We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Friday, February 14, 2014

Growing Kids the Ezzo Way - DANGER!

In one of my comments on my first article about Mike & Debi Pearl, I mentioned problems with Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo’s “Growing Families International.”  A recent commenter asked if I could explain the problem.

I have to admit that a major problem with GFI is not a biblical problem, rather it is a medical problem, which even Focus on the Family denounced as hazardous to babies.  This is why I really haven’t addressed this cultic group.  However, they do indeed abuse Scripture for many of their claims, so they really are a valid group to examine by an apologetics ministry.

The following is a summary I wrote up in 2002 to cover some of the major objections.  I have not examined this group since that time, but there is a site which has done so.

I’m sure a search of the Internet would turn up lots of sites exposing the problems with GFI and the Ezzos, as well as sites by ardent followers (just like you’ll find with every cult).

So now, on to my summary:

Having not read the material personally, I derive my information from various reviews by apologetics ministries and magazine articles.

A.  Biblical problems.

1.  The curriculum Growing Kids God's Way, by its very name, is claiming revelatory knowledge.

2.  Ezzo claims that since God is a God of order, the concept of “demand” feeding for infants is wrong and unhealthy, leading to "metabolic chaos," while "parent-directed feeding" leads to healthier babies and happier moms.  He calls it "God's Order For Your Baby's Day" (which is also the book title, implying divine revelation).

3.  The Ezzos use the crucifixion to justify letting an infant cry, many times citing Matthew 27:46.  "Praise God that the Father did not intervene when His Son cried out on the cross."  

4.  They claim that their method can generate "a type of spiritual inertia" in children.  "Once the parents have instilled biblical patterns into their child, their training should carry him to the point where God's Spirit will take control of the reins of his heart.  Without sufficient spiritual inertia generated in the formative years (birth through 12), the child will ultimately limit the influence of God in his life."

5.  Parents can't baptize infants at Christ Episcopal Church in Plano, TX unless they commit to attending Growing Kids God's Way as part of their baptismal covenant.

6.  Children cannot attend County Oaks Baptist Church School in Tehachapi, CA unless they have completed Growing Kids God's Way.  

7.  Christian Research Institute stated that with GFI "Scripture is often used without regard to context to justify unbiblical or extrabiblical doctrines.  Teachings not found in the Bible (on child rearing) are accorded the status of divine revelation ("God's Way").  Theological confusion and legalism follow from these abuses."

8.  Ezzo states that maternal instinct is not a biblical concept.  Cited by CRI, Ezzo states, "Mothering decisions without assessment are dangerous.  Such noncognitive responses violate the Bible's call to sobermindedness. (Biblical references to 'sober-minded,' 'sober,' and 'soberly' are found in Acts 26:25; Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6,8; 1 Timothy 3:2, 11; Titus 1:8; 2:2, 6, 12; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8.)  Yes, even in parenting you must be soberminded."  CRI responds by saying, "None of the biblical references to sobermindedness cited by the Ezzos pertain specifically to parenting.  In fact, none of them even set forth general principles that can rightly be applied to infant care.  Rather than contrasting reason or assessment with feeling or intuition, they contrast soundness of mind or self-control with insanity or immorality."

9.  According to CRI, the Ezzos place a central emphasis on the redemptive role of "biblical chastisement" (a method of spanking) for sin.  Ezzos claim it will cleanse the child of guilt and release him from its burden.

10.  Ezzos suggest that if parents faithfully "grow their kids God's way," God will be obligated to save their children.

11.  Ezzos state that demand feeding is not an option for the Christian.  They state that, "Women who demand feed say they love their children because they tend to their every need.  That is not biblical love; it's idolatry."

B.  Other pastoral concerns.

1.  According to churches the Ezzos have attended or worked with, Gary Ezzo lacks "truthfulness, Christian character, and accountability."

