If you follow One Fit Mom’s Facebook page, you’ll recall that about a week ago, I had a 48-hour flirtation with Babywise; more specifically, with Babywise II: Parenting Your Pretoddler Five to Fifteen Months.
I’ve been on a parenting book kick as of late, exercising my library privileges to devour volume upon volume of parenting advice, both new and traditional. This, because our very mobile, very precocious, very “spirited” one-year-old has begun to give us a run for our money. I want to be armed for the future, but more importantly, I believe that the parenting approach we use now — how we shape Oliver’s present behaviour — will set the precedent for how he responds to us and comports himself in the coming years.
Back when I talked about sleep training, a number of readers chimed in to recommend the Babywise method of early sleep training. Though our own sleep training process was completed with great success, I was curious about this method, which claims to have babies as young as six weeks old regularly sleeping through the night. I went online to order Babywise from the library, and as I added myself to the wait list, I saw there was a second book — Babywise Book Two — geared towards the parents of five to 15 month olds. I thought it might be worth a read, and it was available right away, so I ordered it.
In the last month or so, Oliver has started to display (developmentally normal, age-appropriate) “undesirable” behaviours, such as throwing food, touching off-limits items, whining and screaming. In the past, these behaviours were largely without intent; for example food fell on the floor at mealtimes as a byproduct of excitement, distraction, or his still-developing gross and fine motor coordination. It has become obvious that many of these behaviours are now deliberate — even defiant. For example, Oliver has long been fascinated with a particular charger plugged into the wall. It used to be that a firm, “No touch, Oliver,” would stop him in his tracks, but lately, he will pause, look at me, smirk, and reach for the charger again (rinse and repeat ad nauseum, until I physically remove him from the area).
The day I started reading Babywise, I’d finally reached my limit with the post-meal clean-up routine, and with Oliver’s recent mealtime behaviour in general. His behaviour had crossed the line from learning and exploration to mere bad manners. There was intent behind his actions. If Oliver could make the decision to fling his food, spit out his water, bang on the table, yell, flip his plate, splash in spilt water, stick his feet up on the table, etcetera, I believed that he could also make the decision — with proper encouragement — to not do these things. He could learn new and more desirable mealtime behaviours. I was excited, because Babywise had an entire chapter devoted to highchair manners — something I’d never seen in any of my previous parenting reads.
My first thoughts, as I began to read Babywise II, were:
1. This book is basically the diametric opposite to attachment parenting (or “child-centred parenting,” as it is referred to in Babywise).
2. When was this book written?! It must be a newer edition of something originally written in the 50’s. (Nope, it was actually written in 1995!).
3. I feel like there’s a very old-fashioned religious undercurrent to this book. The oft-used phrases, ‘moral development,’ ‘priority of marriage,’ ‘training the heart,’ ‘command,’ and ‘obey’ are off-putting in the context of what is supposed to be a secular parenting book.
4. The author is making some good points, but he often confuses opinion with fact. Many of his assertions directly contradict the most recent research in child development (another reason I thought the book was older than it was).
5. Where are the references for all of his claims? This is the first parenting book I’ve read that has no footnotes, no citations, and no bibliography.
About halfway through the book, I voiced some of my concerns in this post (and the subsequent comments) on my Facebook page.
Author Gary Ezzo is a compelling writer. He’s an ex-preacher, endowed with the gift of persuasion. As I read through the book, he made claims that I knew had to be wrong. But he made them with such conviction that I actually began to entertain the possibility he was right. He appeals to the base parental desire to “manage” — a euphemism for control — the more challenging aspects of a baby’s temperament. He promises that following his method will yield the ideal of the calm, happy and obedient child.
In Part II I will discuss my specific concerns with the Babywise method, and with the author’s background.