March 2, 2010 11:48 AM

Lydia Schatz: shame on Mike and Debi Pearl!

And anyone who defends their "child training" methods!

Tulipgirl sent me this today and I want to pass it on. I have added links for those unfamiliar with the case of Lydia Schatz, whose adoptive parents beat her to death in keeping with the childrearing practices preached by Michael and Debi Pearls - who last year made 1.8 million dollars in sales through their ministry

I have long been on record in condemning the Pearls' work. If you recommend or know people who recommend their books - or know people who follow them - please pass this on to them:

Dear Friends,

I would like to pass along this important letter penned by my friend, Mrs. Karen Campbell, regarding the recent death of Lydia Schatz. Her letter is filled with much wisdom. I would encourage you to pass it on to anyone you feel might benefit.

March 1st, 2010

An open letter to my brothers and sisters in Christ who serve in leadership to homeschooling families:

On February 6, 2010, Lydia Schatz, the seven year old homeschooled daughter of Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, died after having been brutally beaten for mispronouncing a word while reading out loud to her mother. Butte County, California District Attorney, Mike Ramsey, reported that evidence shows the child was severely and repeatedly whipped, most likely for several hours, with a 15" piece of ¼" plumbing supply line, the same instrument that also left her older sister with severe kidney damage and in critical condition. The other seven Schatz children are now in foster homes, their parents having been charged with torture and murder.

While it might be comforting to believe that this is one horrific, isolated case of abusive behavior, the fact is that Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were Bible-believing Christians who welcomed not only their own children into their home but three adopted ones as well. Their friends reported how shocked they were to hear this story about parents whom they called "loving" and "warm" and children who were "polite and well-behaved," words that could describe most homeschooling families.

But Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were also devotees of the book To Train Up A Child and its authors, Michael and Debi Pearl, and they patterned their "discipline" methods after the Pearls' instructions, down to the very instrument they used to beat their children.

This is not the first time a child has died at the hands of parents who embraced the teachings from TTUAC. In 2004, four year old Sean Paddock suffocated after his mother also beat him with ¼" plumbing supply line and then wrapped him tightly in a blanket to keep him from getting out of bed. She is now serving time in jail for first degree murder.

The killing of precious children in the name of "discipline" must stop and those of us who desire to come alongside and encourage homeschooling families must do all that we can to see that this sort of tragedy never happens again. I believe that the Pearls' teachings on chastisement unto repentance, found in their books and magazines and on their website, is not just one among many approaches to disciplining children, but rather, is a form of child abuse and even one that is considered to be assault and battery of a child and punishable by law in many states.

As Christians, it is even more important to understand that the Pearls' philosophy is based on the aberrant theology of "sinless perfection," a perspective that leads to the notion that parents are able to change a child's sinful heart and save a child's soul. Here are some excerpts from TTUAC:

"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."

"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."

"Let the guilt come, and then, while they are yet too young to understand, absolve it by means of the rod. When their time comes, the principles of the cross will be easy to grasp."

The Holy Word of God tells us that only by faith in the finished, atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, an act of His mercy and grace, is a person saved. ("Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."~Titus 3:5) Physical chastisement by a parent cannot truly absolve a child of guilt nor can it cleanse his soul. To teach this and to lead any parent to think otherwise is promoting false doctrine and false hope in the works of man.

To that end, I would like to ask those who serve as homeschooling support group leaders and others who seek to serve within the homeschooling community to join the growing number of voices who are expressing their outrage and horror at the death of little Lydia Schatz and I would ask you to remove any recommendation of Michael and Debi Pearl's teachings you have on your blogs or websites. Please stand with me and publicly say "This is wrong and it must stop."

"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

By His grace,
Karen Campbell,
homeschooling mother and grandmother

This is not a typical homeschooling family or a typical Christian family - and it is our responsibility to set the record straight if and when anti-Christians use this to further their cause.

Read also:

in which i discuss the unthinkable

How many children must die before Mike & Debi Pearl are held accountable?

Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse? (TulipGirl)

The tragic death of Lydia Smith (the effect on Liberian adoption)

And using all things for good, Holy Experience has produced a meditation/study on the Pearls' parent/child vs our relationship with God - that every mom can take to heart: Perfectionism.

See my ongoing commentary on Mike and Debi Pearl.


Posted in Mike and Debi Pearl, Spiritual abuse | Permalink


Thank you, Barbara, for adding your voice to this important message. I believe we can bring a stop to Mike & Debi Pearl if the Christian community comes together to speak out for the sake of these children. Thank you and God bless.

