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.

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.

  • http://morechristlike.com/ More Christ Like Blog

    nice blog libby, >>>The Pearls teach that you must spank until the child is submissive. If you stop before the child submits, the child has won. where do the Perl's teach this. could you provide a quote please. while many people like Perl teach the breaking of the will I am thinking he doesn't.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    I despise their mocking tone in everything they write and say. I want nothing to do with people like that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    From page 80 of To Train Up A Child, in response to the question “but what if the child only screams louder, gets madder?”:"Know that if he is accustomed to getting his unrestricted way, you can expect just such a response. He will just continue to do what he has always done to get his way. It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you fell like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same. On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive, whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again. If this is the first time he has come up against someone tougher than he, it may take a while. He must be convinced that you have truly altered your expectations. There is no justification for this to be done in anger. If you are the least angry, wait until another time. Most parents are so guilt laden and paranoid that they are unable to carry this through to the end. If you stop before he is voluntarily submissive, you have confirmed to him the value and effectiveness of a screaming protest. The next time, it will take twice as long to convince him of your commitment to his obedience, because he has learned the ultimate triumph of endurance in this episode in which he has prevailed."

  • Anonymous

    That laughing response to Lydia's death was on the sickest things I have ever read. I remember reading it soon after it was published and just feeling so sick. It is so not a appropriate response to a child's brutal death, whether they feel responsible for it or not. I agree from what I had read that the parents appear to have been just following the rules layed down by the Pearls–she wasn't beaten to death in a outburst of anger, it was a slow process interupted by periods of prayer. Which makes it all the worst, and yes, the Pearls should be held responsible…they teach parents to ignore common sense and insticts.And what Incongruous Circumspection said–in all the things I've read writen by the Pearls, they write like they hate children with this horrible mocking tone. Even if I thought they had anything good to say, I would have a hard time getting past that. kateri @ Dandelion Haven

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03702441292981376229 Darcy

    How 'bout this quote: "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. Hold the resisting child in a helpless position for several minutes, or until he is totally surrendered.” The child is to “bend over on the bed or couch… Slowly begin to spank. If you go too fast, you may not allow time enough for the inner transformation to occur.” In the same section, the author says, “I have found five to ten licks are usually sufficient. As the child gets older, the licks must become more forceful if the experience is going to be effective in purging his rebellion. A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child has surrendered.” (p. 49, 50)

  • Anonymous

    It's so convenient that whenever their teachings backfire, the Pearls can just counter with, "Well they didn't do it right- they got out of control & that's not our fault."I'm sorry, but nobody stays "out of control" for seven hours straight. This was a slow, methodical process. They were nothing if not "in control."It is not in any way normal or natural for a parent to break their child's will. It's got to be a heart wrenching process, and in order for a parent to follow through with it, there has to be some outside force or system driving them.Considering that Pearl insists that IF a parent truly loves their child & wants them to be happy they'll follow through with his methods- if I remember correctly he threatens life will be full of all kinds of grief and woe for children who aren't handled the way he thinks they should be, and promises wonderful blessings from God to children who are… HOW is that not coercion to violence?

