March 5, 2010 12:46 PM
Michael and Debi Pearl - sample wisdom
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.
Those who defend the Pearls because they gleaned a little wisdom from one book need to be aware that the website - and presumably off-the-record individual - advice they give parents truly borders on psychotic.
I say that because I can't imagine the effect on the developing child of a parent who would sit on a child and administer "licks" not only for the punishable offense but for the child's reaction to the pain of the "licks."
I say that because I can't imagine the effects on the developing a child whose parent judges that the tilt of your head or the attitude of your shoulders is cause for corporal punishment.
This is so crazy. I am wondering how many children across the United States - and the foreign countries Michael boasts of - are being beaten by over-controlling parents who don't like the way their children look. And to think of adopted children faced with this kind of judgment and compulsion to control.
And Michael laughs at this critics?
Hi Mike and Debi,
I have a question about my 3-year-old. When my husband or I need to speak to her about her bad behavior she seems to become what I would describe as scared/shy/distant. She stands with one shoulder lifted to her chin and her chin pushed down into her shoulder, looking up at us as if we are going to give her the world's worst rebuking. I sense anger or resentment on her part. We are consistent to restore fellowship with her, and I do not believe she is reacting to us because of fear from our anger, because we address issues in a calm fashion. We have two younger children, and we want to get this problem addressed before it reflects on them.
Since you admit that you have rewarded her behavior with fewer spankings, we must admit, she won--to her detriment. She's not stupid. Spankings hurt. Your weak actions have strengthened her resolve and confirmed to her that she can limit your discipline.
Children (as well as adults) throw fits as a means of controlling the actions of others. Your daughter screams and runs away because it works in reducing the pain. If throwing a fit caused more pain--not less--the child would wisely stop throwing fits. If running away from sweet, tender Mama with a little-bitty switch meant running into a lion, she would welcome the switch as her savior. When you make resistance not only futile but contrary to her best interests, she will stop resisting.
Likewise, pouting is an expression of anger, designed to control those at whom it is directed. Children do it because it gets results--attention, compromise, and negotiation. Parents say of a pouty child, "I don't want to upset her." "Leave her alone; don't get her started again." When parents organize and manage a child so that pouting is counterproductive, the child will take up smiling as a method of getting her way.
When she screams or flees, calmly follow through by physically subduing her. Sit on her, if you have to, and slowly explain that you will not tolerate this resistance. Explain in a normal tone (She will eventually stop screaming and listen) that you are going to give her, say, five licks for the original offense and an additional two licks for the fit. Slowly apply the five licks, counting out loud. When I say slowly, I mean with a thirty second gap between each lick and a calm explanation to the screaming child that you are not the least impressed except that you are going to spank harder and she still gets the additional two licks plus one more for her ongoing screaming. When you have finally arrived at five well- anticipated and carefully counted licks, say, "OK, your spanking is over; that is the five licks you got for hitting your brother, but now I must give you two more for trying to run away." Give her one lick and say, "Now, that is one of the licks for running away; you have one more coming." Give the second lick, and then calmly and slowly explain that all her licks are over now, except for the one additional lick she incurred for continuing to scream during the spanking. After you have finished, tell her that you are going to let her up now, if she stops screaming, otherwise you are going to give her one additional lick. If she stops, or at least makes a great effort to, then you have won. You may never have to go through this horrible time again. But, if she is continuing to scream in defiance, you have the option of continuing to warn and spank, or of ceasing here with a parting warning: "Next time you better not run and throw a fit; for if you do, you will only get more licks and harder ones."
Finally, if you are not going to be consistent, give up now; don't trouble yourself or torment the child by spanking her nine times and then giving in on the tenth time. Children are amazing in the memory and ability to endure spankings, waiting for that one moment of weakness to show through again. If you occasionally allow their fits to win the prize, like a gambler they will play the game all night, even when they are losing, because they know winning is possible.
It's worth it. After about three days of absolute consistency on your part, you can initially conform a child to your will. They just have to be convinced that you are not the old negotiator. You are Iron Woman; The Indomitable. It's the loving thing to do.
