Dara Stoltzfus shares her testimony of growing up being spanked for every infraction in “I was spanked and I’m OK!” FEAR..
Latebloomer was raised in Reb Bradley’s church, Hope Chapel, and is one of the Sheltered, Controlled Homeschoolers who “didn’t ‘turn out right,’ yet another disappointment to the former parents and leadership of Hope Chapel.” She shares some important insights about this in “Biblical” Parenting, Introduction. (By the way, I was surprised to see Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz mentioned in this post.)
This post is the introduction to series of posts reviewing Reb Bradley’s book “Child Training Tips”. In this series of posts she looks at how this kind of parenting is “damaging to individuals and relationships because it sacrifices all other virtues for the sake of authority and submission.”
Each Post in her series focuses on one criticism.
Criticism #1: A Parent Who Assumes The Worst in which we see the concept of adversarial relationships taken to new levels.
Criticism #2: Parents are urged to exercise an extreme level of control of their child’s mind and body, which prevents the child from preparing for adulthood in which we learn how his teaching grooms perfect victims for child predators by breaking the child’s will, removing their sense of bodily ownership and teaching them that they must respect and obey anyone older than themselves.
Criticism #3: A Parent Who Tries to Change Minds and Hearts through Spanking in which we learn about his teachings on spanking which take abuse to new levels as well as his “severe misunderstanding of the Bible and serious scholarly negligence.”
Criticism #4: A Parent Who Isolates In Order to Control in which we learn that he teaches parents to isolate their children from the world and the results of such isolation.
I got a nice message on the Facebook Page from Sarah Presswood which she graciously gave me permission to share.
I am so grateful that I found your site. My parents used To Train Up A Child by the Pearls and taught/utilized Growing Kids Gods Way as their parenting guides my entire childhood and adolescence. I grew up fearing them, never trusting them, and gradually distancing myself the older I became. The emotional abuse that I was subjected to has been something that I continually struggle with. When I became pregnant with my son, I was immediately gifted with the Pearl’s book and pressured to use it exclusively. My son is now 14 months old and I announced publicly my opposition to spanking (for many reasons, but the recent study citing mental health problems was my platform). I immediately received vicious messages from family members telling me how stupid I was for believing those lies. My dad told me that not spanking my son is going against God and that my decision will have serious spiritual consequences. Google brought me to your site and I feel so validated. I never knew that their were Christians who were against spanking and this site has helped me so so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Along a similar line, I just got a comment from kysyra saying,
Thank you for this whole website. I read the book and once tried to write a comment akin to yours, but I just can’t do it.
What I think is worst about the whole thing, is that throughout the text he writes about love and respect so much and so sincerely. There is even a long section explaining how important respect towards the child and his needs are!
There are whole sections I could copy out to any AP-parents and they would sign them.
I can see how this book can make basically good people believe that complete surrender and physical pain would be necessary to raise “good” kids.
My older one is not a “good” kid in his sense at all.
But she is a sweet, empathic, social, generous kid, even when she is disobedient…
the little one, I have no idea how she will turn out yet. Except, that at 11 months she (and I with her of course) was hospitalized for a week, sharing the room with another small boy. One day he had to be alone for some hours. As his mother and I had agreed upon, I took as much care of him as I could, putting him on my bed, between my girl and me. He cried for his mother and cried and cried.
And my little, very sick, baby? she looked at him sadly, shook her head, and stroked his head and back until he was calmer…
Just imagine she had been raised believing that beatings were in order!
I like my kids the way they are, even if they are not “good” in the Pearls’ sense!
I thank God for using me and this site to help Sarah, kysyra and others like them.
Dulce de Leche continues her 10 Commandments For Parents series with The 10 Commandments for Parents: Taking His Name in Vain.
Pearl in Oyster (PIO) continues her 52 Tool Cards series with 52 Tool Cards Double Feature: Focus on Solutions and Problem Solving.
