Tanja Cilia from Times of Malta

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.

thoughts on training

Living With A Handful blog has some Thoughts About Training. These thoughts are a follow up to her post about the verse Proverbs 6:22, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” .

total depravity theology

Elizabeth Esther looks at How the “I am a worm”/total depravity theology hurts children. She links this belief with abuse and makes some good points.

Secular Homeschooling Magazine

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

Suzanne’s Testimony

I just found a lovely new testimony and argument.

Drop The Training and Regret Less by Suzanne Parker

Quotes from To Train Up A Child

When quoting from To Train Up A Child (written and published by Michael and Debi Pearl), we should be careful about paraphrasing. We are being accused of misquoting. Here are some quotes from the first edition of the book, which is found online here. I got the page numbers  for the 1st edition (1994) from quotes which are in circulation (originating from stoptherod.net) but I painstakingly checked each quote in the book to make sure that I am using direct quotes. Page numbers for the 17th edition (April 2006) were provided by Robbyn Peters Bennett of  StopSpanking.org.

The Pearls recommend switching infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe switching their own 4 month old daughter (1st edition p.9).

At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of “No” with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.

In the 17th edition (April 2006) the above quote is the same but the baby is a month older.  Also on page 9:

At five months, she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good (and our peace of mind), we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of “No” with little spats on her bare legs. The switch was a twelve-once long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.

On p.60 of the 1st edition they recommend switching babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.”

But what of the grouch who would rather complain than sleep? Get tough. Be firm with him. Never put him down and then allow him to get up. If, after putting him down, you remember he just woke up, do not reward his complaining by allowing him to get up.For the sake of consistency in training, you must follow through. He may not be able to sleep, but he can be trained to lie there quietly. He will very quickly come to know that any time he is laid down there is no alternative but to stay put. To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down.

This has been reworded somewhat in the 17th edition (P63)

But what about the grouchy child who would rather complain than sleep? Get tough. Be firm with him. Never put him down and then for some reason reverse your position, allowing him to get up. For your reputation with the child, you must follow through. He may not be able to sleep, but he can be trained to lie there quietly. He will very quickly come to know that any time he is laid down, there is no alternative but to stay put. To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down.

On p.79 they recommend switching a 7 month old for screaming.

A seven-month-old boy had, upon failing to get his way, stiffened clenched his fists, bared his toothless gums and called down damnation on the whole place. At a time like that, the angry expression on a baby’s face can resemble that of one instigating a riot. The young mother, wanting to do the right thing, stood there in helpless consternation, apologetically shrugged her shoulders and said, “What can I do?” My incredulous nine-year-old whipped back, “Switch him.” The mother responded, “I can’t, he’s too little.” With the wisdom of a veteran who had been on the little end of the switch, my daughter answered, “If he is old enough to pitch a fit, he is old enough to be spanked.”

On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with.

After about ten acts of stubborn defiance, followed by ten switchings, he surrendered his will to one higher than himself. In rolling the wheel, he did what every accountable human being must do–he humbled himself before the “highest” and admitted that his interests are not paramount. After one begrudged roll, my wife turned to other chores.

On p.56 Debi Pearl trades blows with a 2 year old.

This time, her bottom came off the couch as she drew back to return the blow; and I heard a little karate like wheeze come from somewhere deep inside.

On p.59 (1st ed) and 62 (17th ed) they recommend spanking a 3 year old until he is “totally broken.”

She then administers 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 will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water.

On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

If a father is attempting to make a child eat his oats, and the child cries for his mother, then the mother should respond by spanking him for whining for her and for not eating his oats. He will then be glad to be dealing only with the father.

On p.46 of the 1st edition, p. 49 of the 17th, the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being spanked, spank them anyway. And “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.” “Defeat him totally.”

At this point, in utter panic, he will rush to demonstrate obedience. Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. 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. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.

On p.80 they say

On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again.

On p.47 of the 1st ed. they give details of what to use for a spanking instrument.

Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain, but the most pain is on the surface of bare skin where the nerves are located. 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, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.

That quote is reworded in the 17th edition and is on page 50.

It is most effective to strike a light rod against bare skin, where nerves are located at the surface…

The Pearls  recommend pulling a nursing infant’s hair (p.7 both editions)

One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for baldheaded babies).