Elizabeth Esther

Posted by: Elizabeth Esther | March 2, 2010 2:11 PM

The homeschooling community (of which I am a part) should be horrified that the Pearls be given any place on their homeschooling libraries or in the way of website links. In my opinion, if they do, they are condoning their methods and more children will be harmed.

So very sad.

Posted by: Amy | March 2, 2010 4:31 PM

Dear Barbara,
I have long been a fan of your blog, have visited daily and have gleaned much wisdom from your words. I must share today that I am saddened by your post about the Pearls. We as a family have been reading their materials for almost 13 years. We have treated their writings as we would writings from any author, including yourself. We read, measure it against scripture, use what is good and throw out opinion that does not hold up against the Word.

Never, have I felt from their child training books or videos that the intent was abuse. In fact, just the opposite. I believe that they would more likely encourage righteous and godly training so that we as fallible parents are not abusive and caught up in the chastisement of our children.

You have been at this a lot longer than I, and you have raised some exceptional children. I will continue to read and enjoy your writings, but I feel that I must respectfully disagree with your opinion of the Pearls' materials.



Posted by: Elizabeth | March 2, 2010 6:05 PM

A million thanks for speaking out. The Pearls' have some truly cruel and unusual advice when it comes to "training" and "biblical chastisement". With this death, it is really time to shine a light on what the Pearls' actually teach - and express how different that is from normal parenting advice and practice.

Posted by: Kathy | March 2, 2010 7:07 PM

Barbara ~ I have been reading your blog for quite some time and have really appreciated reading your posts. This is the first time that I respectfully disagree with you.

I am just curious if you have actually read the book "To train up a child"? You don't seem like the kind of person to jump on a band wagon with out researching something but it seems as though in this case you are.

I have read most of the Pearls' books and I get their newsletter and while I do not agree 100% with everything they say, I do not believe that anyone who has actually read their materials would believe that they would condone beating a child. They go into great lengths to explain about not disciplining a child in anger (or beating them when you are not in control of yourself) , but training a child in love (when you are not angry and using a method to teach them to obey). It seems like a lot of people are reacting to the death of this girl by wanting to blame someone. Anyways, I would just really like to know if you have read this book. Thanks! And I still enjoy your site and will continue to read.

Posted by: Lori | March 2, 2010 7:24 PM

Dear Barbara and readers,
I am not familiar with this site. This was forwarded to me as we sell some of the Pearls' books. It is indeed a sadness as well as a grief regarding this family however my heart and experience as a mother of 9 agrees with Elizabeth. I wish I had read TTUAC when we began our family 26 years ago. My husband feels the same. The recommendations given in the book have helped me to be wiser in my own actions to train with a switch in a controlled manner rather than punish in frustrated anger or rage.
The outcome of responding consistently the first time to our children when they need to be corrected has reduced any harshness.

The bottom line is where is your heart?
"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

My heart did not like my frustrated punishment and I prayed for wisdom & understanding. I have been very blessed to have been able to read and use To Train Up A Child.

We have been blessed to include this in our library and to make it available to others as well as coming alongside younger parents who are unsure in their parenting.
God Bless you with wisdom & understanding as you advise others.
God's Blessings to you~

Posted by: Kathie | March 2, 2010 7:36 PM

A few years ago a well meaning Protestant friend subscribed me to their newsletter. After the 2 newsletters in a row with unkind remarks regarding Catholicism, I knew that their philosophy was not for me. They absolutely do not respect the Church, they follow their own rules. Very, very sad that these kinds of lunatics are even given a soapbox.

Posted by: Carolyn | March 2, 2010 8:59 PM

I read the Pearls' recommendation that parents use a piece of rubber tubing. I also read the selected quotes which encourage a lot of unnecessarily cruel behavior based on displaying power and wringing submission out of children.

Kathie and other nice normal parents who managed to read the Pearls and make it work: I have raised 12 children of good character. My oldest is 41. Between my first two daughters, I have 12 grandchildren - one of whom is adopted, and so I am familiar with the special attachment issues of adopted children like Lydia.

I have also taught children as a Montessori teacher. For 15 years I have done a lot of writing and advising parents. I have found the best way to raise good children is through a better understanding of the child and his developmental needs, trying to understand and provide for those needs. Much of what parents interpret as rebellion is not rebellion, but evidence of the potentials God has built into each of us to become self-reliant and purposeful individuals. When parents know how to guide the child through these years thoughtfully and gracefully, there isn't a whole lot of discipline necessary.

