Friday, February 20, 2009

A little clarification:

Thanks, J. for your response - you're brave to read all that! And I appreciate your honest response.

First I'll say that I did try to give a positive depiction of AP by describing it initially as its supporters have described it to me. And I do think I spent quite a bit of time describing my own position and why I hold it. I just think when you read my post, the negatives of AP jumped out at you.

I'm not proposing the Ezzos' philosophy, and I'm especially not advocating their feeding techniques, which I think I made pretty clear.

I do take exception to your description of AP as being "not child-centered." I do not see how it can be otherwise. The whole method seems to me to focus on the child, on the mother's attending to the child. And where is the father in all this? Where is the marriage? From reading material yesterday on one of Sears's sites, all I read were the frustrations of "mom" with "dad" about he just doesn't "get" the child-raising thing.

And nice as all the long quotes from Sears are, they don't prove anything to me except that the man writes well. Frankly, I'd really like to know where he's coming from theologically before I trust him. What understanding of God, and of who exactly we humans are in relationship to Him, does Sears have? Before I start using his methods to develop the child God has given me, I want to know if he has a godly understanding of who my child is. And this is not an attack on Dr. Sears; he may be a fine, Christian man. I tried to find out, and found nothing. I would use this evaluation on anyone before I adopted their advice.

Although the parents I was describing may not have known about AP, or knowingly practiced all its detailed methods, I do think they have subscribed to its underlying philosophy. When I got done with all the thinking and typing last night, I talked with Julia. She asked what I'd been doing. I told her I was thinking about and writing about parenting philosophies. She told me she was "all ears" and wanted to know what I thought. I described to her the practices of AP, and she said, "Do you mean all those spoiled kids in my class at school?" It was the first logical connection she made also.

On another vein: How far can we take our comparison of ourselves to God, as parents? Are there any ways that God parents, that we shouldn't? I think there are. There are things that God can tell to his children, that we simply can't. Here are a few:

"I'll never leave you. I'll always be here for you."
"I'll protect you from everything. Nothing will hurt you."
"I'll always provide for you - you'll never be in need of anything."
"I won't let you be sick - everything will be okay."

Now, we've all heard foolish parents say things like this to their child. These are lies when they are said by human parents. I can't promise those things. They may comfort a child in the short term, but leave them devastated in the long term. I'm harming my child by promising things I can't do long term.

I shouldn't promise them with words, or with actions.

I do feel that many AP practices come close to doing this, and may well have this effect on the child. When does one stop demand-feeding? Co-sleeping? Hauling the child around on the hip? Does one assume that the child will always, on his own, separate himself?

I know of kids who don't, and of parents who allow it.

Well - I'm late for work, and need to go. These are just thoughts. But fundamentally, I do see AP as a child-centered philosophy, and I know absolutely that this is usually disastrous for children. I also want to know what the Biblical foundations are for AP. I haven't heard that yet - and I don't mean accidental parallels; I mean deliberate grounding in Biblical thought. Is it there?


  1. I wouldn't say that all AP concepts are necessarily Biblically grounded, as there are MANY proponents of AP and some have differing perspectives and differing practices. However I think that many, if not most, concepts from most AP people are Biblically grounded. I prefer the term "grace-based parenting," myself, as it incorporates many healthy AP practices but does so built on a foundation of seeking to emulate the best Parent of all. Here are some Scriptures and concepts that are based on Scripture and that can be found in AP and grace-based parenting philosophies:

    1. Using the breasts for comfort and emotional health, not just physical health. Isaiah 66:10-12 (Schedule feeding does not allow for this healthy and good component of breast-feeding).

    2. The ideal is to be gentle, not harsh, with our little ones (infant through preschool age is the age being referenced here), teaching boundaries in ways that are tender: 1 Thessalonians 2:7

    3. Considering the way that God deals with us and parenting accordingly: He does not shame us, does not belittle us, He does not condemn us (Romans 8:1). When He disciplines us, there is no, "How could you do that?" or "What were you thinking?" or "What's wrong with you?" kind of stuff going on.

    He is 100% on our side, not adversarial, whereas many non-AP books promote an adversarial mindset between parent and child: "The baby is out to get you, so watch out. He's a little tyrant..." and this sets up a war zone instead of a TEAM effort.

