Friday, March 17, 2006

Tragedy related to the Pearls' childrearing advice

Some years back, our family attended a church service that was a bit unusual to say the least. It turns out that we had inadvertently discovered a cult. One of the many disturbing aspects of the church service is that we were the only family with children under the age of 6 or so who didn't keep our children confined to small blankets on the floor during the entire three hour service. When the cute little girl in front of me reached up from her blanket to pat her mother's leg with affection, the mother actually kicked away her tiny hand, and shot her a stern look. The boys next to us were dragged out of the service for several spankings, for reasons we couldn't fathom, since the father's removal of them was far more disruptive than anything they might have done.

The way these parents interacted with their children was chilling and unnatural. It turns out that they were all following Mike and Debi Pearl's parenting advice. To Train Up a Child was featured prominently on the book table, with no other parenting book in sight. ("It figures!" I said to my husband as soon as I spotted the book.) I later found out that the mothers would gather to study this book and that the cult pressured all parents to follow its practices.

That seemed tragic enough to me, but all of that pales in comparison to the horribly sickening news article that I just read. The headline reads, "Dead child's mom sought discipline tips: Lynn Paddock ordered books by a minister and his wife that recommended using pipe to spank kids"

A few years ago, Lynn Paddock sought Christian advice on how to discipline her growing brood of adopted children.

Paddock -- a Johnston County mother accused of murdering Sean, her 4-year-old adopted son, and beating two other adopted children -- surfed the Internet, said her attorney, Michael Reece. She found literature by an evangelical minister and his wife who recommended using plumbing supply lines to spank misbehaving children.

Paddock ordered Michael and Debi Pearl's books and started spanking her adopted children as suggested. After Sean, the youngest of Paddock's six adopted children, died last month, his older sister and brother told investigators about Paddock's spankings.

Sean's 9-year-old brother was beaten so badly he limped, a prosecutor said. Bruises marred Sean's backside, too, doctors found.

Sean died after being wrapped so tightly in blankets he suffocated. That, too, was a form of punishment, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

The Pearls' advice from their Web site: A swift whack with the plastic tubing would sting but not bruise. Give 10 licks at a time, more if the child resists. Be careful about using it in front of others -- even at church; nosy neighbors might call social workers. Save hands for nurturing, not disciplining. Heed the warning, taken from Proverbs in the Old Testament, that sparing the rod will spoil the child.

Read the rest of the article here.

Now, I'm sure I'm going to get angry emails and/or comments from Pearl followers insisting that the Pearls do not teach parents to murder their children. This is very true. However, they do teach harsh "training" methods that run the gamut from spanking with plumbing supplies, to pushing young nonswimming children into ponds, to pulling tiny babies' hair, to hitting children with toys, to blasting children with cold water from the hose in the middle of winter for potty training accidents, to ... well, you get the picture.

There is no defense for this sort of teaching.

Millstones. That's what comes to mind. Millstones. If causing a child to sin carries should carry such a harsh penalty, according to Jesus, what would He think of abusing a child and --- even worse --- claiming to do it in His Name?


  1. A lot of bloggers are calling for a boycott of any site that supports the pearls, The Old Schoolhouse magazine (they support the pearls AND their ministry), and any site from homeschoolblogger (owned by same people who publish The Old Schoolhouse). This includes removing those sites within your blogroll that link to above (Like Spunky's site), not using message boards and websites that promote link to, or sell used products by the Pearls.

    Beating a child and calling it biblical has to stop.

  2. Wow, that's outrageous (the kinds of things they recommend). I've heard that this is bad teaching, but haven't been 'brave' enough to actually read the book myself. At Christmastime, when we visited my in-laws church, I noticed it had a "To Train up a Child" book study. Since I knew a few things about the controversy, I felt very unsettled about it afterwards. I don't know how deeply ingrained it is in their church, but also don't know how or whether to bring it up to my mother-in-law. Any advice on how to bring it up would be appreciated - I suspect she would be shocked to know the details of the books, but then what?

  3. I feel ill just reading that, I don't think I'll read the article in full, I couldn't stomach it.

    It's about time Christians took a stand against this dangerous semi-pelagian rubbish. I'm all for a boycott if it raises the issue.