The biggest mistake parents make is seeing their relationship with their child as a power struggle and then becoming determined to be the winner.

Go back to my entry and link to the reflection at Holy Experience. That's pretty much the way I evaluate parenting "programs" like the Ezzos and the Pearls. I ask myself this question: Is this how my Heavenly Father treats me? Does he demand perfection? Does he strike me physically when I have sinned? Does he extend grace and mercy? Am I perfect? What if I had to answer for all my imperfection by facing corporal punishment at the hands of someone 2-3 times my size?

Any parenting program that creates template for raising "perfect" children and then adds corporal punishment (and outrageously, a piece of rubber tubing?) to the mix is a recipe for disaster for some people.

I was one of the first critics of the Ezzo program. I was attending a somewhat cultlike church where everyone signed on. I've written of that at this blog - you can google Ezzo in my sidebar to find it. I sat in a meeting once where a mother cried and spoke of spanking her child for four hours for not taking a nap. It never seemed to have occurred to her that perhaps her child had outgrown a nap.

If you give people a program to follow like sheep, who can be surprised when they follow it like sheep and then go a bit berserk after adopting a child who's already been through trauma in her native land (Liberia) who doesn't respond according to the plan?

I don't know how many books you've sold or how much money you've made Kathie, but those of us who were sounding the alarms about these rigid "Christian" parenting programs are absolutely horrified and begging you to stop promoting them. There are plenty of other programs out there that teach the same techniques in a way that doesn't lend itself to fanaticism.

Posted by: Barbara | March 2, 2010 11:01 PM

If anyone doubts the veracity or authenticity of how the Pearl practices can be harmfully implemented by even well-meaning Christians, you are welcome to read my story which Barbara graciously linked to above: "How many children must die before Mike & Debi Pearl are held accountable?"

The Pearls teach a formula, plan and simple. Sadly, Lydia Schatz did not fit the formula--for reasons Barbara pointed out; ie. adoption and previous trauma.

While the Pearl defenders often speak to their own "successful, non-abusive experience," they are overlooking the unique situation of a child adopted from a war-torn country. The same rules do not apply.

On another note, I have never read a more heartless, cold "statement" than Mike Pearl's defensive justification of his books and methods. Where was the compassion for the brutal murder of a child? Where was the outrage? There was none. May God have mercy on his soul.

And may God have mercy on all parents who have blindly followed into the horrific trap of this evil child-raising system.

Requiescat in pace, Lydia Schatz

Posted by: Elizabeth Esther | March 2, 2010 11:20 PM

"Is this how my Heavenly Father treats me? "

This covers it all.

Thank You Barbara for this whole posting. Strangely it came to me as a direct answer to my prayer this morning for guidance in raising my darling 13 yo dd.

Posted by: Cecilia | March 2, 2010 11:56 PM

I have never heard of these people, but what I just read is horrifying. Do these people think they have the ability to "absolve a child of guilt" and to "cleanse his soul"? Red flags should be going up from these statements alone, even leaving aside the issue of corporeal punishment. Perhaps I am wrong, but I doubt many Catholics have subscribed to this. Once our children reach the age of reason and are able to understand the difference between a sin and a mistake, we take them to confession. To an eternal Father who truly does have the power to absolve and cleanse.

Posted by: Anne | March 3, 2010 1:20 AM

Barbara - I'm not familiar with this book or "methods" of discipline but, of course, the death of any child at the hands of a parent or guardian is horrific. However, I would like to caution the marrying of homeschooling parents and those who are abusive. I know that you are clear on these topics and don't view these abusers as typical homeschoolers (I would actually say these folks are a very a-typical case), however, many people in our society and government are using the idea that homeschooling families are hiding child abuse as an excuse to increase regulation of homeschoolers. It would be wonderful if you could post, since you have a large audience, some positive articles on homeschooling. I fear that some people will grab hold of these kinds of stories and say, "see, homeschooling parents are abusive." We're working hard to change that mind set in our state government officials and it's a battle as our elected officials want nothing more than to regulate every detail of our lives, including how we educate our children.

We know that laws are already in place to deal with abusive parents and regulating homeschooling programs isn't going to stop abuse. Actually, the two things have nothing in common as many children are abused, unfortunately, and no matter where they go to school will still at risk. Abusive parents have a fatal heart condition that only Christ can totally change.