2.  GFI originally developed at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, pastored by John MacArthur.  MacArthur severed support and rebuked Ezzo for his divisiveness.  He was also cited by MacArthur as obscuring what was biblical versus personal preference, and MacArthur is quoted as stating Gary Ezzo is disqualified "from Christian leadership or public ministry in any context.

3.  Ezzos were also excommunicated from Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship of Granada Hills, CA, which itself was a split from MacArthur's church when Gary left.

4.  Gary Ezzo was asked to step down as pastor-teacher in early 1980s from a church in New Jersey because of his divisiveness, the church accusing him of exhibiting "authoritarianism and isolationist tendencies."

5.  There is a controversy over mismanagement of funds resulting in his accounting firm terminating their relationship.  

6.  Ezzo has been charged with "persistent unwillingness to respond to biblical admonition" and basically considers himself to be accountable to no one.

7.  Ezzo's educational accomplishments have been exaggerated and falsified.  Former editorial director at GFI, Frank York, has a very interesting open letter to Ezzo's publishers on the internet (www.mailing-list.net/redrhino/Ezzo/Frank York.html) discussing many of the integrity problems with Gary Ezzo [this link is no longer available].

8.  The president of Apple Tree Family Ministries wrote a letter to Christianity Today stating, "for 10 years I have observed devastating results of this program, as well as serious integrity concerns: slow weight-gaining babies; depressed children; division among churches, friendships, and families; false attacks on people who disagree or dare to raise concerns, including myself."

9.  The Christian Research Institute did an in-depth study of Ezzos and their programs and came to the conclusion that it is a cultic community.  They state, "The Ezzo's word on parenting seems to close the matter irrespective of evidence.  Individual interpretation on that subject is not allowed.  The Ezzos appear to be unaccountable to anyone outside of their own group and to suppress any attempt to question them from within the group. ... The Ezzos are considered virtually the only ones who are teaching biblical truth on their subject.  Those who follow the Ezzo way are believed to raise morally superior children.  Some esteem the Ezzo philosophy of child-rearing to be so essential that they treat it almost as though it were the gospel.  It is promoted with missionary zeal, resulting in division among churches, families, and friends.  In fact, Christian outsiders are some-times viewed and treated as sub-Christian. ... Members of the GFI 'community' have been shielded from teachings and opinions contrary to the Ezzo way.  Full knowledge of GFI teachings has been withheld until after one becomes involved with the program."

CRI also points out examples, such as how well a child sleeps being based on its parents' "spirituality."

C.  Health concerns. 

1.  Christianity Today said, "The Ezzo's program for 'parent-directed feeding' (PDF), their advice about physical punishment for young toddlers, and the lack of independent research to support their methods, have generated an international controversy among Christian leaders, pediatricians, and lactation experts."  

2.  Ezzo "has no professional background in child development, medicine, or breast-feeding support" yet claims to be an authority on all three.  His "infant-feeding advice is inconsistent with standard medical recommendations."  

3.  The American Academy of Pediatrics have specifically condemned Babywise and Preparation for Parenting as hazardous to infants' health, and have identified 35 unsubstantiated medical claims in Babywise alone. 

4.  Leading breast-feeding authorities have specifically warned against GFI programs in regards to infant feeding.

5.  Frank York's letter also discusses medical problems and false medical claims by Ezzo in his books.  

6.  Jeff Gerke resigned as Multnomah Publishing editor in 2001 over the Ezzo books.  Jeff stated, "I'm personally convinced Gary Ezzo and his infant care materials are dangerous.  He has no medical training and therefore no business writing medical books - or disregarding the advice of bona fide medical professionals."

7.  Well-known pediatrician and author of baby books, Dr. William Sears, soundly condemns the Ezzo methods as damaging.

8.  According to the Christian Research Journal, "A child abuse prevention council's religious task force (including evangelical Christian pastors) investigating GFI programs found that they were not developmentally and age appropriate.  It further concluded that the programs did not consider individual temperament, have a balance of loving guidance and discipline, or foster parental discernment."

