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March 13, 2005

On the Pearls and Parenting

This is an e-mail conversation I had with a young woman not long ago about the Pearls and their highly punitive parenting ideas. Although I'm more concerned about helping parents see the problems with Ezzo, I decided to make available here some of my thoughts about the Pearls/To Train Up a Child/No Greater Joy.


Hello, TulipGirl. My name is *******, and we've crossed each other's paths on a board by a woman named ********* talking about the book To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.

Hi, *******!

I remember you from *******’s blog. *grin*

I've been researching all I can about the Pearls, and I've come across your name a couple of times.

Research is good. I’m sure you’ve found a mixed bag of people who are thrilled with TTUAC and those who aren’t--as well as those who are rational about their opinions about TTUAC and those who are very emotional or accusatory. The Pearls aren’t my “pet issue” so I’m a bit surprised you came across my name a few times. I looked back through some things I’ve posted online and realized I had written more than I thought about them.

First, I'm interested to know what you (and others) find so objectionable about the Pearls.

The heart of the issue is that they are teaching something they claim is Biblical, but is instead based on Behaviour Modification and building a subculture. They are very persuasive, especially to young parents. I believe their underlying philosophy goes against applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our family life.

One way this comes up is, while there is mention of "tying heart strings", there is far more that leads parents/children into an antagonistic relationship. The parent/child antagonism is one of the key problems I have with the ******** site, in spite of the many professions of love and delight in children. The attitude behind “ambushing” children is antagonistic. The attitude of “power struggles” and “outlasting” is antagonistic. And, I believe, unsupportable Biblically.

Galatians 6 talks about discipline. . . “Brothers, if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” Restoring gently, being careful yourself--that sounds nothing like the Pearls.

This antagonistic attitude towards children also comes across in things like their constant comparison between children made in the image of God and likening them to mere animals--horses, dogs, etc. For example:

"I became anxious and started pushing him to perform. He was making me look silly. "What right does he have to do this to me? Me, of all people. My family would have thought I was so smart, and now I look dumb. Stupid dog. Must be inbred." Sensing my disapproval, he started to shy away from me. To get my approval, he must make me look good in public. After all, what is a dog good for, but to elevate his master?"

Of course, the Pearls were talking about their dog here--but in the context of training children. The message is “What is a child good for, but to elevate his parent?” The focus shifts from discipling the little blessings God has given us, to placing our children’s worth on how well they perform. As well as deriving our worth as adults on our children’s performance.

Sadly, I know a lot of Christian parents who fall into the trap of thinking that way--that our children must be perfectly behaved, especially around others--and that leads parents and children into legalism, rather than into building a stronger relationship with one another and trusting in God. Pride and trusting one's "child training" can sometimes quench one's trust in God.

Another problem I have with the book is the theology. As Doug Wilson aptly said,

"The innate sinfulness of the child is denied, which leads the Pearls to sharply distinguish training from discipline. Training is what the innocent infants and toddlers get, and is identical to what puppies get when they don't go on the newspapers. Discipline supposedly comes later when sin enters the picture. While this is not a book of theology, a Finney-like Pelagianism runs near the surface. And while there are some similarities between animal training and child-discipline, the distinctions between the two are not adequately maintained in this book. The result of this confusion is not only heretical, but also offensive to any parents who value the dignity of their children."

I believe our parenting should be shaped by our theology--and I've found as I've grown in my walk with the Lord and in studying theology that it has impacted my parenting in a very big way.

I read a passage in the TableTalk devotional recently that pointed out to me, yet again, how theology impacts parenting.

"God is Father (James 1:27) and therefore loves His children deeply. Yet God is Judge (James 5:9) and thus is required to punish sin. God's love and righteousness, we know, motivated Him to accomplish redemption for us based on the sacrifice of His perfect Son who suffered the punishment we all deserve." --Robert Rothwell, TableTalk January 2005

Our children are part of the Covenant, and I believe Christ has already suffered the punishment for their sin on the Cross. I do not need to “punish” them when they do wrong. I do need to discipline them, disciple them, help them see their sin and repent, as well as help them learn the “rules” of living in polite society. I am not permissive. But I do not think that using a rod to spank my toddler, ala Pearl, will cleanse them of sin. Nor do I see any command in the Bible for parents to punish children for their sin--I do see many commands to disciple, discipline, teach, love, train and chastise.

I did a study on the Fruit of the Spirit several years ago. One of the things that surprised me was that in so many passages that talked about gentleness, it was linked with discipline. God puts the two together. There are other things related to what I’ve studied in the Bible and theology that leads me to have concerns about the Pearl’s parenting, but I don’t want to overwhelm you.

As I posted before, I don't agree with 100% of what they say,

Is there anyone that we would say we agree with 100%? *grin* I’m curious what you disagree with that they teach?

But their principle - that children should obey their parents - seems sound.

Biblical, even. *grin* Btw, it isn’t “their” principle or even that which is what is controversial about what they teach. I’m not sure whether I mentioned over at ******’s or not, but I started my parenting journey with a strong view that I was required to make my children obey. Now I believe that I am called to help them obey, as they become the people God has created them to be. There is a world of difference between the ideas make and help.

And, a look at Ephesians 6 reminds us that God is talking to His littlest disciples in that passage, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” That’s quite a difference from if it read (as many seem to assume) “Parents, make your children obey you, for this is right in the Lord.”

And again, while sometimes they go overboard, I think their style of parenting - strict - works in the long run.

In what ways do you think they go overboard? Are you aware that there are many parents who are strict who don’t embrace a Pearl parenting style? You’d probably agree with a “mean what you say and way what you mean” attitude in parenting. Are you aware there are parents who do that without resorting to either “ambush” swats or bribery?

I mentioned on xxxx that according to one study, children who had strict boundaries were less likely to end up taking drugs as teenagers.

Firm boundaries, I believe, are a good thing. The Pearls don’t have the corner on the market for that. That is not unique to their teachings. One friend of mine, Joanne, is very firm in her boundaries but enforces those boundaries in a way that isn’t laced with Pearl-esque Behaviour Modification. Take a look Joanne's Discipline Resource Center.

One characteristic of those teens who did take drugs was that their parents had difficulty punishing them as children.

I’d be interested to know what is meant by “punishing.” I no longer punish my children. Christ has borne the punishment for their sins on the Cross. I do enforce boundaries and discipline my children. Personally, I have wider boundaries than I used to have with them--but they are older now and I’m less of a control freak than I was when I was a younger mom. *grin*

Second, I think a lot of people tend to lump Pearl and Ezzo together in the same boat as a knee-jerk reaction.

Knee jerk? Some people online do seem to be a bit reactionary, don’t they? *grin* The vast majority, though, seem to understand the issues either from experience, evidence-based concerns or the Bible.

I usually see Ezzo and Pearl discussed separately--only linked when misuse of the Bible is being talked about in the context of parenting teachings (or, like over at ******, when one is presented as an alternative to the other.)

I respect a parent's decision never to spank, but somehow to me the anti-spanking movement has become a bit of a cult: Thou shalt not spank.

I can’t defend the anti-spanking movement as I’m not part of it, per se.

And somehow the anti-Pearlers, and anti-spankers in general, seem to take a "more enlightened than thou" approach:

I think we need to clarify before going on. While anti-spankers will almost always be anti-TTUAC, not everyone who has serious problems with TTUAC is an anti-spanker. Lumping them together may lead to people not seeing the concerns in TTUAC as valid. (Saying this to clarify that I know spankers who do not like TTUAC in the least.)

that they, not the parents of that particular child, know what's best for somebody else's family.

That’s interesting. I hear more “This is the only way to raise Godly children” from people advocating the Pearls, the ******, the Ezzos--and a lot of condescension to those poor mothers who don’t know any better or are too “afraid” to spank.

To be honest, I would love to see more grace and patience shown to mothers with different values in parenting from all involved. I am completely convinced that parents who embrace a Pearl style of parenting are doing so out of love for their children.

However, love is shown by actions as well as attitudes, and the actions the Pearls advocate are very often unloving.

The final thing: the "Pearl" method of parenting is similar to that our parents and grandparents used, to some extent, and which they still use in some countries today. It's hard to believe that modern-day North American kids, who are less likely to be physically punished, are really so much better off psychologically than everyone else.