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I'm with you, Incongruous and Anonymous. The tone of Michael Pearl's words is so incredibly mean-spirited and heartless. How could ANYONE, even anyone who believes in his blamelessness 100%, have such a cavalier attitude towards the torture and murder of a child? Also, "entrepeneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements." First off, Wow, nice "Christian" attitude towards the poor, dude. Secondly, does this guy really believe that children who are not beaten are doomed to be "deadbeats" on welfare? Just goes to show you how impenetrable and impervious to reality the little world he's created for himself is. And finally "If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive, whimper, you have conquered."I…have no words (and this is rare). Except, seriously, this guy sounds like a sociopath.I have to say though, what happened to Lydia did initially strike me as an extreme application, although I am now reconsidering that position after that story about your brother, Libby. I just don't understand how parents could beat their child for 7 hours and not see her as sufficiently "conquered" when she was close to death. Could there have been more at work here?One thing that strikes me that I have seen no discussion of–Is it a coincidence that both of the girls who were targeted for this level of savagery were adopted Liberian children, and not the parents own biological children? Could the parents, consciously or unconsciously, have believed that because Lydia and Zariah were foreign, from "heathen" Africa (Liberia is mostly Christian but most people probably don't know that), black, not their blood–basically "other" in some way, that they had more innate "wickedness" to be beaten out of them? It's a horrible thought but it doesn't seem outrageous.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    PP – "does this guy really believe that children who are not beaten are doomed to be "deadbeats" on welfare?" Yes. That's pretty much exactly what my mom told me when she learned that I'm not spanking my daughter. "I just don't understand how parents could beat their child for 7 hours and not see her as sufficiently "conquered" when she was close to death." Conquered in spirit is the key, not conquered in body. If she was refusing to be submissive, and still holding out, then they had not broken her will regardless of what they had done to her body. "One thing that strikes me that I have seen no discussion of–Is it a coincidence that both of the girls who were targeted for this level of savagery were adopted Liberian children, and not the parents own biological children?" The girls may have had behavioral problems. If I remember correctly, they were adopted as children, not as babies. Since they hadn't been raised to exact obedience from infancy like their other children, the Schatz parents likely had more trouble with them. I also suspect that the "common sense bulb" that went on in my mom's head when she realized what was happening to my brother may have been less present in the Schatzes given that there was no actual biological connection to the child in question.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    I find it interesting that Pearl talks about his method if one child slugged another. He says he would explain that it's violent and not accepted in their house. Yet, beating kids with plumbing supply line isn't violent? One violent act for another only teaches violence.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "Conquered in spirit is the key, not conquered in body. If she was refusing to be submissive, and still holding out, then they had not broken her will regardless of what they had done to her body."But how could a 7-year-old who was beaten to a pulp even be physically capable of demonstrating signs of "holding out" in any way? I don't get it. I'm not actually arguing with you, I'm just having a hard time wrapping my mind around how these people couldn't have understood that they were killing their child. But it seems they really didn't. Unbelievable. "The girls may have had behavioral problems. If I remember correctly, they were adopted as children, not as babies. Since they hadn't been raised to exact obedience from infancy like their other children, the Schatz parents likely had more trouble with them."I hadn't realized that they weren't adopted as babies. If that's true, then it might not only have been an issue of not being raised with the same obedience standards–who knows what they might have been through in their early childhood that might have affected their behavior? If Zariah is 11, she was born (and spent her first few years) during the Liberian Civil War. Even now that the war is over, it's still a pretty troubled country in a lot of ways and there are enormously high rates of child rape and abuse, particularly of little girls. (Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a column about this a couple years ago.) And, of course, orphans are the most vulnerable. Casts a whole new light on the situation, if they did in fact have behavioral problems.How terrible that there adoptive home ended up being as dangerous as the one they left.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    PP – I just looked it up. Lydia and Zariah were adopted in 2007 when they would have been 4 and 8. Lydia was killed in 2010, and Zariah hospitalized, when they were 7 and 11. The Schatzes took children who were probably very troubled and tried to fit them into the same Pearl sized boxes they had put their children in as infants. I don't doubt that the girls were "rebellious" or "disobedient" or "disrespectful." But the Pearls never say their methods should be adjusted in cases like these. They say that you have to conquer the child's will and force her to submit, and then parenting will be smooth sailing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09440250912113010049 Eric

    There's a good article on some of the reasons that the Pearl doctrine is especially disastrous in cases of adoption here (Under Much Grace). Thanks for this review. It is simply appalling that Michael Pearl can continue to spew his vile doctrines and claim to be speaking for the One who said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them."

