photo by Alex Barth
Earlier this week, we discussed ways to discuss concerns about the materials published by Gary Ezzo and Growing Families International in online conversations. Sometimes, however, situations arise in real-time, face-to-face with others where we might want to share some thoughts on these materials.
Discussing Babywise or the Preparation for Parenting series can result in conversations that range from slightly awkward to downright volatile. Dialoguing about parenting choices tends to lend itself to a posture of defensiveness for nearly all of us. How can we have peaceful, grace-filled conversations with others about a topic that is often a catalyst for divisiveness?
I will be the first to admit that I absolutely shrink in the face of confrontation. My temperament strives for harmony at all costs, so my approach may not be a good match for your personality. I so look forward to hearing from you all on ways that you have handled this - it will be a much-needed supplement for my meager thoughts:1) If you have personal experience with the materials, draw from that.
In discussions I've seen and heard, proponents of Babywise and other Ezzo materials often say something along the lines of "most people who criticize Babywise have never even picked up a copy of the book!" I don't doubt the truth in that (but I think one can be an informed critic of these materials without reading the content in its entirety). I do, however, have personal experience with the material. I do draw from that experience when the topic comes up.
I can say things like, "I read Babywise before Dacey was born, but I had a really, really difficult time implementing it." If I am speaking to a friend, I might even go further and say, "Trying to follow Ezzo's philosophy really strained our marriage and I feel I didn't get to enjoy the first months of Dacey's life. I woke up every single day preparing myself to 'do war' with her over her sleeping schedule. I don't have a lot of happy memories of those days."
I usually will add to my own experience something along the lines of "I've since come across information that causes me great concern about his philosophy and practices." And then the conversation can go on from there, or I may just let it go at that point unless asked about specific concerns.
If you have used the materials with great success with one child, but found it wasn't a good fit for another child, I think that is absolutely worth mentioning. Many proponents of Ezzo's materials think that critics of his ideas have simply misunderstood or misapplied his directives. So again, if you have worked the program and the program later (for whatever reason) caused you to step away from it, I think there is powerful testimony there. (Here's a great example of what that conversation might look like.)2) Focus on a few key points.
Try to isolate one or two aspects of the GFI materials that cause you the greatest concern. For me, it is both the condescending tone and inaccurate picture it paints of parents who choose other approaches to parenting as well as the mindset of detachment that I feel that it promotes.
You may take issue with the cry-it-out sleep training, or the very real possibility of failure to thrive, or the threat it poses to breastfeeding success, or the inaccurate and misleading use of Scripture it employs. Whatever it is that raises red flags for you, educate yourself on that aspect to promote thoughtful, informed conversation with others on it.3) Know when to speak, know when to stop.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I tend to think the most powerful communication happens one-on-one. I think these are the conversations that really allow us to dig a little deeper and share with authenticity and realness.
Group dynamics can be a powerful force. If the topic of Babywise or other Ezzo materials comes up in a group situation with many singing the praises of these techniques, it can be a little tricky to know how to respond. If you are like me, then being the lone voice of dissent is a very intimidating feeling. Others may have no qualms whatsoever in providing a different viewpoint. Only you can assess the situation to know how much to say, and more importantly, when to disengage.
As I have maintained throughout all of my writings on Babywise, I firmly believe that each of us must approach these conversations being very mindful to extend grace. Many parents who follow these ideas and teachings are doing so because they love their children and believe this is a viable way to approach parenting. When you assign positive intent, it changes your view of the person with whom you are speaking. It pulls back the temptation to judge their parenting choices and allows you to focus more fully on critiquing not the practitioner but the publisher of the material.
*** I want to mention that Tulip Girl has published an incredible article (really, one of my very favorites from her!) called A Christian Worldview? Here, she explores moralism versus the Truth of the Gospel and how that plays out in parenting. Absolutely a must-read. ***
(And because I try, in all things in all areas of advocacy, to be balanced in discussion here at SortaCrunchy, I thought I might mention that I learned from Tulip Girl that the very popular blogger at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom is hosting her own event to correspond with Ezzo Week. You can read more about that here.)
A few people have mentioned wanting to know more on how to defend your choice not to practice a Babywise approach, and I'll speak more on that in the next post.
Again, I do hope that you'll share some experience, insights, and advice in the comments. I look forward to hearing wisdom for you all today.