Likely, we will all be psychologically messeed up in one way or another by mistakes our parents made. I believe a mother’s love and God’s grace cover a multitude of mistakes.

Having known people both brought up in a Pearl manner, as well as talking with the older generation you appeal to, well, I see plenty of problems.

One friend (parents were Pearl followers) continues to be estranged from her parents. Another (older generation) person I know, a dear believing woman, has gone through much counseling and spiritual growth in dealing with the constant “you don’t measure up” messages from her childhood. (And while the Pearls may deny that is what they say, they are communicating performance-based worth to their children.)

Another guy I know was the poster child for Pearl parenting. He courted a young lady, they did everything “right”, were married and divorced two years later. Only then did it come out that he had been living a double life--the “good kid” around the homeschool groups and church, and the rebellious adult he had become. Good, godly, strict parents. . .

Another family’s oldest son started sleeping around at 12 (again, a family who was doing everything “right” by the ideals taught by the Pearls and related subcultures) and is still involved with drugs at 25.

These were dear, praying, active Christian families who were strict and didn’t “spare the rod” but were sure to use it. They were consistent, involved in church, homeschoolers (all of them) and definitely “tying heartstrings”. I’m sure you can find good results to balance each of these sad results--but that’s not the point.

The point is the almost-blanket-guarantee that is given by the Pearls is just not sound. Early child training through quick swats when kids disobey will not guarantee an obedient child, a non-rebellious teen, or a spiritually secure and emotionally healthy adult.

I suppose the only way to "test" the Pearls' method would be to compare, say, 100 families who used the Pearls' method and 100 who did not. And even this would be difficult because the two groups of families would probably differ in many other ways too. Most of the anecdotes I hear about the Pearls are positive, so in some ways I don't know why if it worked for others it would not work for me if I had kids.

*L* Well, I guess I got ahead of the flow of the e-mail with the above descriptions of some problem-child Pearl scenarios.

Whether or not it “works” is in large part determined by how you define “works.” My goal is to help my children become the people God has created them to be, with an emphasis on them relying upon God’s grace for their daily living. I want to help them learn to recognize their sin and turn to God in repentance. I want to model for them what it looks like to lean into God when we are struggling.

Meeting these goals is how I’ll eventually be able to measure whether my parenting choices are “working.” But, I can tell you now, that the teachings from the Pearls will not “work” for meeting these goals.

So I guess I just wanted to know the reason for your animosity towards the Pearls (and I'm not advocating the Pearls; I'm just curious as to why some people are so vehemently against them).

I hold no personal animosity towards the Pearls. I do oppose their teachings because they teach Behaviour Modification and call it “Biblical training.” I oppose their teaching because while it may seem to “work” in the short term for some families, it sets up an antagonistic parent/child relationship based on control. I oppose their teachings because it leaves little room for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of the parents or children, and does not turn the children towards the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace,

Other Related Resources:
Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us
Parenting Decisions: Discipline
Biblical Discipline: Conclusions
TTUAC Review by Wendy
Why Not "Train A Child"?
Avoiding Millstones
AwareParent Forum

Update: Related blogging this week at Carol's Storybook, Knitted in the Womb and My One Long Day.


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Amen! And on *your* blog I'm not afraid to say so! (hee hee) Here's a review of TTUAC I did a few years ago...

A popular child-training book among some conservative Christian circles, To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, is a book that espouses biblical principles of raising children, but wrongly extrapolates them in questionable (and sometimes precarious) ways to teach children submission and obedience.

While most of the book focuses on training very young children to obey (certainly a need, I would agree), the applications given were harder to accept: "training" sessions were described in which tree branches were used to "swat" babies to teach them not to touch specific things (the Pearls do not consider swatting with a "switch" to be discipline; in their own words, "...the baby is not being punished, just conditioned.")

Perhaps part of my bewilderment stemmed from the Pearls' likening of child training to that of training a mule:

"If you are just beginning to attempt to control an already rebellious child who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, 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."

Practically speaking, some of the Pearls' real life training examples included encouraging toddlers to touch a hot stove while saying "Hot!" so they would learn the meaning of the word and never touch it again; allowing children to play "unsupervised" around water so they would fall in and the father could rescue and teach them a lesson about playing alone near water (in one case where the baby never fell in, the father actually pushed her in so he could teach her the lesson); and teaching children not to touch guns by allowing them to play near one, switching their hand with a tree branch if they tried to touch it, therefore "training" the child to be around guns (why the gun would be out with children nearby was beyond me).

In addition, the Pearls also had "original" ideas on potty training ("we discovered that an infant is born potty trained") and recommended teaching a three-year-old to stop using his diaper by cleaning him up with a cold garden hose outside every time he was dirty.

In addition to their questionable child training practices, the Pearls have extremist views on schooling, encouraging parents to, "Never even consider sending your children to private Christian schools, much less the public automaton factory. God didn't make teenage boys and girls to sit together in a classroom every day using their brain while real life passes them by."

Overall, I would not recommend this book, as there is great danger in what is being promoted. I can not remember one reference to praying for your children or any thought given to trusting the Lord for their behavior and attitudes; instead, one is left with the legalistic flavor that you should do it this way and you must do it this way...or else.

Principles are worthless without the correct application of them, and there are much better resources elsewhere to help with that.

Posted by: Megan at March 13, 2005 09:11 PM


Thanks for posting your review, too. *grin*

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 13, 2005 09:31 PM

The Pearls methods didn't work in our house for long, though they did work initially. Also, I became very uncomfortable with the amount of spanking necessary to keep our 2 year old in line. So we stopped.

But sometimes I do find that the parent/child relationship can be adversarial. Sometimes I do have to outlast my daughter, especially. But when I do, she knows I'm in charge and she can trust me.

Posted by: Anne Basso at March 13, 2005 10:34 PM

Hi Tulipgirl!
Wow- great post!! It puts into words many of the things I think about the Pearl materials. One article that really had a negative effect on my thinking was called "Will to Dominate." He specifically gives an example of the kid refusing to put on his shoes. You are supposed to switch the kid's feet until they comply. A lot of the stuff before this part made sense, so it was easy to think that this was the "right way" to handle the situation as well.

I also agree with the OP that sometimes we are going to get into a "contest of wills" with our children and that we do need to outlast them and/or not give in when appropriate. I just want to find ways to avoid this in the first place while still maintaining good discipline and boundaries. Also, to find much better ways to address it when it happens than switching them into submission.

Posted by: Anne at March 14, 2005 03:47 AM

Anne B!
It's so good to see you. You've been in my prayers a lot lately. *hug*

Anne and Anne B.,

I get what y'all are saying about "outlasting," as far as needing to communicate the mommy-authority to our children.

I think it is a difficult balance act sometimes, in communicating, "Yes, I am the Mommy. I am the authority in your life. You can rely on me, you can trust me, I will maintain these boundaries." It's hard to maintain that reliable authoritative posture without becoming antagonistic.

Personally, I can not think in terms of "outlast" in my relationship with my kids. But I can take the attitude of, "I am reliable. I am the Mommy. You can trust that I will do what I say I will do. I am here to help you, even when that help is hard for you to accept."

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 14, 2005 10:02 AM

Don't forget Michael's "Pearls" of "wisdom" suggesting a wife of a man who molests his children should *not* divorice him but welcome him back into the home and marital bed once he's served his time.

Um...G-d hates divorice but I bet you a dollar He hates children being molested, too.


Posted by: Debra Baker at March 15, 2005 02:31 AM

The fact that there is even any controversy about the Pearl's teachings is amazing to me. I read about them while I was pregnant and was apalled by their comparisons of raising children to training animals, especially since there is a movement in animal training (horses, dogs, etc.) away from the punitive to the more gentle--stuff like horse whispering.

I also can't believe anyone would think it's OK to hit a 4-month-old for any reason. And setting up your child to fail then get punished is pretty rotten too.

In my opinion, the Pearls are even worse than the Ezzos in the sense that they advocate even more extreme, and what should be obviously cruel, methods.

The fact that people are even endorsing any aspect of what people like the Pearls teach tells me we are seriously messed up and need help. Good grief!

Treat your children like people who deserve all the dignity and respect any adult expects, and you should do fine.

