William Sears, M.D. looks at Christian Parenting and Baby Training in a parable called, The Journey of Michael and Susan.
After his review of Created To Be His Help Meet a few days ago, Tim Challies has decided to review To Train Up A Child, which he does in 2 parts:
Tim Challies Review of To Train Up A Child Part 1 in which he looks at training versus discipline, and his concerns with Pearl’s training.
Tim Challies Review of To Train Up A Child Part 2 in which he looks at the innocent child, the redemptive rod, and gives his conclusion.
While I don’t like to link to sites like this, I really feel that this needs to be shown. I have come across a video (removed by NGJ by Copyright Claim) which was clearly designed to make Michael Pearl look bad. Someone managed to get a recording of the Q & A part of one of Michael Pearl’s teaching sessions which took place in The Church At Cane Creek and edited out everything Mr. Pearl might have said that made sense leaving small clips which appear to be the ravings of a mad man. I am sure that many will insist that the statements and actions in the video were taken out of context and put together in such a way as to make him look bad. I am therefore asking for volunteers to explain to me how these things were manipulated and what the true context really was. If they were jokes, they really do not seem to me jokes becoming for a man of God, especially the part where he grabs the “child” doll and smashes his face onto the desk a few times and chuckles. I could say the same for his apparent arrogance. Here are some other quotes I would like explained:
“If he screams too hard with the first 5… gets hysterical… Wait… You know, a little psychological terror sometime will affect even the pain.” Said while waiving a switch over the rag doll’s behind. He couldn’t possibly be advocating using psychological terror on your child, could he?
“Thumping them on the head? You’re worried about that??? [turns to wife] Give me another question.” I’m trying to figure out how this quote was used in a Biblical context and falling short. I’m sure that someone will have an answer for me.
“If your husband is an angry man, make love to him, make him happy.” This seems to be the advice given to a wife who asks how to deal with a husband who only disciplines in anger. It would seem that he is saying that his anger is his wife’s fault because she is not giving him enough sex. But I must be misunderstanding, because that does not sound Biblical to me.
[switching rag doll] “So I give them 5 more, so now get up” [makes doll sit, it's showing a frown] “Still got a bad attitude” [whack whack whack] “Get up” [checks again, still frowning] “I’m going to say, ‘You’re still crying… I’m going to give you something to cry about.” This sounds like he’s saying to keep on switching the child until he stops crying. I’m sure he must say at some point when to stop switching because they are making it look like this could go on for a long time. And why would a man of God teach parents that they should punish a child until he pretends to be happy? For the child to force himself to smile and pretend to be happy means that the child must pretend be something he is not, the very definition of hypocrisy. Surely he is not advocating forcing a child to sin! Our Lord, Jesus Christ, reserved His harshest condemnation for hypocrites.
I am trying very hard not to judge unfairly. This video comes from a secular source and was clearly edited to cast Mr. Pearl in a negative light. My purpose here is to provide arguments to counter his teachings, not to slander him. This is clearly a hatchet job, I need to know what his arguments really are in order to counter them. For that reason I linked to the video (removed by NGJ by Copyright Claim) so that someone can explain this to me.
Update: The video which was linked above used to be on YouTube but was removed by NGJ for copyright infringement. I had linked to it on EverythingIsTerrible.com and they had it removed from there as well. I’m still waiting for them to answer my questions.
Update: The Mudracker has posted the video starting at 1:17 of his video, Michael Pearl Censors The Internet. The intro contains some language so if that bothers you, please feel free to skip to minute 1:17.
Update: More info about this here.
Jeff Hodson of the Seattle Times provides extensive coverage of the death of Hana Alemu “Williams” as well as the Pearls’ teachings in Did Hana’s parents ‘train’ her to death? I am grateful to see that this blog has a mention and a link in this article. Letters to the editor regarding that article are here.
Also, there is new story about Koko aka Lydia Schatz in All Voices.
J. Bryan Lowder of Slate Magazine read the Pearls’ book in order to answer the question, Did the Disturbing Philosophy of To Train Up a Child Lead to Hana Williams’ Death?
Rachel Stone of Christianity Today takes a close look at To Train Up A Child in When Child Discipline Becomes Abuse. I notice that she linked to my blog which I much appreciate. She obviously read TTUAC with a critical eye and really “gets it.”
Christine Minich takes a look at The Pearls’ Teachings in:
The Disturbing World of The Pearls in which she looks at Doublespeak and Definitions as well as some examples of his abusive teachings.
and The Disturbing World of The Pearls Part 2 in which she takes a look at their heretical Theology.
Also, TulipGirl tries to shed some light on the underlying philosophy of the Pearls’ Teachings with On The Pearls And Parenting, Once Again.
The Toronto Sun has an article about the Pearls’ Teachings in Was child abused to death due to advice from book?
Missizzy posted a Recipe For Disaster on the Websleuths.com message board which explains what happened to Lydia and Hanna. You might be interested in the rest of the conversation, it is really quite interesting. I hope it is ok for me to link to this. If anyone objects, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will remove this entire paragraph.
I also thought I’d mention this post from Civil Thoughts about Adoption Education because that is so important.
Scita>Scienda has finally released their eBook, Parenting In The Name of God. Click on the link to see the table of contents and for a link to download the FREE pdf file. Donations to defray the costs are gladly accepted.
