Deb, from The Wartburg Watch, promised to read and review To “Train Up A Child” in Monday’s post and by Tuesday she had already purchased and read it. She has posted part one of her review, and plans to post more later this week. She is doing a great job of exposing the Pearls’ teachings.
Brenda K. has written a letter to her public library, asking them to remove To Train Up a Child from circulation. I am posting her letter in case someone might find a use for it. Note that she attached a print out of a news story about the Schatz case. You can find many such stories using my News catagory
Dear Library Staff,
The book To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl of No Great Joy Ministries is, in my opinion, a danger to the children in our community. It is nothing more than a child abuse manual cloaked in promises of producing well behaved children. The advice outlined in this book and on the authors’ website, has been connected to the deaths of two children* (see attached news article), and one can only imagine the lasting physical and emotional damage inflicted upon thousands of other children whose parents have followed these teachings.
The authors claim their cruel methods are endorsed by God, yet they have no religious training or credentials. They take liberties in twisting scripture, and claim treating the smallest and weakest among us in a cruel fashion, is actually a demonstration of love. There is no mention of Jesus’ command to forgive “seventy times seven” or of showing true compassion and grace.
I firmly believe in freedom of speech, but feel the line must be drawn when it comes to promoting violence and cruelty toward children – especially in a community library which I and other reasonable parents help fund.
Additionally, I believe the Pearls’ advice encourages parents to break the law. The State of Ohio’s law regarding corporal punishment says:
§ 2151.031. [Civil Code] It is a criminal act to administer corporal punishment or other physical discipline, or to physically restrain the child in a cruel manner or for a prolonged period if it is excessive under the circumstances and creates a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the child. It is a criminal act to administer unwarranted disciplinary measures to child if there is a substantial risk that if conduct is continued it will seriously impair the child’s health or development.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how easily their methods could result in serious and lasting impairment of a child’s health and development.
Attached are specific examples of some of the most egregious directives contained in the book. Quotes are taken from the seventeenth printing: April 2006 edition, copyright 1994.
Thank you for considering my request to have this book removed from your shelves.
*Note: The attached news article mentions beating with plastic tubing. This book does not specifically mention plastic tubing, but it does recommend similar implements and says sometimes alternative ones must be found. Their website does specifically mention plastic tubing as an acceptable discipline tool. But regardless of what tool is used, both children’s parents were influenced by the overall message of this book.
* The Pearls admonish parents to “Train Up – Not Beat Up” (p.4), but the book thoroughly extols the value of repeated “switchings.” On page 1 they recommend rewarding a child’s “every transgression with a switching.” A switching is described throughout the book as striking a child on his bare skin with various rod-like objects.
* Child training is compared to training animals such as dogs, mules, and horses. (p.3,4)
* They suggest setting up children – including young babies who aren’t yet walking – to fail, and then switching them in order to “train them” to obey immediately. (p.5-8)
* They believe a baby’s crying is self-centered and manipulative, and on p. 8 insist newborns need “training”. On p. 9 they describe switching their 5 month old daughter’s bare legs with a 12-inch long switch from a willow tree, because she was trying to climb up steps.
* They believe parents should “not allow the child’s crying to cause them to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.” (p.46)
* The authors declare that the very nature of a child demands punishment by “whipping, paddling, switching, or belting” (p.46, under “The Power of Absolution”). Parents who don’t follow their methods are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and “creating a Nazi” (p.47).
* On p. 49 and 50 they describe the procedure to administering punishment: “If you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Hold the resisting child in a helpless position for several minutes, or until he is totally surrendered.” The child is to “bend over on the bed or couch… Slowly begin to spank. If you go too fast, you may not allow time enough for the inner transformation to occur.” In the same section, the author says, “I have found five to ten licks are usually sufficient. As the child gets older, the licks must become more forceful if the experience is going to be effective in purging his rebellion. A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child has surrendered.” (p. 49, 50)
* On p. 50 the authors claim “Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain” [emphasis in original]. It is most effective to strike a light rod against bare skin, where nerves are located at the surface. A surface sting will cause sufficient pain, with no injury or bruising. Select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one-year-old child, a small, ten- to twelve-inch-long, willowy branch (stripped of any knots that might break the skin), about one-eight inch in diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a suitable substitute. For the larger child, a belt or a three-foot cutting off of a shrub is effective.” (The reader is left wondering how administering punishment according to their recommendations, could not cause “injury or bruising”!)
