Gary Ezzo Growing Kids God's Way
Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo Truth -

Growing Kids God's Way
Why the title "Growing Kids God's Way?" Who's to say what "God's Way" to raise children really is?
Some critics have taken issue with the title "Growing Kids God's Way," claiming that this title gives the curricula a sense of "exclusivism" --as if the Ezzos had a corner on God's advice for parents. This idea of exclusivism is addressed below, but we find it curious that people are so quick to criticize this particular title, while we don't hear similar criticisms of other popular books with "God's Way" in the title. A quick search on revealed dozens of such books, some by very well-known authors. Here are a few:
  • Your Family God's Way, by Wayne Mack
  • Greater Health God's Way, by Stormie Omartian
  • The Joy of Marriage God's Way, by Kay Arthur
  • Experiencing Success God's Way, by Charles F. Stanley
  • Free From Bondage God's Way, by Kay Arthur
  • Raising Kids God's Way: A Biblical Guide for Christian Parents, by Kathi Hudson
  • Marriage God's Way, by Henry R. Brandt, Kerry L. Skinner, Henry T. Blackaby
  • Romance God's Way, by Leslie Ludy, Erick Ludy
  • Growing Up God's Way, by John A. Stormer
And many, many more...including (believe it or not) Golf God's Way, by Gus Bernardoni!

If the fact that so many other notable Christian authors chose to use "God's Way" in their book titles does not dispel the idea that such a title is necessarily exclusivisitc, then perhaps these words from the Introduction to the Fifth Edition of GKGW might help:
"In the title Growing Kids God's Way we place our emphasis on God's Way--meaning the way of the Lord. We serve an ethical God. Moral rightness flows from his being. His ways are in accord with His unchangeable character. In short, God is absolutely perfect, and His moral law is a reflection of his holy character (Psalm 19:7). More than that, He has shown man what is good and what is required of him (Michah 6:8). We all must learn the virtuous way of the Lord and instruct our growing children in it.

Growing Kids God's Way will not only speak about the good way of the Lord, but will also offer practical steps to implement His moral precepts into the lives of your children. After all, good theology, if not fleshed out into everyday, rubber-meets-the-road stuff, is just that--good theology and nothing more. At some point our theology must express itself in practice. Without sound practice we become hearers of the Word, not doers, and only deceive ourselves (James 1:22).

Therefore, it is our desire to show you through Growing Kids God's Way the practical side of biblical truth. God gives the precepts, Anne Marie and I will attempt to show you the many shades of application. For example, Titus 3:2 instructs us to be courteous to all men. In the context of parenting and from a child's perspective, what does that look like everyday? What are the many ways a child can demonstrate the biblical command to be courteous? There are God-given principles (that comprise the way of the Lord), and there are human applications. While application may vary from child to child, family to family, and even culture to culture, God's moral precepts do not change, because there is no variance in His character (Hebrews 13:8)."
In reading through the Ezzos' own thoughts about their title and about the purpose of the curriculum as a whole, it is clear that they are not saying THEY have the last word on what GOD says about parenting. They are clearly defining God's part--which is revealing his moral standards of right and wrong through His Word--and their part--which is trying to give the "many shades of application" of God's truth, which admittedly may "vary from child to child, family to family, and even culture to culture..." And from the "Foundations" chapter of GKGW we read, "God's principles are constant, never-changing, and derived from Scripture. Applications and parenting methods are neither constant nor absolute, but are derived from personal experience and common wisdom."

The subtitle of Growing Kids God's Way is "biblical ethics for parenting." So the title Growing Kids God's Way is simply intended to denote that it is not any old "ethics for parenting," but it is the ethical standards laid out in God's Word that are being studied and applied in the class.

Interstingly, the class has been renamed to Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way, thus demonstrating concretely that the Ezzos do not place excessive emphasis on the name Growing Kids God's Way.

