Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Truth About Child Centred Parenting

It's strange that Gary Ezzo criticizes child - centred parenting as being a dangerous thing for marriage.
Doesn't parenting by definition centre around a child?

Certainly nobody wants to spoil a child by giving them everything they want, but we must remember his book Babywise is about traing newborn infants, who clearly DO require a lot of time and energy for the first while.

With a profound fear of children ruining parents lives,  Babywise  author Gary Ezzo uses two fictional characters, Chelsea and Marissa, to portray what he sees as the two main types of parenting philosophies and their results.

Chelsea's family follows Ezzo's Infant Management System.
According to Ezzo's fictional description, Chelsea's parents:

-welcome children into the family

- are committed to each other. Every day Chelsea observes her mom and dad relating to one another, confirming their love relationship in the way they talk together, spend time together, and touch.

- work to integrate Chelsea into the existing family structure, so that she learns from the start that giving is equally as important as receiving. She is a joy to have around. She understands she is a member of a family team. She has a sense of belonging and purpose for her life.

- spend many hours each day loving and nurturing her

- they understand that virtues must be nurtured into her tiny heart

- their “we-ism” approach teaches Chelsea to foster close and loving relationships which endure the test of time.

- they govern and monitor her until she bears the self-control and moral awareness needed to govern herself. Freedoms come gradually so Chelsea achieves a sense of affirmation with herself. Those around her find joy in her presence, further enhancing her well-being.

- Understand that wisdom, self-control and experiences earned over time must be trained into a child as prerequisites for building friendship. A beautiful friendship will begin to blossom by the end of Chelsea’s teen years.

- set the pace in Chelsea’s life and insist on compliance, giving her a sense that she belongs to something bigger than herself. She belongs to a family with predetermined guidelines and established order that gives family relationships meaning and purpose.

 Marisa's parents practice Attachment-Style Parenting (AP)
In Ezzo's fictional portrayal, Attachment-style parents:

- treat children as center of the family universe.

- When a child enters a family [parents] leave their first love: each other. The spotlight shifts to illuminate the children, and the marriage gets lost in space.

- Pursue the child’s happiness, taking great pains to avoid distress of emotional discomfort in the child’s life.

- Never make her wait for anything. If she wants something, it is given to her on demand.

- Never have an evening out alone together because babysitters make Marisa nervous.

- Cater to her likes and dislikes, stocking their shelves with foods the child prefers.

- [are]unaware of the disabling impact their attitude has on their daughter. Instead of building Marisa into a self-assured adult, they are fostering the emotionally crippling attitude of me-ism. Her self-centered feeling will carry over into every relationship. Other people will not matter to her. She will be ill-prepared for the give-and-take necessary for any healthy, enduring relationship. Given her demeanor, no one may care to help her at all. Her life will be shaped by an endless string of frustrating circumstances.

- Strive for buddy status and yearn for friendship elevating Marisa to the level of peer because “they pondered a considerable lack of friendship with their own parents.” They reduce the parental role to the child’s level or raise the child to the status of peer.

Since both of Gary Ezzo's conclusions come from fictional characters, this blogger also has her own conclusions regarding the ill effects of an Infant Management System on the family:

From Day One Chelsea's well-intentioned parents "trained" her in what they thought was the "skill of sleep." By ignoring her cries, Chelsea learned crying was useless, so she gave up. She now sleeps long stretches in order to cope with feelings of hopelessness and despair, from never knowing when or if her parents would come when she cried. She feels secure in her bed, the one consistent thing in her life. Her parents are proud, being told that this is the result of "right parenting." 

The problem is that now she won't sleep anywhere else. Not in her car seat on long drives, not in a hotel, and not at Grandma's house. Chelsea's mother must schedule her entire day around Chelsea's napping and feeding schedule, or deal with a tired, screaming baby in public. Welcome to the circus. Chelsea ruined their attempt at a family camping trip because she was inconsolable when they tried to get her to sleep in the tent.

Because Marisa's security is in trusting her mother to meet her needs, she is content to sleep anywhere. Marisa's mom is free to visit friends, or hang out all day at the art gallery with Marisa sleeping contentedly in a carrier, or go on a train trip. She doesn't have to be home for Marisa's sake. When she want to nurse, Marisa signals, her mother responds. At night, she nurses once or twice but since she sleeps next to her mother, nobody gets out of bed. Marisa's father doesn't even notice when the baby nurses and they've all enjoyed restful nights from Marisa's first week of life. Everyone wins.