My major problem with the entire program as described in a World magazine article, including the quotes from the Ezzos, is their very, very poor exegesis.  They have no clue as to what the scriptures say.  I have been studying the scriptures for close to forty years and never in all my studies have I ever come across such nonsense in an attempt to use the Bible to defend one's philosophy, except in the case of non-Christian cults.  As well, the Ezzos smell very cultish in their child-rearing philosophy.  I have to denounce it as not "Growing Kids God's Way", but, rather "Growing Kids the Ezzo Way". 


Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

Thank you so very much. You confirmed everything we found, and provided additional information that we didn't know. None of it good.

I am so disgusted right now. I'm so sick of pastors bringing this trash into the fold. Shouldn't pastors do their homework before "feeding the flock"?

It doesn't take long to do the due diligence to learn what these supposed 'men of god' like Ezzo are all about.

Your ministry here at TWB is invaluable. Thank you again, especially for your prompt reply to my inquiry.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

You know, the sad thing is that I found the whole set of Ezzo stuff in our church library in 2002 (one of the reasons I did my summary report - over a year before I was no the 'net) - except for "Babywise." When I wrote the report and passed it to my pastor with the suggestion of removal, he said he was aware of all that but that it helped them immensely when raising their kids (what kind of pastor needs a program to raise his kids!?!?!) and so was keeping it there.

About 18 months ago we moved to our new building and the librarian was getting rid of all videotapes which weren't important, and with my suggestion she disposed of Ezzo. So we are finally free of that!

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

That lack of logic and clear thinking (including by pastors) just astounds me. "I know the Ezzo books are terrible and full of problems, but they helped me..."

Why do believers - including pastors - feel they need some awful unbiblical program to help them, and thus they spend their time picking around the trash dump of said program (such as Ezzo) to find a scrap of meat to eat, when if they just read and properly applied the word of God, they'd receive pure nutrition and not have to worry about any problems?

PTL though that 18 months ago you were able to encourage the librarian to ditch Ezzo.

Thanks again, this summary was immensely helpful.


Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,
Thank you for another great post.
I would be bothered by a pastor who refused to get rid of this information. It would make me wonder what else is sliding under the door.
Thank you,

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Well, the fact that our pastor is otherwise very fundamental made it fairly insignificant in my mind that he found help with EZZOs.

There are really good teachers who have a weak spot for some bad teachings because they invested in it at some point.

I keep a real close watch on our church library, because the librarian asked me to a long time ago.

Kathy said...

Love this post! I was disgusted with Ezzo's approach based on what I've read and what I've personally witnessed from friends and family members who used it (including breastfeeding problems, especially early weaning; fortunately no "failure to thrive", dehydration, starvation, or death, as others have endured).

Regarding points #8 & 11 in the first section -- about Ezzo's misuse of being "sober-minded" as a proof against maternal instincts and especially demand feeding -- an additional refutation of those points could include passages from Isaiah and elsewhere, in which God Himself uses maternal instinct and breastfeeding as the best and most apt analogy for His care over His people. "Can a woman forget her nursing child?" is there not merely because women become more bonded to their children through nursing (oxytocin release), but also the plain and simple occurrence of milk "letting down" in response to a baby's cry; and if the baby goes too long between feeds, the mother's breasts begin to twinge and even hurt, as they are filled with too much milk, and signal a need for release. If women "forget" their nursing child, they will leak milk as a reminder, so that it is actually impossible for a nursing mother to "forget". God uses that analogy which would have been well-known in such a society (no bottles, no manmade formula) to show that He is even *more* caring and unable to forget than nursing women naturally are.

Anonymous said...


This is for Kathy,

EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!! What you said is absolutely true, medically and scientifically, which is further proof that Ezzo's teachings are folly and frankly dangerous. His claim that demand feeding is idolatry is absolutely wrong! As you correctly said, a mother's let down is a natural response to hearing a baby's cry.

And Who designed this to be? The Lord Jesus Christ.