They recommend hosing off a child outside in order to clean him if he continues to soil himself. (p. 75 17th edition)

So, my suggestion was that the father explain to the boy that, now that he was a man, he would no longer be washed in the house. He was too big and too stinky to be cleaned by the babywipes. From now on, he would be washed outside with a garden hose. The child was not to be blamed. This was to be understood as just a progressive change in methods. The next dump, the father took him out and merrily, and might I say, carelessly, washed him off. What with the autumn chill and the cold well water, I don’t remember if it took a second washing or not, but, a week later, the father told me his son was now taking himself to the pot. The child weighed the alternatives and opted to change his lifestyle. Since then, several others have been the recipients of my meddling, and it usually takes no more than three cheerful washings.

Also, here are 3 quotes which I feel show some questionable doctrine:

The guilt burdened soul cries out for the lashes and nails of justice. Your child cannot yet understand that the Creator has been lashed and nailed in his place. Only the rod of correction can preserve his soul until the day of moral dawning.

The parent holds in his hand (in the form of a little switch) the power to absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, instruct his spirit, strengthen his resolve, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid.

A child properly and timely spanked is healed in the soul and restored to wholeness of spirit. A child can be turned back from the road to hell through proper spankings. “Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Prov. 23:13, 14). (p. 44)

Note: I find it ironic that he recommends using plastic plumbing line for a rod and then objects when people say that he teaches people to whip children.

Now, here are some very disturbing quotes directly from their website.  You are going to have to go read this yourself to really appreciate it and believe that I did not take quotes out of context.

This is from Question #9: “Please give examples of the kinds of things for which you used the rod, both as a training tool and as punishment, for children were under 12 months.”

We never used the rod to punish a child younger than 12 months.

For young children, especially during the first year, the rod is used very lightly as a training tool. You use something small and light to get the child’s attention and to reinforce your command.

One or two light licks on the bare legs or arms will cause a child to stop in his tracks and regard your commands.

A 12-inch piece of weed eater chord works well as a beginner rod. It will fit in your purse or pocket.

Later, a plumber’s supply line is a good spanking tool. You can get it at Wal-Mart or any hardware store. Ask for a plastic, ¼ inch, supply line. They come in different lengths and several colors; so you can have a designer rod to your own taste. They sell for less than $1.00.

A baby needs to be trained all day, everyday. It should be a cheerful, directing training, not a correction training.

When your 6-month-old baby grabs sister’s hair, while he still has a hand full of hair, swat his hand or arm and say “No, that hurts sister.” If he has already let go of her hair, then put his hand back on her hair, so as to engage his mind in the former action, and then carry on with the hand swatting and the command.

If your 10-month-old is pitching a fit because he wants to be picked up, then you must reinforce your command with a few stinging swats.

Wait one minute, and then tell the baby to stop crying. If he doesn’t, again swat him on his bare legs. You don’t need to undress him, turn him over, or make a big deal out of it. Just swat him where any skin is exposed. Continue to act as if you don’t notice the fit. Wait two minutes and repeat.

Most babies will keep it going for 3 or 4 times and then slide to a sitting position and sob it out. When this happens, it signals a surrender, so give him two minutes to get control and then swoop him up as if the fit never happen and give him a big hug, BUT don’t hold him in the manner he was demanding. Now remove yourself from the area so as to remove him from association with the past event.

Don’t ever hit a small child with your hand. You are too big and the baby is too small. The surface of the skin is where the most nerves are located and where it is easiest to cause pain without any damage to the child. The weight of your hand does little to sting the skin, but can cause bruising or serious damage internally. Babies need training but they do not need to be punished. Never react in anger or frustration. If you loose it, get your self under control before you attempt to discipline a child.

Here is another quote from the No Greater Joy website.  This quote is from an article from 1998,  Angry Child.

A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. If he should tell you that the spanking makes him madder, spank him again. If he is still mad…. He desperately needs an unswayable authority, a cold rock of justice. Keep in mind that if you are angry you are wasting your time trying to spank his anger away.

I could break his anger in two days. He would be too scared to get angry. On the third day he would draw into a quiet shell and obey. On the fourth day I would treat him with respect and he would respond in kind. On the fifth day the fear would go away and he would relax because he would have judged that as long as he responds correctly there is nothing to fear. On the sixth day he would like himself better and enjoy his new relationship to authority. On the seventh day I would fellowship with him in some activity that he enjoyed. On the eight day he would love me and would make a commitment to always please me because he valued my approval and fellowship. On the ninth day someone would comment that I had the most cheerful and obedient boy that they had ever seen. On the tenth day we would be the best of buddies.