Cindy of Under Much Grace has posted part 5 of her series about First Time Obedience: Revisiting First Time Obedience: Finding New Alternatives
For your convenience I will paste here the links to the rest of the series along with her descriptions:
- A review of the submission required under multigenerational faithfulness as Vision Forum’s carryover from Bill Gothard’s submission teachings with various examples of this demand for unquestioned obedience without credulity. First post specifically examining “First Time Obedience” in young children.
- A review of the principle of sacerdotalism and parental convenience (as a control issue in dysfunctional families) as rationales for requiring “First Time Obedience” and “leaps of faith” required under multigenerational faithfulness.
- Review of the tendency to make every banal daily activity one of great eternal spiritual significance as a consequence of works-based salvation. Includes a discussion of viewing personality traits that do not fit the belief system’s paradigm as sinful as well as the building up of all gender related activities as sacramental for the impartation of inward sanctification.
Addendum to Part II (Spiritualizing All Activities)
- Blog host’s personal experience with inherent personality traits treated by parents as sin, the idolatry of seeking parental approval, and the consequences of requiring unquestioned submission with the use of guilt and shame that predisposes one to easy brainwashing and compliance with thought reform. Includes a section from Biderman’s Chart of Coercion addressing the powerful effects of devaluing individuals in religious settings.
Part III: Poor Development of Analytical Thought and Problem Solving Skills
- Discussion of the development of how perfectionism, works-based salvation and First Time Obedience squelch problem-solving skill and prevent the development of critical thinking under the guise of multigenerational faithfulness.
A specific review of the theological problems in Voddie Baucham’s defense of First Time Obedience as well as the refutation of the practice from Scripture. Echos concerns noted in this previous blog post concerning Baucham’s “Family Driven Faith” book.
Deb has posted the 3rd and final part of her review of Michael Pearl’s book, To Train Up A Child. In this post she looks at how Pearl prevented “sissies” and trained his children to always be happy. She also looks at what he teaches about the rod. She says that what Pearl teaches about persistence bothered her the most. I totally understand that. It is exactly this emphasis on persistence which I suspect killed Lydia Schatz.
The the Wartburg Watch is finding their discussion of To Train Up A Child so interesting that they have already published part 2 of their book review. In this post she takes a quick look at Pearl’s credentials and then explains his training advice with many quotes from the book. She promises to look at his teaching about the rod tomorrow. Stay tuned.
For your convenience, part 1 is here.
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.
Carissa Robinson has a lovely blog post about how Thankfull she is that they are using gentle discipline, complete with an example of how it works. She also links to Sally Clarkson’s blog post about First Time Obedience. Sally Clarkson writes as the mother of adult children and reflects back on how her children were raised and how dangerous it is to try to use a formula for child raising, especially one which involves training.
Elizabeth, at Virginia Is For Mothers, reviews To Train Up A Child. In part 1 she shares her overall reaction which is mixed, and then what she found Good and Helpful about the book. I agree that there are some good and helpful messages in that book. To say otherwise is to put up a wall between us and those who are so taken by the good that they downplay the bad or don’t see it at all. There is a lot of good and that is what makes the book so dangerous. Nobody would eat a bitter tasting poison, it needs to be mixed with honey if anyone is going to eat it. And yes, this is is a very good honey.
But Elizabeth is not fooled. She says:
Here’s what I think about To Train Up A Child: SIGH….these people are such a mixed bag of normalcy and wisdom with a whole lot of weird thrown in. It takes a lot of concentration to weed through the information and advice to find pieces that I think are reasonable and biblical. Once again, I did glean some encouragement and reminders to do what I already believe in doing. So, I’m going to start with that and later write about the (many) parts of the book that had me raising my eyebrows, cringing and picking my jaw up off the floor.
Which brings us to Part 2 in which she reminds people not to fall into the error of relying to heavily on one parenting method and then shares what she found Weird, Harsh and Downright Shocking. She includes plenty of quotes to back up her conclusions. I’m glad that she is participating in warning people about this book.
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.
I just found out about the group known as the Assembly under the ministry of George and Betty Geftakys. I had not heard of them before this, but as they were using the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl (as well as Fugate and Ezzo,) they are of interest. Apparently, they are another cultic and spiritually abusive group. In fact, Betty Geftakys had her own pamphet about child training which almost makes the Pearl’s training methods look mild by comparison.
The post I want to highlight today is from Meg, a former member of that group, and is entitled, Does Discipline Really Produce Godly Character…?
I found a blog entry in The Times of Malta by Tanja Cilia. I am linking to it because it contains a mention of the Pearls and their teaching in what appears to be a mainstream newspaper site. This means that now the good folks of Malta have been warned about the Pearls teachings. This blog entry starts out talking about other things and then segues into a discussion of the Duggars, the Quiverfull Movement, and on to Child Training, Proverbs and the like. She also mentions a little about child rearing in Malta.
The homeschooling movement is taking notice of the Pearls. Secular Homeschooling is a rather large magazine and they have written an exposé of the Pearls and their teachings. She looks at all aspects of the Pearls and gives some advice on how to respond when offered the book at a homeschool gathering.
To Train Up a Child: The Greater Problem by Deborah Markus