    4. Family bed or no family bed is somewhat moot, as not all grace-based parents choose to do a family bed. The key point is that grace-based parents realize that touch is very important, is something that our current culture leaves out of parenting (especially as the kids leave infancy) and work to find ways where touch can continue to be an important means of nurturing our kids. (The benefits of human touch are demonstrated in numerous studies). Wearing baby, cuddling the toddler, snuggling with the preschoolers, hugging the teenagers often, etc, are all ways we can accomplish this, but there is no "one right way."

    5. Grace-based parenting is not the same thing as permissive parenting. Grace-based parenting is not the same thing as permissive parenting. Grace-based parenting is not the same thing as permissive parenting.


    I thought the same thing myself and used to write scathing posts against those permissive grace-based parents. Now I am more in that camp than in any other one. Ha. Served me right... *smiles*
    I write about how that happened here (scroll down the sidebar on the right hand side for the link):

    6. God parents us according to where we are at developmentally.

    A lot of non-AP books assume a higher developmental level than a infant/child's brain is actually at. This is where some of the adversarial mindset comes in, with the assumptions that the infant is crying in bed in order to "manipulate" the parent, when in actuality, studies have proven that the infant doesn't even know what the heck that means, much less what a "parent" is, much less that his hand is a part of his own body. Literally.

    (Ie, We assume evil intent because we know that if we, as adults, did it, we would have evil intent).

    This is probably the saddest part of anti-AP parenting techniques. I think that most of these parents mean well, but they do not parent in ways that are appropriate to the child's brain development becasue they assume he/she is more advanced than he really is. God does not do this to us---He knows our frame, and He knows our ability, and parents accordingly. (1 Cor. 10:13, Psalm 103:14)

    7. Grace-based parenting advances a mindset that calls a parent to use his/her strength for the benefit of the child, not the other way around.

    This is not the same thing as permissive (it is actually opposed to permissive parenting, because permissive parenting is NOT in the best interest of the child, but it is also opposed to authoritarian parenting, because that, too, is not in the best interest of the child). Grace-based parenting seeks to find gentle respectful ways to lay clear cut boundaries for the child's benefit.

    Authority is used for serving. But in many authoritarian homes, authority is seen as an end to itself, instead of learning the way that Christians are called to use their authority. We are to use our power to serve, not to be served. (Luke 22:24-26, Mark 10:42-45)

    8. Grace-based parenting is a way of parenting where parent and child are on the same team, allies, instead of adversaries.
    This was a great post along those lines:

    I could go on, but perhaps you are getting the drift...or are getting bored! lol... :) Bottom line, we are seeking to parent in the footsteps of the best Parent of all. He doesn't always get perfect kids, as evidenced by Adam and Eve, so neither will we, but we STILL do know He's the best Parent around.

    If our parenting practices are contrary to His (ie, if we are shaming our kids, condemning our kids, treating them as adversaries), we know that the problem is with *us*, not Him.

    As evidenced by Christ, our Parent finds ways to come alongside us, to empower us with His strength (in non-condemning ways, no less!) to obey when we struggle to find the strength to do so, etc. He leads with lovingkindness, He is full of grace.

    As parents, we seek to emulate Him and to lead our children to Him, since (of course!) there's no way that we can do as great of a job as He does. He's the focus point of it all. It's not parent-centered, it's not child-centered. It's Jesus-centered.


  2. Well, MK, we're just going to have to agree to disagree. You don't see AP the way I do. You see a caricature. I will say again, you probably don't know that many AP families; and I highly doubt that the spoiled students are from AP families. So its unfair for you to dump them all together.

    Look, you're my friend and I know that you are kind of a straightforward person and don't mind speaking your mind. I love that about you. But I also think its unfair for you to write a post about parenting philosophy and demean the opposite philosophy by name as a part of it. Because this a somewhat public place. Personally, I think Ezzo is vile. But I don't want to dishonor the choices my friends have made by saying so publicly. I define what I do as positively as possible, by what it is. Now it's your blog, you can say whatever you like, but I don't think you have a really good understanding of AP, and it's an unfair critique. And critiquing AP wasn't the point of your post (as I read it). It was a rumination of your parenting philosophy (which I think I would've enjoyed, since you're more seasoned at this than I), which has now gotten lost in a parenting camp debate (which I don't really like). see what I mean?


Hello! I hope you leave a word ~ I will get back to it as soon as I can!