* If a father spanks a child and the child cries for his mother, the mother should hit the child as forcefully as the father did – even if the father was being unduly harsh: “It is better for your child if you support an occasional injustice than to destroy the authority base by your open division.” (p.58)
* They recommend switching a three-year-old by administering “about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she [the mother] will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him.” They recommend this until he is “totally broken.” (p.62)
* The authors recommend switching babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up… To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down.” They speak approvingly of a mother who switched her 12 month old daughter for crying and not wanting to sleep. (p.63, 64)
* On p.67 and 68, co-author Debi Pearl retells how she switched the bare leg of a 15 month old she was babysitting, 10 separate times with a 12-inch long switch, for not playing with something she told him to play with. She believed he had a “selfish and rebellious spirit.”
* The Pearls recommend pulling a nursing infant’s hair if he bites his mother’s breast (p.7), and describe tripping their non-swimming toddler so she falls into deep water (p.70).
* Parents who are learning to “train” previously unruly children, are told to “grin” at the thought of hitting them: “Grin, because you have secret weapons: A Plan, Love, Patience, Reproof, THE ROD OF CORRECTION [emphasis in the original], Endurance….” (p.82, 83)
* On p. 83 the authors extol the wisdom of switching a seven-month-old baby boy: “If he is old enough to pitch a fit, he is old enough to be switched.”
The letter I sent to my pastor about the Pearls. By MarynMunchkins
This morning’s message was wonderful. I love how you bring grace and mercy into every message, and call legalism and self-righteous behavior what it is. It’s truly a blessing to listen.
Unfortunately, my husband had an experience this week which was less than gracious and kind. He took someone from the church out to lunch, who informed him that he was ungodly, his wife was unsubmissive, his children were out of control, and that he had no hope of ministry unless he got “his house in order”. His Christianity was also called into question because of sin that has already been forgiven.
I don’t bring this up to so you will address that person. My concern is far greater. You see, this person based their beliefs and judgment of our family around the ministry of Michael Pearl. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, but I do know for a fact that there are families at *** who are. I’ve known several families in the Southern Baptist church who have actively used his materials.
I’m writing to you because I’m deeply concerned about them. In fact, I consider much of his teachings to be utter heresy. While I see my opinion supported in my own study of Scripture and confirmed by several wiser Christians than I, I’d like you to look at it and give me your opinion.
Michael Pearl’s website is http://www.nogreaterjoy.org He boasts a comprehensive ministry to families, and his website is well organized and designed.
To illustrate some of my concerns, I’ve selected a few quotes from his website.
One of my primary concerns is his belief that there is no original sin, and we are born in a neutral state – able to choose between good and evil, but not being inherently either. He also believes that we are instantly sanctified at the moment of salvation – that a true Christian cannot, in fact, sin after receiving Christ. I can see no support for this theory in Scripture, and, in fact, see much the opposite.
He says “Man has spent many years “undoing” the character of God in himself and his society.” Yet the Bible clearly says that “There is none righteous.” We are certainly made in the image of God, but we do not possess His character, and therefore cannot undo it.
He has the audacity to add to Scripture and claim he knows what God would have written. “If Hebrews 11 were to continue until the present, it would read something like this: “And the followers of Christ, though they were living in bodies of flesh, believed God that they were indeed baptized into his body and thus freed from sin. They went out into the world, walking by faith and hope and so, though they never saw their glorified bodies or the throne on which they were seated, they believed God against the sight of their eyes and so walked in holiness and victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. While the world looked on the things that are seen, these sons of The Last Adam, believed him who is invisible and so inherited the kingdom and entered into the city which had foundations whose builder and maker is God.” He claims and firmly believes that sin is contained only in the physical body, not the mind or soul; and with salvation comes the literal death of the physical body and the absolute freedom from sin.
This blog article ( http://allthings2all.blogspot.com/2005/09/michael-and-debi-pearls-no-greater-joy_30.html ) is a great summary of that issue. You can actually listen to Pearl’s series on Romans online at http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/index.php?id=romans-audio to hear exactly what it is that he is teaching.
Pearl has very strong views of the typical Christian church. “Face it, the church today is not a sanctuary from the world, nor is it a “holy” place. In the best case scenario, it is a slice of the world where there is an attempt at evangelism and worship. But on average, the church is a social club composed of a mixed multitude. Far too often, the church is a recruiting ground of pedophiles and fornicators.” And “The church itself is actually a mission field. There was a time when the church was a place of worship for believers, and evangelism was done in special meetings or out in the homes and streets, but today, the churches invite the rattlesnakes to come into the house.” I won’t speak for you, but I am more interested in having sinners come to church than keeping my children from ever being exposed to them.