While we’re on the subject of gentle parenting, here is a Post from Momma on a Mission: Journey to Gentle Discipline.
This blog has always tried to argue against false teachings without making those using those teachings feel condemned. That is a delicate balance and not always possible to achieve. It is not at all pleasant to find out that the choices one has prayerfully made are considered to be abuse by many people. And upon discovering that one has in fact made a terrible mistake and has fallen into an abusive lifestyle is gut wrenching. Not only does one have to come to grips with the fact that one has been deceived and spiritually abused, but one must face the fact that one has been abusing his or her own children. Often, by the time this discovery is made serious or even irreparable damage has been done to the parent/child relationship. Someone posted to my Facebook wall the following:
I just wanted to share my status update with you. Since learning the dangers of TTUAC a year ago, I have had the hardest year of my life. Right now things are getting a lot worse. I have had a response from another mother who is in the midst of the same pain right now.
TTUAC is not just abusing children. It is also abusing the parents who so desperately seek out the answers. It is my hope that I can reach out to others who have been hurt and abused. Not just the children, but the parents who have loved them and lost them.
Here is what I wrote:
On the day that you were born, I gave my life to you. I vowed I would do all in my power to love you, to protect you, to bring you up right.
In my search for answers, my desperate plea for knowledge of how to give you my very best, I was led astray.
I have said I am sorry. I have tried to make amends. I have made massive changes in my life.
But you will not forgive. You have taken my apologies for the things I have done wrong, and used them as a catalyst to twist and poison everything and everyone.
I did things wrong. Every parent does. I look through the scrapbook albums of what I thought were happy memories, and all you can talk about is your crap childhood.
In all I have done, I have done it for you. You are my child. I love you more than life. I gave you my all and you chewed me up and spat me out.
There is nothing left. I cannot go on. You have taken it all. You have taken your sisters and been spoon feeding them lies. My fragile heart is broken. It cannot take any more. I am empty. There is nothing left.
I am sorry for the things I got wrong as a mother. But I am not sorry for my intentions, nor for the things I got right.
And as for sharing this on Facebook? Well, I hope others will see that things can go so horribly wrong. That those we love more than the world can suck the life from us. That there are parenting books out there – particularly Christian ones – that offer the answers. But they are full of poison that is not truly based on God’s word.
And that those words lead to death. Sometimes to those who had so desperately sought the answers that would avoid this very issue.
One day you will hopefully understand. The love, the journey, the conclusion.
With much prayer healing can take place, although it can take years. With healing comes forgiveness and a renewed relationship. Let us pray for those in this situation.
This same person posted again a few days later, saying,
The dangers in calling a spade a spade….
I used to follow the Pearls methods. These methods are abusive. By strict definition, that makes (made) me an abuser. But I inherently object to this term. Why? Is it just guilt? I don’t think so.
In my search for answers and my need for as much information as possible to make changes, and to reach other parents, I have often felt like I’ve been kicked in the guts by well-meaning people who just want to help kids.
I am glad there are so many groups out there warning of the dangers of these and other ‘christian’ child training books. The Internet wasn’t around when we first started. Maybe if it was our whole family would have been spared a whole lot of pain.
But back to my problem with being called an abuser. In the accepted use of the word abuser, the following ideas come to mind:
Abusers are too lazy to come up with other forms of discipline.
We searched and prayed, asked and attended courses on how to be good Christian parents. In fact, following TTUAC takes a LOT of diligence. Truth to tell, it was my laziness that probably spared my girls a lot more pain than they had. (and I spent years with the guilt of thinking the problems we had were because I wasn’t 100% diligent in applying the rod)
Abusers don’t really care about their kids in a sacrificial way.
I would have given anything for my kids. I did not believe in going off to do ‘my own thing’ just to get away from them, or spending time at the pub drowning my sorrows or living it up.
Abusers have no remorse.
