September 9, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries
Last night, a reader brought up the subject of what Sovereign Grace Ministries teaches about parenting. After I wrote the following response, I realized that this might be a good topic to address in its own article. So here’s what I originally posted as a comment:
We’ve gotten on the subject of SGM’s parenting teachings/philosophies many times, but unfortunately, I couldn’t point you to a single post where it’s all in one place. Instead, the conversations are scattered about.
I can’t quote specific dates and handouts, but I do know that SGM’s emphases with respect to parenting have shifted and changed over the years. I’d say that the mid-to-late 1990s were probably the high point for the real push for parental control. It had been building for years, with the push for children to display instant and cheerful first-time obedience, to ALL adults…regimented amounts of control over feedings…the notion that even newborns will display their sin nature through “crying for no apparent reason”…the idea that holding your child and responding to his cries too much might indulge him and make him self-centered and disobedient…the requirement that ALL children, even toddlers, look adults in the eye and greet them by name…the notion that “the rod” is the only “truly biblical” tool for correction…and the relentless beatings (with glue sticks, the kind that people use in large hot-glue guns, because those glue sticks really sting but don’t leave bruises)…
These are just some of the principles that PDI’s parenting classes advocated.
By the late 90s to the early 2000s, concerns about some of the Ezzo parenting teachings were bubbling, and the book Babywise (as well as the Growing Kids God’s Way materials) were quietly removed from CLC’s bookstore. [EDITED TO ADD: I have to go through some of my old archived emails, as I think I recall that someone wrote me some time ago to say that CLC’s bookstore never actually sold Ezzo’s materials but instead borrowed from them and recommended them unofficially.] Over the past decade or so – especially as SGM has expanded as an organization and has been the recipient of more attention from the mainstream, particularly the more mainstream “Reformed Big Dogs – the really Draconian parenting classes (what is taught formally, officially, and openly) have been toned down, especially at Covenant Life Church. (Some parenting classes advocating what are essentially Ezzo’s methods are still being offered at other SGM churches, though. Recently, a reader emailed me PDFs of handouts from a parenting course that was presented within just the past few months, and those handouts advocated parent-directed feedings for infants, as well as the importance of the use of a “rod.”)
Anyway, I know that some readers who used SGM’s (PDI’s) parenting teachings a decade or two ago have spoken of them positively, as helpful tools to assist them in navigating unfamiliar territory. Some folks feel that these teachings empowered them to do a much better job as parents.
But others have spoken with real grief about their regrets over their harshness, their quickness to spank, and how they forced themselves to override their natural parenting instincts because of peer pressure and the fear that their children’s “bad” (normal, childlike) behavior would reflect poorly on them.
I think it’d be interesting to hear from folks who remember what PDI/SGM taught (or teaches) about parenting. Have there been changes over the years? And what does SGM teach about parenting these days?