As for these folks, may God be pleased to ensure that they are punished to the fullest extent of the law and may He have mercy on their souls.

Thanks so much Barbara!!

Posted by: Kim | March 3, 2010 9:59 AM

Kim -

I explicitly said that these were not typical homeschooling parents.

I don't know how long you've been reading here, but I have written hundreds of articles - and books on homeschooling. I am clearly an advocate of homeschooling.

But the correction for this type of extremist must come from the homeschooling community itself. We have a responsibility to clean our own house or the media is right to call us to account.

Think how we expect Muslims to acknowledge the extremism that causes terrorism.

Think of the Catholic Church and the cover-up of pedophilia - God eventually had to bring correction through the media.

f we don't want that to happen, we must speak up boldly against this extremist parenting ourselves. There is just no excuse for tolerating it.

Rubber plumbers tubing, my friends! We should be horrified. Can you imagine Jesus using rubber piping to beat the children brought to him?

Posted by: Barbara | March 3, 2010 10:10 AM

Barbara ~ You really need to read what the Pearls say before you associate them with "horrifying beatings". In their book "to train up a child" they do not ever mention the plumbers tubing but I checked on their website and Debi Pearl even states that before she spanks, she spanks her own arm just to remember how hard to spank to just get a stinging effect. They do not condone beating. They do not condone spanking when angry. They condone training your child to obey and using the least necessary force to get the desired results.

And I did read Elizabeth's link and I think that you could take almost any method of child training and twist it into a perverse form from what it was originally intended. There are going to be people who take things to an extreme no matter what it is. From everything I have read, the Pearls do not condone child abuse and you all are slandering their name by saying all this about them.

Once again I ask, have you read the book,"To train up a child"? I have. I don't agree with everything the Pearls say 100%. I don't agree with what anyone says 100%. But their book does not condone beating children.

Jesus would not condone beating children. But the Bible says, spare the rod, spoil the child. What does it refer to if not to spank a child in love to train them. Isn't it better to train a child to not run in the street by saying, "Stop" as they are running into the street and when they do run into the street, you take them and give them a swat, and then let them try again, and say, "Stop" and when they again run in the street, you give them a swat and keep training them in this manner (should only take a couple trials, but honestly, what rational person would keep spanking a child for hours on end?) until they understand when you say "Stop" they need to stop. (the Pearls' method) Or is it better just to let them run in the street and get run over and let the children be out of control? NOT training a child to obey your voice when you say "Stop" is child abuse. But you don't beat your child to do it. If you are spanking them the way they Pearls recommend, it will just be an uncomfortable stinging, not leaving bruises and certainly not over the whole body and there is nothing about wrapping children up in a sheet. THat is horrifying. But it is not what the Pearls say to do.

The abuse that happened to these sweet children that died is horrific, but it should not be attributed to the Pearls any more than it should be attributed to the fact that they homeschooled or that they were Christians.

Still love your site, still love you, Barabara, just respectfully disagree.

Posted by: Lori | March 3, 2010 11:36 AM

Please, please go back and read the many links to both the Pearl website and to quotes from their book that have been published online with their permission. They absolutely DO state that they recommend 1/4" plumbing supply line.

Last week I made a trip to two plumbing stores to take a look at 14″ plumbing supply line. I specifically asked for that item by name and what I saw was not like a “switch.” One man even told me that you can get such an item in copper or steel or even plastic covered in steel mesh. All are called the same thing. Nothing I saw or heard described by plumbers resembled a “switch.” Even then, I believe a switch would/could leave stripes.

Barbara, a lack of understanding of the developmental needs and stages of a child's life is really at the root of much of this. One homeschooling leader and favorite conference speaker says that "shyness" needs to be disciplined. Others believes that even toddlers must be trained to sit in a church service for 2 or more hours and you train them by making this happen at home.

Another homeschooling leader and conference speaker says that some children need to be "disciplined" 20-30 times a day. And these same people "pooh pooh" any mention of child development or the needs of children, saying that we don't need anything but the Bible to understand sinful man (children) and to look at any research or call on experts in child development is dabbling in "pop" psychology.

Unfortunately, there is just way too much ignorance, both willful ignorance and other wise, floating around in evangelicalism these days. Thank you for being an intelligent voice who "gets it" about little children and is willing to speak out against abuse when you see it.