Michael Pearl’s solution is to segregate from rest of Christianity. While he does say “Don’t leave the church, anymore than a missionary would leave the field because there are sinners there.”, he also says “The homeschool movement is more than an educational alternative. It is parents putting on the brakes and saying, “my children will not ride this train to hell; I will take charge and direct my family in a different path.” You are part of a cultural shift, and a spiritual awakening. We are in the midst of a revival of the family. It must extend to a revival of community as well. The public church is no longer to be trusted with your children any more than the public schools.” Please understand that I certainly am cautious about the people I entrust with my children – including those at church. But, having just had the unfortunate experience of being told that our family wasn’t good enough to associate with by one of Pearl’s followers, I realize that his teaching goes far beyond being cautious of our children. It’s judgmental. It’s legalistic. It’s unforgiving. And the solution offered is to run from the community – “I would like to tell them to move to a community like Cane Creek and escape the world” – and avoid any and all other Christians that see differently. It’s far different from Paul’s advice to as much as possible, live at peace with all men. There is no grace extended to fellow Christians, nor an attempt to correct what is perceived as sin. They only run away and hide in self-righteousness.
He segregates from the state as well. None of his married daughters have marriage licenses. His opinion is, “None of my daughters or their husbands asked the state of Tennessee for permission to marry. They did not yoke themselves to government. It was a personal, private covenant, binding them together forever—until death. So when the sodomites have come to share in the state marriage licenses, which will eventually be the law, James and Shoshanna will not be in league with those perverts. And, while I am on the subject, there will come a time when faithful Christians will either revoke their state marriage licenses and establish an exclusively one man-one woman covenant of marriage, or, they will forfeit the sanctity of their covenant by being unequally yoked together with perverts.”
Their teachings on marriage and submission are equally distressing. Michael Pearl seems to suggest that the man of the house should always be reverenced, and never openly questioned. Debi Pearl encourages a woman to always let her husband take the lead – even to the detriment of herself and her children.
This article shows their attitude very clearly.
“It’s called “the circle of love.” You please him, and he likes it – then he pleases you, and you love him – then you honor him, and he grows”
I see this as being diametrically opposed to Paul’s description of marriage and submission. The husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the church, and the wife is then to submit to him. Placing the responsibility of a happy marriage on the shoulders of the woman and her attitude is simply wrong.
I know for a fact that women who follow the Pearls have counseled other women enduring relationships with adultery and pornography that if they were better in bed or had a better attitude at home, their husbands would be satisfied at home.
Debi Pearl herself says “You can wake up in the morning with a song in your heart, kissing your child and laughing at the sunlight sprinkling your room. You can serve, give, forgive, and enjoy the victory you have in Jesus. And when you feel that hurt, angry spirit rise up, you can open your mouth in praise and thanksgiving to God that you are free from sin and bondage, and free to be glad. In that kind of atmosphere, a child grows stable and complete, a selfish man stops fighting and trying to defeat and subdue.”
She places the wife in the impossible position of being God to her husband, and causing him to repent. She tells the wife that it is her Christian duty to endure all things from her husband, and that God will bless her, regardless of the husband’s sin or abuse towards her.
This quote, in particular, illustrates just how far they are willing to sacrifice women and children for a sinful, unrepentant man. “But if your husband has sexually molested the children, you should approach him with it. If he is truly repentant (not just exposed) and is willing to seek counseling, you may feel comfortable giving him an opportunity to prove himself, as long as you know the children are safe. If there is any thought that they are not safe, or if he is not repentant and willing to seek help, then go to the law and have him arrested. Stick by him, but testify against him in court. Have him do about 10 to 20 years, and by the time he gets out, you will have raised the kids, and you can be waiting for him with open arms of forgiveness and restitution. Will this glorify God? Forever. You ask, “What if he doesn’t repent even then?” Then you will be rewarded in heaven equal to the martyrs, and God will have something to rub in the Devil’s face. God hates divorce—always, forever, regardless, without exception.”
Their views on children are horrifying. I am well aware that Christians are arguing over many aspects of discipline and parenting. But there are few who can read the advice of the Pearls and not be shocked by what they claim to be “Biblical”.
