Michael Pearl on CNN

CNN has investigated the case of Lydia Schatz, spanked to death by her parents following the Pearls’ methods.
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The Pearls defense is as follows (for full text see here):

It has come to may attention that a vocal few are decrying our sensible application of the Biblical rod in training up our children. I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love. Numbered in the millions, these kids become the models of self-control and discipline, highly educated and creative—entrepreneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements. … People all around the world, in places like Russia, China, Germany, New Zealand, Guatemala, Peru, Africa, and fifty other countries are laughing with joy because after applying the Biblical principles found in our books they finally have happy and obedient children.

Michael Pearl argues that the Schatz parents lost control and did not properly follow his methods, and that properly spanked children, by his methods, are the happiest children out there. With all due respect – no, forget the respect – I strongly disagree. You see, I don’t think that the Schatz parents lost control. I really do think that they properly applied the Pearls’ methods. Here is why.
  1. The Pearls teach that you must break your child’s will.
  2. The Pearls teach that a proper spanking must cause the child actual pain. They advocate using 1/4″ plumbing supply line as a sort of whip.
  3. The Pearls teach that you must spank until the child is submissive. If you stop before the child submits, the child has won.
  4. The Pearls teach that raising children is a battle for control between parent and child, a battle the parent must win. If the parent does not win, the child will be miserable, rebellious, and even destined for hell.
From everything I have heard about the case, it appears that the Schatz parents were following the above rules. They didn’t stop spanking, they sought to force their daughter to submit, to break her will, and the result was that they broke her body. There is no evidence that the Schatz parents spanked in anger, and there is ample evidence that they followed the Pearls’ To Train Up A Child like a Bible.
Lydia Schatz died because the Pearls taught her parents to see their relationship with their daughter as a struggle for control, a struggle they must decisively win, using physical force as tool.
Let me give another example from my own experience, for something similar might have happened in my family had my mother not finally given way to common sense and violated a Pearl rule. When one of my brothers was small he refused to say please for his food or water, and my parents, following the Pearls’ instructions, refused to give in. It was his will against theirs, and they were going to win this battle. He would say please. Quoting the Pearls, they argued that “a child will never starve himself to death.” They were wrong.
Watching that poor child grow listless and dehydrated was heartbreaking. He continued to refuse to say please, growing weaker by the hour. This went on for days. He stopped talking, stopped playing. Finally, my mother had a “vision from God” that if she did not give her son food and water, he would die, and they would be arrested by the Child Protective Services. So she gave him food and water, and he recovered and returned to his normal happy self.
The difference between this case and the Schatz case is that my mother’s common sense triumphed in the end over the Pearls’ teachings. Had my parents continued to follow the Pearls’ methods in this case, repeating the adage that “a child will never starve himself to death,” continuing to see the episode as a power struggle between them and their son, and refusing to bend, the Pearls might well have had yet another death to their name.
My parents are not horrible people. They’re kind, loving, caring people and wonderful parents. It’s just that the Pearls told them that if they don’t spank their children, if they don’t break their children’s wills and force them to submit, their children will turn out ruined, rebellious, and miserable. My parents, and millions of others like them, discipline they way they do not because they are horrible people but rather because Michael Pearl told them that if they love their children they must spank them and break their wills. And it was the same with the Schatz parents.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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