Posted by: Beautifulbelgianbabe at March 15, 2005 10:40 PM

I agree with Beautifulbelgianbabe , it seems to me to be a no brainer. My wife had told me about the Pearls and it wasn’t until recently where I went to their web site and searched around and it did not take long to find examples of “switching an 11 month old baby boy, the Pearls were babysitting, repeatedly ( 3 or 4 times), because he was standing by the back door crying because he wanted to go out.

I then went on to download the free chapter offered on their website and dicovered the really silly teaching of placing a desirous object out for your infant (yes 5-6 month old baby), and as the baby reaches for it, swat it, and do it repeatedly, just to “train” it with swats/pain so the baby can learn what to touch and what not to touch. How asinine.

You would be surprised by the amount of people out in evangecial Christian land that will very easily dismiss this as teaching that they don’t follow, out of one side of their mouth, but heartily recommend Pearl out of the other. Just because they found some good things in his teachings.

( I have even run across one very active blogger who recommended the material to some parents….and witnessed the damage done to the children first hand as they literally bought into Pearl hook line and sinker, and even after seeing this first hand, still refuses to repudiate Pearl.)

Sorry, but I am of the mind set that when I see a Christian parenting method that teaches such drivel and then tries to find Bible verses to prop it up, that I can’t possibly recommned it, no matter what redeming qualites it may have. I am sure I can find the same redeeming qualites in another program and not have to wade through the “swat/switch your infant and toddler into submission garbage.”


Posted by: candleman at March 16, 2005 03:07 AM

Hi! I see that our little exchange on the Pearls has made it onto your blog - which doesn't bother me in the least, as I like to exchange ideas. Let me say again that I don't agree 100% with the Pearls' teachings. For instance, while I strongly support homeschooling, I don't think it's the only way to educate a child (the Pearls certainly do). As well, I certainly don't think a woman should stay with a man who molests her children. I also don't necessarily view To Train Up a Child as a theological treatise. I'm a Christian myself, but even if a childrearing manual is written by somebody who worships a purple cow, I might be able to glean something from it for myself.

The study that showed teens who took drugs had parents who were reluctant to punish them didn't specify exactly what "punishment" meant. However, the childrearing methods used by the parents of abstinent teens don't seem to jive with some of the touchy-feely rhetoric churned out by some (not all) gentle discipline advocates. For example, the abstinent teens' parents were less likely to a.) reason with their children when they misbehaved, b.) allow the children to question their parents' decision, and c.) indulge their children. There was no word on corporal punishment, but perhaps the "punitive" (four-letter word in some circles) approach they took did cause their children to avoid drugs.

I'm currently on another board whose members highly endorse the Pearls. That doesn't mean the Pearls' material is for everyone, but I don't think it has to demonized the way it has been in some circles. In other words, to each his own.

Posted by: Emily at March 16, 2005 06:37 PM

I hadn't really read much about the Pearls before now, but I followed the links above (and then followed some links on those links) and found myself at a site where I could read the whole text of TTUAC online--so I did. I can't believe the kind of things they advocate!!! Most of this is clearly child abuse--especially the "spatting" an infant's hand with a switch part!!

The sad and ironic part is that they do, buried in all the behaviorist nonsense and the whippings, actually have the secret to having children that are happy and obedient. The secret is consistency. If you want children that consistently obey you, you have to love them consistently, you have to treat them consistently, you have to discipline them consistently. It is too bad for their children and for the children of their disciples that they believe that it is the switching that works the miracle, not the consistency.

Posted by: cjmr at March 16, 2005 08:26 PM

Hi, Emily!

I was very careful to remove any identifying information about our previous e-mail exchange. However, I thought the questions you asked were a great outline for presenting my thoughts on the Pearls. I'm glad you've joined in the conversation here, too. *grin*

I also don't necessarily view To Train Up a Child as a theological treatise. I'm a Christian myself, but even if a childrearing manual is written by somebody who worships a purple cow, I might be able to glean something from it for myself.

I think this is a very important point that you bring up. I really like reading books by Madeliene L'Engle, and find myself inspired by them. However, I'd never take my theology from her. *grin*

TTUAC is *not* a theological treatise, as you rightly said. However, it is molded by the theology of the Pearls and their assumptions about the Bible, life, and what a Christian family ought to look like.

For me, I do want my theology to mold my views of life, the world, and the family. I can take ideas from other points-of-view, but need to see where they fit/don't fit with what I believe.

Since many of the Pearls' ideas are grounded in a viewpoint different from my own, it is reflected in their assumptions--especially about human nature. One clear example is that I believe that God has created us in His image, and that we have great worth because of that. That we are more than mere animals. That is one of the reasons I take such offense at the Pearls' continuous appeal to harsh animal training as a "good" model for "training" young children.

Also, though the Pearls are Christians, I believe they fail to incorporate the Gospel and what that looks like being lived out in the context of the family. To me, a major problem.

To be honest, I'd rather have Christian parents read parenting books by someone who worships a purple cow than by someone who misapplies the Bible and the Gospel. It's much easier to discern the good from the not-so-good when you understand that they are coming from a completely different p.o.v. *grin*

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 17, 2005 01:16 PM

Tulipgirl boldly goes where I have hesitated to go! This was a very good post. Thanks, too, to Emily.

I find the blend of good advice and repugnant advice to be so blended in the Pearls' work that I don't know where to wade in. Also, as I have said before the repugnant seems self-evident to me -- except it is apparently not so. I do not know how to address this.

Fortunately, rejecting the Pearls and Ezzos of the world does not mean one rejects the concept of parental authority or the concept of disciplining our children. But Pearl followers and Pearl rejectors will talk past each other unless we can notice this common ground! :-)

Posted by: Kathy at March 17, 2005 06:09 PM

Kathy and Tulipgirl, good posts. I tend to be sceptical of two factions: those who see Michael Pearl as the next Jesus Christ and those who see him as the greatest threat to Western civilization since Attila the Hun. I do have qualms with some of his material (ex. "setting" a child up to fail), though I don't have a problem with his stance on deliberate disobedience. So I'd regard his book a bit like a recipe: use the stuff you like, and disregard that which you don't.

Tulipgirl, I notice you're reading Jeff Vanvonderen's A Family Where Grace is in Place. I posted this on another of your sites, but my problem with him is that he seems to generalize his personal experience (the good boy who goes wild) to all children and adolescence. For example, he says children have to learn how to say "no" to their parents because if they don't they'll never learn to say no to their buddies who offer them a joint in high school. But the reality is it's the less obedient children, in general, who end up taking drugs as teenagers. So even while I disagree with some of the Pearls' teachings, I like the overall thrust of their book. But with Vanvonderen I can't see anything of value in his teachings.

Posted by: Emily at March 17, 2005 06:59 PM

I'm not sure that it's true that it's just the less obedient children who end up taking drugs. Maybe that's the case with people who smoke pot--where I went to college, it was the people who were rebelling against something who were the potheads, but of the people I've know who used drugs, the only one who did anything other than marijuana was the guy who was the good kid who tried to rescue a girl he met who was a heroin addict and ended up getting hooked on it himself. He had the personality that made him the compliant child, but that's also the personality that gets easily pushed around by stronger personalities and he lacked the willpower to not do the things that people around him were doing.

I know that one anectdotal example does not a proof make, but still, it's worth thinking about.

Posted by: kathryn at March 18, 2005 09:24 AM

Kathryn, as they say, there are female giants and male dwarves, but that doesn't negate the fact that in general men are taller than women. The study I am referencing (you can look at it at http://psychology.berkeley.edu/pdf/Block-foretelling2.pdf) says that both as young children and as teenagers, adolescents who were more compliant were significantly less likely to take either marijuana or hard drugs. But of course there is always the exception to the rule. It might also be a case of birds of a feather flocking together. More compliant children who don't feel a need to rebel probably don't have a lot in common with those who take drugs, so they tend not to associate with them.

I suppose that Vanvonderen is generalizing not only his own experiences but those of his clients. And I can't question his motivations: he obviously wants others to avoid his fate, which is praiseworthy. But I can't agree with the gist of his arguments.

Posted by: Emily at March 18, 2005 07:47 PM

Our homeschooling group brought the Pearls in for a seminar years ago and a friend asked me to go with her. I found the whole thing amusing, mainly because after striving to get his points across, Pearl opened the meeting up to a Q & A and struggled openly with the questions he was asked. To be fair, the questions were the height of silliness. Stuff like: How do I get my 5 year old to stay in the bathtub until I soap him up? My son hits me. What should I do?