  • Chatterbox

    I was thinking too of the things that make people vulnerable to such teachings – i mean the pearls say these things and give dire warnings if their methods arent followed but also, we can choose to ignore them – there is also something going on with the parents – fears, insecurities etc – it would be interesting too, to read about, maybe, what makes certain parents more vulnerable to these type of teachings or other parenting paradigms that can be unhealthy. I suppose parenting is such a huge responsibity and also so vague, we all so want to get it 'right' that maybe a huge proportion of us are vulnerable to 'experts' who tell us that they have got it 'right' especially when they present it with the authority of god, and give plenty of examples of how they are right and others are wrong. Well thought out ideas and arguments etc.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "maybe a huge proportion of us are vulnerable to 'experts' who tell us that they have got it 'right' especially when they present it with the authority of god, and give plenty of examples of how they are right and others are wrong. Well thought out ideas and arguments etc."But what's funny is that, to me, Michael Pearl's arguments AREN'T well thought out–they are based on blatant, demonstrable untruths. Like this idea that children who aren't beaten turn out to be miserable free-loaders (Not that I would characterize people who need to make use of entitlements this way, but he clearly does). There are a gajillion counterexamples to that argument that can be easily observed by anyone who's looking. Pearl's arguments only make sense in the context of the isolated bubble that fundamentalism (of all types) encourages people to live in. It's like saying "The sky is green." Anyone who actually looks at the sky can see that this statement is ludicrous. But if you don't ever actually go outside, how would you know?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    PP – "It's like saying "The sky is green." Anyone who actually looks at the sky can see that this statement is ludicrous. But if you don't ever actually go outside, how would you know?" Yes, exactly. It's like they're inside a box and can't really see reality. And as one with family still inside that box, it's so, so hard to watch.

  • http://quietpanther.wordpress.com/ quietpanther

    "Quoting the Pearls, they argued that 'a child will never starve himself to death.' They were wrong."There's also the fact that the Pearls repeatedly insist that 'properly' punishing a child will only hurt the parent. So a parent applying the Pearl method can only conclude that the tortured screams or wistful emaciation are only the product of their own imagination — that the child does not hurt physically as much as the parent does emotionally.Reading some of the things Michael Pearl writes makes me feel physically ill.

  • http://quietpanther.wordpress.com/ quietpanther

    Yes, there are children stubborn enough to die before giving in. The harder you push them, the harder they resist. Forcing them does. not. work. Compromise. Propose alternatives. Grace, grace, grace … the child doesn't have to be "in charge" for you to meet with them ON THEIR LEVEL. Teach them nothing but submission and they will never lead.If you can't abandon Pearl's methods completely, at least look at his teachings in the light of books like Cindy Ulrich Tobias's "You Can't Make Me" (But I Can Be Persuaded): Strategies for Bringing Out the Best in Your Strong-Willed Child.http://www.amazon.com/You-Cant-Make-Persuaded-Strong-Willed/dp/1578561930And then abandon Pearl's methods completely.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Thanks for the book tip, Quiet Panther. And trust me, I left the Pearls' teachings a year and a half ago, when I realized that following their teachings as I had planned meant punishing my ten month old for curiosity. :-/

  • Chatterbox

    Sorry – i didnt explain myself very well – when i said well thought out arguments, i was extrapolating to the type of parenting i got caught up in for a few years in an attempt to get my head round how people could follow teachings/''self appointed authorities' when the teachings were clearly not working/damaging.Whenever i read about the pearls – i am totally baffled on how anyone can think their teachings are something they need to follow – even my fundamentalist, show the child who's boss mother found it all rather shocking when i was talking to her about it after learning about the pearls and thier teachings online. In my attempt to understand people who could follow the pearls advice, i was reflecting on my own parenting regrets – i was kinda sucked into another parenting paradigm, very much the opposite to the pearls and despite clear evidence that the philosophy was not working in our family, for anyone, i carried on with it for 2 years because i was 'promised' that if i did it their way i would have a great relationship with my kids and to do anything else was dis-respecting them – and that if i didnt do it that way then i would damage my kids and my relationship with them. I've got a bit more balance now and am learning to listen to my own voice instead of 'authorities' and we are all very much better off!!! I'm still very much into gentle parenting its just now i feel like i can say no to my kids without scarring them for life, and that sometimes mummy does know best (gasp! did i really say that!!) :0)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01485382313109490919 Byron M

