Counter Arguments 4

Karen made a comment on Train Up Your Child at Awful Library Books to which I would like to reply.

Perhaps the person who put this in the “awful books” category should have read the positive as well as negative reviews on Amazon…the list of things from the book were from the top negative review there. Here is one that might give you all a little clearer perspective on the other side of the spanking debate, if you’ll actually bother to read it. :^)

Ok, that is fair. And I would like to share my responses.

Read the Actual Book and Be Honest with Yourself, May 22, 2010
By BLB (Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

This review is from: To Train Up A Child (Paperback)
The actual book does not promote child abuse. The problem is, it requires parents using it to have enough self-discipline and character to use corporal punishment consistently, calmly, in a measured way, and without reflection of their moods. It doesn’t allow for using corporal punishment exclusively, either.

It is true that Michael Pearl says in the book not to abuse your children. The problem is that he never explains how to follow his advice without abusing. Would not the very act of training an infant by “switching” him be abusive?  Nor does he explain where chastisement ends and abuse starts. He never says how many licks is ok and how many would be abuse. Nor does he define abuse by how long to keep spanking. He does say that if you are not 100% consistent that you will fail. He also says that you should keep on spanking until their yelling stops and turns into a submissive whimper. He does not explain what to do if you keep spanking for hours at a time and there is still no submissive whimper.

The authors are farm people who train their own horses. They’re used to a situation where they’re dealing with a creature that can’t be effectively trained with either verbal reasoning or fear, a creature that could endanger itself or others if it is not disciplined properly. They raised their children on a traditional farm, a place full of serious physical dangers, where learning the hard way isn’t an option that a loving parent can consider.

I don’t know of any horse trainers who hit their horses. On top of that, children are not animals they are people, made in the image of God. Why would we compare them to animals?

The truth is, the Perls sound like affectionate, non-blaming people as well as unusually patient and self-controlled people. They are people who have learned to look at things from the perspective of the one they are training. For instance, they stress that there is no way to discipline a child without having a positive relationship with her. A child raised by the Perls would be eager to please them, because the relationship would not be primarily based on getting a spanking when you mess up. I would predict that there would actually be very little spanking in their home, and no yelling, verbal abuse, or emotionally damaging drama. It would be miles better than a lot of “no-spanking” houses. I wonder how many of the people decrying this book provided their children with a home that was as predictable and free from emotional abuse as I expect that the Perl household is, or if their children had the self-control that the Perl children did. Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t know that raising a child fit for polite company without a lot of emotional drama is even possible.

There is very little spanking because they have already trained the child. I object to the very act of training children in this way. This is behavior conditioning. Pearl even brags about how his grown children would drop an iced tea if he were to say, “hot.” I consider what Pearl teaches to be the crown jewel of emotional abuse. The children are switched for any emotion except for happiness until they no longer even feel any other emotion. I feel sick even thinking about it.

If you’re going to spank your child, this is a good book to read, almost a must. As you read it, though, be very honest with yourself about whether you exercise the kind of self-control and humble attitude that the Perls assume you have. If you don’t have that kind of self-control, you can read it and try to substitute other feedback for the spankings, but you’ll still need to learn the respectful, kind, patient consistency that is actually the foundation of the Perls’ method. You have to take in the entirety of the message. Look at what kind of parents the Perls are suggesting you be. Don’t even consider using corporal punishment if you can’t be that.

This book has some “pearls” in it, but readers should not fool themselves. It is not primarily about spanking. If you make it into that, you will fail.

I don’t agree that this book is a good book to read. It is true that there is some truth in it and even some good advice. But I consider the bad advice so dangerous as to be like rat poison. Rat poison is mixed with sugar to make it easy to eat, but it is no less dangerous.

Also consider that there are strong-willed children for whom corporal punishment is never going to work, because they will refuse to be motivated by anything short of abuse, and will resent that even if they eventually capitulate. You may as well try to break a zebra to harness. A parent has to realize that, and absolutely never try corporal punishment with a child like that. That would lead to spectacular failure and ruination of the relationship with the child.

Ok, this I agree with. And an adopted child is likely to fall into that category and should never be spanked.

1 Comment

  1. Zooey on June 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Excellent work, Linda!!

    I notice that the review Karen quoted says that the Pearls are “traditional farm people…who raise their own horses”. It may be worth repeating here, therefore, that, while the Pearls like to present themselves as coming from an Amish background, that this is not true of either of them…..It’s a front that they have cultivated.
    I flat out don’t believe that they train horses the way they recommend “training” children. If they did, they would both have been maimed, even killed by said horses long years ago. That is what happens when horses are abused: they fight back.

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