Posted by: thatmom | March 3, 2010 12:12 PM

Lori -

Again, the Pearls' defenders misquote me to make their point. I did not say horrifying beatings.

I actually did skim Train Up a Child many years ago, but the creepy Christianese jargon always gets to me. I actually teach at writers conferences to help Christian writers talk like normal people. That jargon is one of the things that leads to cultism - I've seen it first hand. And to me, it always speaks of pride.

Perhaps you find the teaching in that book innocuous. I will say it's not unique - many people advise parents how to raise their children but they don't recommend a piece of plumbing supply to do it. Humble teachers are also careful to let their readers know that one size does not fit all - precisely to avoid parents going to extremes to fulfill the "program."

I still find these objectionable:

“…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.”

From To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl
Chapter 6: Applying the Rod

Defeat him totally?????????? We are talking about a parent/child relationship here, not a UFW match.

“Otherwise, tell him to bend over on the bed or couch; and while he is in this position give some choice admonition. You have his undivided attention. Slowly begin to spank. . . . I found five to ten licks usually sufficient. Sometimes, with older children, usually when the licks are not forceful enough, the child may still be rebellious. . . . A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered.

“Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain. . . 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. . . . 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.”

From To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl
Chapter 6: Applying the Rod

As TulipGirl responds "No amount of “tying heartstrings” or “have fun with your children” advice can mask the harsh, controlling discipline the Pearls teach."

You should read TulipGirl's Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse?

Other passages which have been quoted throughout the Internet - from parents/teachers in the Christian/homeschool community to Salon magazine are from the website, where Mike and Debi expound on their personal philosophies and answer readers questions - which does indeed make them more than just innocent authors in Tennessee, minding their own business and writing books.

It's at their website that you will find this nightmarish advice:

How many licks?

There is no number that can be given. It would be better to administer more licks that are less forceful than to administer few licks that hurt severely. It is much more effective to administer chastisement or punishment in a slow thoughtful fashion. Our goal is to cause the child to voluntarily surrender his will. We want to impress upon him the severity of his disobedience. It takes time and thoughtfulness for the child to come to repentance. I have told a child I was going to give him 10 licks. I count out loud as I go. After about three licks, leaving him in his position, I would stop and remind him what this is all about. I would continue slowly, still counting, stop again and tell him that I know it hurts and I wish I didn’t have to do it but that it is for his own good. Then I would continue slowly. Pretending to forget the count, I would again stop at about eight and ask him the number. Have him subtract eight from ten, (a little homeschooling) and continue with the final two licks. Then I would have him stand in front of me and ask him why he got the spanking. If his answer showed that he was rebellious and defiant, he would get several more licks. Again he would be questioned as to his offense. If he showed total submission, we put it all behind us, but if he were still rebellious, we would continue until he gave over his will. …

If you ever have a child who stands his ground of defiance and you let him win, you have lost his heart forever—unless you are able to go back and win a confrontation and keep on winning. If you ever let his rebellion triumph just one time, it makes it much harder to conquer in the future. After he gains the upper hand, one victory on your part will not be sufficient. You will have to persevere in several contests of wills until he is convinced that he can never stand against your authority.

What a horrible view of the parent/child relationship! Please understand that our parent/child relationship should mirror as much as possible God's relationship with us. God never labels us or writes us off. He is not engaged in power struggles with us.

I'm sorry, Lori, but you all who are defending the Pearls because you find nothing wrong with their book are being very naive. And as I said, you are involved in a coverup which hurts Christian homeschoolers more than anyone in the outside world can do.

From When parenting kills:

And although [the above] passage –though disturbing in other respects — recommends moderate force, a passage in a newsletter by the Pearls asserts that a proper spanking would leave the child “without breath to complain.”

More nightmarish parenting advice:

“If he [disobeys], spring into the room with your little switch and pop him on the bare legs one or two times. No anger on your part---no raised voices. Just make it more pleasant to stay in bed. Never allow him to get his way.… Train them right and they will always obey.” (NGJ, Vol 1, pg 7)

“Consistency on your part will break that habit in just a few days. Never threaten, and never show mercy. One squeak of a scream gets a switching.” (NGJ, Vol 1, pg 26)

Bottom line: while the Pearls may have some decent advice - which can be obtained from other less blemished sources, parents need to beware the push for perfection that is based on a lie.