Every child has their way of controlling their parents. One child will hold his breath and pass out, while another will hit his head against the wall or pinch himself. As we read in another letter, the little girl's wild fits seem to do the trick in controlling her mama. For the fit-pitcher we suggest that you, mama, slow down. When she starts pitching her wild fit, just hold her, talking all the time about how she needs to learn self-control and how silly she is acting. Explain to her as you hold her down that she will get 1 or 2 more licks every time she acts wild. While holding her tell her you are going to give her another lick in 2 minutes and give a running commentary on the time that remains; then tell her it will be 3 more minutes before the next lick. It will be an extremely trying, tiring, terrible time, but she will get the idea and she will also exhaust herself. The object in life is to teach our children self-control. All self-control is tied together, whether it is in their emotional response, their eating habits, or anger. In order for a child to become a balanced individual, teaching them self-control is close to the top of the list.
The 3-year-old little girl's pitiful stance is also working to control her mama and daddy. It is important to never allow your face to show concern over the scared look, but have a set rule of the number of licks she receives for certain offenses and one extra for looking pitiful. Too much rebuke (yaky-yak) provokes a child to wrath and steals all joy. A hard fast lick or two, a short admonishment, and then let it go and cheer up is the best training tool.
Thanks to katiekind at Quiet Garden for pointing to that actual page on the Pearls' website.
See all my posts on Mike and Debi Pearl
To punish a child for showing well founded fear in anticipation of a beating is just plain nuts. Why would someone choose fear induced obedience instead of nurturing a child's desire to please their parents? Which way is going to develop a sense of internally led self-control that can be applied to situations other than "but have a set rule of the number of licks she receives for certain offenses and one extra for looking pitiful. " God help the child if they react to pain or fear - they recommend harsher hitting - SICK.
Posted by: Maureen | March 5, 2010 2:11 PM
My mother would smack me (anywhere on the body, to include the head/face) just for her perceived "disrespectful" stances she assumed I'd give. I remember her flying out of her chair and smacking hard in the face because I had been looking at her while she was telling me something and something caught my attention at the side of the window so I looked, and she said I rolled my eyes. I tried to tell her what I was looking at but I got another smack for "back talk."
What did that lead me to become? A resilient, hateful child that refused to even talk to my own mother for fear that no matter what I said, how I stood, how I held myself, or how anything came out would be perceived as disrespectful and I'd get punched, hit, kicked, screamed at. I *HATED* my mother for this kind of abuse and I'm sorry, but a small child is screaming from these "licks" because um... HELLO... they stinkin HURT!!! Physically hurt! And I'd have a heart attack seeing an adult physically sitting on a child beating them.
There is a HUGE difference between a disciplinary spanking versus this crud that they call parenting.
I can't believe this... my heart breaks for these children.
Posted by: Anon | March 5, 2010 2:54 PM
I am seriously wondering if the Pearls can be held criminally responsible for the death of little Lydia. Obviously her parents should also be punished, but this passage is just inviting parents to abuse.
I seem to remember a situation in which a book was written that detailed how to be a hitman. Well, someone used the exact advice in the book to kill a little boy and his mother.
If I recall correctly, the publisher/author of the book were held to some sort of liability. Even if no child had ever died from this "advice" there are still countless children being abused because of it.
Posted by: lauren | March 5, 2010 3:23 PM
My heart aches for you and I hope you have found/are finding healing.
I just want to point out that the Pearls' gimmick is that they don't beat their children in anger, but calmly and matter-of-factly. They go so far as to claim that they and their children sometimes laugh during the administering of punishment.
No matter the spirit, the relentlessness of their approach, the piling on and piling on for lack of a "satisfactory" response (read: complete and utter submission, losing the ability to speak) and the power-madness encouraged in the parent is just as reprehensible as an ignorant parent who spanks in anger.
in my opinion, at least,
Posted by: Barbara | March 5, 2010 3:37 PM
The part about leading the child to believe that the ordeal is almost over -- and then adding on another -- and oh dear, another -- is particularly repellent.
