Babywise, our teacher told us, was what Bill Gothard required her to teach. As a practicing midwife she had serious reservations about doing so. She had made an appeal to Mr. Gothard to stop recommending it but he refused. She told us she would teach it out of honor for authority but with her own caveats.

It was the first time I had ever heard anyone stand up against Mr. Gothard’s teachings. You must understand, he taught that to disobey or speak against someone in authority, even if they were wrong or doing evil was a sin, an all-hell-will-break-loose sort of sin. This was a big deal.

Most of our instructor’s midwifery clients were in the Advanced Training Institute (Bill Gothard’s homeschooling program) and she had seen a rash of failure to thrive babies in her practice. She said that the unfortunate reality of having so many babies so close together and homeschooling too was that mom’s just did not have time to care for their infants. She saw baby care being delegated to siblings. She saw baby’s “trained” to sit in isolation most of the day.

Impassioned she taught us how to “cure” a baby who was growing slowly. She said: “Go get a sling, tie the baby to mommy, skin to skin when possible, and tell her to feed on cue twenty-four-seven. Tell them, I don’t care what “that book” or Bill Gothard says, put it out of mind, your baby’s life and well-being depend on it.”

Last night when I pulled Gary Ezzo’s book Babywise off the shelf these memories came to me instantly. It gives me a shiver of “You Go Girl!” delight to remember the stand she took, jeopardizing her whole ministry and livelihood. It is such an inspiration!

My family joined Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute in the late ’80’s. In the mid ’90’s I participated in their Midwifery Training Institute. It was an exciting thing for me even though midwifery was not really my thing. I got to travel to other states and have girlfriends for the first time since we joined ATI. (It was a revelation to me that my friends actually had social networks with parties and sleep overs.)

One of the Basic Life Principles taught at MTI was Mr. Gothard’s Principle of Design. The expanded concept goes like this: everything has a created purpose, when you use things in line with that purpose they work optimally. Not too outrageous really. However, Bill Gothard promoted Babywise because it made having a large closely spaced family more achievable. Since large families were God’s plan, so was Babywise! He argued circularly from his own teachings not from the witness of creation as the Principle of Design calls for. Even a basic knowledge of the female body reveals a design for closeness between mother and baby .

My brave, passionate teacher’s plea against the teachings of Babywise is a moment I look back on as when I began to question the world view I had embraced. Bill Gothard’s clearly illogical application of his own teachings and lack of concern for the harm it caused was, I would like to say, a resounding wake up call. It was more like a pebble hitting a fortress wall but importantly, it was a pebble I heard.

Check out the 7th Annual Ezzo Week 2010 at TulipGirl for in-depth discussion of Gary Ezzo’s teachings from a christian perspective.

This in-depth article is an excellent explanation of Gary Ezzo’s teachings and their ramifications!


About soffiasoul

Woman, wife, mother of daughters, expat, former fundamentalist, reader and bunny-trailer par excellence. I dream of taking women's studies and becoming a women's health nurse, among other things :-)
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15 Responses to All-Hell-Will-Break-Loose

  1. HEvencense says:

    Several years ago Kathleen Terner and Elliot Miller of CRI did an excellent article in the CRI Journal titled “The Cultic Characteristics of Growing Kids God’s Way.” If you’re interested, here’s the link:

    This outfit has numerous problems, dispenses highly questionable parenting and child-rearing advice, and has resulted in more than a few FTT infants in the E.R. Someone once described the “Ezzo approach” to parenting and child-rearing as “an easy way to justify parental self-centeredness and control freak-itis.” Why GKGW has any credibility with anyone anymore is baffling.

  2. He argued circularly from his own teachings not from the witness of creation as the Principle of Design calls for.

    And I don’t suppose he would have considered arguing from, oh, Scripture or anything crazy like that, eh wot?

    Yet as described in the very excellent book A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, he’s not that well-known for interpretations of the Bible that respect the Author’s (and authors’) in-context meanings, or harmonize with the entire thrust of Scripture of Christ’s death, resurrection and Gospel as the fulfillment of the Law, not a means to more of the Law.

    Alas and alack. Such memes are still rampant in the homeschooling world. …

    • soffiasoul says:

      I am sure that he argued from Scripture as well. I can spot proof-texting from a mile now πŸ™‚
      You know, I think that is what breaks my heart the most, is seeing christian leaders and families naively embrace and pass on materials which have proven to produce rotten fruit. We can do better than this!

