Seeing as how I love talking about children and books, I decided to research the book for myself.
I've rarely been so shocked by a book's content.
First, I went to Amazon, just to read reviews. You know something might be amiss when the average rating is less than 3 stars, and about 3/4 of the reviews (550+) were 1 star reviewers, with some serious concerns. The more I read, the more disgusted and appalled I became. So you should know that I went into the book already biased against it. It's hard not to be when you read direct quotes like,
"On p.44 they say not to let the child's crying while being hit to 'cause you toSo as not to swamp my friend's page, I brought up the reviews and my own concerns on my facebook page. Join the discussion here, if you want.
lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.' On p.59 they recommend
whipping a 3 year old until he is 'totally broken'."
I received multiple facebook messages and emails from friends who had read the book, and maybe even recommended it to others. Why? Because there are some truths. Because it starts off all folksy and common sense. You find yourself nodding about little things. The Pearls mix a few Truths with a lot of extremes. Which causes some people to swallow hook, line, and sinker. They don't intend to, but they are caught. I'm glad-- SO GLAD-- that many of them are rereading, seeing, analyzing, questioning now.
Never take something you read for granted. Not the newspaper, a book by experts, or even my blog. ;-) Test everything against Scripture.
I read as much as I could online, and then checked the book out. It's nauseating to me, to read about such abuse, and know that it's continuing.
And, just as upsetting, is the fact that I know people who are saying "oh, just glean what you can," or "eat the meat and spit out the bones," or "as long as you discipline consistently, then whatever method you choose is okay." Hogwash. Abuse is merely "bones"? Something just to be overlooked? It's okay to "consistently discipline" by whipping with piping and holding your children down? Christian women, COME ON. STAND UP. Don't just say what you think people want to hear. It's really not "I'm okay, you're okay, just do whatever works for you." NO. There are absolutes, and child abuse is an absolute NO.
With permission, I'm sharing this post from fellow Mama Blogger Laurel at Our Journey of Faith. It's a 3-part series on her blog, and I encourage you to read them all.
Book Review: To Train Up A Child
While there are many parts of this book that we could look at, analyze, review, and get upset about ... what I really want to look at is the Pearls views on spanking, something that I fully disagree with.
The really hard part about writing this series of blog posts is that ...
I do believe in using spanking as a discipline tool;
I just don't believe in using it as the Pearls advocate.
I am not against the practice of spanking;
yet I am appalled in the ways that so many parents use it.
I agree that spankings can be beneficial;
but don't have any grasp as to how parents
(such as Lydia's) could beat a child so severely
that it could lead to the death of the child.
I. One issue that I have with Michael & Debi Pearl's philosophy of child training is their use of spankings at a very young age:
"One of our girls who developed mobility early had a fascination with crawling up the stairs. At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of "No" with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a 12" long, 1/8th" diameter sprig from a willow tree." (page 9)
They are using a "switch" on a 4 month old? Unbelievable.
They claim it is "for her own good"; but couldn't they have just put a gate at the bottom of the stairs if they were concerned for her safety?
And, again, they claim that their use of a switch is not for punishment, but for training. I fully disagree with this method of training.
Michael goes on to share the story of a father that he was having a conversation with, who had an undisciplined 12 month old on his lap. The child wanted to go to the mother (who was across the room), but the father clearly "needed" to show this child who the authority was:
"Clearly, the lines were drawn. The battle was in array. Someone was going to submit his will and learn his lesson. Either the father would confirm that this one-year-old could rule his parents or the parents would confirm their authority. Everyone's happiness was at stake, as well as the soul of the child. The father was wise enough to know this was a test of authority. This episode had crossed over from "obedience training" to discipline for attitude.
For the next weary forty-five minutes, fifteen times the child would make his legs move, and the daddy would turn him around and spank his legs. The father was as calm as a lazy porch swing on a Sunday afternoon. There was no hastiness or anger. He did not take the disobedience personally. He had trained many a horse or mule and knew the value of patient perseverance. In the end, the twelve-month-old submitted his will to his father."
Do you see any problems here?
"Everyones happiness was at stake, as well as the soul of the child." Wow! That is a powerful statement. First of all, a child's disobedience should not control the parents' happiness. Secondly, how could this one little instance, at 12 months old, possibly do irreparable damage to the child's soul if the parent did not show their authority?
So, over the course of 45 minutes, this father spanked his young son 15 times ... for "moving his leg"??? I want my children to learn to obey me out of respect for me, rather than fear. I believe that this father was ultimately training his child to fear him (as MANY children trained this way have shown this to be true).
II. Another issue I have with Michael & Debi Pearl's philosophy of child training is the "instruments" that they use to "reinforce instruction":
"Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain ... Select your instrument according to the child's size. For the under one year old, a little 10" - 12" willowy branch, about 1/8th" in diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. 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."
Oh my! I just cannot imagine going outside and picking out a tree branch ... in comparison to the size of my child ... in order to beat them with. Can you?
You can read THIS LINK to find out about the 1/4" Plumbing Supply Line, recommended by the Pearls, which was the "instrument" that was used in the death of 7 year old Lydia Schatz, in February.
III. A third issue that I have with Michael & Debi Pearl's philosophy of child training is who they believe has the right to spank a child. My philosophy: Only a parent should spank their own children.
Michael & Debi Pearl believe that they have the right to spank any child that is in their home, whether or not the child's parents are present. On page 53, Michael shares about a time that two sisters were in their home (ages 2 and 14). He seemed shocked that ...
"The fourteen-year-old admitted she was not allowed to discipline her little sister."
So, Debi ... "set up a training session" and "spatted her hand with a little switch".
