Child-centered parenting

Think back to the day your child was born. When the doctor or midwife placed your newborn on your chest, you immediately felt a love like you’d never felt before. In that same instant, your life changed forever. You now spend very little time alone. Spontaneous trips to the movie theater are a thing of the past. You enjoy going to the park, the zoo and even fast food play places. You see life through your child’s eyes. You may have even quit your job to stay home with your child. You do anything and everything for your child. Before you know it, you have built your life around your child.

Yes, this is completely natural and very common in our world. But is it best for your child? The Ezzos say no. This is what the Ezzos call child-centered parenting.

“Often parents leave their first love, each other, and focus extensively on their children. Although this may be done in the name of good parenting, it is the first step to the break-up of family relationships. This leads to the second threat to successful parenting: the belief that children are the center of the family universe, rather than welcome members of it…. Instead of integrating the child into the family where he learns the basic give and takes of life, they elevate the child above the family,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

The marriage is priority #1
So if your child isn’t your first priority, what is? Your marriage. See my posts on the marriage priority and couch time for more on this.

You may be thinking, what exactly is so wrong with putting my child at the center? He’s a toddler or young child and requires a significant amount of care. All of my time is spent caring for my child, so even if I didn’t want to put my child at the center, it’s somewhat unavoidable. Yes, this is true in your day-to-day life, but your belief system must be built on the foundation that the family, not the child, is your focus. If you’re not convinced, consider these (enormously important!) problems of child-centered parenting:

Husband and wife become dad and mom
Child-centered parenting redefines the husband-wife relationship. You and your spouse are no longer husband and wife. You are mom and dad. And as mom and dad, you are less accountable to each other and yourselves. You are solely accountable to your child.

“In marriage, neither man nor woman can lose themselves. Marriage forces revelation. We are revealed for what we are…. We are less revealed in parenting, thus less honest about who we are. Attempting to avoid the truth about ourselves, we conveniently find, in the name of fatherhood and motherhood, a more pleasing image, so some think. Whenever we pull away from marriage, no matter how noble the goal, we leave our accountability,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Self-reliance precedes self-control
Child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes. He believes he is ready for freedoms before he has developed self-control or a level of responsibility that indicates he is ready for those freedoms.

“Child centered parenting reverses the natural process of moral development… The child becomes, in his thinking, self-sufficient prior to the establishment of self-control. This happens because the [child-centered parenting] philosophy grants freedoms beyond the child’s ability to manage those freedoms. Self-reliance apart from self-discipline is a destructive influence on young children,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Relationships become a means to an end
Child-centered parenting creates a child who develops relationships only for what they offer. This fosters independence of the family rather than interdependence.

“Where there is no relationship investment, there is no reason for family loyalty. Other people (parents, siblings and peers) matter only to the extent that advantages are gained by maintaining relationships. What the child can get out of relationships, rather than what he can give, forms the basis of his loyalty,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Selfishness takes precedence over morality
Child-centered parenting fosters innate selfishness and other sins and reduces the significance of morality. The child often feels he is above morality.

“Child-centered parenting magnifies the natural conflict between the natural way of the child and his need for moral conformity. With child-centered parenting, the [moral] standard is perceived to be the problem rather than the faulty [child-centered parenting] philosophy,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Worship is turned on its head
Child-centered parenting comes close to idolatry with children becoming little gods who their parents worship.

“Child-centered parenting, for some, comes perilously close to idolatry. When a child’s happiness is a greater goal than his holiness, when his psychological health is elevated above moral health, and when the child, not God, becomes the center of the family universe, a subtle form of idolatry is created. Children become little gods who have parents worshiping their creation and not their Creator,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

While it’s so easy to put our children at the center of our universe, this is one of the most important principles of good parenting. Keep these issues in mind when developing your parenting beliefs. If you want a child who values others more than himself, avoid child-centered parenting.

This is a very philosophical post. Look to my next post for practical ideas on how child-centered parenting can play out in day-to-day life.


  1. I would suggest also that children are innately uncomfortable and insecure when they are put in the position of power in the family. It is not their natural role, they have no idea how to fill it. They look to their parents for guidance and in the child-centered family the parent looks right back at the child to see what he or she wants to do.

    It reminds me of the arguments my husband and I often have when it’s 5pm and we’re hungry. I’ll look at him and say “what do you want to do for dinner?” and he’ll say in return “I don’t know, what would you like?” and then I become frustrated because I obviously don’t know what to make for dinner or I wouldn’t have asked. Now, this is just a small, silly example but it shows the frustration that can occur.

    Another example is when teachers adopt the new model of giving the student excessive freedom without the student earning it or being gradually brought to it. My professor once assigned us an essay and of course we asked how long she expected it to be. She said “as long as it needs to be”. Huh? We asked again and got the same response. She didn’t want to influence our creativity or logic process by placing an external limit on length. What she really did though was to make us very anxious and frustrated for the next 3 weeks as we contemplated how much to write. We had no knowledge of her personal expectations of us and no idea of the scope she wanted from the essay. Many of us wrote excessive fluff into our essays out of fear she wouldn’t approve of the length. Because we didn’t know where the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable was we decided to play it “safe”.

    This same insecurity and lack of direction happens with children who are allowed to make all the decisions. It sounds nice in theory but realistically people are happier and more creative within boundaries appropriate to their age, knowledge, experience, and maturity whether in life, work, or education.