From Holy Experience, a blogger who actually tried the Pearls advice, found it wanting and thought more deeply about why:

Michael Pearl’s personal life is one of supposed perfection:

“WE SHOULD AND CAN SIN NO MORE! ... I have been preaching AND LIVING this gospel of sanctification for many years. It is not a theory. It is practical, Scriptural reality” (“Living Parallel Lives in the Same Space” No Greater Joy, Jan.-Feb. 2005, p. 21).

It would seem that Mr. Pearl believes that he himself has been living in complete, sinless victory for years, continually performing every biblical commandment and duty with a perfect heart.

I wanted that perfection for our family too. Michael Pearl’s doctrine of perfection suggested it was possible:

“I preach it in the prisons, and it works on men who have lived lives of total addiction and enslavement. They come unto me all the time, bubbling over with joy, and TELL ME THAT THEY ARE NOW FREE FROM ALL SIN. ... walking in complete victory over sin and self” (“Living Parallel Lives in the Same Space” No Greater Joy, Jan.-Feb. 2005, p. 21).

May I humbly offer a different perspective:

1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

I encourage those accusing me of slander to read this whole entry Perfectionism. I encourage you to consider how you expect the Muslim community to take responsibility for extremist terrorists. and I would encourage you to consider that while the Pearls' books and writings may pay lip service to smiles and hugs, their family regime is based on fear.

It also does not take into account the effect on previously traumatized/abandoned children. The two deaths - and seriously injured siblings - have been adopted children.

My heart aches for children whose parents control them by fear.

Posted by: Barbara | March 3, 2010 12:40 PM

I have read a few direct quotes from the book. I feel like throwing up. How on earth can demanding perfect submission from our little ones be akin to what God expects of us? God knows we cannot attain perfection so he sent Jesus. This approach makes my stomach turn and worries me to no end!

Posted by: Imajackson | March 3, 2010 1:45 PM

Michael Pearl's response this afternoon:

Posted by: thatmom | March 3, 2010 3:28 PM

Someone brought up that the Bible says, "Spare the rod and spoil the child".

It doesn't say that.

The verse so often parsed this way is: "He that spareth his rod, hateth his son, but he that loveth him, chasteneth him betimes." Proverbs 13:24, KJV.

Pearl and most of his ilk base their advice* on this and several other verses in Proverbs, all of which seem to advocate this kind of punishment (with a "rod) when read in a English version. However, a study of those same Proverbs in Hebrew show a totally different interpretation.

Here are some links that may help clarify what those verses really mean:

*I put an asterix by "advice" because Pearl is adamant that his way is the only way:

"If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do."

--In Defense of Biblical Chastisement, Part 2
Article by Michael Pearl, October 2001

Posted by: Linda B | March 3, 2010 11:42 PM

Thank you for helping to spread the word. To Train Up A Child is nothing but a child abuse manual. I have read it, and I am sickened by it. I am flabergasted that so many Christians promote this book.

I grew up in an emotionally volatile, abusive home. I have no desire to relive it as an adult. I can *not* imagine having these hours long "training" sessions, creating artificial training sessions, to have such antagonism in my own home.

I have well-behaved children with vibrant spirits. They have pure hearts for Jesus and they love each other and their parents. Mom & Dad may set the rules in the household, but we are all good friends. My heart aches for those parents and children who are missing out on the closeness and family life that God intended us to have....missing out because their parents have put a book advocating abuse over their own natural instincts.

Posted by: LikeADimMirror | March 4, 2010 1:05 AM

LikeADimMirror wrote: "My heart aches for those parents and children who are missing out on the closeness and family life that God intended us to have....missing out because their parents have put a book advocating abuse over their own natural instincts."

I suspect more children would have been whipped to death by now by parents in thrall to the Pearls' teachings, except that at some point these parents listened to their own hearts and deviated from the Pearls' advice and stopped whipping even though their child appeared not to have "repented" yet. So their children survived the "training" session, and for that reason, we've never heard of them.

The tragedy of the Schatzes is that they were true believers. They kept on listening to No Greater Joy's advice instead of their hearts. Michael Pearl exhorts parents to never ever stop spanking until your child submits, never let your child win. If you do, you are a coward who has lost your child's heart. You are not fit to be a parent if you stop spanking before your child lets out a broken submissive whimper with no breath to complain. If you do stop the spanking too soon, then Michael Pearl pities your children and pities you.