Pearl was so astonished and perplexed that I found myself giggling uncontrollably over his facial expressions there at the end. Also because I'd assumed homeschoolers were a bit more to the strict end of the discipline curve than the average parent. Not necessarily so.

My problem with Pearl started and ended with his little talk. He spoke glowingly of his daughters willingness to leap from the window of his pickup at his command.

Flash to my husband telling his hunting dogs to load up in his truck. TuplipGirl is very correct in saying the Pearls teach the equivalent of dog-training, or behavior modification.

I'm not training my children to unthinkingly and unquestioningly leap out the window of a truck on my command. This type of training eventually leads to uncritical acceptance and compliance with authority, whether government or church leadership. This is a much greater danger to our children than them questioning our reasons for making decisions the way we do.

Adults need to weigh and think critically to function as citizens and Christians. That process starts and is taught in childhood.

Posted by: Lana at March 19, 2005 12:41 AM

I hope none of you think I'm a Pearl devotee. I most likely would never marry a man with Michael Pearl's ideas about the role of women, etc. But I think even if we disagree with somebody on certain things, we still might be able to learn something from them in other areas.

I'm not a parent myself, so I am not the expert here (then again, some say I might be more objective!), but it seems to me that sometimes it IS important for children to obey their parents unquestionably. For example, most really small kids don't know that it might be dangerous to run out onto a busy street, so even if they are too young to understand why, it's best if they obey Mommy when she says, "Don't go on the road."

I don't know whether Pearl specifically does this, but I might have problems with him forcing his ideas on his children when they are older. For example, what if one of his daughters marries and decides even then she wants a career? I think as adults parents should let their children make their own decisions about life, though I know in practice it might be difficult. But when it comes to younger children, we can trust that in most cases parents do have more experience than their chilren and that demanding obedience of the latter isn't an unreasonable expectation.

I'm kind of curious about the seminar. Do you think he was confused because the parents he ran into were not as strict as the ones he is used to?

Posted by: Emily at March 20, 2005 12:12 AM


Reflecting on your thoughts, I think the key to the discussion here AND my disagreement with Pearl is what you wrote here, "I don't know whether Pearl specifically does this, but I might have problems with him forcing his ideas on his children when they are older."

His ideas. I think in dealing with our children, no matter what age, we should always impress upon them that we are helping them to live within God's ideas, because we love Him. Every explanation should begin and end with this.

They should be required to do things because God wants them done in such a way. While they are little, it is a difficult thing to express, because they have a hard time understanding and I do agree with you that there should be rules that are obeyed, even when the explanation flies straight over their head. You still give it.

However, the end goal should always be God's ways and not our own ways.

This issue is the heart issue. It is not because I, the parent, have declared it to be thus. It is because God has given me the responsibility and honor of teaching his laws and commandments and our guidebook is Him.

I'm probably much more strict than the many kind commentors on this blog, but they provide wonderful insight and balance that is necessary to keep in mind when considering our children.

I always find this site a blessing for that very reason.

Posted by: Lana at March 23, 2005 12:41 AM

Hi Tulip Girl,
Appreciated this post. I have read TTUAC twice and reviewed it - my conclusions are very similar to yours.

Posted by: Catez at July 28, 2005 07:06 AM

It was a good thing that Mr.Pearl taught his kids to obey when it came to jumping out of the truck windows, because one day, it saved their lives when a battery exploded. You never know when a command will need to be instantly obeyed without question. Do you love your child enough to teach him to obey? If any of you could see the Pearls at home with their kids, or (nowadays) their kids at home with their kids, there would be no question that they are doing the absolute right thing. These instances you speak of, they are not everyday, all the time experiences. Some of them are intended for parents whose children have never been taught to obey at all and are just now being trained, thus a "war" at the beginning. As for the infants, the "spats" are not even hard enough to cause a cry! They are only a MEASURED spat to cause a certain amount of pain to prevent the child from reaching out again. Not to punish the infant, that is not the objective. Michael states this in the book. The spats should not cause the child to cry at all! THAT is training. As far as comparing children to animals, I don't believe Mr. Pearl is comparing children to animals, but merely stating that if people are smart enough to train their dog or their horse, why can't they train their child? Or, if they can take the time to train their animals, then they can train their children. No one who met the Pearl's children, and spent any time with them, could (with a clear conscience) say that their children have been abused. They are all walking in the Lord, are strong people, honest, hard-working, and serve their God. And more even, THEY ALL RISE AND CALL THEIR PARENTS BLESSED AND ALL SAY THEY WILL RAISE THEIR CHILDREN JUST LIKE THEIR PARENTS RAISED THEM.

Posted by: Tammy at September 30, 2005 06:17 AM

Me again at a later date. Couldn't get my trackback through so I've put the link in my name here.

I'll try it here also:
Michael and Debi Pearl's No Greater Joy Ministries: A Look at the Basics

Posted by: Catez at September 30, 2005 04:25 PM

It is disheartening to see all of this. If any of you spent any time with any of the Pearl children, you would NEVER believe that any of them were ever abused, in any way, either physically or mentally. No way, no sir, no how, uh-huh. They will not do anything unless they decide it is for their own good. So out with the theory that when you teach a childe unquestioning obedience, they will obey anything and everything, that doesn't happen. They are all balanced people, extremely intelligent, honest, hard-working, walk in the Light, have compassion on others, are full of Holy Spirit, and are not in the least afraid of authority except for their God. And more, they ALL RISE AND CALL THEIR PARENTS BLESSED AND SAY THAT THEY WILL RAISE THEIR CHILDREN EXACTLY THE WAY THEIR PARENTS RAISED THEM. It is sad to see people assuming that the Pearls are comparing children to animals when that is not the case. The point is that Mr. Pearl is saying that if people can take the time to train their animals, why can't they take the time to train their children? Or, if someone is smart enough to train a dumb dog, they are smart enough to train a child, since the PRINCIPLE is the same. He states that in the book. It is a good thing that he taught his children instant, unquestioning obedience, because it saved their lives when they had to jump out of the truck window because of the battery that exploded. Do you love your children enough to spank them? If not, then you are disobeying the Word of God, not Mr. Pearl. That is the real issue. People keep saying not to assume when reading these books, take it as it is written, and don't assume that the writer meant this or that....but I see people assuming that Mr. Pearl is likening children to animals, and setting children up to fail, etc. You are missing the points. When you put an object in front of an infant knowing he will reach for it, and you spat his hand with a switch, it is a very MEASURED spat, not intended to even cause a cry. That is training. They are not spankings or punishments. There will always be people who will take what Mr. Pearl has written and use it as a license to abuse, and Mr. Pearl also addresses that in his book as well. Those people will abuse anyway. It is not enough to just read the one book, you need to get a clear picture, and read the other books that accompany it. It isn't fair to the author to make assumptions and call it something it isn't when it's techniques have not been applied properly.

Posted by: Tammy at October 1, 2005 06:40 PM

I totally agree with Tammy...while I may not agree with all of the Pearl's 'theology' I do agree with much of their child rearing.

To totally discredit someone, by the way, because of 1 point you don't agree with is called an ad hominen and is very faulty logic.

Posted by: Me at October 6, 2005 07:10 AM

I agree with Tammy. One thing you have to understand, the books may come across a lot more harshly than they are intended. If you watch their video "Joy of Training" you will see that they advocate JOY in child training. Think of it this way, whenever anyone considers spanking, they see a BIG parent looming over a small child with a very angry look on their face. This conveys disapproval and maybe even downright hatred. This is abuse. This is NOT what the Pearls are advocating. Your children should be able to see the love in your heart, or DON"T SPANK!! It is all in the attitude.

I also like to think of it this way, we are constantly trying to train our children to have a servant's heart and to have JOY even over the most mundain tasks, but if we are always complaining about our having to take the time to train our children, we are not setting a good example!

I'd like to add one more point. The training of one's children WILL be more like animal training in the early years, as they are incapable of reasoning. However, if that is all you rely on throughout their rearing, you will be disappointed with the outcome. You will have resentful children. Obedience MUST come first, then you can start to work on their hearts, somewhat like "Shepherding a Child's Heart".