  2. Great comments, Amanda! So true!

  3. I loved what you had to say… and this is what I think about people who say they love their child or spouse more than the other…

    I am often confused by this… as someone who is married to man with children, I have none and never wanted any… Not that I hate children or dislike them, I like them a lot… have been a Little League coach, and babysat for many years as well as have spent time with friends’ children… I have just never wanted to push something out of my body when there are plenty of children who need love and homes already (I am talking adoption) that is always been something that interested me more if I was going to be a “mother.” But as a step mother, to children who have a bio-mother who was married to my husband, and the bio-mom has no interest in her children nor does she see them or take care of them… except sometimes takes them to an a movie when she decides she wants to see them… which is less than two days a month… her choice… I would love if she would move back to where the children have always gone to school and take an active role, she is ruining her life and their lives… But when my husband looks at me and looks at his children, it is a completely different look of love… When he looks at me it’s a look filled with passion and romance, there’s a deep love that I can feel and give back because I feel that way about him too… and while he looks at his children and the look is filled with love, a deep love that I have chosen (and after reading so many hateful things people say about others am glad I am making) not to experience, but I also see that he is trying to prepare them for a life of their own… My father, who loves my mother but she doesn’t love him at all, always said “Olivia I love you all, but the greatest compliment to my parenting will be you going off and living as if I no longer am alive..” I think that speaks volumes, my mother feels the same… I wish my parents loved each other more, my mother often says she just married my father because he didn’t have children and neither did she and she wanted some… I feel sad for her, they both deserve happiness with someone who is their soulmate but they do not have it… I have it, I wish my parents looked at each other the way my husband looks at me… saying that, my parents raised three children and we all live as if we do not need them. We live quite a distance from our hometown (me the only in another state) and the other two a few hours. We take care of ourselves and the people we have chosen to love… I love my parents and they love me… but I love my husband passionately. When I met him I finally knew what all those love songs were about and all that poetry I had read… To love your spouse is selfless love, it is willingly putting them in a place in your life saying… “I love you and I want a life with you and no one else…” A child is a decision, no matter what anyone says (except rape of course) but if you love the person you have a child with or do not, it is a choice.. a selfish choice, the act of creating a child is selfish (sex feels good, that is why we have it) and if you choose to have sex and not protect yourself and have a child… it’s not a selfless act you are doing… you made that decision to bring someone in to the world… so take the responsibility for the outcome of your decision. I love my step children, and I want them to find someone they love one day, that they want to be themselves completely with because we all know our parents only see parts of us we want and our spouse should know us better than anyone. I hope my step children finish college, are successful in whatever they do and especially in life… and I hope they know what it means to love selflessly because love isn’t selfish… it isn’t a competition and I have never felt a completition with my spouses’ children or with my parents… When you love it means that you expect nothing from whoever it is you love, children, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, friends, relatives, and that you can say “I love you,” and when they do not say it back it is ok because you know and they know that you love them and care for them no matter what… that is what LOVE is about, not some sick twisted competition… and if a parent can measure the love they feel for their child to that of their spouse… if a parent is IN LOVE with their child, then that is a serious issues that parent has with themselves… A child needs love to show them they can be great at life, no matter what it throws at them.. they do not need their parent to be In Love with them… and as for choosing who you would sacrifice, it should always be yourself first, for the people you love. That question should never even be brought up in any discussion of parents of who loves who more… that isn’t love, love knows no bounds and no scorn, it is not selfish and it is not demanding and it has no expectations.

    Final note: To all the people who are parents acting as if having a child is something that no one will ever understand… to all the mothers’ who say the bond is amazing and child birth and unique and special… there are billions of people who experience it, before and after you for years upon years… animals experience it as well… so while it’s special to you… it is very common so please don’t act like your choices are more valid than someone with out children… And what about all these children who have parents who leave them, or who give them up… or who do drugs or abuse them? Yes parenthood isn’t the same for everyone… We always look down on others who disagree. And love only has conditions if you put them in place. Love is selfless, we are selfish… The world owes us nothing, but we forget that.


  1. […] self-control first Jump to Comments This is the continuation of my posts on child-centered parenting. In my first post on the topic, I mentioned how self-reliance precedes self-control in the […]

  2. […] the value of relationships Jump to Comments Here is another post on the effects of child-centered parenting. In my original post on the subject, I mentioned how child-centered parenting teaches children to […]

  3. […] the value of others Jump to Comments This is my final post on child-centered parenting. Here I will discuss one of the most fundamental consequences of making your child the center of […]

  4. […] of parenting, it’s that my marriage must stand at the center of all parenting decisions. Avoiding child-centered parenting doesn’t always come naturally, but there’s no doubt that it helps us teach our children to […]

  5. […] It’s true we do not make the child the center of our attention, but this is solely for the benefit of the child. It does nothing to devalue the child. In fact, it does the opposite. Read more on the perils of child-centered parenting. […]

  6. […] more reading: Child-Centered Parenting from Child Wise (another dissenting opinion towards child-centered parenting. It gets into the […]

  7. […] or family-centered home is important. We do our best to ensure that our lives aren’t too child-centered. We want our children to know that they’re not the center of the universe. They may in fact […]

Speak Your Mind