Letter to a Library

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.”

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