Posted by: Wyndee at October 7, 2005 06:43 PM

Welcome, Wyndee, Tammy, and Me.

I'm happy to have you join the conversation here at TulipGirl. It's obvious we each are coming to the discussion with ideas and opinions that vary widely. May our dialogue bring glory to God and encourage one another in our mothering.

Posted by: TulipGirl at October 7, 2005 08:21 PM

"When you put an object in front of an infant knowing he will reach for it, and you spat his hand with a switch, it is a very MEASURED spat, not intended to even cause a cry. That is training."

I don't find this to be Biblical.

Instead, Michael Pearl is teaching something based on humanistic behaviourism, treating children like mice in a lab who get "shocked" to train them how to run a maze.

This is not reflective of what we see in the Bible about how we are to treat our children, our littlest disciplines.

Do you set a needle in front of a Christian brother who is a drug addict and smack his hand each time he gets a craving and reaches for it?

How absurd!

Instead, the Bible teaches that those who are stronger should help those who are weaker.

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2

Now, I know you'll make the point that the baby isn't in sin--you are simply "training." However, Micheal Pearl is focusing the early infant training through "consistent" swats to be key to teaching children to obey--and that to disobey is sin. I have a very big problem, both from theological and child developmental points of view, in setting up a child or infant to sin/disobey.

Posted by: TulipGirl at October 7, 2005 09:07 PM

Me, I understand being able to separate theology from gleaning ideas that you like. I don't believe Michael Pearl would approve of that--doesn't he teach that all of life should be infused with a worldview based on your beliefs? After all, that's why he has encouraged his daughters to marry without getting marriage certificates.

I do read things and glean ideas from resources that are not completly in line with what I believe the Bible teaches. But I read them very carefully and weigh them in light of Scripture and the theological framework I see taught by Scripture.

I cannot accept Michael Pearl's teachings because we foundationally disagree on the nature of man, the power of the Gospel, and the amazing and gracious work of the Holy Spirit in all parts of our lives.

Btw, I have not made an ad hominem attack on Michael Pearl. Ad Hominem is "attacking your opponent personally rather than her/his argument. Ad hominem is fallacious argumentation."

I have more than "one point" of problems with the Pearls. I've addressed some of those here, bereft of emotionalism and name calling.

(Though, unkind public namecalling has been done by the Pearls--saying those who disagree with their teachings are "possessed damsels" who "must not have much of a love life or family life. . .")

Posted by: TulipGirl at October 7, 2005 09:18 PM

To deliberately tempt a young child and then spank that child is not only immoral and counterintuitive it violates the Biblical injunction against provoking children.

It continues to boggle my mind that these people have defenders.

Posted by: Debra Baker at October 8, 2005 09:52 PM

Well said Debra, I am thinking the same! :-) Thank you so much for taking the time to write and discuss this TulipGirl! And I so appreciate your insightful comment over at my own blog. I've so enjoyed exploring yours, and resulting *finds* recently. It's nice to *meet* you. Blessings to you and yours!

Posted by: Beth at October 11, 2005 04:29 PM

As far as setting up a child to fail, look back to the very beginning at God. Is it not what God himself did with Adam and Eve? He put them in a beautiful garden with freedom to do as they please and forbid them to eat from one tree? He put that tree right there in the middle of the garden. Was God setting them up to fail?

Posted by: Tammy at October 30, 2005 08:25 AM

God wasn't setting them up to fail. He was treating them appropriately. The tree was a part of their environment and they were told not to eat from it. He didn't place it directly in front of them and then hover to swat them when they touched it.

Just like our homes naturally contain things in the environment that kids can touch and other things that they can't. I can maybe see a light tap on a child's hand when they touch something you've told them they shouldn't on their own, but not setting something directly in front of them and hovering around to swat them when they do.

God had one tree in the garden that Adam and Eve couldn't eat from and several that they could. He showed them all of the things they could have. That's parenting. Showing a child what is appropriate for them, not tempting them with what isn't.

Posted by: Katryna at November 2, 2005 11:01 PM

While I don't agree 100% with Michael Pearl's theology, I am also sceptical of that of the gentle discipline crowd. For example, they state that the "rod" in the Bible meant a measure of authority and not a literal stick to strike the sheep with. Now I have a feeling many members of the gentle discipline brigade couldn't tell the difference between a rod and a sheep's rear end, because my family once owned sheep, and yes, sometimes when you're herding them you have to tap the sheep's rear end with it if he or she gets out of line. That doesn't mean whipping the animal sadistically (anyone who does that should be in a mental hospital, in my view) but keeping him or her in line. So if we're going to take on the Pearls' theology, we should also question the (in my mind) even more faulty theology of the gentle discipline gurus.

Posted by: Emily at November 30, 2005 11:10 AM

Sorry Katryna, but your argument makes no sense. God wasn't hovering over Adam and Eve waiting to swat them? He didn't punish them for their disobedience? I never said that Michael Pearl advocated PUNISHING the child for reaching for an object placed in front of them. I was speaking of training. It most definitely is training. I have done it myself. I have looked into the face of my child smiling all the while and gave a small spat on the hand with a small switch with the word "no". He smiled at me the whole entire time! He NEVER cried. He is not afraid of my hands. It only took a few times and then all I had to say was "no" without the switch. It works. People want to turn this into child abuse. The very same people who yell and scream at their children because they won't listen to them. The scripture about"restoring your brother" has to do with a believer, not with your child, so has nothing to do with training children. And yes, God did tempt Adam and Eve by putting them in a garden with a command to not eat of one tree. They disobeyed, and then did they get a swat? Nooo, they were punished!! Don't argue with me about it, you are arguing with God about it. That is the word of God. If you are basing your theology on Catez's review of Michael Pearl's teachings, then I suggest you take a look for yourself, because when I myself studied it, Catez made a few assumptions that he had no right to make. Before anyone cries "false teacher", you had better make real sure for yourself and not just take someone else's word for it. Catez jumped to some conclusions that he had no right to do.
Thank you.

Posted by: Tammy at December 31, 2005 06:55 PM

I would also like to say that training a child in this way eliminates the need to spank in many a situation. Furthermore, I fail to see where this is "provoking" a child. The scripture teaches us not to "provoke a child to anger". That is not what is happening in this situation. Done properly, the child never loses fellowship with parent, thus no "provoking" takes place. If I were to continually do this over and over for say, an hour with an eight month child, then yes, I would consider that provoking. But not if I were to take 10-15 minutes a day to take things from around the house that were off-limits to teach self-control in a loving attitude and continual fellowship. I don't understand how anyone can construe these teachings to be abusive unless they themselves come from an abusive situation. We are talking about a very small switch, not a branch that you would use for firewood. Obviously, that would be wrong! Training in this fashion should NEVER cause the child to become upset or cry at all. The point is to teach the child "no". It only takes a few times to completely lose the switch altogether and just use the word "no". Those who say this is just like what they do to mice in a lab is preposterous. If you wait until you can reason with your child, he will be a terror long before he knows the meaning of the word. You must implement training without reasoning with the child, and that does not mean abusing the child. I have read about the Ezzo's parenting "style" and have read almost all of the Pearl's material, and I fail to see how anyone can group the two together. They do not compare. The Ezzo's do not have a "style". They are clearly abusive. I am very saddened when I see someone refer to the Pearls and the Ezzo's in the same sentence.

Posted by: Tammy at January 1, 2006 07:32 PM

Wow! This is a very interesting discussion... So some of you are those "damsels" that were meantioned a few months ago in one of the Pearls' monthly magazines - ;) Stirring up trouble- huh? ;)

And poor Tammy trying to defend her friends & all the wonderful things that have worked so well for her.

Well, I have read some of the Pearls' literature & I don't agree with everything, but they do have some helpful things. I first read "To Train up A child" when I was pregnant with my first child (now 4) my dear aunt gave me the book. It has really helped her out a lot as she is blessed with 8 children that she is homeschooling. She doesn't agree with everything either, but has found some of their materials helpful. I think she signed me up to get their magazine too!

To tell you the truth some of the things I read by the Pearls have upset me, even angered me (don't feel hurt Tammy). In fact some of those same points that have been meantioned here.. I told someone (when I first started reading it) that TTUAC teaches parents to train their children like animals- & yes, like some here, I didn't think it was even necessary to "beat" a horse.