  4. While I certainly don't agree with the Pearls' teachings, I also know that the stuff that this woman did are not advocated by the book. There were allegations of abuse PRIOR to the adoption, but the DHS people declared them to be unfounded.

    It sounds like this lady was abusive to begin with and then was able to justify the abuse because of the Pearls' books.

    The sad thing is that I expect the usual response from them: "We can't be blamed when people misuse our materials. We focus on tying heart strings. Etc." What they SHOULD do is to distance themselves as far as possible from stuff like this, so that there is NO WAY people could assume that this lady just might have learned her techniques from the Pearls. They need to make it ultra-clear that what she did is NOT what they advocate.

    I don't see that happening though. Nor do I see them revising any of their teachings. So it'll just continue on...while sure there will be parents who are loving and non-abusive who use their materials (I know many), there will be just as many who are able to justify abuse because of their books.

  5. It broke my heart to read this today. I have seen within the Christian subculture a lot of very well-meaning abuse at the hands of loving parents. Parents who don't want to be and don't intend to be abusive initially. A lot of what I've seen is due to the emphasis on "being consistent." While the Pearls and others teach that "being consistent" will mean fewer spankings, what the reality is in many families and for many children is that "consistent" spankings results in very freqent, increasingly harder spankings.

    I've been in conversations with mothers, worrying about whether bruises on bottoms would show. If CPS would be called. If a trip to the pediatrician should be changed. And these were loving mothers, who in general were gentle and soft-spoken. But the repeated teachings of spank 'em, and spank 'em harder until they obey did result in what could objectively only be labeled abuse.

    Anyway, this whole very sad situation reminds me of an article I once read. Very germaine to the current discussion, Avoiding Millstones.

  6. My own feelings about the Pearls are mixed, as I’ve written on other boards. No, I don’t agree with all their disciplinary methods (ex. setting a child up to fail by tempting him or her with an object). However, it is clear that the method by which this young boy died (suffocating while being wrapped in a blanket) was NOT advocated by the Pearls anywhere. Blaming the Pearls for his death is like blaming Jesus for the Crusades because the people who carried them out called themselves Christians. Likewise, while I’m no fan of Karl Marx, I don’t think he can be personally blamed for the atrocities committed by Communist regimes.

  7. I am a regular reader of your blog (fairly recently), but I havn't commented. I know this is somewhat unrelated to the topic but I am wondering what "parenting style" you use? Do you go with your gut or is there a parenting book that you would recommend to someone seeking?

  8. wow..the theory that the Pearls are responsible for that childs death is like saying that a diabetic who takes more insulin than is prescribed, kills himself, then it's the insulins fault or something as assanine as that. I am not a "Pearl-ite" by any means and in truth, I don't agree with everything they say but that news article was SO full of it, I don't even know where to begin. First the Pearls only link to plumbers "pipe" (HA!) is actually plumbers "line". It is the diameter of a glue stick, hollow, bendable and could only kill someone if you shoved it down their throats! They are wonderfully effective because (unless you discipline in rage), you have only to very gently spank the child - it stings, leaves no lasting marks, gets the point across and does NOT cause harm. Now if you don't believe the biblical mandate to discipline a child (the Bible actually uses the word "beat with a rod") than explaining is senseless. I'm honestly sick of people not doing their own reseach but jumping on the bandwagon of dissent without any personal knowledge of the facts. IF their "methods" are followed correctly, not only will one have a happy, well-adjusted, *obedient* child but the rod will only rarely have to be used after the age of 5. The church mentioned above was obviously yet another sect of people who take matters to the extreme.

  9. Karen. . .

    I once read something that I believe the Pearls should take to heart, in light of this tragedy. . .

    "I would beg you, unless you are fully certain before God that your message about spanking could not possibly be used to justify abuse, that you would consider either altering your message or only teaching it to those whom you know personally."

    It saddens me that I see very little remorse or sadness about this tragedy shown by the Pearls or those who advocate for them. Instead of recognizing that, yes, the Pearls have amazing influence and need to be careful with their advice--all I see is blame on parents who, supposedly, don't follow their ideas "correctly.

  10. I think Christian parents need to wake up and smell the coffee. People like the Pearls are dangerous and are not held accountable for the dangerous teachings they promote.