So the Schatzes stayed the course. They followed Michael Pearl's advice to the letter and kept laying on lashes with the 1/4" plumber's supply line for hours on end, never letting Lydia and Zariah "win." Now Lydia is dead and Zariah was in critical condition before she pulled through.

Barbara is absolutely right when she says Christian homeschoolers need to take care of the Michael and Debi Pearl situation themselves. If Christian homeschoolers as a body fail to expel these toxic teachings from their midst, the world in general will begin to view all Christian homeschoolers as if they are linked to the Pearls' teachings and as if their families might be the next Schatzes. You might be sweet, nice people and your children might be polite and well-behaved, but, as everyone knows now, so were the Schatzes and their children before the tragedy. Your neighbors might begin to wonder if you dress your children modestly for scriptural reasons... or do you do it to hide ugly plumber's supply line induced welts covering them from their shoulders to their ankles as was the case with Lydia and Zariah Schatz.

The Christian homeschool community has a choice to make. To be silent and do nothing is to choose to support the Pearls and their teachings. Bravo to Barbara and other Christian bloggers who are speaking out.

Posted by: Chris | March 6, 2010 1:53 PM

I stumbled across your site while trying to research this story that I was certain was a smear. As a Jew, I am very sensitive to any religious group being unfairly targeted. While I am sickened to find that the story is true, I am heartened by the pained disavowals I am seeing here, and rest assured that whenever I hear anything about this story, I will point the condemners to people like you!

Posted by: Susan | March 8, 2010 1:26 PM

How has a book that advocates going to a hardware store to purchase piping with which to beat your very, very small children even allowed to be sold in this country???

Frankly, I think the FBI should track down and thoroughly investigate every person who has purchased this book.

Barnes and Noble has removed this book from their listings. Please write to Amazon and ask that they do the same, as well as any other bookseller who sells it.

These people need to be stopped.

Posted by: Lola | March 8, 2010 8:18 PM

I am shaking my head, trying to imagine how/why normally intelligent adults can say some things that a few commenters have..."glean the good, throw out the bad" despite the fact that their books/website advocate horrible things, you'll defend them because a few of their pieces of advice are good??? they specifically endorse setting up a child for punishment, tempting a small child to react exactly as expected, and then to make them pay for it. all veiled behind an explanation that they need to learn to obey you. why don't things like this immediately set off alarm bells in parents' heads, and cause them to dispose of the Pearls' poison?? I really don't get it. I'm one of 9 children, homeschooled most of my life, had a stay-at-home mother, close-knit family. every one of us has deep faith in Christ and are successfully well-mannered, well-rounded people, despite my parents NOT resorting to tyranny to raise us. I am now a homeschooling mother of 5, and while my husband and I discipline our children for disobedient/dangerous behavior, and set boundaries, never have we attempted to train our kids like mules (as Pearl suggests), defeat them, break them, or sit on them (!!!). and wonder of wonders, our kids are happy and love us greatly. we often get comments, "how are your children so well-behaved and smart?". the answer...God's grace!! thanks Barbara for keeping this in our field of vision. I live in San Antonio, TX, which is a hot-seat for these kind of methods/ideologies, and I am sad to regularly see families caught up in them.

Posted by: kristen s. | March 10, 2010 3:24 PM

I see that in your posting under "My Story" about yourself.... in your words........

"That would have been the last path I would have chosen, because I'd judged Christians harshly all my life. But I discovered being a Christian wasn't about following Christians - it's about following Christ."

In light of your very own statement above, please remember that you are judging a couple and their ministry off of a sick mind that has misused The Pearl's information. Our country already seeks to blame instead of hold individuals accountable for their actions and that is what you are doing by making the biggest topic here the book that this couple read and not what these parents did the issue. You might want to meet The Pearls or, at least, seek to know more about the millions that their information has helped because it has been put to proper use.

Posted by: Shannon | March 17, 2010 10:03 AM

Shannon- Firstly, I'm not much of one to be able to quote Scripture by chapter and verse.

However, isn't there a passage that reads something about how teachers of the Word will be held accountable for what they teach and that it is better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and be plunged to the depths of the sea than to lead anyone astray?

Yes, the Pearls have a lot to answer for.

Posted by: Resa | March 17, 2010 6:52 PM

Barbara's line of defense is this: "While many people can eat the meat and spit out the bones, there are people choking on them."

This is no reason to get rid of the meat and blame the cow for choking, people simply just need to learn how to chew better.

