March 3, 2010 6:45 PM

Growing outrage at Michael Pearl and his response to child's death

TulipGirl, who first alerted me to the Pearls scandal - I call it a scandal now because although two children that we know of have died and at least one is hospitalized, Michael Pearl expresses no remorse for teaching his followers to strike their children with a plumbing supply line until they are in complete submission. Instead, as he says, he "laughs at his critics" and sneers that his children - so bright and well-adjusted - will be the responsible citizens while any raised without his methods will be dependent on government entitlements.

I think it's a scandal when a man who last year raked in 1.8 million from Christian parents sincerely seeking to improve their parenting skills is revealed to be a man of pride, arrogance, and contempt for others.

Michael Pearl himself escalated this into a scandal by his reaction to criticism, which revealed his true heart.

Anyway, the numbers of concerned Christian leaders and commentators is growing. You can bookmark Tulipgirl to read other articles and leave inks to your own. And please become an advocate for children and parents yourself by writing/blogging/talking to your friends and family. This is a teachable moment. A time when we can reflect on our own parenthood. for me, the bottom line in parenting is that I try to remember how God treats me - with mercy and grace. I have been blessed with an education as a Montessori teacher, so I came into parenthood with a deep understanding of the child's God-given potentials and how providing for their developmental needs will build joyful, well-disciplined children with a minimum of punishment (I prefer consequences). I have written several books and blogged extensively about this. Being a parent isn't about dominating your children, it is about helping release their God-given potentials.

And that doesn't happen at the end of a piece of plumbing tubing.

Anyway, here is TulipGirl's call to the Christian community to take responsibility for the harm done to these innocent children - and perhaps many we don't know about. I agree with her. Just like any church scandal, it's up to the body of Christ to handle this. If we don't, we can expect only more newsworthy events as God continues to try to reach Michael Pearl's heart and call him to repentance and humility.

I realize that some readers here are hurt and offended. But the truth must be told. Just because you were able to "eat the meat and spit out the bones" doesn't mean that others might be choking on them even as we speak. And others have choked and died emotionally and spiritually.

Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse? Posted by TulipGirl | Under Christianity and the Church, Pearls / TTUAC / NGJ Sunday Feb 28, 2010

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."

-Proverbs 31:8-9

I know many people have been vocal in the past. Yet I believe a renewed effort-even warning against specific teachings and teachers-is warranted.

This outcry has already started, as observed by Lynn Harris in Salon:

It's one thing for those of us outside the fundamentalist Christian/Christian home-schooling world to point fingers at the Pearls and voice outrage at their methods. What really matters, and what stands to have actual impact, is the outrage inside the Pearls' world. And right now, more than ever, an anti-Pearl movement within the conservative Christian community is rising up in heated, if sometimes whispered, fury. Some say -- even pray -- that Lydia Schatz's death will bring Michael and Debi Pearl exactly the kind of attention they deserve.

Already many homeschool parents and leaders are speaking out, especially raising red flags about the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries.

Read the rest and the growing list of those united in shining the light of truth on the Pearls' teachings at TulipGirl

See all my posts on Mike and Debi Pearl


Posted in Church Issues, Mike and Debi Pearl, Spiritual abuse | Permalink


Thank you for speaking out, Barbara.

Fortunately, I am one who was able to read their literature and glean what I needed while throwing out the rest - mostly I came away with the realization that I needed to be more consistent, and I liked how they spoke of tying heartstrings. However, I was completely horrified by Micheal Pearl's response you posted below.

Unfortunately, there are so many parents out there that are clueless about how to truly raise their children in a Godly way, and who could easily be led astray by his forceful discipline recommendations, not to mention his strange theology.

Again, thank you for bringing all of this to the attention of your readers!

Posted by: Sue | March 3, 2010 8:18 PM

I read TTUAC because one of my husband's cousins used the program with her kids and recommended it. We had one day of spankings (with my hand, I could never hit my child with any object) that were in line with the TTUAC guidelines. Never again. My little boy (who was around 2 at the time) never "broke" and I refused to go any further.

I really believe that he could be the type of child who could be seriously injured or killed by someone following the Pearl's teachings. He is very, very strong willed. They seem to imply that you could go on spanking for the entire day. I shudder to think about it.