But, the more I read of their writings the more I realize that the Pearls really are not saying anything all that different from what the rest of us are saying. They are just saying it in a different way, maybe even to a different audience. I bet if we met them (& don't forget it IS quite likely that you may find your heavenly mansion right next door to them- knowing how GOD is about such things) :D ...we would find we have a LOT more in common than we think.
Sometimes it turns me off (even makes me mad) when Mr. Pearl writes as if his way is the only way. But I think that is just his (God given) personality. I bet Mrs. Pearl balances him out perfectly! :)

This world needs people, like the Pearls. There is a reason God placed them here in our generation. There is a reason their ministry is growing. Don't be too quick to discredit all they are saying. I am sure they have helped many people. And I am sure there are a lot of happy homes thanks to there teachings.

Their style isn't really for me either, I don't think.

But, don't worry Tammy. It's a free country & people will talk. I think those things need to be said too. Don't you see it all balances out? Maybe someone read something the Pearls wrote & took it wrong. Maybe they are abusing their kids & thinking they are doing the right thing. Maybe something those "damsels" are saying will help them get it all into persepective.

Everyone doesn't have to agree. It doesn't mean someone is right & someone else is wrong. No one has complete truth. We are ALL imperfect. Can't you all see that & learn to appreciate our differences? Don't you see that a lot of what each person wrote here was good information, if used correctly? Maybe the Pearls could learn from them how to explain & describe things more accurately.
I think I like this site. I think I'll come back (this was my first time) I was homeschooled & plan to homeschool my little ones. I'm hoping to find some advice on dealing with my 2 year old (The Pearls' method does NOT work for her, but it helped my 4 year old when she was young- I didn't even have to actually swat her, just show her the object & tell her it was a "no, no!" Then I'd watch her throughout the day & gently remind her & pull her away).

I also plan to order some more of the Pearls' materials. I love Mrs. Pearls tape "My favorite homeschooling ideas" and I think EVERYONE here would too! :) I DON'T plan on ordering ANY of the doctrinal materials since the way I read & understand the Bible is very different than the Pearls. But I know they have helped many people who would no doubt be lost if it wasn't for their ministry.

Posted by: SARAH at January 9, 2006 04:33 AM

On Michael Pearl's article, "After It's Kind, and Then Some"-----

"I do not intend this to justify the hard, overriding autocratic rule of some parents. Our job as parents is not to bear down with an autocratic spirit. We are not breaking a bad dog, we are nurturing a tender, developing plant. If you become nervous, anxious and irritable, you will damage the delicate fruit. Children must be handled with kind, patient, loving hands. .....In conclusion,if you walk after your lusts, it is because you choose to, but your child has no choice. Until they are old enough to know good from evil, (Deut.1:39) your resposibility is to function as your child's conscience and will. You must determine that you will train and condition them to a life of self-control and temperance. If you wait until they are old enough to understand their duty, they will already have a history of being totally given over to the flesh. Condition them now to be self-controlled and temperate in all things, and they will not bring into their Christian life a whole mess of twisted responses against which they must struggle. Parent, repent and lay hold of the freedom that is yours in Christ. Give your child a better start than you had. You are their only hope."

I put this here because I had been reading some of the posts of some saying that they resent the way the Pearls liken child training to that of dogs. I just wanted to point out that he also states in his material that what he teaches is not intended to be used by overriding parents for their own means in whatever way they want.

I guess what I am trying to say is that many of you are "disturbed" by the technique because you picture it to be that of training lab rats. I take offense to that because it seems that anyone who thinks that has not read enough of his material, or they would see that this is not his goal.

Obviously, babies and very small children cannot talk to us with words. But, they are capable of learning "no". I know this because I have employed the techniques myself with my own children and have observed my older children without this training. When this training is done properly, without any anger or anxiousness, it works beautifully. I think much of the problem with this type of training is that most of us have been through abuse ourselves, and because of that, we have been ourselves conditioned to despise spanking altogether. But the improper use of the rod does not negate the benefit or even the commandment to use it properly. I hope that last sentence made sense. It might help to read Michael Pearl's booklet, "In defense of Biblical Chastisement". Many of us were physically abused to the point of not wanting to spank our own children at all. This is where I started out. My own mother had physically abused my brother and I to the point that I said, "When I have my own children, I am not ever going to spank them." But, when I had my own children, I discovered that there were some very good reasons that God told us to spank. I won't go into them here, but I had to reverse my course very carefully. I believe that if you do spank, it should be very measured, and that there should be differences between discipline, punishment, and training. I paused before typing training there, because I don't spank to train. When I speak of giving a swat, I am talking of a tiny, tiny, spat. It is not enough to cause a cry, or even hardly any pain at all. It is only enough to get the child's attention, and that is all. It says, this switch is attached to the word "no". It only takes a couple of times before you can drop the switch altogether and just use the word "no".

Tulipgirl, referring to your response to my post about setting up a child to sin/disobey. Now, when I put an object in front of a child knowing that he will reach for it, sin and disobedience does not even come into the picture here. Training is the only thing I am focusing on. We are happy all the way. Why wait until you are at Grandma's house for little Johnny to reach for the flower vase when you know he will eventually? Why wait to train? Set the flower vase in front of him in the middle of the floor and sit with him, smile at him real big. When he reaches for it, say "no" in a calm, sweet voice. When he continues to reach for it and finally gets hold of it, give him one small swat on the hand that has the vase and say "no". Keep smiling. The younger you start this training, the better results you will have. The spat should only be enough to get his attention, not a spanking to punish or discipline him. Remember, this is only training, not a spanking. When you continue on with this, and he lets go, smile and say, "wow! you are such a good boy! You are mama's little man! What a good boy you are!......" If you do this regularly, you will not a problem when you go to Grandma's and he reaches for her flower vase, and you say, "no". He will not touch it and busy himself with something else.

Also, in response to your post, you are referring to a brother caught in sin, not our children. A brother that is a drug addict is an adult free and able to make his own choices and his moral faculties are developed, not so for a child. The parent has the responsibility to be the child's conscience until he is old enough and his moral facutlies are developed to a point where he can exercise self-control.

God does not call us to treat our children in the same capacity as we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. No, I would not set a needle in front of a brother that was a drug-addict and then spank him, but then like I said, his moral faculties have matured to a point where he is free and able to show self-control, whereas a child is not able to show self-control, meaning that the parent has to be the child's self-control until his moral faculties are fully developed.

You would not allow your child to play on a busy interstate would you? No, that would be presposterous. You, as the parent, would keep him in the yard, acting as his conscience until he is old enough to know that the interstate is not the place to play. Also, I am not viewing the swat during training as spanking, and I get the feeling that you do. You say you do not find this to be biblical. Indeed it is. "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Train, train, train. The problem that I am seeing over and over again and again is that there is so much difference of opinion on exactly what training is. People are turned off by Michael Pearls techniques because of the words he uses, and not necessarily the techniques themselves. In many of his stories, he likens the training to the training of animals. I fail to see what is so offensive about that when he says so many times, "A dumb teenager can train a dumb dog." Why then, can't a parent train a small child, when the principle is the same? The dog cannot talk, the child cannot talk. Both the dog and the small child can come to understand in a short amount of time the words "no", "come", "go", "sit", "lay down", "stay", etc. This is not at all saying that children are no different than animals by no means. Have you ever seen a family with a well-trained dog that can stay, play dead, roll over, stop, go, lay down, get the paper, etc., and then they have a few kids and the teenagers are pouty or explosive, and the toddlers are throwing fits, throwing themselves down in the floor screaming for what they want, and the baby is into everything while the parents are saying, "no", and "stop that", and on and on? Why is it that the dog is trained so well and the children are not? If you told them that they could train their children the same way they trained their dog, do you think they would be offended? I bet you a dollar they would.

I read the theology article that Catez wrote, and I am still studying on some of it, but I believe he made a couple of assumptions in that article. I am planning on writing about that in the future. My husband recently had a brain bleed, and is just now going back to work after a long absence, and we have so much going on, I can't promise when I will be able to get to it. I have been wanting to do it for a long time, though.