As tragic as the recent death of this poor girl is, I think it's absolutely ridiculous to blame the Pearls for what happened! These people are obviously just looking for an outlet so they don't have to take personal responsibility for their abusive and barbaric parenting. I mean, who even punishes a child for not pronouncing a word right, let alone beat them to death? Something is seriously wrong with the parents, and they certainly didn't learn that from "To Train Up a Child." Anyone who implements the child training techniques outlined in that book (which is based on the Bible) have happy, obedient, loving and well-adjusted children. In fact, if these parents actually trained their 7-yr-old the right way when she was a toddler, there should be very minimal need for spankings as she got older - which is the whole point of the book. Whoever wrote this letter of warning clearly lacks Biblical wisdom and discernment and should be strongly rebuked for slandering Micheal & Debi Pearl like this. It's wrong to be so blasphemous towards them. I still support the Pearls 100% without a doubt, and I will continue to value their teachings, as well as share them with others.

Of the one or two families who went to the extreme and murdered their children in an abusive rage, a million more families have seen the positive fruit in Biblical child training techniques outlined by the Pearls. Further there are over a million more families who never disciplined their child(ren) and turned them into the terrors of society that we are dealing with today, who murder and rape and commit evil everywhere under the sun.

Here is a great article in defense of the Pearls, sighting numerous quotes in their book which are against any form of abuse:[Note from Barbara: Pearl defenders will point to these, while ignoring quotes from the website which advocate beating until a child can't speak or can't breathe or stops crying]

[Dani, your logic is flawed, and I've noticed that Pearl defenders overlook the extreme positions on the Pearls' website and quoted directly at the websites they visit simply to defend their leaders.

This is cultlike behavior.

Even if I were a Pearl follower, I would be concerned about the character of my leader for showing not a bit of concern for the tragic deaths (it's not just Lydia Schatz) of children by people who followed my directions. Remember, Michael Pearl says he laughs at his critics and curses their children to end up in subservient positions to those raised by his methods. That's just plain ridiculous as there are many leaders in parent education with large families whose children have excellent character and are leading productive lives. This Us vs. Them teaching is very cultlike. And arrogance in a Christian leader should always set off warning bells.]

Posted by: Dani | March 21, 2010 2:47 AM

Dani, your mindset is scary and thoughtless. Blasphemy against the Pearls? That statement right there puts them into a god-like place in your mind. They are fallable PEOPLE, Dani! NOT authority!

First and foremost, the 7 year old Lydia was ADOPTED by the Schatz's when she was about four and adopted from Liberia, as was her 11 year old sister who was also beaten and hospitalized. That alone REQUIRES consideration for her background and whatever trauma she experienced that led up to her needing to be adopted. There is no exception in the Pearls teaching for children who come from those kinds of circumstances.

Further, there is NOTHING in the Pearls teaching that differentiates between what is and is not developmentally appropriate in child behavior. There is a BIG difference when a two year old tells you "no" and when a four year old tells you "no." The Pearls make no distinction between the two.

Even Dr. James Dobson has written of his concern over parents who take spanking too far. While he has written that spanking is a good tool when applied correctly, he doesn't beleive in spanking babies or spanking for childish irresponsibility or age appropriate behavior. This man is a child psychologist who has written and lectured for many years, as well as founded Focus on the Family. Besides writing books, giving lectures, and founding a ministry, what credentials in child study does Michael Pearl possess?

Perhaps asking THAT question is where people would have found only bones exist.

Lastly, abuse doesn't always happen in a fit of rage. It more often happens when it is calculated and cold and deliberate. What makes anyone think that the Schatz's were in a "fit of rage" when they beat their daughters ( AND a bio son who that HAD rasied from an infant) does that assertion and assumption make it easier to somehow excuse the Pearls since they said NOT to spank in anger?

Their teaching led people down a road of destruction and lies. There needs to be culpability for that.

Posted by: Resa | March 26, 2010 12:19 PM

Thank you for this article. I live in NC, and we heard all about poor Sean Paddock for weeks. Not only do Mike and Debi Pearl condone child abuse, they also advise women to stay with abusive husbands, no matter what. They almost make it sound like it's the woman's fault, and that she can change him by being submissive and kind....what a load! If my mother had not left my abusive, alcoholic father, there's no telling how much more damaged my siblings and I would have been. As a result of losing his wife and children, my father finally did turn to God; however, he does still struggle with alcoholism.

Posted by: Jessica | July 29, 2010 3:44 PM

Post a comment