So the hubs and I attended a 17 week long Christian parenting course called Growing Kids God’s Way, tailored for parents of children aged between 3-10 years old.
It was certainly a long commitment, but even more so for the couple (our friends from a sister church) who were voluntarily running it for the third time.
So what did we learn from it?
Having made the time investment (the course also costs about $160 per couple for original study materials and a DVD that is shared and screened weekly), thought it’d be good to share some of our main takeaways here.
Reading the points here will of course be very different from going through the entire course yourself, but I thought it’d be helpful to provide a balanced and independent view here, especially for those who are considering whether to go for the course.
For a start, here are the chapters covered. As you can see, the breadth is pretty wide.
Before I go further, I’ll have to acknowledge that there are serious detractors of this course and the founders of it. Google ‘Ezzo controversy’ and you will find some sites that are really unhappy with the Ezzos, mainly about their course on bringing up babies (Along the Infant Way), and on how they manage the financial side of this course.
Personally, I have also read that book and decided that as with every infant parenting method, parents just have to apply it with a massive dose of common sense and parental gut instinct. For instance, I personally don’t subscribe to any strict form of training my kid to self-soothe or to cry themselves to sleep. But different strokes for different folks, and some babies really do take well to sleep training, which is a definite boon to their parents.
And there are other sites who say rather damaging things about the Ezzos and their family, but after some queries to folks in Singapore who know the Ezzos personally and have visited them, it turned out that these assertions were not true. Guess no one is immune to a smear campaign.
But anyway, this post is about Growing Kids God’s Way, and what I’ve written here is also in part as a reminder to self.
Overall, I found the course very practical and sufficiently biblically based. The biblical foundation came through more evidently in the later parts of the course, so the hubs’ main gripe was that references to Scripture should be more pervasive and clearly linked to every chapter at the start.
The Ezzos are clear when they teach that some methods and principles are their recommendations, borne out of experience and arising from their cultural background. Thus they make it clear that these are not biblical mandates.
From the introduction to the book, here are some helpful excerpts of their position:
It is the authors’ conviction that the duty, hope and goal of every Christian parent is to raise a morally responsible child who come to salvation in Jesus Christ, whose life is governed by the precepts of Christ, and whose life reflects the love of Christ.
It is eternally important that you make sure it is not just head knowledge and intellectual assent your son or daughter has given to the Lord.
Biblical theology must express itself in practice. Over and over again, we stress the primary consideration in early parenting is the child’s heart and not simply outward behaviour.
Biblical principles (that comprise the way of the Lord) are divine, most application of biblical principle are of human origin. While application may vary from child to child, family to family, even culture to culture, God’s moral precepts do not change, because there is no variance in His character.
So I will share on the aspects that helped us the most, including some points that are my own reflections as I went along this course.
- Our kids need to know why to do right – by age 3, parental instruction should be more characterised by giving moral and biblical reasons.
- It is the parents’ key responsibility to teach their children right from wrong, and to love God with all their heart. (Deut 6:7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children…”)
- We should love them, encourage them, live out these standards for them, these standards of God’s requirements of honesty, integrity, kindness.
- Legalism elevates human condition over biblical truth. Be constantly on your guard against having outwardly obedient children, whose hearts are full of resentment and rebellion. Once they can flee, they will abandon all you have tried to teach them, because you have not lived out grace but legalism.
- Do not train the child to the letter of the law, out of fear, to obey the parent’s word alone. Train the child to respond to God’s Word of grace. Admit our own shortcomings, and need of grace. Show them the beauty of God’s grace, that even parents need each day.
- To understand grace, children must understand biblical justice and the righteousness of God, tempered by His mercy (unmeted punishment that we rightfully deserve), and outpouring of grace (undeserved abundant favour beyond what we could ask for or imagine).
- Inculcate a love of virtue, not a fear of reproof.
- The quality of the parent-child relationship is predicated on the husband-wife relationship because it builds upon that.
- When the child detects strain/tension in marriage relationship, it creates low level anxiety that restricts development and learning. Child tends to act up.