(Note that the quote above was linked to Stockholm Syndrome in an article in Secular Homeschooling Magazine which makes some interesting points.)

In an article called, Training Roseanna’s Flesh, Pearl explains how and why one must control a child at all costs.

For example: a child tries to slide from your lap onto the floor. On most occasions that’s just a way of letting you know where he wants to go. Fine, but there are times when you do not want him to slide to the floor. If your little fourteen-month-old makes an attempt to dismount your lap, and you indicate that you do not want him to, and he makes a protest by jerking away or whining, then by no means can you allow him to intimidate you into compliance. For, by so doing you have allowed the authority to pass to him. You would be encouraging rebellion. YOU MUST ALWAYS BE PERCEIVED TO WIN ANY CONTEST. It is all determined by what the child thinks. If there is a seed of resistance in the child, it must never be allowed to grow. Don’t allow that spirit of rebellion to become profitable.

When the child whines and makes an issue of something that to you was otherwise irrelevant, you must then follow-through, causing the child to do what he did not want to do. This is soul training – character building – sanctification of the natural spirit in your child. This won’t make him a Christian, but it will give him a better character than most Christians possess.

If, during the course of a day, no contest arises naturally, you should arrange one. Seek opportunity to thwart the child’s will, to cause him to submit to your command. If you cause him to surrender his will to you twenty times during the course of a day, he will not disappoint you with disobedience in public. Tell him to stop, sit, don’t speak for five minutes, etc. Play the half-hour “quiet time game,” the half-hour “don’t wiggle and squirm game.” Refuse him a treat when he is wanting it badly. Give it to him only when he is joyously submitted to your timetable. You mustn’t give the appearance of being blindly arbitrary, but always maintain full control. Never allow the child to dictate your actions.

I have found an article on the No Greater Joy site where Mr. Pearl explains some of his different terminology (aka DoubleSpeak) in regard to when a child is Too Young To Spank.  Here is a quote from that page discussing a 6 month old:

So we watch him, knowing his propensity to selfish compulsion. When he seizes his bowl with intentions of dumping it, swat the offending hand with a little instrument (light wooden spoon, rubber spatula, flexible tubing less than a quarter inch in diameter, or any instrument that will cause an unpleasant sting without leaving any marks).

Note: Comments are welcome and I try to reply where appropriate but I reserve the right to delete any and all flames at my discretion.

Link to “Pearls” of Wisdom?

Just added to In-Depth Analysis links

“Pearls” of Wisdom? by Woman Uncensored includes numerous quotes from NGJ site

link to What Frog and Toad Can Teach Us…

Karen from from Now… Through a Glass Darkly has written a follow up to her last post which I have added to In Depth Analysis

Stand With an Open Heart–What Frog and Toad Can Teach Us about What Lydia Schatz Might Have Said

Paula Lilly’s testimony

This is my personal account of my experiences with following the advice of Micheal Pearl, author of To Train Up A  Child

I had many fears and apprehensions about parenting even before my first child was born.  Many of them had to do with discipline.  I was all too aware of what would be expected from me as a parent/disciplinarian and what types of behavior would be expected from  my children by friends, family members, church and school figures, etc.   As I waded nervously past the 6-month mark with my first son, I experienced the challenge of setting boundaries for a very mobile and emotionally intense little boy.   I began to try out different approaches–relying heavily on the religious and cultural  common knowledge of my society, and following the advice of authors/teachers who were endorsed by the circles in which I moved.

Some of the books I read, such as Dobson’s widely-heralded Dare To Discipline, left me feeling confused and powerless.  He recommends spanking as the response to most misbehaviors, but prohibits it for children under 18 months of age.  He speaks of showing grace toward childish, age-appropriate behavior, but paints children themselves as wicked, rebellious creatures who are bent on mounting a willful–even malicious–challenge to parental authority.   He provides very few solid, specific suggestions for dealing with normal developmental behaviors (other than encouraging parents to require absolute obedience).  He pulls his readers into an adversarial stance toward children with stories of  “little tyrants” whose unchecked behavior holds their trembling, pathetic parents hostage.  Parents are repeatedly drilled on the necessity of utterly defeating the enemy–their children.

Pearl was different.  Although many of the basic premises he taught matched up with what I had heard and believed my entire life,  Pearl offered something that was missing from the other books I had read–something very significant to me as a young and totally inexperienced mother.  He offered [Read more…]

Amy’s Arguments

  • The philosophical underpinnings of these kinds of “Christian” behaviour “training” models do not sit well with biblical theology.