Thankfully, I read many other books and we now have a system that works very well. He's older now (almost 5) and responds well to visual cues and logical consequences. I'm just glad that as a young mother I was able to realize that TTUAC was the wrong path for our family.

Thank you for publishing this, Barbara. It needs to be said.

Posted by: Lauren | March 3, 2010 9:31 PM

I bought Created to Be His Helpmeet by Debi Peal a long time ago. After reading about the Pearl's teachings on your blog yesterday, I threw it in the garbage. It makes me sick to think that I gave money to them and their ministry. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

Posted by: Emma | March 3, 2010 10:08 PM

once again i thank you for your willingness to speak out against such a horrible and devastating group like the pearls. i know it angers. i know it makes others defensive, but sometimes the truth hurts. sometimes people simply don't like to be told that just because sit didn't harm them doesn't mean it won't have tragic consequences for someone else.

Posted by: julie | March 3, 2010 10:49 PM

I am sickened by Michael Pearl's response of "laughter" and joking about 1/4 inch supply line. Maybe this ugliness will help people see past the home-grown folksy talk that some people get lured in by?

(Btw, I think you need to fix your html code for the first link. . .)

Posted by: TulipGirl | March 3, 2010 11:06 PM

I have read 'To Train Up A Child', as has my husband. I have also read countless other articles on the NGJ website. In my opinion none of the criticism of Michael Pearl and his methods is in the least bit inaccurate or misplaced. This is fear-based parenting and his response to the tragic death of this little girl only goes to highlight this. In other words: do it our way or your children will become wastrels and failures; do it our way or your children will never be able to hear the voice of God and become Christians. It is very seductive stuff, especially for parents of children who are 'strong willed' and who are desperate for advice and help. It seems like such an easy solution and is presented in such a winsome way. But the reality of it is vile.

Posted by: Baleboosteh | March 4, 2010 3:43 AM

Thank you Barbara! I've been outspoken on Facebook (my only platform) and have been getting the word out to as many people as I can. We have Parents as Teachers in our city who go to parent's homes to teach them how to teach their preschoolers. I made sure mine is informed so that they can better handle teaching other parents. She had never heard of the book and is a Christian.
I've known parents who used the Pearl method when their toddler wouldn't eat a certain food, to teach babies to not touch food (which in my case would have been horrible!! Mine has texture issues and needed to touch her food), to teach their kids not to touch objects and to teach their kids how to pick up toys.
Besides the problem you outlined here (spanking until submission - yikes!) another problem I see is that it causes parents to immediately jump to the punitive mindset instead of finding other ways to teach.
Redirection is great for learning the no touch boundaries, coupled with some baby proofing.
Hand over hand with big claps worked wonderfully for teaching my daughter how to pick up her toys.
Food issues, yikes! I love the advice offered in a book I read dealing with sprited kids, you do your part in offering only healthy foods, your kid will do their part by eating what they need. That advice took so much pressure off me to get my daughter to eat and now as an almost two year old she eats a very well balanced diet.
Again, thank you Barbara for joining the growing outcry against these teachings.
I wonder if you would be interested in taking certain anecdotes outlined in the book and teaching us how you would respond? Parents with the punitive mindset really have a hard time thinking outside that....just an idea. If you don't have the book I can feed you the anecdotes.
Love you!
Your sister,

Posted by: Debra | March 4, 2010 8:29 AM

Hi Debra -

I am swamped but if you want to email me some, I will put them in my stack o' stuff and get to them as the Spirit leads. I generally sit down in the morning without a plan and go where I am led.

Posted by: Barbara | March 4, 2010 8:34 AM

Yes! I agree with Debra! Please give us ideas of how you would respond to situations outlined in that book.

Posted by: Erin | March 4, 2010 11:47 AM

Barbara, I would also support a look directly at alternative methods for their scenarios. My husband and I are doing a look at the theology side of it and how it affects the whole parenting philosophy presented, but positive options are a real necessity for helping create change.

Maybe those of us concerned should do a blog tag or something, each tackling a scenario from our own perspective and experience.

Posted by: C.L. Dyck | March 16, 2010 9:14 PM

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