I felt remorse many times over the years. But I learned to bury those ‘sinful’ feelings that came with hating the rod!
Abusers care more about their own wants and needs than their children’s.
I threw all I had into trying to create happy memories for my girls. Big birthday parties, making the backyard into a village, taking them to clubs 180km away for the pleasure and learning experience, making clothes and costumes, homeschooling etc. Things they believe were just to create a facade of a happy family. Things that I thought were part of a happy family.
Abusers take no responsibility for their actions.
Right now this is a biggie for me. My apologies are falling on deaf ears. I have lost one member of my extended family, and things are pretty tense with others. I hate that now, when I have been learning the mistakes I have made, when I have stood up in public and declared I was wrong, that this is when things are all crashing around me.
Parents who have followed (are following) these methods are not abusers by this definition. Sure, we were the ones that made bad decisions to follow these people in the first place. But we made these decisions out of genuine love. Not to the same extent – our children had NO say in the matter – but we are victims too.
And unless we start to speak about this side, we may find that parents are simply not emotionally able to face themselves as abusers, but may be ready to see how falling victim to a cult mentality (that is so accepted in our churches that it doesn’t raise an eyebrow) has twisted the truth of Gods word and destroyed their families.
Hoping and praying that more parents will be able to break free of this bondage. Thank you for standing up and taking on the fight.
Abuse is such a loaded word. She is right, when we hear that word, we do tend to think as is written above. It is good for us to take this into consideration and try to not kick people while they are down. This is why I am careful not to attack people, only the teachings. We must show compassion and grace to those who are in error in the spirit of Galatians 6:1
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
An anonymous writer explains how she used to follow Pearls teachings to the letter and exactly how and why they are dangerous in Corpses Don’t Rebel: A former follower of Michael Pearl’s “To Train Up A Child” reacts to the death of Hana Williams.
Deb of The Wartburg Watch posts about exposing Pearl’s teachings as well as the Judge who was recently exposed for his child abuse 7 years ago in “Judge” Not Lest Ye Be Judged.
Note: I do not have much to say about the Hillary Adams case, as abuse is beyond the scope of this blog unless it is being justified as Biblical, (in other words, unless God is dragged into it.) So far I have yet to see that in this case.
Carolyn wrote the following comment in response to That Mom’s post about Lydia Schatz and posted on my Facebook page.
I can totally understand how this is completely attributible to the Pearls teachings. We were introduced to these teachings when my children were little, and I believed pretty much all of what they had to say. We created child-training opportunities. We would calmly switch our daughters until they submitted. We had lovely obedient children (most of the time!).
Then, our 3rd daughter showed us that this didn’t always work!! She has Aspergers Syndrome (which wasn’t diagnosed until she was 10 years old), and this method simply did not work with her.
By the time she was about 4 years old, I was starting to feel like in order to live up to the Pearls teaching of smacking until repentance, I would be stepping from Biblical discipline into abuse. She could honestly keep up the stubborness for hour after hour after hour.
I don’t recall anything about striking the child on the back or legs. Somehow I took from it that the only place to strike a child was on the buttocks. Now, I don’t know where I picked that up from, it was probably another child training book. But the teaching I implemented here was pretty much based on the premise that this area was well padded, and it would take considerable force to injure a child there. Whereas, to my way of thinking, hitting on the back is torture. Maybe the Pearls do advocate that this is okay. I don’t know, and I don’t care to reread their books. So if you can tell me what it says on this, I would certainly like to hear it.
Anyway, as I said, it became apparent that this ‘one size fits all’ approach simply wasn’t working for her. This made me step back and re-evaluate. I started to change how I approached child training. But with no real guidance as to what to do next. It seemed obvious that the rod was an important child-training tool, and that if I ‘spared the rod’ I would be ‘spoiling the child’.