This turned out to be alot longer than I planned, but just wanted to put my two cents in on this. Thanks for letting me. I still wanted to say some more on the CTBHHM, but again, don't know when I will be able to get to that either, if ever. Oh well, things always work out the way God intended them to. I still didn't get to completely articulate all I wanted to say on this post, but I have to go now, and this will have to do for now.
Blessings to All,

Posted by: Tammy at January 27, 2006 07:08 PM

I started my search tonight on the acronym SAHM (for which I haven't found a definition yet!) and stumbled across this site as a result. I'm currently considering a dating relationship with a man who is more fundamental than I in his Christian beliefs. I would NEVER want him to get his hands on the Pearls' book for fear he'd go totally overboard with it. (That tendency is actually part of why I'm only considering his offer and not actively involved with him!)

That being said, whatever happened to common sense? Why the need for umpteen thousand books on parenting? Whatever happened to learning from our parents and applying that to our children? (I've helped to raise two children (not my own) from infancy and never read a book on the process. Although I've lost frequent touch with one of the children, as far as I can tell both children are now teenagers making wise choices, are both healthy, intelligent, and lovers of God.) When a child cries, pick it up. S/he may need a diaper change, to be fed, to be burped, to be held, or may be in pain from an illness or injury. Ignoring children because it isn't in your schedule right at that moment is heartless. God teaches us to sacrifice to/for our spouses because we'll need that unselfishness for raising children!

What I find really idiotic is Tammy's supposed need to ardently argue for the Pearls' method of teaching a child "no." By the time a child is old enough to reach for a vase at Grandma's house, s/he should already know the meaning of "no." (When my siblings and I would ruch around on the changing table, Mom would give us a light smack on our behinds while firmly saying "no." A few times of that and we stopped ruching. Thereafter, whenever Mom said "no" in any situation we knew to stop our behavior.) Children model their parents' behavior, so to deliberately play with the vase on the child's level, then deny the child his/her own opportunity to play with the vase is rather cruel. Better to leave it on the shelf and say "no" if the child manages to climb up to get it. (And why you didn't stop the child when s/he first started to climb is beyond comprehension!)

I also take issue with Mr. Pearl's statement that parents are to serve as the child's conscience and will. Serve as a conscience, yes, but as their will? That's dangerous territory. Removing the will from a child only results in a browbeaten, depressed child. God gifted us all with a will. Children as young as one month old definitely demonstrate their will (hence the need to say "no" on the changing table!). It is our role as parents to teach our children how to control their wills—to encourage self-discipline. Yes, we are to act as their consciences—teach them to identify right from wrong—but we don't need to beat their wills from them and break their spirits to do so.

Posted by: Rhonwyyn at January 30, 2006 10:54 PM

I can see from your post that you have misinterpreted what I have posted. I am only going to post here one last time, as I can see that it will do me or anyone else little to no good to try and defend the Pearls' teachings, since everyone here has already made up their own minds about what they believe about their materials. I was only stating my views and opinions, and hopefully, bringing some personal application and experience to the table in an effort to show what I believe. I can still smile even if you or anyone doesn't believe what I believe, I am not going to be able to change anyone's mind here. With that being said, to answer your question, "Whatever happened to learning from our parents..?" Well, that is just not realistic, not even in the Christian church sad to say. The divorce rate is just as high in the Christian church as it is for non-christians, and beginning with that, there is a broken home, with the very model of a family being broken. Secondly, very rarely is true, biblical chastisement and training applied properly. There are more people doing it in anger, abusively, than not. Just with those facts, it warrants that someone with some wisdom on the subject would teach others that have not been exposed to the proper way, the proper way. I myself grew up in an orphanage. When I was ten, my biological mother got temporary custody of my twin brother and me. She abused both of us horribly, to the point that the school officials called the law on her and we were taken away within six months. We were sent back to the orphanage, and then I went to live with my biological father for the remainder of my teenage years. My father was the opposite. He abused me by never disciplining me at all, by leaving me unto myself. I have seen both sides of abuse, from one extreme to the other. From severe physical and mental abuse, to utter neglect. Thank God I was never sexually abused. But sadly, my brother was, and he currently is in prison for murder. See, my mother had us when she was just 15 years old. (and we have a sister who is two years older by a different father. All in all, there are five of us, all with different fathers, except of course my brother and I, since we are twins). She had the worst case of syphilis the doctor had ever seen. She had to take 36 pills every day during her pregnancy, and my father had to take 26 for some time. The last time I talked to her in 1992, she had just married her 15th husband. My father never married again after divorcing her. Now, my parents were only married for two years, the longest of any of her marriages. During that time, they lived in an apartment where they had some neighbors next door that would babysit us sometimes. My father would sometimes go to work on partyboats to make extra money. Once, when he went to work on a pary boat, she left us with these neighbors, and left for-good. Then, for some unknown reason, the neighbors left my brother and I there in the apartment and moved out, abandoning us. We were there for about ten days, no one is really sure. We were put into the hospital for quite some time. I required 19 pints of fluid. The doctors pronounced me dead a couple of times because my heartbeat was so faint. My brother almost died. On top of all of this, my mother was abusive to my brother during the time that she did have us, because he was born with a clubbed foot and a crossed eye, and other problems. She would beat him constantly, but not me. She did beat me later, when I was older. Due to this severe stress on my brother, he developed paranoia-schizophrenia, which normally "presents" at about age 19 or 20. In very rare cases, it will present in cases where a person has been under extreme stress such as extreme abuse. He was a helpless baby during this time, and had no way of fighting back, and the stress brought on a mental illness, which to this day, plagues him. When he was 23, he killed his roomate in an outburst. There is so much I could say about all of this, but I will leave it at that. What I am trying to say is, most people do not have a heritage of good parenting skills, and thus, have a need to educate themselves. The problem lays in the fact that there are so many books and materials out there from which to choose from, it is easy to be overwhelmed or led astray. When people can seemingly twist scripture to make it say anything they want it to say, so that it will line up with their techniques, parents find themselves standing on thin ice. And what about new Christians? Who do they turn to? God. They turn to God. They ask God to show them how to be good parents. This is a true story: About 10 years ago, my 2 oldest boys were 3 and 2. We were at church when the pastor's son went up to my 3 year old and snatched his paper away that he had drawn in Sunday school and told him he was going to keep it. (I was in the sanctuary too at the time, but did not see this, it was common for everyone to mingle around at the end of the service) Bear in mind that the pastor's son is in his forties and is the adult Sunday school teacher, and does not have any children. Next thing I know, my 3 year old is running up to me, screaming and crying like I don't know what with the pastor's son (let's call him Bob) right behind him with an angry look on his face. So I inquire to see what happened, and Bob says that my son slapped him in the face. This is backed up by the Associate Pastor. Upon further investigation, I learn that Bob had (without any provocation) snatched his artwork away and said he was going to keep it. What should I do? What would you do? Well, I take him outside and explain to him that it is not okay to hit people, and then spank him. (very lightly, token spanking). Then I tell him that he is going to have to apologize to Bob. So I take him to Bob and tell him to apologize, and he starts to cry again. Bobs gets down on one knee, and tells him to stop his crying, my son says he can't, Bob says (with angry face)"Yes you can", my son says, "no I can't". Repeat a few more times. Then I whisper in my son's ear, just say "I'm sorry, so we can get out here". He does, and then we leave. On the way out of the church, the associate pastor stops my husband and I and says, "Look, We know you don't have this discipline thing down to a gnat's eyebrow yet, and we don't hold anything against you guys or anything like that, I mean we still care for you all and we don't want you to think that because of this that we are just sitting here thinking how terrible your kid is, because we don't think that." But then, I look over at Bob, and I can tell that the Associate pastor isn't speaking for Bob, because Bob doesn't feel that way. On the way home, I cried and cried. I told my husband, "Bob doesn't have a clue, We go there every time the church doors are open, and they never teach a single thing about how to raise your children, or how to have a good marriage, like we are just supposed to know. I know these things are in the Bible, but so are the other things that they are teaching us. I just wish they would teach me how to be a good mother and a good wife, that is what I really want to know. Knowing the 200 different names of God isn't going to help me raise my kids!" I was really broken-hearted. I didn't realize at the time that my crying out was heard by God. Shortly after that, we had a new (younger couple, with four kids) come to church, and I noticed how well behaved her kids were. I told her so. She gave me TTUAC. I took it home and read it. A week later, my kids were transformed. It was mostly my oldest son, he was very strong-willed. My middle child was not, he went with the flow on just about anything. I never even had to say the word no to him until he was 3, and that is the honest truth! He was just content all of the time. Not so for my oldest son. It was because of that book that I had my third son six years ago. I am thankful that God did hear me when I cried out, and He has the answers.
To answer you, I never said anything about ignoring children, and I don't believe the Pearls advocate that at all. I don't know where that came from. I know that Michael has talked about not letting the child dictate the time and place concerning being picked up, and that is totally different. I have a neighbor that picks her baby up every time she cries, even is there is nothing wrong with her. She has not taught her "no" or "wait". We are talking about a 19 month old. She clearly understands words. She wants her mother to be her personal limousine, and if she even begins to bend over towards the floor, she will pitch a fit. Her mother thinks it is cute. But she won't think it is so cute in another few months when her back can't take it anymore, and she is sure that her daughter understands her words, and her daughter still refuses to be put down. It will be then that her mother will become angry and will put her down, and will then have to spank her, probably several times to train her, for what? To train her to listen to "no" or "wait". She is only putting off the inevitable and making it harder for herself in the end. If she put in just a little time now, when the training is easy, the problem will not develop. But she is convinced just like alot of other people that her daughter is but a mere baby, and not capable of manipulation. Hogwash. I was with her the other day in a pharmacy where she NEEDED to put her daughter down in order to pay the pharmacist and sign some paperwork, and her daughter stiffened her body out so much, that she wouldn't stand, so her mother had to just set her on the floor like a statue, with her screaming the whole time. Her mother was embarassed and laughing about it the whole time. But nobody else thought it was funny, everyone else was rolling their eyes because they all felt she was a brat.
Another thing, about the vase, I would never take a vase, play with it, and then set it in front of a child, and then smack them for playing with it. That is not what my post said. I wouldn't do anything like that. That is retarded. "Smacking" a child is inappropriate, even when disciplining, it conjures up an image of an angry parent hitting their kid anywhere with an un-measured amount of force, and that is not what discplining is about.
You said:"(And why you didn't stop the child when s/he first started to climb is beyond comprehension!).....I don't know where you got this from. My whole post was about training a child EARLY, from the very beginning. I just don't see how you got that from my posts. The point I was trying to make is that if you trained by getting something such as a flower vase, and sitting in the floor, and training with it, you can train the child to not touch the vase before the NEED to train the child arises, (such as while you are Grandma's house)....It also did not suggest that the adult play with the vase and then smack the child. I don't advocate "smacking" the child while training either, that is totally uncalled for, training is not the same as disciplining, and even when disciplining, "smacking" is not an option. Babies and very small children rarely, if ever, need disciplining.
When the Pearls talk about serving as the child's will, they are not talking about taking away that child's will, I think you are missing the point.
You said:"Yes, we are to act as their consciences-teach them to identify right from wrong-but we don't need to beat their wills from them and break their spirits to do so." First, the last paragraph in my last post was from an article by Michael Pearl. I think it is pretty clear from that that breaking their spirits is not the intention. Have you read any articles by his children? You cannot know any of his children and honestly tell me that their spirits are broken or they are depressed or they have had their will broken from them. His children are not going to do anything unless they decide it is for their own good. I sure hope you aren't suggesting that we shouldn't act as the child't will, that the child should remain in control of it. I mean, when your child squirms away from you because he doesn't want his diaper changed, do you act as his will, or do you let him control his will and keep the dirty diaper on? Apply that question to any other question where the child would be in danger or a moral situation, and I think you would want to act as the child's will. One more, if your child wants to hang out with the gang at the mall, and you know these kids shoplift and get into trouble with the law, are you going to let him have control of his will, or will you control it for him?
Like I said, this is my last post. I just don't have the time to post much anymore. But I have appreciated the opportunity to express my opinion. The reason I defend the Pearls is because I have properly applied their techniques, and they work. I have found their teachings to be Biblical. I have read Catez's reviews also, and take issue with them, but I do not have the time to debate. I am not going to be able to change anyone's mind with a few posts anyway. So, with that, I gracefully bow out.........