I was as disgusted as you, when I read Ezzo's false and dangerous teaching regarding breastfeeding. The only verse that came to my mind though, had to do with millstones and making little ones stumble...

Well, well said, Kathy. Kudos!

And a hearty thank you again, Glenn, for this very important post!


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Thanks for those very good points!

Evolution vs. Creation 11 part series said...

AFTER 21 YEARS! I swear by the program. My kids have been and always wil be stellar! All these points about how something doesn't work. Yet I had no problem in every way. PTL for His Wisdom and guidance! Maybe you were All missing key ingredients!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Evo vs creat,

What your comment tells me is that you lack discernment. I demonstrated the problems with GFI and their teachings. They are medically harmful, let alone spiritually harmful. The whole thing is cultic. It certainly IS NOT "God's Way."

I'm not missing anything.

Jason said...

I have gone through most of the Ezzo series/books and I definitely raised an eyebrow with the BabyWise book and this seems to be all that is talked about. The primary child rearing series of Growing Kids Gods Way, now called Parenting from the Tree of Life, I have found to be very practical. In fact some of the most practical "take home" things to incorporate in raising our children. IE: Interrupt rule, kids folding hands to gain more self control, techniques to make sure your children are hearing and understanding what you are saying, etc.

I am glad I have not thrown out the whole series because of the Babywise book. I am open to hearing comments on their flagship product because I have not seen anything that I could call heresy (yet).

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Jason,

The fact that the Ezzos may have some good advice (which I don't believe they do) isn't the issue. The article demonstrates they abuse of the Word of God, and the fact that they claim their programs to be "God's Way" and that their way is the biblical way, is why Christians should avoid them. All you do is support false teaching -- which is what you have when you claim your way of doing things is the way God wants.

Jason said...


Possibly this is why they changed their name from "Growing Kids Gods Way " to "Parenting from the Tree of Life".

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

They are still claiming God's way though; who, after all, planted the "Tree of Life"?

kristen B said...

Well I'm an odd bird in this thread so let me give you some insight.

I grew up in attendance at Grace Community Church and my family personally knew the Ezzo's rather intimately. My family was also part of the Living Hope church split and I watched Gary Ezzo get excommunicated from that church and my parents severed their relationship from that family.

I am 31 years old and was one of the first generation of kids that the curriculum was used on. My parents were close friends of the Ezzo's and taught the GKGW in their home to many families in my early years. All of my friends were parented in the exact same way and my parents only associated with families who did "like-minded" parenting. Once I entered my adolescence you can imagine the tension that built up when their well-behaved pre teen started to question the infrastructure. We all were behavior modified kids that grew up with an authoritarian loveless view of God. Our every desire was to please our parents. We did grow up to be morally good kids... Until we spread our wings into early adulthood. Enter chaos... Suddenly all those parents started scrambling like chickens when their kids were "backsliding in the faith" or starting to develop a more autonomous view of their faith that may have differed from their parents. (Panic! Spiritual pandemoniom)
Many of my friends that grew up (even more strictly than I did) have completely walked away from the faith. I did at one point too.

It left me battered and wounded as they tried to "get me in line" well into my early 20's. Thankfully God rescued me and starting healing those wounds from a very cult-like child rearing. I believe my parents at the time did what they thought was best, but I think fear tactics were used. "You want your kids to grow up to love Jesus right? This is the only answer!"

Any parent that was governed by fear was likely to abuse the content of GKGW... And fear was what they used. Fear that we would grow up to be heathens.

Needless to say, God has healed me AND my family from the "burden of the law" and it's a wonder I love Jesus today :)

I'm in the middle of writing a book about growing up in that sub-culture and how God had to redeem it. I was in no way prepared for adulthood and I was left flapping my clipped wings wondering if God hated me.

So GKGW is not a curriculum I endorse...even more so it's the culture behind it that's so terrifying.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Thank you so much for that testimony. It confirms much of what I've found in my research about how people are spiritually harmed by this teaching.

Let me know when your book is published!