      • HEvencense says:

        Bill Gothard, et. al., were all the rage in my home church when I was growing up. Everyone in my youth group attended at least one of his seminars. I didn’t. Can’t remember the exact reason, but knowing more about the guy and his teachings, maybe it divine providence/protection. My husband did/has all the IBYC stuff – we profoundly disagree with many (most? all?) of Gothard’s views. So sad to see so many well-meaning Christians buy into this. His hermeneutic is just AWFUL in more than a few spots.

        As homeschoolers of nearly 20 years, we never bought into the Bill Gothard worldview. But we know zillions who have.

        As with the Ezzos and GFI, is this because some Christians are so starved (desperate?) for ANYTHING to help them navigate the cultural morass that they’ll glom onto to whatever has the word “God” or “Christian” or “Bible” attached to it, and chuck discernment right out the window? Remember the Bereans? Are Christians so biblically illiterate these days that they’re straining at gnats while swallowing camels?

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  4. Heather says:

    Sigh…. I bought into the Babywise book, hook line and sinker for my first baby. It was pure frustration. She didn’t cry for the min of 15 minutes like the book said. More like over an hour. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. But dummy me, went against my motherly instincts that God put inside of me.

    My milk dried up around four months. I had to pump *A LOT* (at least once a week for all day long) to get my production back up.

    It was very stressful.

    I remember going to a board that the Maxwell’s owned that promoted baby scheduling and I asked a question about this, and I wasn’t allowed to post it, because it caused to many arguments. Huh??? I didn’t know what to do.

    I finally weaned to a bottle at nine months of age, and finally relaxed and started to enjoy my baby.

    Next baby, I ditched babywise, and asked *GOD* to give me the wisdom I needed. I nursed her for a year. And she didn’t sleep through the night until a year. But at least I wasn’t stressed with that dumb babywise schedule.

    Have you ever heard of “My First 100 Babies”? I think it is supposed to worse than baby wise. It is written by a nanny that put babies on strict schedules. She never had any of her own. I believe it is out of print. I can’t find it. But my sister in law uses it.

  5. soffiasoul says:

    I have heard of “My First 100 Babies”, but I don’t really know anything about it. I am sorry you had such a rough time with your firstborn! I loosely ezzoed my firstborn and never had any milk issues but I greatly regret letting her cry-it-out. She had obstructive sleep apnea, slept poorly and was horribly cranky. If I had parented her to sleep and gone to her in the night I would have known she needed medical attention much sooner. 😦 I just really wanted to do it “right”, you know?
    My second born didn’t cry-it-out until she was a toddler and my third born never has πŸ™‚

  6. Rachel says:

    Hope you don’t mind but I linked to this post on my blog. πŸ™‚

    Awesome insights – I am SO glad your midwifery teacher stood up against Babywise!!

  7. Lois Brown Loar says:

    Fifteen years ago, as a parenting instructor at a Christian maternity home for teens, I was handed a box full of videos from a “wonderful child-rearing couple”…..the Ezzo’s…I had heard the name before, but dutifully took the tapes home to view. ( I was the mother of 10 at that time, so I did have a “bit” of experience in babycare…lol!)

    After the first video, I just cried… could anyone think that this was going to produce functioning, caring adults??

    I took them back to the director, and not only did I tell her I would not in anyway use these videos, but I requested that they be destroyed and why! Thank God, she agreed with me, and at least one set will never again be viewed by an unsuspecting new parent.

  8. HEvencense says:

    Good for you, Lois!

    Some 10-15 years ago, when GFI, the Ezzos, Babywise and “Growing Kids God’s Way” was all the rage in So. California, our church jumped on the Ezzo bandwagon too. We attended a GKGW group exactly thrice before bailing out. What ripped it for us was that no one – and I mean NO ONE – was allowed to question the teaching presented. Participants were expected to swallow everything hook, line, and sinker, like “mind-numbed robots.” We never went back.

    Also, we heard that the 1st Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, where Chuck Swindoll pastored for many years, refused to allow GFI material in any of its classrooms. Members were free to use Ezzo stuff privately, but the church refused to use, condone or endorse ANY Ezzo materials. God bless’ em.

