The first time I met someone who trained their child like Michael and Debi Pearl recommend my first child was around 6 to 9 months old. This older mother invited me to her house for a “Moms’ group”. We would sit for a couple of hours in her living room and, while we talked or listened to a tape on discipline, the children were to sit perfectly still and not talk unless they had quietly tapped Mama & gotten her attention. The first time I wasn’t sure I liked what was going on. Smacking babies’ thighs seemed harsh and it made me cry the first time I trained him to sit still. At home, though, my mobile baby had been, well, acting his age, and it was very frustrating at times, and these moms seemed to have such happy quiet kids. I went back. The Pearls hadn’t actually written their book yet at this point, but when they did, this friend gave me a copy.
I hated the Pearls the first time I read their book, I found their methods harsh, to say the least. This woman really liked them, though, and I saw that her son was a mature & cheerful child, so I figured she knew what worked. Besides, the book offers such hope of perfection! After reading their newsletter they didn’t come off so strict . They actually teach a lot of things about connecting w/ your kids, making your joy be their strength, & letting boys be boys, etc. which made me feel good about them at the time.
That was how I got hooked. Keep in mind that, because of my childhood background (religious, but abusive) it was very easy to buy into the pain=love mentality, and especially since I was “disciplining in love” rather than anger.
About 7 years later my theology began to change! I began to learn about & understand for the first time what God’s Grace toward me really means! I felt so free! All the shackles of legalism and fear began to fall off! Unfortunately it took me 3 more years to realize it also applies to my children!!!
One day I followed a link someone sent me to Gentle Christian Mothers and looked around. “Oh cool!” I thought, “Christian AP Moms!” (I had considered myself AP despite the use of punitive discipline). I was, however, very turned off by what some of the mothers where saying about Michael & Debi Pearl. I held the Pearls in extremely high regard. I envisioned a bunch of Christian homes with horrible monster kids that controlled everything with their whining and their tempers . One article bugged me the most. I’m sure it was Jeri that wrote it and it was about one day when she was in a doctor’s office & got a compliment on her children’s behavior & about how non-punitive doesn’t mean permissive. I couldn’ t believe how that could be. I mean, if I don’t spank my kids, won’t they end up being reprobates???
I didn’t come back for a couple of months. But during that time my husband & I began to feel that our 6yo really needed a different approach . He has been our out of the box boy and he wasn’t “getting” the training I was using. Instead of repenting and having his conscience cleansed through use of the rod, he was developing this despair & self-loathing. I came back to GCM and applied for membership at the message board so I could ask some questions. I absorbed everything on the Gentle Discipline forum & the articles about the rod. During that time God ‘s spirit was speaking to my heart that this was all true and right. By the time I was approved to post I vowed never to spank again. In addition, I began to see that so much of the non-violent methods that the Pearls advocate are very disrespectful toward children. My husband wasn’t convinced as quickly as I was, but after reading Biblical Parenting by Crystal Lutton he said he didn’t ever want to hit his kids again!
So, we made the change, but yes there is that messy little thing that I call “The Paradigm Shift Zone”! So things DID get about as bad as they could! My 3year old was totally out of control with his emotional responses for a long time. It is very hard to change from a punitive mindset! I struggle with it everyday. Punishment and condemnation are second nature to me, even without the rod! But I know that God doesn’t treat me that way, and I want so much to show my children the Love, Patience, and Gentleness that He has shown me again & again & again without fail. And yes, my children ARE responding to the effort in gentleness that I have been making.