- Love your child with his/her unique love language.
- Fathers must give their kids the freedom to fail, and be the encourager of the family.
- Getting a note in the school bag from dad is different from getting one from mum.
- When fathers fail to communicate love to their children, they will seek it from other unwholesome sources.
- Gospel truth – God’s absolute law according to His moral law that He has prescribed for the world to function the way He designed.
- Be aware of why your child is ‘doing the right thing’ – is it because he/she is seeking approval? This will show up in the teen years.
- In the teen years, it is less your authority, and more of your influence that will guide your children. Build up this influence by nurturing a strong and close relationship in their early years.
- Receiving expensive items often without working for it is not healthy for a child.
- Children who do chores are investing in their family.
- Teach them the value of labour and what it means to work (A ‘holiday project’ of hard work – e.g. weeding the garden, clearing out / tidying the storeroom /doing something physically laborious (that is not their usual allocated weekly chore) in return for payment.)
- Be consistent in discipline.
- Do not bribe a child in return for obedience and good behaviour.
- Effective discipline requires a combination of giving them enough attention on a daily basis, enough firmness in disciplining, enough time taken to understand what they are going through, from their perspective.
- Do not give a child more freedom than he can cope with at his age, to make decisions that he is not mature enough to evaluate responsibly.
- Discipline is actually discipling. We are to make disciples of our children.
- Again, we are to live to the standard of our own instructions – children will observe how valid the law is, in the lives of those who are instructing them.
- As often as possible, use positive words to encourage instead of negative words to restrain a child.
- Sometimes, when you and the child are having a particularly bad day, just hug the child tight to reassure them, and rebuild the bond first. Try to praise them for one good thing they did that day.
- Discern between childish behaviour (accidentally spilling water – excusable with gentle admonishment) and foolish behaviour (wilful defiance to parent/deliberate hurt of a friend after warning – requires discipline and correction, sometimes via consequential punishment).
- As far as possible, punishment should relate to the offence. Restoration of damaged property by working to repay, removal of privileges (if watched TV far beyond allowed time, removal of TV privileges for a season).
- When deciding on whether to punish, parents should consider the age of the child, frequency of this behaviour, context of the offence, and overall characterisation of a child’s behaviour.
- Discipline is the fast track to learning. It is a form of immunisation that protects a child from potentially deadly consequences – the devastating results of future foolish decisions.
- Objective punishment – child must be clear of when he would be deemed to have crossed the line. Punishment should not be subjective, emotional, unpredictable and out of sudden anger.
- Do not attack a child’s human dignity through improper parenting – belitting a child in front of others, screaming or humiliating a child by calling him/her names.
- Before punishing a child, make sure you establish the child’s guilt (instead of wrongly disciplining him/her). Have the child accept responsibility for his actions. After punishing the child, have a time of restoration. Place the child on your lap, speak gently but firmly and pray with him as necessary. Without restoration, correction is incomplete.
- Teach a child that whining is an unacceptable form of communication. “I cannot understand you when you speak like that. Please use your normal voice and say it again.”
- Know the difference between a tantrum (eyes open, challenging the parent – do not engage the child; ignore, because a tantrum needs an audience to work) and a meltdown (eyes shut tight, out of control screaming – hold the child till he/her calms down. Bring the child out of sight, away from the area of conflict if possible.)
- Do not let children get away with rudeness, etc, by saying “I was only joking.” Some kids like to use that escape clause.
- Every wise parent knows that “we are not your friends, we are your parents”. The beauty of this is, once they reach adulthood, and are your moral peer, your children can be your best friends.
- Start them young with clear, defined boundaries built on biblical principles, which matures into responsible self-initiated commendable behaviour, which leads to freedom in living a life holy and acceptable to God.
- The result of proper parenting – the child knows that his behaviour doesn’t just represent his self, or his family, but God’s family.
- The goal of Christian parenting is to have our children, our families, point the world to our Lord.
There you have it! We are all works in progress, and even after attending this course, we forget and lapse in our parenting pretty often. Let’s spur one another on, and encourage each other, for it does take a village to raise a child.