  9. Big Sister of 10 Kids says:

    I am the oldest of 10 kids. I have seen the full spectrum in child training. I was born before my parents were Christians, so I was raised in the best way my young, inexperienced, “secular” mother knew how… by following her mothering instincts. Breastfed “On Demand”. My parents and I became believers when I was about 5. When I was about eight, my parents met an ATI family, went to a “Basic” Seminar, and slowly, incrementally, were sucked in to the whole Gothard culture. We joined ATI and went to our first big convention when I was 12, and baby # 5 was only a few months old. Of course, they were easy prey for these cultists who promise that your kids will turn out wonderful and godly if only you do what they say. They really wanted what was best for us. However, starting with my second brother (born when I was 8) they had been given the book “My First 300 Babies” and they put him on a strict schedule. This brother is what would be classified by “Attachment Parenting” enthusiasts (of which I am one!) as a “High Needs Child”. But instead of embracing who he was, learning to meet his unique needs, he was forced to conform to a schedule someone else came up with, and had to learn to sleep through the night when he was only 6 months old. Of course, this was a relief to my parents, who were sleep deprived since he was in a crib in a separate room, instead of making nursing convenient and easy during the night. The sad thing, as I now realize, is that my brother lost trust in them. He grew to resent them. This may seem amazing, considering how young he was… but it is true. Even at the church nursery, the workers commented on how “uptight” he was, and that he cried a lot and seemed upset, he was NOT a happy baby. “What is wrong with this kid?” they asked. They didn’t realize that there was NOTHING wrong with my brother… the problem was with the system which did NOT match his personality, which he was forced to conform to. And this definitely carried over to his growing up… he was never close with either of my parents growing up, was always a “rebellious” and “willful” child, they tried lots of spankings to break his will, but only succeeded in making him more angry. He got into trouble and started making bad decisions very young, sexually abusing a little girl when he was only 12. Of course we didn’t find that out until much later. He was so depressed and angry he was suicidal, at 13 years of age. But there was little grace extended. Even when my father tried hard to “tie strings” (Pearl lingo for creating memories and building a relationship) it rarely lasted since my brother so strongly distrusted my parents, and felt threatened by their devotion to IBLP. He felt that they valued their “standards” more than they did him, as a person. He was always an independent, creative individual. Later in his teens he competely rebelled, stopped even pretending to be a Christian (really I can’t blame him, considering how God and the Bible were used as a weapon against him for so long…) I still remember when he got in trouble for listening to some contemporary Christian music. With the horrible heavy metal death rock he listens to nowadays, I bet my parents wish they hadn’t been so hard on the CCM. He eventually made some really bad choices, ran afoul of the law, and spent over a year in jail. He’s still on probation. Thankfully, my parents have recognized that they have made grievous mistakes in how they raised him, and have asked his forgiveness and are working on trying to build a respectful relationship with him as an adult. My parents are no longer in IBLP, but unfortunately they still do not realize the danger of the graceless, power-based parenting techniques they have been using for over 25 years. I am praying for them, and praying that God will continue to open their eyes… as they still have the youngest six children at home. The other older children have also all had various severe problems… but my brother’s story is particularly powerful, I think, in that I have recently realized how the very early “child training” started everyone down the wrong path which led to disaster. The interesting thing is, I am the only one so far who has turned out well, as a healthy, happy, well-balanced adult… and I am the one who was “demand-fed” and mothered by instinct! I think it helps that I had a good secure, happy childhood “under my belt” before my parents got sucked into ATI! So even when I did not like or agree with some of their decisions, I loved them and respected them enough to try to please them!

    • soffiasoul says:

      Well, I have really let this go for too long πŸ™‚ I apologize for not responding! Your story is so familiar to me. I think it is interesting that we are both the oldest and were raised in our earliest days with a nurturing, instinctual attachment style. My parents really did want what was best for us but they gradually became so much different than they were when they started out. It breaks my heart to hear about kids like your brother who was clearly struggling with something bigger than he could handle. I suffered greatly from depression at that age too and escaped being beaten for it because I was the firstborn (they were still new to the concepts) and a girl. My third born sibling did not escape physical punishment as a teen and all the others younger than him were spanked daily from toddlerhood. Only two of my younger siblings claim faith and while my parents are no longer in ATIA it has hardend into shell of rules minus the tempering of a living relationship or the complexity of the scriptures. I am encouraged though that everyone in their own way is seeking health and wholeness. I think we will get there eventually.
      Thank you for sharing your story. I am curious, are you writing about it on a blog or a discussion board? I would love to hear more πŸ˜€

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