Does GKGW claim to provide all the answers to what the Bible says about parenting?
Not at all. In fact, from the Introduction to the Fifth Edition of GKGW:

"As was the case with previous editions, this curriculum is not intended to give all the answers or provide the reader with all he or she will ever need to know about the process of raising a child. Therefore, parents guided by their own convictions have the ultimate responsibility and duty to research parenting philosophies available today and then make an informed decision as to what is best for their family. Growing Kids God's Way is just one resource out of many available to guide parents along the way."
Does GKGW teach a legalistic, "one size fit's all" method of parenting, not taking into account the individual needs of each child?
No, it does not. Quite the contrary is true. In just about every lesson, reference is made to the differences in children. In GKGW, parents are taught to bring their child to the standard, not bend the standard to their child, because God's standard of right and wrong does not change; however each child with his or her unique temperament (given by God), will require different parenting methodologies and strategies to reach the same goals. Parents are encouraged to love children to the standard, encourage them to the standard, train them to the standard, and discipline them to the standard. In short, parents who take GKGW must learn to be thinking parents. There are no easy answers, no tricks or gimmicks, just biblical principles which a parent must learn to apply to life and to parenting.
Does GKGW teach that spanking is the only (or primary) way to discipline a child?
No, it does not, although in reading some of the critics one may mistakenly get this impression. Curiously, only a portion of one lesson (out of 19 lessons in all) discusses spanking in any detail, and that lesson does NOT teach that the Bible mandates spanking ("chastisement"). Spanking is mentioned as only ONE of at least 15 possible methods that parents might utilize in the training process. Specific examples of those are given throughout various lessons, providing many alternatives to spanking, including encouragement, goal incentives, logical consequences, natural consequences, isolation, verbal reproof, dialogue question, praise, rewards, verbal warnings, and many more. Gary Ezzo states:
We do not believe the Bible commands spanking, but it commends it, starting in the Old and continuing in the New Testament (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15; Heb. 12:6, 11; 1 Cor. 4:21). We accept its validity because the wisdom literature affirms its use in conjunction with righteous training. Can a parent raise a well mannered and respectful child without spanking? Yes they can, but only when they pay due diligence to the process of moral training and creating a healthy otherness-centered environment.
Do GKGW alumni have exclusivist tendencies?
GKGW alumni, like all other human beings, tend to seek out other families and individuals who share their values, interests, and convictions. Parenting with a biblical mindset and raising children who love their families and love God is no easy task in today's culture. Parents are wise to surround themselves with a morally like-minded community that will help and encourage them as they pass along their values to their children. This is not cultish or exclusivistic. This is smart strategizing in this battle for the minds and hearts of our children. Whoever has access to our children WILL influence them in their formative years, make no mistake.

When our own family looks for other families to develop close friendships with, the litmus test is not their GFI alumni status, however. What is important is the spiritual fruit visible in that family and how closely their family values match with ours. While we do have close friendships with other GFI families, we also know families who have never heard of GKGW, and who have morally beautiful children and we delight in their company. Those are the kinds of models that we seek out for our own benefit as well as for that of our children.

We occasionally have the opportunity to be around a particular group of families for a whole weekend who have been parenting biblically for years, many of whom have children older than ours. We never fail to come away from that time of fellowship with new ideas and new goals for our own family based upon the strengths of some of the families we have seen there. Many times we slip into laziness in our own parenting because there is no one around us to challenge us to do better, but when we're near other families who are beyond us in their understanding and application of biblical parenting principles, it makes us desire to do better ourselves, and stretches us beyond what we could or would have done otherwise. This is another benefit of a morally like-minded community (iron sharpening iron) that occurs naturally as we observe and compare our family to others. So, interacting with others with whom we are in agreement is not exclusivity, it is perfectly natural. Whether it is work, church, sports, or some other outside activity that ties people together, people do gravitate to other "like-minded" people. Parenting is a lifetime process. It is wise counsel to regularly connect with others who can encourage, sharpen, and even rebuke us whenever it is needed.

