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February 26, 2008

Remembering Sean Paddock

Two years ago today Sean Paddock died.

A 4-year-old adopted child, Sean Paddock, was the victim of what we so often see within the Christian subculture--parents who want to do everything right, who seek to control their children, who listen to questionable advice. The result was a child who suffocated from being wrapped tightly in blankets to keep him in bed, so tightly that he couldn't fill his lungs to breathe. His body was covered with "layers of thin, long bruises -- old and new -- stretch[ing] from Sean's bottom to his shoulder blade."

Sean's adopted mother relied upon two-foot lengths of plumbing supply line and parenting books by Michael and Debi Pearl to keep her children in line.

God have mercy.

Sean Paddock.jpg

Related here at TulipGirl:
More Sadness on Sean Paddock
On the Pearls and Parenting
Pearls Po-Russki


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Sean was a foster-adopted child. I just wanted to point that out.

Thanks for remembering this little boy and for all those who will never live a normal life, if they even get the chance to live at all.

Posted by: Shanna at February 27, 2008 12:27 AM

Thank you for drawing attention to that. . . And to me, it adds just another dimension of just how tragic this was.

I can assume that the Paddocks meant well. But well-intentioned abuse is still abuse.

Posted by: TulipGirl at February 27, 2008 12:39 AM

How sad, how tragic.

Posted by: Sheila at Dodging Raindrops at February 27, 2008 01:30 AM

Lynn Paddock's trial is now set to start in May and Sean's bio grandfather has filed a wrongful death suit: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/959015.html

It's good to see that Mandy Locke is still on this story.

Posted by: hsgbdmama at February 27, 2008 08:56 AM

Oh no, this is so tragic. Thanks for remembering this child.

Posted by: bp at February 27, 2008 10:57 AM

I just feel sick reading this! I don't remember hearing about this when it happened. I am not a person who reads a lot of books on parenting, or being a good wife, etc. There is too much out there and I would have such a hard time discerning between it all. I rely mostly on prayer, the Bible, and other's examples. I know that I am FAR from the perfect mother, but I do my best to love them, guide them, discpline them, and be a positive example for them. I truly cannot imagine going to such extremes to make my children obey. How can you be all right with that? How do you justify that behavior towards your own children?! I do spank occasionally, I am not an anti-spanker. Do my children always obey, NO. If they did, I would be concerned. Would I like them to obey more or better, yeah. But that's called the flesh, for both of us. I am familiar with the Pearls book, but I haven't read it all the way through. I got part way through and was too uncomfortable and shocked with some of their methods, that I quit.

I'm sorry for my ranting, I was just completely shocked by Sean's story.


Posted by: Amy Asher at February 27, 2008 11:48 AM

What a tragic story.

It's hard to see how anyone could justify that kind of abuse.

Posted by: jo(e) at February 27, 2008 06:31 PM

Thanks for mentioning this and reminding us of the dangers of these parenting styles.

In live in the Peoria, Illinois area and the past two weeks our newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star, has been full of articles about two parents who kept their infant in a car seat for 8 days, starving this precious little one as he died in his own excrement. There is outrage here and rightly so. Thankfully the state's attorney is using everything within his legal power to bring 1st degree murder charges against these people.

Posted by: thatmom at February 28, 2008 07:41 AM

Wow. I just saw the above that said the foster-adoptive mom's trial is in May.

Just a bit after that trial begins, we will be in court to adopt our two little girls that came to us via foster care.

It's hard to fathom the idea of hurting them...of binding them or beating them with a hand or implement.

They are in the other room right now interacting with a PBS show--their little voices singing along with the alphabet song that is playing.

It's sad to know that life for these little ones are often a crap shoot....like a game of Russian Roulette...who they get placed with can determine whether they live or die...whether they succeed or fail.

Still thinking about Sean and all the other stories of abuse/death of foster kids that I just can't seem to get out of my head....so many children in our foster care system...what will be become of them all?

Posted by: Shanna at February 29, 2008 03:59 PM

Amy, I think you really zeroed in on what is important--the Bible, prayer, listening to our own mothers and the women the Lord brings into our lives. (And even they can give advice that isn't the best for our family, which brings us back to the Bible and prayer.)