And what is this plumbing line they're talking about? Is it that plastic-coated metal-mesh tubing?
Posted by: Peony Moss | March 5, 2010 4:58 PM
I'm sure the Pearls would see me as a hopeless failure as a parent for even questioning this but how exactly do they expect I child to react to a long drawn-out whipping that gets longer each time he protests? And why do they make every offense worthy of a severe spanking? They make no allowances for different personalities or why a child might be misbehaving (for example, is he sick? Has something upsetting happened? Is he perhaps not eating his dinner because he is full?). They jump right to assuming that willful defiance is involved.
And it disgusts me the way they demean parents who choose other methods or ask innocent questions. What arrogance! This is exactly why I avoid books on how to discipline and only reading parenting books sparingly, usually based on a stage or topic (such as the challenges of raising boys).
It'll be interesting to see the books that come out in future decades, written by children who were raised on this cruel parenting method and spent years allowing God to heal their wounds so they could learn how to be truly biblical moms and dads.
I spent years taking parenting advice from a "counselor" who encouraged control-freak child rearing methods. I then spent another season of life apologizing to my oldest son and learning to listen to the best parenting expert available--the Holy Spirit. I found that my kids benefit best when discipline involves consequences that match the offense, and accept that each child needs to be handled according to his unique personality and temprement. After all, does God deal with each of us exactly the same way? He knows exactly what we need because He wired us each uniquely.
I am not against spanking but in our house it has always been most affective when used as a last resort: "Okay, you've had a warning, a time-out, lost privileges, now it's time for something else."
What the Pearls fail to realize (well, one of the many things they fail to realize) is that extreme parenting leads to extreme reactions from kids and those extremes are never good. They might seem well-behaved but inside they are either angry or hiding a crushed spirit.
I agree with the woman who suggests they be held resposible for children who died under their methods. If nothing else, a little remorse would be nice.
Posted by: Jeanette | March 5, 2010 7:00 PM
I'm sorry, but the Pearls are just plain dumb...the OT also talks about treating your slaves well, talks about having more than 1 wife and a bunch of other things which we no longer do. Jesus didn't go around beating any children in the NT as far as I can tell, and Paul says to obey your parents and parents, don't ANGER your children.
What if you have a child who is pre-disposed to depression or has developmental delays??? How can you in good conscience expect them to understand that they are supposed to be dirt under your feet?? Who ARE these weirdos? I had a son who was so stubborn that he would have died before he gave in if I tried to hit him with something. Instead, I used positive reinforcement. He is the most persistent person I know, never gives up on a project or a problem. Now if I had beat him senseless when he was a baby, would he be that positive now? I also have a daughter who is bipolar...can you imagine the damage I would have done if I had followed these stupid child rearing ideas? I think Mr. Pearl has a superiority complex of major proportions...
Posted by: Mary Eckstein | March 5, 2010 7:04 PM
I don't know if this is related or not. In Pennsylvania a small boy was beaten to death by his parents. I don't know if the family was religious or not but the article mentioned they homeschooled.The child was adopted from Russia. Now that county is temporarily suspending all adoptions!
Posted by: anonomous | March 5, 2010 7:56 PM
How are these disgusting, cruel psychopaths not in jail? Does CPS not know about their "discipline" methods? I had honestly never heard of these people, and it never would have occurred to me that anyone would listen to this kind of "parenting" advice--let alone PAY for it!
How is it that more people are not screaming from the rooftops about these horrible monsters and shaming THEM into submission?
There are no words to describe how sad I am that any parent would willingly do this to their children. It makes me physically hurt for these innocent and abused babies.