You can read the first chapter of their book “To Train Up a Child” at http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/index.php?id=to-train-up-a-child They are extraordinarily punitive, adversarial, and behavioristic. They compare a child to a dog or a horse, and equate training an animal to raising a child.
“Most parents don’t think they can train their little children. Training doesn’t necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli. Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the dangers of city streets, shouldn’t a parent expect more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can’t a child be trained not to touch? A dog can be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet, or fetch upon command. You may not have trained your dog that well, yet every day someone accomplishes it on the dumbest of mutts. Even a clumsy teenager can be trained to be an effective trainer in an obedience school for dogs.”
The Pearls seem to forget that children are still created by God with a free will, and not just animals to be trained. They have a choice and will just as every adult.
They suggest setting up an toddler to fail, and then switching them in order to ‘train them’ to obey immediately.
“Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a “No-No” corner or on the apple juice table (another name for the coffee table). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, “No, don’t touch that.” Since they are already familiar with the word “No,” they will likely pause, look at you in wonder, and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.” Remember, now, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command, and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.”
He promises complete and utter perfection from a child if you are consistent with this type of “obedience training”.
“Most children can be brought into complete and joyous subjection in just three days. Thereafter, if you are consistent, the children will remain happy and obedient. By obedient, I mean, you will never need to tell them twice. If you expect to receive instant obedience, and you train them to that end, you will be successful.”
Please realize that this is a far greater issue than whether to spank. I have my own opinions and beliefs on this subject, and choose not to bring them into my concerns about the Pearls. This man teaches that INFANTS should be switched on a regular basis.
“You must start training your children one year before their first birthday, because if you don’t, they will be trained without your input.”
Michael Pearl makes a distinction between “training” and “discipline”, but the fact of the matter is that, for him, both involve hitting a child with a switch.
At this time, there is a case pending trial of a mother who used Michael Pearl’s methods on her child, and the child died.
Mandy Locke has written an excellent article covering Michael Pearl in more general terms.
I don’t want to make his child training advice the point of my concern, although it sickens me. But, unfortunately, most of the people I know who do follow Michael Pearl’s teachings begin with his advice on raising children. He preys on their fears as parents and promises them perfection. He claims any fault with your child is your fault, and consistency would fix any and all problems.
I see and have seen too many well-meaning Christian parents sucked into this lie, and lose sight of the goal. The women mentioned in Mandy’s article – Chris and Meggan – are both friends of mine. I been told of the damage their children, their families, and they themselves have suffered as a result of Michael and Debi Pearl.
Women, in particular, are susceptible to damage. They are told that they are ultimately responsible for the well-being of their children, the care of their home, and the happiness of their husband. They are expected to be perfectly consistent, perfectly happy, and perfectly willing to do anything asked of them. It sets them up to be taken advantage of and abused.
It puts men into an artificial place of elevation within the family, instead of holding him to be the servant that he is expected to be to his wife and children. It borders dangerously close to idolatry. It gives him a sense of pride and arrogance that is hard to overcome.
I really appreciate you taking the time to look at all this. I realize it’s incredibly long, and very full of information. Please don’t feel any hurry to respond – I know there’s a lot of material here. I’d love to meet with you at some point and discuss it.
Thanks so much for your willingness to help, and the amazing job you do sharing grace with all of us at *** each week.
“What is “wrong”, IMO, about going strictly from a training point-of-view is that children are *NOT* dogs, mules, mice, etc. (Some could pointedly argue you don’t even need to train dogs with all this “pain”.) There is a future. We do not just need our children to be manageable *today*, we hopefully want them to be emotionally healthy adults. Training children to be hopelessly submissive, no matter what, also trains them to be hopelessly submissive, no matter what, as adults. (I speak from experience; this is a very difficult “training” to rectify.)
Training children not to touch anything, for example, trains them to be apathetic about their surroundings and/or to believe they have no personal rights to enjoy their surroundings.
Training children to drop everything the instant they are called trains them to be people-pleasers who, as adults, will be constantly taken advantage of by more domineering people.
Training children that you love and smile at them while you inflict pain on them trains them that people who profess to “love” you also injure you, disrespect you and care nothing for your opinion or feelings. Children who grow up like this become adults who allow themselves to be abused – physically, emotionally, verbally.
Children trained never to “talk back” become adults who cannot express their opinion. Again, they “have” to please others to be loved.” – Danielle