I remember my Mom once saying (once we were all older) that as the years went by, she realized she needed to rely upon prayer more--that was the key in parenting. I always felt loved, and I always knew my parents were praying for me. If only I can pass those on to my children!

A hug and a prayer make for great first steps in just about any parenting or discipline problem. . . Showing love and seeking the Lord.

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 1, 2008 06:27 PM

Thank you--all of you--for remembering Sean. And for encouraging one another and other mothers in nurturing their children. Isn't that what we all need?

While I do believe that Lynn Paddock and her husband need to accept responsibility for their actions, I don't want to come across as a mother on a soapbox on a pedestal. I do believe that apart from God's grace it is so easy for us to act in ways that can harm our children (emotionally and spiritually, if not physically.) That's why we need to encourage one another!

And that's why we need to point out harmful teachings that can so easily seduce loving Christian parents into potentially abusive patterns.

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 1, 2008 06:32 PM

tho i mourn this child too please know the pearls- whom i don't agree with everything they say btw- do not ever advocate abusing your child. they don't tell anyone to do anything such as what this woman did. with that line of thinking, even if they had, why would any parent agree to punish that way anyway? the pearls are a scapegoat for a sick woman. if you don't believe in spanking fine but don't accuse those who do of abusing their children- we don't do what she did!

Posted by: tami lewis at March 3, 2008 10:15 AM


I agree with you that the Pearls are not to be scapegoated. I also agree that Lynn Paddock and her husband are responsible for their own actions.

However, that does not release Michael and Debi Pearl from the need to accept responsibility for their words and their teachings.

While the Pearls do not specifically introduce the technique of restraining a small child with tightly wrapped blankets, parenting through high-control and end-justifies-the-means practices is taught by the Pearls. (Specific examples the Pearls DO use includes hair-pulling, biting, hitting with toys, pushing a child into water and then "rescuing" him, and stopping a car repeatedly to spank a toddler. Constraining a child in a blanket seems milder in many ways than these examples--though the result was tragic.)

Consider this teaching of the Pearls:

"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."

The Pearls teach parents that they should use whatever force is necessary to restrain a child, to hold him there until he is surrendered. . . defeat him totally. Using blankets to do that as Lynn Paddock did definitely fits the "spirit" of what is taught.

Furthermore, Michael and Debbie Pearl promote striking children with "a light, flexible instrument [that] will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument." Which to my understanding is exactly what the Paddocks used.

I want to be clear that I hold Lynn Paddock, the foster-adoptive mother, to be responsible for her actions.

However, teachers within the church like Michael and Debi Pearl ARE aware of the impact of their words and teachings. They also need to take responsibility for the impact of their words and ideas. In the case of the Pearls, they know their influence--they seek this influence. And they would do well to take to heart the counsel shared in this article.

Grace and peace,

Posted by: TulipGirl at March 3, 2008 07:52 PM

This is a very disturbing and sad story. Do the Pearls endorse using plumbing supply line in their books? I have not read their books yet because my husband read enough of their web site to decide their theology is not for us when we raise children one day. We are concerned because some of our friends are very into the Pearls' teachings. Thanks for all of the info. on your blog.

Posted by: Jenni at March 4, 2008 11:07 AM

Coming here late, but wanted to pipe in and say thank you for speaking out, TG. Yes, this lady was crazy. And yet the Pearls books are fodder for unbalanced minds, precisely because the Pearls books are not balanced themselves. :(

Posted by: Molly at March 4, 2008 08:33 PM

“I'll lend you, for a little while, a child of mine,” He said,
“For you to love while he lives, and mourn when he is dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two, or -three,
But will you, 'til I come back, take care of him for me?
He'll bring his charms to gladden you, and shall his stay be brief,
You'll have his loving memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay, as all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
I've looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes, I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love – not think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again?
I fancied that I heard them say, 'Dear Lord, thy will be done.
For all the joy this child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shower him with tenderness and love him while we may,
And for the happiness we've known, forever grateful stay.
And should the angels call for him much sooner than we planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.'”

~Seven Seasons of the Man in the Mirror,
pgs. 133-34

Posted by: brandt at March 25, 2008 06:54 PM

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