    The more I read about Ezzo and Pearl’s behaviour modification techniques the more I am reminded of Behaviouristic psychology (the works of Skinner, Watson, Pavlov etc)

    Fundamentally, behavioural psychology advocates the use operant/classical conditioning for behaviour modification (neg or pos reinforcement and the pleasure/avoidance stimulus responses they entail).

    From a purely pragmatic standpoint these often demonstratably work – they get results…for example,

    I see the needle + it causes me pain
    I avoid needles

    I eat chocolate = I feel good
    In order to feel good, I eat chocolate, lol

    …but the understanding of human nature behind it is disturbing from a Christian standpoint.

    At the roots of Behaviourism are a worldview that totally denies that people have

    (a) real emotions (such as love, grief, hatred etc.) our internal states are just a sum of the internal processing of our external behaviour, conditioned according to stimulus response

    (b) personality preferences (unless they’ve been ‘shaped’ through outside behavioural control)

    (c) a moral conscience – people simply learn to “react” and “behave” [so much for God’s laws being written on our hearts and minds…]

    (d) original thoughts/ideas – including the ‘big ideas’ like truth and beauty AND God

    (e) self determination or internal self control [just behaviour patterns that have conformed to external reward/punishment patterns]

    (f) a soul (this is ‘superstition’ which we have been conditioned to believe for purposes of social control or it gratifies some conditioned response)

    OK, so I’ve said that in practise operant/classical conditioning works – we all use it whenever we praise our children for doing something good…but to RELY on punishment/reward for behaviour modification or use it as a sole means of teaching/training a child?

    What a naive and Godless conception of what it is to be a human! Methinks of that song lyric – ‘Despite all my rage, I am still but a rat in a cage!” – Amy in Australia

Danielle’s arguments

“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

Kathy Thile’s Arguments

“The Pearls believe that training is a separate thing from teaching and discipline. They start very early using a switch to inflict pain…to train babies to avoid things the parent wants the baby to avoid…just like a behavioral psychologist might use electric shocks and rewards to train rats to navigate a maze.

In my opinion it is repugnant and unbiblical because babies are human beings, made in the image of God, endowed by Him with far more mental and spiritual and emotional equipment and innate worth than animals have been given. In recognition of that, we glorify and respect God’s creation by dealing with human beings in accordance with these higher abilities–and that includes all human beings. Babies. The elderly. Prisoners. Slaves. The handicapped.

I don’t think the Bible is referring to behavioristic animal-style training when the word “train” is used (as in “train up a child in the way he should go”). The Pearls don’t make much of a biblical argument for their methods (unlike the Ezzos), but that one is certainly implied by the title of their book, and as I say, I just don’t think it’s supported by the Bible.”

Kathy Thile

Linda V’s Arguments

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6  KJV

Train [Or Start ] a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 NIV

It has come to my attention that many Christian parents have interpreted the above verse to mean that they must train infants and young children in the way one might train an animal.  I believe that this interpretation is not correct.  I base this conclusion on the following study:

The Hebrew word which is translated as “Train” in Proverbs 22:6 is kha-nokh. When I cut and paste the real Hebrew חנך into the Hebrew-English Dictionary, it shows these words “to guide, to tutor, to educate ; (biblical) to teach” as well as “to inaugurate, to dedicate, to consecrate” as the NIV translation mentions.  You can try it for yourself using the links I provided.

In the same verse, “Child” is Na-ar, נַּעַר which translates as “youth, youngster, adolescent ; (law) minor; (biblical) servant, armsbearer.”  This word can be used for infants, or very young children but is more often used for youth, adolescents and adults.  It is clear to me that everything in the Bible which refers to discipline is referring to youth, adolescents and adults.

For a more in depth look at these verses, please see this study as well as this one.

I am also deeply concerned about the concept that we have a right to control a child’s heart.  Insisting that they always obey with a “happy heart” only teaches them to hide their true feelings.  Michael Pearl says, “If a child shows the least displeasure in response to a command or duty, it should be addressed as disobedience.”  Since he teaches to correct all disobedience with the rod, it is obvious that he is saying to switch the child until they are showing nothing but happiness.  He promises that switching the child will produce a happy child and demonstrates it with countless anecdotes.  It seems obvious to many readers of these stories that the child has no choice but to act happy, as any other show of emotion only means more switching. For more about hearts see Jo’s arguments.



Linda V.