I went to several Christian seminars run by Parenting with Confidence in New Zealand (check out their materials, I am now much more inspired by them than I used to be). But I did have one problem with them. In the local newspaper, the leaders of this group stated that they were a ‘step removed from spare the rod and spoil the child’. I was baffled by the idea that Christians could outright state that they were ‘a step removed from the Bible’!
Between my 6th and 7th daughters there is a 9 year gap. I have long since left behind the Pearls teachings. But not because I had any firm understanding of their false teachings. I simply came to the conclusion that I didn’t like the fact that my husband was hiding behind what they were saying and becoming abusive towards the girls (I know they say never to smack in anger, but the truth is, he did and occaisionally still does). He still justifies this in his own mind as ‘righteous anger’. In a lot of ways I felt guilt that I wasn’t able to train the children correctly so that they would be so well-behaved that he would have no reason to get angry with them! (another Pearl teaching).
My 7th daughter was born 9 weeks premature, and at 4 weeks of age was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. She has softened my heart immeasurably. She is now 2 years old, and not afraid to exert her independance. But, due to her delays, I instead look at her and rather than thinking ‘she is so disobedient’ I tend to think ‘she is so clever, she is able to tell me NO when she doesn’t want to do something. She is not just blindly following!’ What a turn-around in attitude!
Then a few weeks ago, a friend of mine ‘liked’ a few FB pages such as ‘Why not to train up a child’ and ‘gentle parenting’ etc. I clicked on some of the many links provided (including this one) and read articles like the one that talks about the Hebrew meaning of the words used in the verses that are so strongly spouted by the TTUAC crowd. Verses that formed the basis of my child-training techniques.
I broke down and cried. You see, I couldn’t understand why the children of my more ‘liberal’ Christian friends were growing into beautiful young adults, while my own firstborn is currently living with her boyfriend and claiming she doesn’t even know if God is real. (until she was 18, she had a real reputation around our town of being basically the perfect Christian teenager, but then she left town, and all her beliefs). We honestly thought her good behaviour and her moral beliefs were solid. We were wrong. Once she was out from under our authority, she immediately rebelled.
Other Christian friends (several families) were adherents of TTUAC, and to my way of thinking, were much more consistent at applying their teachings. I always felt a failure in comparison to them. Now, their children are also reaching adulthood. Those children are rejecting their faith and pursuing lives of sin.
I am finally starting to see the truth. It has taken nearly 20 years.If it hadn’t been for my daughter with Aspergers, and my daughter with Down Syndrome, I may never have learned.
I am hoping and praying that one day soon, before it is too late for my teens, my husband will learn. For many years now, I have wanted to leave my marriage due to his treatment of the children. A lot of the time I still do. This is no way to live a marriage. But, I do see my youngest mellowing him a bit. I have a 14 year old with an acquired brain injury. She comes across as fairly ‘normal’ in most respects, but certain things just don’t make sense to her. At the moment there is a lot of aminosity between her and her dad. He was just last night getting angry at her over something totally insignificant (he wanted her to go through to the kitchen so she was ready to do dishes when her sister started washing them (the sink wasn’t even run yet), and she said she would go through when there was something there to dry. He told her to go through NOW. She said ‘why? I’ll go when she has started them, she hasn’t even run the sink yet’. His reply? ‘Simple obedience. You will do what I tell you when I tell you, and not answer back’. Sound familiar?
I honestly do not know what to do about this. If I speak up in front of the girls, I am undermining him, and encouraging them to not listen to him. If I try and talk to him about it later, it is usually too late and the damage has been done. If I talk to him about this sort of thing in general, he agrees with me at the time, but all that flies out the window when he is angry. I am so scared that he is sending the other girls down the same rocky path that our eldest has chosen.
If anyone else has gone from following TTUAC to a more gentle approach, but has a husband who hasn’t changed, any advice would be appreciated.