Posted by: Kimberlie | March 5, 2010 8:06 PM
I agree that some of the Pearls stuff is over the top. I also think that Mike should not have written that horrible article on Laughing in such a way as he has. I have always thought Mike was a prideful man. I also don't listen to much of his religious stuff because I think it is off from what the Bible says. However, even if I think that what he says is nonsense (I happen to still get NGJ magazine just because some of what they share is useful info)I don't hold him accountable for what these parents did. There are people who put out books on how to harm other people as in building bombs, making silencers for guns, things like that but I don't see the people up in arms about that. Mike put out some books. That is his right. It is our right to read them or to ignore them. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is about personal responsibility. The parents that decide to beat their child to death over not saying a word correctly is responsible. I am sad that this child was beaten and died. I hope her parents get life in prison. But if they were overzealous about Mike's book, it is not his fault. Personally I have read TTUAC. I don't like the idea of swatting my child for every little offense. I try to use words to train my children. Even so, it is my responsibility to train my children, not Mike Pearl.
Honestly, I think that if we close ourselves off from every little thing that bothers us then we would never read, watch or listen to anything. I get a news mag each week. Every single week they have at least one full page article about Catholic this or that. I think it is over the top but I don't let it stop me from reading the rest of the magazine. This is America after all. We each should be able to say what we think and feel. If others disagree then they can turn around walk off, shut of the tv or radio or close their browser. I don't want someone to dictate what I can or can not use just because it disagrees with their own personal views.
Posted by: Ouida Gabriel | March 5, 2010 8:34 PM
This just makes me want to puke. I am not opposed to spanking in general, but this is just sickening. I can't believe rational, intelligent people rely on the advice of these psychos.
Posted by: Musings of a Housewife | March 6, 2010 8:00 AM
No where in To Train Up a Child do the Pearls advocate child abuse. What I find disturbing is how the blame for these children's death is being diverted from their parents to the Pearls! From what I recall they are emphatic that you must be completely calm and in control while physically correcting children - this is not the kind of wild beating that these parents must have done to kill their child. There are many of us who have used trained our children using swats that have never come anywhere close to injuring our children.
Posted by: Catherine | March 6, 2010 9:56 AM
No one is shifting the blame from the parents. They deserve to spend the rest of their lives in jail as far as I am concerned. But thoughtful parenting teachers/leaders/advocates/spokespeople are trying to bring attention to the Pearls' more extreme parenting advice which could lead gullible people to react to a situation in a manner which could lead to child abuse, injury and even death.
Did you read any of the actual advice I cited from the Pearls' website? Do you understand what I am trying to say: that God did not intend the parent/child relationship to be a power struggle - one of domination/submission, but one actually reflecting our own relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Just because someone is calm while administering a beating does not mean it is not abuse. Someone could murder while being perfectly calm. If parents have gotten it into their heads that their state of mind while administering a punishment is the deciding factor, they are wrong.
I personally have followed Dr. Dobson's advice on spanking, which means that yes, you do not spank in anger. But Dr. Dobson leaves it at that. He does not issue guidelines like Michael Pearl about spanking for bad attitudes and adding "licks" because the child reacts to being spanked. He does not say you should spank your kids until they have no breath left to talk (from the Pearls' website). He does not tell parents when the need more than a switch to get a tree limb or a piece of plumbing supply line.
What we are talking about here is parenting advice run amok and causing grave harm to many children. If two children have died and one is injured that we know of, how many do we not know of?
Please go back and reread all the posts. As I said, many might be able to read TTUAC and "eat the meat but spit out the bones," but others have made gurus out of the Pearls and their website is filled with toxic advice for parents.
Posted by: Barbara | March 6, 2010 10:43 AM
Barbara, thank you for the gracious way in which you have been responding to parents who have utilized or are defending the Pearls' teachings. It is hard for us, as parents, to see areas in which we may have not been discerning. . . especially if these areas could have led to harm to our children.
I agree that what Michael and Debi Pearl teach is just. . . toxic. . . for parents and children.
Posted by: TulipGirl | March 8, 2010 11:16 PM
Barbara, again I thank you for drawing attention to this tragedy.
To those who would defend the Pearls, please consider this: we KNOW of two dead children. We KNOW of many other families who have been torn apart, because the children ran (for their lives!) as soon as they were old enough....and we KNOW many runaway children become victims of violence in the streets that they run to.
