One of the purposes of Ezzo Week is purposefully discussing concerns over the material created by Gary Ezzo and put forth by his for-profit organization Growing Families International. The opportunity to speak up with concerns about these materials, however, presents itself year 'round, and more often than not, those conversations take place online.
For those who travel in mainly Christian circles both online and off, the material being discussed is most likely the Growing Kids God's Way series. His book, On Becoming Babywise, however, has influence far beyond the Christian community and discussions of this book and methodology (namely "Parent Directed Feeding" and the eat/play/sleep schedules, which start at birth, by the way) pop up often on message boards, blog posts, and in most noticeably in the past few years, in Facebook discussions.
This raises questions for those of us who disagree with the methods put forth by Babywise. How much should we say in opposition to its use? When do you interject and when do you let it go?
Each person will have their own comfort level in addressing this issue in online venues, and I am certainly not offering a formula or a prescriptive approach that I believe everyone should follow. I thought I might just share some approaches that have worked for me and that I have seen work for others.
1. In public discussions, be brief.
All of us have seen the fall-out from flaming comment wars. It's a natural response of human nature to feel that we must defend our viewpoint to the death. In online conversation, the opportunity is there to not only drag a conversation out over several days, but also to become so emotionally invested in proving yourself "right," that you lose track of the very real human beings (and their feelings) involved in the conversation (or debate, as the case may be).
I've found that if the topic comes up where the conversation is open to many (a Facebook wall post or message board discussion, for example), it's best for me to keep my contribution limited.
For example, if the topic comes up in a friend's Facebook update, I might say, "I didn't have a very good experience with Babywise. Let me know if you would like to hear more about it."
In a message board or blog comment discussion, I might write, "I have some pretty serious concerns over Gary Ezzo's materials. You can check out ezzo.info if you are interested in knowing more."
2. In private discussions, share more.
There's something about taking the conversation to a more private discussion that appeals to me more than the public debate. When you are speaking one-on-one with someone, you are able to further draw out the issues at hand and get a more filled-in picture of the story and can often speak to the situation more clearly and compassionately.
So if I am on Facebook and I see a friend who is receiving enthusiastic support for implementing Babywise, I might briefly mention my objection publicly (more to encourage others in knowing that not everyone is gung-ho Babywise) and then send a private message to my friend. In that private message, I might share more details on how I had a bad experience with the Babywise approach, and I might also include some relevant links. Depending on with whom it is that I am communicating, I might send links to ezzo.info or a pediatrician's detailed concerns over the Babywise approach or even Focus on the Family's "concerns and reservations" about both Gary Ezzo himself as well as his philosophy.
The beauty of private communication is that there is more honest dialogue and less insistence on proving oneself to be right. I've rarely come away from a private online conversation on this topic feeling hurt, wounded, angry, or defensive. I can't say the same for my forays into public discussion/debate.
3. Above all, be gentle.
Always remember that those who are interested in Babywise or any of Ezzo's materials are most likely in a vulnerable place. Perhaps it is a person who is pregnant and is doing research on what life with a baby is like. That was one of the hardest parts of being pregnant for me - imagining the unknown. In it's pages, Babywise offers a lovely picture of life uninterrupted, of days of smooth-sailing and little interference from Baby. Babywise offers confident assurance that following its formula will tame the unknown. For those who are thinking of implementing it in theory (before baby arrives), it can be difficult to dissuade. It's hard to explain to someone the stress of hearing your baby scream her head off in her crib, and it's hard to explain the emotional toll of squelching the urgency to feed your child, no matter what the schedule says. So be gentle with those who are in the research stages - they may not be immediately convinced of the concerns, but your gentle advocacy of a different approach may be what they turn to if they should find Babywise doesn't work for them.
Additionally, remember the vulnerability of those who are in the trenches of parenting. Whether it's navigating those exhausting, often hopeless days of early infancy or an authentic desire to have a home that reflects Christ, there is a reason a parent would pursue Ezzo's material. Bear that in mind when speaking on the topic and I have to believe that your words will be better received than if you go in with guns blazing, not really hearing what is happening in the family over the sound of your own alarm that anyone would consider following his directives.
Finally, you could also consider publishing your own experience or a log of your most-trusted links that speak out against Ezzo or that advocate for a more intuitive (or, for those who are Christians, a more Spirit-led) approach to parenting. This could be done in blog format or even a Facebook note, and then you will have these on hand to link to when the occasion for discussion arises.I would love to hear your own experiences - what has worked and what hasn't - in discussing Ezzo material online!
Further reading for today:
Ezzo Week 2010: Along the GFI Way at Tulip Girl (which includes the compelling story of Chewymom - a former GFI Contact Mom)
Gary Ezzo Comes to Tulsa at BatesLine
Is the Babywise Method Right for You? Article published by Cindy Webb in Tulsa Kids magazine in July 2003
photo by CarbonNYC on Flickr