Marisa thrives on the routine and  what is predictable in her life. When she is hungry, her mother feeds her, when she is tired, she sleeps, knowing all is well in her world. Throughout the day she learns about life from her favorite spot on mom's hip, watching everything her mother does. She hears her mother's conversations. She watches her chop vegetables for dinner and when Daddy comes home, they share a group hug.  Her world is interesting and she is content. Trusting and secure in her mother's doting affection and nearly constant presence, Marisa is ready to explore her world.

Chelsea's world is not so secure. Chelsea's mother places her in the crib and walks away. She spends many hours a day in loneliness and isolation. Sometimes when Chelsea cries, her mother comes, sometimes she doesn't. Chelsea is confused by this because she doesn't know that mom's responds according to the time on a clock. While Marisa is happily watching her mother peel carrots from her carrier, Chelsea's day is spent on short, timed teaching sessions such as "blanket training" and "room training" and "playpen time." Even her "Mommy-and-me" time is cut short by the timer.

Chelsea's mother discovered she was expecting another baby much sooner than they had hoped.  She was a little worried, after all, she had just managed to get Chelsea sleeping through the night and was finally starting to feel better, no longer getting out of her warm bed at night.

Nobody was getting out of bed during the night at Marisa's house either. Marisa always slept close to her mother at night. Because he was gone all day, Marisa's daddy appreciated having both his wife and child close at night. Marisa's continued night nursing had protected her mom from another pregnancy the natural way. Marisa's mom remained infertile for over 14 months, the average for North American women who nurse on demand.

Marisa's mother is always full of energy, and takes her baby everywhere she goes. The more she nurses her baby, the more her body releases prolactin, the mothering hormone, making her feel so much more patient, calm, and loving toward her baby daughter than she otherwise would. What a wonderful natural system for making infant care feel less burdensome and more rewarding!

Marisa's dad is so proud of his family. His intimate times with his wife are more exciting than ever! With Marisa to consider, their lovemaking happens in different places and times than before, keeping it always fresh and interesting! When he goes to sleep at night, Marisa's father loves to put his protective arm around both his wife and his baby, feeling all is right in his world, too.

Chelsea's mom didn't realize until they had houseguests that Chelsea was not actually sleeping all night. The overnight guests reported that Chelsea's crying woke them twice. Chelsea's mom found it hard to believe because they never hear her cry at night. Chelsea's parents had simply trained their ears not to listen any more, in the same way people  can tune out a chiming clock, or the sound of passing trains.

When  Marisa reaches her difficult teen years, all the hard work of the early years have paid off! Marisa has a close connection with her parents and security in their unconditional love. She trusts that they accept her no matter what and that solid foundation is what gives her strength to make good decisions. She's not tempted by illicit drugs or alcohol because she would never want to hurt her parents.

When Chelsea is in her teens she understands that her parents' approval is based upon her performance and compliance. Never having been allowed the simplest of choices, she easily falls prey to her peers when they pressure her to use drugs. She doesn't think about her parents - they'll never find out.

Chelsea's parents are worried about their daughter, and waiting for the late teens when a budding friendship will blossom. (BW page 26)
Marisa and her parents have enjoyed buddy status since she was tiny. (pg 25)


  1. I was actually at a "dinner party" at the home of ardent Babywise supporters and had to sit through their 13 month old daughter crying for 20 minutes--with no apparent recognition from either parent. Then after the 12 month old daughter of the other couple there laughed quite loudly, the "sleeping" child started screaming--which was met with one of the host parents saying "oh my, your daughter woke our daughter up." ??????

    I seriously think they didn't hear her, even though they were awake! They proceeded to let her scream for 20 more minutes while we finished dinner--very awkwardly of course. We then moved into the livingroom, where the screaming could be heard louder, and the host parents had a huddled "conference" to discuss whether it would be okay to break routine and let their daughter get out of bed to play with my daughter (who was 11 months old at the time) and the other little girl. Fortunately they did decide to get her up, much to our relief.

    This dinner party was an event with our Sunday School class where groups of couples were assigned to have dinner together. When our particular 3 couples were matched up, the other guest couple and my husband and I thought it was great that our so closely spaced daughters could play together, so I know my husband and I did think it odd when the host couple asked if it would be okay if we arrived at 7 p.m. I guess it never occurred to them that including their daughter in the dinner party would enhance it? They seemed shocked and totally unprepared when we arrived with our daughters, and had to scramble to make seating arrangments for them at the dining table.