The Pearls will--as I have said--one day stand before Almighty God to be judged. I assure you, that "But we didn't say to beat her to death" is not going to affect their fates.
God help the poor children.
Posted by: Zooey | March 9, 2010 3:04 PM
As someone who has close friends using the Pearl materials as the main source for their parenting ideas, I would beg anyone defending the Pearls to remember how small, vulnerable, and young are the children to whom these methods are being applied. It is one thing to say that a parent can safely and calmly hit a toddler with a piece of plastic tubing, and another to actually see this applied to the legs or back of a child who weighs 30 lbs. and who does not even have the mental or emotional development at such a young age to be able to control their crying in order to stop being hit. Also, I believe from my personal experience that there are other elements of the Pearl's advice that limit the moderating influences of other people on their followers. There are multiple places in the materials in which they instruct their followers to break ties with anyone, even grandparents, who ever question any aspect of their methods. I remember reading one comment by Michael Pearl on his website in which he says that if grandparents give your children sweets then you should consider never allowing them to see the children again. The extreme emphasis on submission by wives is another problem that I see, in that I believe that in some cases women might override their motherly instinct because they believe that they must obey their husband at nearly any cost. One thing that chilled me a little in Michael Pearl's writing about abuse is that he said if a father leaves marks lasting more than two hours on his wife or children EXCEPT in the case of a spanking, she should call police. Perhaps I am misreading this, but if the Pearls are going to offer advice in such extreme situations as child and wife abuse, I think they should be much more clear as to what they are instructing women to do.
Posted by: Kate | March 19, 2010 2:58 AM
Totally off topic, but I am really enjoying the parenting advice of the Boyer family. www.thelearningparent.com
Posted by: Lisa | March 19, 2010 12:54 PM
I honestly feel SO sorry for these poor helpless children who's parents have been brainwashed by these "people!" How can anyone in their right mind agree that what the author of the book replied to this mom with is even CLOSE to humane?! I can not imagine sitting on my tiny 3 year old for being...well...a 3 year old...?!?! And then hitting them for crying?! I just can not wrap my head around what these people say in these books, and that their children really ARE productive members of society, no matter HOW much they try to say they are!
I wish I could call CPS on every single parent who even THINKS about buying that book and using it! ARGH!
Posted by: Becka | March 22, 2010 8:21 PM
Peaceful Parents, please could I ask you to go the Amazon UK facebook page and leave a "review" for To Train Up a Child http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1892112000/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1 giving your full and frank negative opinions on the methods the Pearls advise on and please also give the reasons WHY there are better and gentle ways. If at all possible, please use biblical references as the people who buy their book are likely to be fundamentalist Christians. Their book currently has very very few reviews on the UK Amazon site and yet there is a campaign to have this book removed from sale on Amazon UK. The more people go and "review" it saying they find it offensive, the more weight it adds to the fight to have it removed. Thanks so much.
Posted by: Lorna | August 26, 2011 2:28 AM
Honestly, from reading those quotes, I suspect that the Pearls have been influenced by hearing people -- kids and adults alike -- say, "Wow, I sure wish my parents would just spank me/had just spanked me and get it over with. A good quick spanking hurts, but at least it doesn't last forever like my parents' lectures."
The Pearls, I suspect, heard such things and thought, "That's right, a spanking is over with quickly -- we must do something to change that. Starting now, a spanking must be as lengthy and sadistically drawn-out as we can make it. Make it painful and humiliating, but make it last as long as a good verbal reaming-out too."
Posted by: Cactus Wren | April 11, 2012 5:23 AM
My sister read this book and took it with a grain of salt, but used some things she learned from it and has some of the most well behaved, sweetest, wisest children I know. They listen the first time, can hold an adult conversation at the ages of 7, 5 and 3. They always ask if they can help clean up or cook in the kitchen. The respect and honor authority and keep their word. I do not have kids of my own, but when I do, I will be reading this book.
Posted by: Karen | July 16, 2012 5:24 PM