I think I might copy and paste this to the FB page now……
Thanks for listen to me ramble. And believe me, I can see how this woman could have gotten to the point of killing her child without anger. If she was switching her across the kidneys, it isn’t necessarily force that did the damage, but repitition. She probably had no idea that any damage had been done.
Carolyn, thank you so much for sharing your testimony with us. I would like to take this opportunity to show what Michael Pearl teaches about where to spank. In his article, In Defense of Biblical Chastisement, Part 2 from October 2001, under the heading of, “Where on the body?” he says,
The Bible says, “the rod is for the back.” That would include anything that is not the front—the back from the shoulders down to the feet. When training, and not chastening or punishing, any convenient place on the body is effective. When you have told a child not to touch, and he reaches out, you can thump or swat his hand. If he is trying to climb down from his chair after being told not to, you can swat his legs. But when you are engaging the child in serious chastisement, the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective. You can spank half as hard on the back with a light, stingy switch and be more effective than spanking harder on the bottom or thighs.
I would like to remind my readers that Lydia did not die of blunt force, she died because she was struck over and over for hours over the course of a few days which caused toxins to build up slowly and overwhelm her kidneys. The tissue broke down as if it had been tenderized. As far as I can tell, they probably were following the advice given here to the letter.
Now, to your other question. I never actually followed the Pearls’ teachings so I’ll just remind my readers that if anyone has any advice to please comment either here or on Facebook. All I have to say is what I said on Facebook: he will not listen at all if you say anything in front of the children because he will be too busy being mad about you undermining him.
I suggest you take notes and bring it up when you are alone, as often an necessary. This will happen over and over. Hopefully, when he is in the moment with one of the children, he will learn to notice your expression and remember your words. If he agrees and just needs a reminder, maybe you can work out a code.
I suggest that you warn him that the damage he is doing to the children not only risks that they might leave the faith, but even if they don’t, they are likely to cut him out of their lives either partially or totally. Also, pray without ceasing.
A few days later Carolyn posted the following:
When I wrote that, I was thinking about my own wrong-doings. I am not good with words and often say what comes into my head, without considering how my words will be interpreted. The things I said about my daughter were unintentionally harsh and uncalled for. By saying that my friends’ daughters had grown into beautiful young adults, then stating that my daughter was living with her boyfriend and had abandoned her morals, and God; I left the impression that I was saying she wasn’t a beautiful young adult. I totally didn’t mean to do that, but re-reading it now, it seems so obvious how that would come across. My daughter is, in fact, a really beautiful, loving and wonderful young lady.
The struggles she is having with her faith right now are largely due to my own child training methods. My formula of do this and that and your child will be a good Christian, never left any room for them to question us or God. We were right, and they needed to get their thinking in line with ours. In hindsight, it is not really surprising that it was only when she was out from under our domination, that she could actually pull apart and start question what we had told her to believe.
We lived our lives in judgement of those who weren’t ‘proper’ Christian parents. We lived our lives in judgement of our own children’s questioning minds.
It is only in the last month or two that God has really started to soften my heart. And right now, I am absolutely horrified that I have just made things worse for my daughter. I was totally trying to change things. I don’t know why I said what I said in the way I said it. And I want you all to know, that I am deeply sorry. I messed up, and hurt her in a public forum. So now, I need to set the record straight and apologise in that same forum.
A….. I am truly sorry that I hurt you. Please forgive me.
No Longer Quivering has a new series called Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World. Part 4 of this series is Acknowledgment & Apologies which could be considered testimonies of the damage done by the quiverfull mindset. Part 5: Confessions of a Quiverfull Hero and Part 6: Soul Binding are long testimonies about how raising children in the quiverfull mindset almost destroyed them. Heartbreaking.
Mama D. used to recommend the Pearl’s teachings but has since taken another look and has now written about her concerns in a post entitled, “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.”
Now Through a Glass Darkly compares and contrasts The Passion of The Cross with The Rod in Two of A Kind: The Christ of the “Passion”, and the Parent of the Pearls