Monday, May 23, 2011

Babywise is Not the Bible. Parenting by the Law or by the Spirit?


If you are just now joining us for the Why I'm Not Babywise Series, Welcome! Please take some time to read the previous posts, especially my Intro/Disclaimer so you can read the rest of the posts in context. I am seeking to be very sensitive to my readers who may implement Babywise. I pray we can all show one another grace as we seek to parent all of our babies in the way God leads us. I invite considerate comments, whether you agree or disagree. 

"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Matthew 15:8-9
"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law... If we live by the Spirit let us also walk by the Spirit". Galations 5:18, 25 
  Romans 8:1-17 is a beautiful passage on living by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit. 

As I think back through my thoughts and feelings towards Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way, or really any Christian baby training book, I think what really bothers me is that they seem to be teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Obviously there are many different opinions about parenting out there, especially parenting a baby, and the bible doesn't speak to every little issue, but sometimes you begin to think that it does as you read through some of these books. Some of them even twist Scripture to support their theories and methods.  Just in case you were wondering, the bible doesn't tell you that you have to make your baby cry-it-out or that you are an awful parent if you hold your baby all day. The bible doesn't tell you not to rock or nurse your baby to sleep. The bible doesn't tell you to feed your baby every 3-4 hours and to make them stay awake for an hour and a half to get them on a good schedule. Just in case you were wondering.... :)

I believe that since the bible doesn't speak to many of these parenting issues that there is much freedom to find what works best for each individual family and baby.  For one family, co-sleeing might be the best thing for their family and the best for their bonding.  For another family, they might all sleep better in different rooms and so this might be best for the bonding and relationship. No author can tell you exactly what your family needs, and that is what it seems Ezzo is doing, at least in my humble opinion.  As I read Babywise and other GKI material, I felt like he was turning his methods into doctrines. Babywise almost reads like a set of rules that must be obeyed and followed, with no room for flexibility or the freedom to do things differently.

Babywise (and other baby training books) remind me of the Law (first 5 books of the OT).

(let me just say I love the WHOLE COUNSEL of Scripture and I read the Old Testament and I study the Old Testament and I love the Old Testament. I do not fully understand how the law and grace work together but Romans and Galations are a good place to start reading about this. I do know that we are no longer under the law, but we are under grace. Christ came and perfectly obeyed the law because we couldn't. We are now led by the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us)

So, like I said, Babywise reminds me of the Law. You feel like you have to obey all of it or you have failed as a mother, just as we should rightly feel that we have failed if we do not obey the Law (we can't fully obey the Law and that is why Christ came). Christ came to set us free from the Law, and also our guilt and shame and fear of disobeying the law. He came to show us a different way: a way of grace and being led by the Spirit.

Babywise says this is the way to do it. If you don't do it this way your kids will turn out like this= see baby Marissa. If you do follow Babywise your kids will turn out like this =angel child Chelsea. With this  type of thinking it can lead to much pride or much guilt and sense of failure. If you faithfully follow Babywise and your kids turn out great you may be tempted to think that it is because of your parenting. If you desire to follow Babywise but fail at implementing all of Ezzo's methods, and your kids are brats you might be tempted to feel like it is your fault and feel guilty. While it is obvious that our parenting does effect our kids, it cannot control our kids or guarantee outcomes. This is true no matter what parenting style you follow.

Ezzo turns his methods into doctrines and commandments, and wonderful mothers feel guilty if they don't follow them. They might feel pressure from Ezzo, other moms, or put pressure on themselves. You do not have to answer to Gary Ezzo or anyone else. You do have to answer to God. You don't need Babywise, you need the Holy Spirit. I could just as easily feel like that if I do not practice all of the Baby B's of attachment parenting that I have failed as a mother and that my child will suffer because of it. Although I think all of the Baby B's are amazing tools to have in my parenting tool kit, I ultimately must make my parenting decisions based on the Lord's leading and the Holy Spirit.

Let the Holy Spirit lead you, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Gary Ezzo does not know your individual child. Neither does Dr. Sears for that matter (I do love him though, and love that he gives suggestions, not rules). But God not only knows your child, but created your child and knows your child better than you even do. Doesn't it make more sense to rely on the God who created your child for the answers than to look to a book written by a man that doesn't even know your child exists?

I know it is much easier to follow rules and methods than to be led by the Spirit. I am a rule follower. I love to follow rules. I love black and white and have a hard time finding the gray. I struggle with giving myself freedom in my walk with God. I struggle with elevating my convictions to the level of the Bible. I definitely understand why Babywise and other baby training books are attractive. It seems easier to follow rules and methods that claim to have proven immediate results. But is this the best way to parent? Wouldn't we all rather be led by the Spirit and depend on God for the answers? This may mean what you are led to do for your baby one day may be different the next, one season of parenting may look different than the next, and so on and so forth.

Although attachment parenting isn't about rules and methods, but rather about an ideology and suggestions for bonding, I still struggled to be as AP as I possibly could be in the beginning. I felt like I had to do all of the Baby B's all of the time. I felt like I had to babywear x hours a day or I wasn't a good mom. I felt like I had to breastfeed x times a day or that I wasn't AP enough. I felt like I was failing as an attachment parenting mom when we moved baby girl out of our room at 6 months old. Finally I realized that what was best for me was to be led by the Spirit day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  I believe this is best for everyone, no matter what parenting style you lean towards or ascribe to.

So, my challenge for the Babywise moms, the AP moms, and everyone in between is to follow the Spirit's leading as you parent every day. Be led by the Spirit, not by the law. Parent by the Spirit, not by the methods and doctrines of men.

A blogger I follow has written an ebook of sorts on her blog called "As He Leads Us" dealing with this very issue of being led by God in our parenting. You can read it here.


  1. I have really appreciated your insights in these babywise posts. It seems that each 'side' tends to be very polarized, "this is right and the only way," but I what I especially hate about Babywise is that it essentially says "This is the CHRISTIAN way to do things. If you are AP, you are a bad parent. Oh, and probably a bad Christian too." Grr.
    I have been thinking about how God deals with us, and I think it is obvious in the Bible and through experience that he deals with each of us differently based on what we need and on how we will respond best. He even deals with us differently depending on the time and circumstance. I think that's a great model to follow for earthly parents as well!

  2. i have read baby wise and I believe that some of the ideas that it gave me for my newborn have helped me to overcome some problems that I had the first time around, however I have always known that God is the first source and do not follow any teaching of anyone including my pastor and also the pediatritian unless I study it and confirm that it is a good, biblical or in the case of health, beneficial with no side affects etc. I have also read parenting by the spirit by sally Hornburger her books also gave some important to me ideas on child rearing. I am a follower of Christ if we all get busy following Him He will instruct us in what is best for our children. the book I mentioned talks a lot about having a relationship with God and how this is essential for doing the right thing for your kids! parents, spouse coworkers (it applies to every one. Parenting is a school we will only fail if God is not the instructor. God bless you all!