They also advocate (I can't find the reference right now) allowing any of your older children to switch your younger children. They use an example of a 10 year old being allowed to switch a younger sibling.
Two big problems here ...
#1 We do NOT allow ANY of our older children to spank the younger children. Even if a Big Kid is left in charge for a day ... they do NOT have the right or the authority to spank the children. They are well aware of the many other discipline techniques that can be used (timeouts ... removing privileges ... )
#2 I would probably go BALLISTIC if I found out that an adult had "switched" by child without my permission (which I would NEVER give). I am actually surprised that the Pearls haven't spent time in jail for beating other people's children.
In another instance (on page 56) Debi sets up another "training session" with the mother of the child sitting right there. The little 2 year old boy picked up a plastic toy wrench and hit his mother on the arm with it ...
"... little Johnny got tired of assaulting his mother (all bold emphasis is mine) and turned on my wife. After the first blow, almost without diverting her eyes from the mother, and with no change of expression, she picked up a matching plastic toy. This was not to fight back, but to train. The mother is the one who would most benefit from what was about to occur. As little Johnny drove home the next blow, swiftly and with more than matching force, my wife struck. ... Again, Johnny strikes. Again, swift retribution (training really). ... again, but with less force, he struck. The immediately returned blow was not diminished in strength. ... he again, and with even less force, struck my wife on the arm. I was thinking, "She will lighten up this time and match his diminished intensity." Again, my wife struck, seemingly, with all the force she could possible muster without standing for a wind-up. ... To my amazement, with one-fourth the original force, he again struck my wife. This time, her bottom came off the couch as she drew back to return the blow; and I heard a little karate like wheeze come from somewhere deep inside. I was hoping that Johnny was getting close to learning his lesson. ... (but) he continued to trade blows about ten times. On Johnny's part, the blows got lighter and lighter until, after a short contemplative delay, he gave a little tap that was returned with a swift, forceful blow. ... (then) I could see an idea come into his experimental little head. He turned to his mother and pounded her on the arm. ... my wife handed the wrench to her. The next time Johnny struck, the young mother courageously returned the blow. It only took two or three times to learn his lesson for good. The mother was the one being taught. If she remained consistent, Johnny would be forever broken of a tendency to be a bully. Understand ... this was not discipline, but training."
Do any of you have a problem with this???
I was sick to my stomach while reading this again, and writing it out for you.
I am nearly speechless ...
I cannot even fathom it ...
How can thousands of Christian parents read these Parenting Principles and actually believe that they are based on God's Holy Word???
This. Is. Just. Plain. WRONG!!!
On page 64 Michael shares that ...
"When my wife babysits ... it is always understood to be on the condition we have full liberty to discipline and train."
Would you EVER leave your children in their care???
IV. I will conclude my review of To Train Up A Child with my concern about their purpose in switching a child ... to "break" his spirit.
Speaking of a 3 year old boy who spilled some water and wouldn't clean it up. This is what they would recommend ... (page 59)
"She then administers about 10 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 will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, "Johnny, clean up your mess." He should very contritely wipe up the water. To test and reinforce this moment of surrender, give him another command. "Johnny, go over and put your toys all back in the box." .. After three or four faithfully performed acts of obedience, brag on how "smart" a helper he is."
10 switches on his bare legs for spilled water?
Totally broken??? How can anyone see this as a "good thing"?
My heart aches for the precious children who's hearts have been severely "broken" by their parents, as a result of following the Parenting Principles that the Pearls advocate.
How can we stop this foolishness before more children are murdered by their "loving, Christian parents"???
We will conclude with another ... Parenting Guarantee ...
"For the rest of the day, he will be happy and compliant. The transformation is unbelievable.
You have just witnessed the potential making of a peaceful home and of an emotionally stable and obedient child. If you are faithful to guard against and reward every infraction, whether in attitude or action, in just a few days you will have a perfectly obedient and cheerful child."
What more can I say? It truly grieves me to see how this parenting philosophy has grown into a legalistic community of parents who ... crave perfection ... expect perfection ... and won't settle for anything less than perfection from their children. This, in turn, creates children who live in fear of their parents. And ... in addition to fearful children ... this philosophy can actually lead to death ... as was the case for precious little Lydia Schatz.
Let me know if you write a blog post on this critical parenting issue. I believe it would be a GOOD THING to spread the word about the dangers of these principles, which are clearly NOT Biblical. I read that the Pearls made over $1.8 million in 2008 from the sales of these very books. Now, THAT is scary!!! Even if you have not personally heard of the Pearls' ministry, it is BIG ... and it needs to be STOPPED!
If you'd like to read others' thoughts on the topic ...
MommyLife has written 5 posts about the Pearls, since Lydia's death.
TulipGirl has a long list of Christian leaders and ministries that have spoken out against the Pearls' child training methods.
TulipGirl even wrote a post about them back in March 2005. Very interesting.
WorldMagazine has a blog post about it, as well.
Finally, in Avoiding Millstones, I found heartfelt words of encouragement in "An Open Letter to Those who Advocate Spanking".
That was a great review, Laurel. Thank you for allowing me to repost.
These reviews, friends, aren't written only by people who don't use spanking. These reviews are written by Christians and non-Christians, spankers and non-spankers, basically every kind of concerned, appalled parent.
This post was written by a woman who is the friend of the family being charged in the death of their child, after following the Pearls' methods.
PLEASE don't follow these "guidelines." Please don't encourage others to follow such a messed-up philosophy. And, if you see someone spanking their children excessively, SAY SOMETHING. Who else will stand up for that child? How many lives could be saved, if someone would simply stand up and say something?