Posted by: Tammy at February 5, 2006 06:11 PM

Where I said, "First, in the last paragraph..." , I meant to say, " First, in the FIRST paragraph..." Sorry for the confusion, and for not putting in paragraph form this time, oops.

And I left out:
I have read many, many child training books and articles. Nothing that I have read has made a real, effective, lasting change the way TTUAC has. While I understand that there will be those with an over-riding auotcratic spirit, and those who will abuse, those will seek out excuses to that end regardless of what they read. I know because I was on the receiving end of it. During the time that my mother abused us, she was teaching Sunday school the whole time, and no one was the wiser.

For those who reject these teachings on the basis that they don't agree with the Pearls' doctrine, all I can say is, you don't even have to be a Christian to apply these techniques.

After proofing my post again, I saw that I needed to make a correction, and add what I left out. Blessings to you all, may you all find the Truth which you are seeking.

Posted by: Tammy at February 6, 2006 05:05 AM

Just a thought...
God anticipated that there would be people who don't know where to turn for advice and wisdom and raising their children. He inspired Paul to write to Titus that older women should be teaching younger women, among other things, how to love their children. It is dangerous to take a book written by a stranger---any stranger---and base your child-raising techniques on that. Find a real, live old lady who raised 8 kids who love God and ask her some questions. She will be thrilled to be asked, and more thrilled to tell you what she did "back in those days." I HIGHLY recommend that anyone with questions on this subject go to www.themotherscompanion.org and read the sample article "Woman to Woman." It is not within a man's job description to tell women how to mother her children. It doesn't matter if that man is godly or even if he's right on some things. Rather than join in the argument about men like Michael Pearl and Gary Ezzo, I will just say that neither of them are qualified, according to Titus 2, to advise women how to love their children. Simply put, they're the wrong gender! Blessings to you moms. May the Holy Spirit guide you.

Posted by: Kristyn at March 8, 2006 03:55 PM

Ok, somehow I missed this back when I was reading everything on the Pearls. Glad I found it now: ) Well written and excellent thoughts. One question that keeps entering my mind, though. What if it did work? Would that make it right? Older women are instructed to teach the younger how to love their childrem. That certainly incorporates discipline, but whose view of discipline? God, the perfect father, created two human beings in a perfect world. He instructed them in all they needed to know...walking with them and talking with them. What greater "heart strings?" And yet somehow they sinned. I see no way that imperfect humans raising children in an imperfect environment can be told that they can have nearly perfectly obedient children by following any method. I do not want my child to live a Christian lifestyle because he has been conditioned to and is afraid not to. I want him to be a Christian...to reason for himself that he is a sinner in need of a savior and that living by the Word of God is the best way. I want his obedience to be fruits of the spirit, not external conformations to an image of holiness. I want to see my babies in heaven.

I was reading some recent research about homeschooling and found one thing interesting. Of those whose children had strayed from their teaching, most felt that they would have had a larger impact if they had been a better role model and had shown more love and less punishment. Very few felt that it would have been better had they been stricter.

I, too, am tired of those who question the Pearls linked with anti-spanking and atheists and others the Christian community generally questions. Hello? None of that applies to me. Not that I am pro-spanking. I would never advocate it, but that doesn't mean I think everyone who does is a child abuser. They are separate issues.

Just my disconnected thoughts.

Posted by: Dana at May 11, 2006 05:13 AM


I continue to be shocked to read of Christians endorsing this material.

To suggest that gentle parenting advocates are twisting scripture is offensive as well. I have studied the verses and the "Rod" is a symbol of authority (thy rod and thy staff comfort me) Rod or scepter (sp) are allusive of authority.

Even the title the pearls use "To Train Up a Child," is a bit off the mark. This is reflective of some suspect *translation* of the verse from the original Hebrew. That verse is the *only* time the Hebrew word, "Hannuk," is translated as "Train-up." The word, Hannuk, is better translated as "Dedicate," and if you keep that in mind as you read the verse, Dedicate your children in the way they should go... it gives the verse some added dimension instead of thinking of training a dog or your vines in the garden.

I *am* the older mother with the eight children so I feel a certain right to speak :-)

Posted by: DebaBaker at May 22, 2006 08:37 AM

In the future, feel free to NOT post your opinions on other people's blogs. I guess I have learned my lesson about making my blog public.

Posted by: Amber at July 31, 2007 07:52 PM

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