Whenever I am presented with a new challenge, I like to thoroughly research it. For example, when it came to buying a house, I bought a couple of books and read up on the topic before plunging headlong. I did the same thing when my wife decided to have a baby naturally. We took a course in natural childbirth and read several books on the topic.
When it came to the area of child rearing, we approached the topic with the same gusto, comparing different parenting philosophies. Along the way we discovered a more traditional approach to parenting, which especially appealed to me because it contrasted with what I experienced in my own upbringing. It’s been almost four years since we started to learn and apply this approach, and I thought it might be a good time to reflect on our experience and what we’ve learned along the way.
Experience has taught me that parenting is unlike any other endeavor I have undertaken. When it comes to topics such as software architecture, or personal finance and investing, I can read up on it and apply what I’ve learned fairly quickly. Not so with parenting. Children are, by their very nature, totally unique and almost completely unpredictable. Even if you have a pretty good idea how you want to raise your children, they will continually surprise you, presenting new challenges. Not only that, but healthy children grow up in healthy families that are based on healthy marriages. Children are constantly growing and changing, and parents often must exercise Solomon-like wisdom, avoiding extremes of being too strict or too lax. And husband and wife, while taking on different roles, need to be on the same page about how to deal with these challenges.
It is for these reasons that we wanted to benefit from the experience of generations past while at the same time recognizing recent advances in social science. We also realized that we needed a tremendous amount of support, especially because we do not have extended family living nearby. We have found all these things in the GFI parenting program, which has a strong presence in the Dallas area, offering courses, support groups and various other resources.
We have taken four courses to date: Infant Way, Babyhood Transitions, Toddler Transitions, and Virtuous Way. Even after having taken the courses, we were still fuzzy on how to practically apply what we learned in everyday life. In fact, we even met other couples who took the courses, but who either misapplied the teachings, or completely misunderstood them. Then we met Carla Link. She and her husband Joey have spent many years touring the country, speaking to and counseling literally hundreds of parents and explaining, in very concrete terms, precisely how to apply GFI and what to do with children at various stages of growth and maturity. The fruit of her work is a series of CD’s and written notes on every conceivable topic related to parenting using the principles of GFI. It’s called Mom’s Notes (although it’s also for Dad’s) and is intended for people who have already taken the Virtual Way course.
Shortly after taking our first GFI course we discovered some controversy surrounding the program. However, upon further investigation we discovered much of the criticism reflects conflicting viewpoints in a broader philosophical and cultural divide. We also observed many vindictive personal attacks on the character of the founders of GFI, Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, which have been thoroughly repudiated and are completely unrelated to the efficacy of the parenting program itself.
I’d like to end this reflection by making perfectly clear that any parenting program, including GFI, is not intended to replace the wisdom and discretion that parents must exercise themselves. I would also like to make clear that we are continually learning how to parent more effectively and fully respect how people choose to raise their own children. We simply wish to share how we’ve benefited from GFI and encourage others to seek ways of becoming better parents. Our children are worth the very best we have to offer.