    What these people are teaching is sick. Setting a child up to disobey and then beating them. Advising a woman to go back to her molesting husband after he serves his time and jail.

    I think this story should be enough of a catalist to put an end to the Pearls' popularity.

    Debra Baker

  11. I think you guys are the ones off the deep-end.

    It is horrible that this boy died and was beaten. But the Pearls, from what I've read, don't call for abuse nor a binding of limbs with a blanket.

    This women was clearly an abuser. Her abuse is not a result of reading Pearls material. Another woman who wrote an article that "Pearls doesn't work" said she became a "hitter."

    The whole point of the Pearls message is that if you don't train your child with love and discipline to obey you, then you risk becoming a hitter or abuser because you will be at your wit's end. They preach to not let that happen! They have TONS of information on what to do if you find yourself hitting/abusing your child, and they certainly don't advocate any of it!

    Plus, you can find a lot of great advice in their materials even if you choose not to spank your child. Discard what you disagree with; take away the gems.

    You've taken a lot of liberty with your misplaced quotes, and this child's death has nothing to do with what the Pearls try and teach. This woman obviously had been abused herself and was unable to draw the line - she needed help. She misread or read into what she wanted to believe - she could have done that with MANY other training books as well. Don't blame the Pearls for her abuse.

  12. Its on the woman that killed the child - I agree. That responsibility is her's alone.[tt_news]=81&tx_ttnews[backPid]=71&cHash=4679f9417d

    They state that you stay and take the beatings from an abusive spouse, and not leave him! They place his spiritual future in the hands of his wife, and if he molests the children?

    Michael says:
    But if your husband has sexually molested the children, you should approach him with it. If he is truly repentant (not just exposed) and is willing to seek counseling, you may feel comfortable giving him an opportunity to prove himself, as long as you know the children are safe.

    I guess the fact you are placing yourself in an illegal situation doesn't count for anything right? I mean what if you are wrong? More harm for the child, and the government gets to look at you as an enabler...and you also could be looking at jail time, etc. YEP! Great advice!

    We can't blame the Pearls directly, but their advice is seriously in question.

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  14. I want to responed to whom ever claims that Micheal Pearl teaches a woman to stay with a husband that sexually abuses her children. I do not know what book or resource you got this from but, I have just finished reading "created to be his help meet." In this book it was said that that type of action is immoral and that the jurisdicion of the Judicial system is over this area. I felt from reading the book it is clear to turn your husband over to the authorities. It is suggested( by the grace of God) that a wife can visit and show the love of Christ while he is behind bars....not let the abuse potential go one in some Pollyanna dilluted submissive wife sort of way. The wife is for the man so they both can enjoy sexual satisfaction. The child is never a substitute. To do so is a perversion and I think that if that is were you find your pleasure, thewife or any other woman will fullfil your desire. A person like that belongs behind bars and for what I have read so far....the Pearl's feel that way too.

  15. The only thing that I would agree with is that the Pearls' books in the wrong hand (and incidentally, this also applies to the bible) would be dangerous. Its kinda like those people that literally cut their hands off if it is an offense (causes you to sin). We would agree that it doesn't mean that, right? So why are the Pearls' responsible for this persons abusive behavior? It boggles the mind.

  16. I have struggled with this topic. We have several friends who use these methods, and I believe it is because Pearl uses scare tactics to manipulate his followers. He is the perfect specimen to lead up a cult. A true wolf in sheeps clothing. He claims that he has been without sin for many years, even holds seminars on how to do this.
    1 John 1:8-10 "8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."
    According to this, we should run from these people and never look back. They claim to be sinless,and that this insane method of childrearing will do the same for our children.
    I grew up as a victim to a cult, and the same things were done, only a few scriptures were selected, and then used over and over again to brainwash us in the name of being good "Christians." It was only later that I learned that the true God is also a god of rich mercy.
    I am not against spanking when it is appropriate, however, my first child was not able to demonstrate that she learned anything from a spanking until she was almost 2 1/2. Even then, my goal is not to "break her" but to shape her will and grow it toward God. Treating our children like farm animals will do nothing for their hearts. Pearl is a behaviorist, he trains children like animals, but this does nothing for real learning, which seeks the child's heart.