors who also take responsibility for the problems. I am concerned that I have never seen Gary say, "in our earlier materials we made some mistakes. I was wrong about some things. I realize that I have a responsibility to make this right." A complete acknowledgment of responsibility would involve both the parents and GFI. I also have the concern that the baby materials engender a fear of the professionals best qualified to help a mom solve her breastfeeding problem/s.
This page and contents Copyright © 2000 Laurie Moody