GFI families are not isolationists. To the contrary, the Ezzos encourage Christians to "define God to the world so that they may find God." Many Growing Kids God's Way alumni families actively spread the message of Jesus Christ as a silent witness, letting the actions of a God-centered family speak to the unchurched.
Is it true that GKGW is divisive?
Those that claim that GFI alumni tend to have an "us vs. them" mentality may simply be observing a natural human tendency to gravitate to those with similar experiences, and/or a natural desire to share a meaningful experience with others. We once heard a pastor complain about the "us vs. them" mentality of the Emmaus Community (alumni of the "Walk to Emmaus" or "Tres Dias" or "Chriseo" weekend as it is called in some denominations) in his church. This poor pastor was made to feel like an outsider by some well-meaning Emmaus alumni because he had not had the "Emmaus experience." Now that attitude (pressuring others to attend) was not in any way cultivated by the weekend teaching received on the Walk to Emmaus, but was instead a natural enthusiasm for something that was so meaningful to these attendees gone awry. They just earnestly wanted to share that experience with others, but instead of loving encouragement, the pastor felt judgment and condemnation. GKGW can literally be a life-changing experience for some couples. It is feasible then that their enthusiasm for the class may sometimes run away with them and cause them to feel that everyone needs to have the benefit of the class as they did - much like that Emmaus community in that pastor's church. This is not a fault of GKGW, but a human weakness which shows up in just about every imaginable context.

We have been amazed to see how strongly some people continue to identify with their high school or college alma mater-long after they have graduated and moved on in life. They feel instant camaraderie with someone who they don't even know based solely on the fact that the person attended the same school as they did. They may also feel anger toward someone they don't know if they attended a rival school. Pro sports team allegiances can engender the same type of emotions from people. Let's face it; people don't need an excuse to be divisive and to take sides. It is part of who we are in this fallen world. We have seen strong emotions rage and divisions occur over theological debates such as Calvinism vs. Arminianism, over a church's choice of worship music styles, over whether pastors can be divorced, over whether to borrow money to build a church - you name it, the Enemy can use it to divide Christians if we let him. Division and unity are spiritual issues, and cannot be blamed on a class or any outside experience - nor is there anything in GKGW that would encourage or promote divisive behavior.
Does GKGW promote ideas that are dangerous to infants?
Growing Kids God's Way does not address infant parenting at all. It is designed for parents of 2-3 year olds to pre-teens. When a critic uses GKGW and "infants" in the same sentence, you can be sure that they are not personally familiar with the curriculum. For a thorough discussion of the common questions regarding the infant curriculum, see our infant FAQ page.
Does Growing Kids God's Way teach authoritarian parenting?
GKGW teaches a biblically balanced philosophy of parenting. It avoids the extremes of authoritarianism ("do as I say, or else!"), and permissive parenting ("non-conflict" parenting). GKGW strongly emphasizes the need for parents to build trusting relationships with their children, and advocates parenting by the power of one's relational influence over the children by the time they are teens. Authority is a temporary tool that is needed in the early years, and parents must work their way out of needing to use that authority by building an understanding and acceptance of God's moral standards into their child's life. Very much like training for sporting events (Paul uses the analogy of running a race), GKGW teaches four phases of parenting, the "discipline phase" where moral muscles are developed, the "training phase" where the moral instruction is applied to life under parental guidance, the "coaching phase" where parents are on the sidelines of life watching the children run the "moral plays" they have been taught (also standing ready to answer questions anytime the child calls a "time out," so to speak), and the "friendship phase" where the children become moral peers with their parents, usually by their late teens.
Why did they change the name from "Growing Kids God's Way to "Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way"?
The new names for all of the GFI curricula help to tie all 6 of the core classes together with a common prefix, "Let the Children Come..." The classes themselves still carry their individual names as well, so Growing Kids God's Way has not gone away, it has just been tied in to all of the other classes with a name that defines its role in the series. The "Virtuous Way" speaks to the "biblical ethics" that are the focus of the Growing Kids God's Way class.

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