    Two Words.Barbara Coloroso – Kids Are Worth Ithttp://kidsareworthit.com/Home_Page.htmlThe Pearls sound like a sadistic and controlling couple. God's Rod and Staff refer to the tools used by a sheep herder. The Rod is used to guide the sheep not to hit or abuse them. The Staff is not only a walking stick for the shepherd but also a tool. If a sheep or lamp falls over the edge of a cliff, the shepherd uses the crook on the end of his staff to reach down and hook it under the front legs of the sheep and then pull it up to safety. Too many ppl interpret that the Rod is used to punish, beat and abuse to make an animal or human conform and obey. Not so if you read the story and explanation about the 23rd Psalm which tells about the Shepherd (God) and the sheep (We mortal humans). Many sick ppl have used passages in the Bible to justify their abuse of children and adults. My mother beat me with anything she got her hands on until I was down on my knees begging her to stop. Then I started to disassociate and I felt no pain. All that did was instil hatred and anger in me that took many years to overcome. After I had recovered from the alcohol and drug addictions and became a Born again Christian. I found a God of love not punishment.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    Byron. I don't disagree with your interpretation of the meaning of the rod. But, I do disagree with your premise that the Old Testament does not condone beating your children. In fact, elsewhere in Proverbs, it actually uses the word "beat" to make sure your children learn good ways. Also, in Deuteronomy, it tells parents to take their kids to the temple and have them stoned to death – for what, you might ask? – well…for simply looking askance at the parent. Yep…the evil eye.Elsewhere, in one of the major prophetic books, the prophet is thanking God for some victory and then says he wants God to take his enemies children and smash them against the rocks.The Pearls take the Bible as a rule book for life when it is simply a collection of man-fused books, containing men's ideas of who God is and what he wants.I reject that treatment of children and my enemies out of hand. I actually choose to believe in God and don't see him as those writers do.I am simply saying that we can't fight Michael Swine Bead and his asinine wife by redefining what they can glean from pages of really really old literature. We can, instead, show them facts, and point out how stupid their logic is. And it isn't hard.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "The Pearls sound like a sadistic and controlling couple."And IMO, no less sadistic or controlling than the "God" they worship.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16558722229054714449 Maria

    OMG, these people (and anyone who believes the same as they do) are completely insane and, sorry, stupid.Why don't these people, oh I don't know, TEACH their children what's wrong instead of beating them to death? I guess they don't know/care that what they are actually doing is making their kids hate them and their beliefs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "God's Rod and Staff refer to the tools used by a sheep herder. The Rod is used to guide the sheep not to hit or abuse them."Ah, that makes it more ethical. Using animal tools to "guide the sheep(children)". Perhaps "God" will give his seal of approval for shock collars, too.::eyeroll::

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10491713586488210547 TulipGirl

    Thank you for underlining that anger or loss of control is not needed for abuse. What the Schatz parents did was in line with what the Pearls teach — no need for a loss of control. But isn't that even more twisted? Calm, cool, repeated "discipline" leading to death?I don't think the Schatz parents ever intended for it to result in such injury and death to their children. . . And I'm horrified that the Pearls and their supporters do not see that what TTUAC and other Pearl teachings lead so easily to abuse.

  • Anonymous

    Byron, the entire Wholly Babble is a nasty book of abuse and genocide.

  • Anonymous

    Don't bother posting anything contrary to their belief's on their facebook page (No Greater Joy Ministries) as your posts will be deleted and you will be blocked. It's scary that they don't even have enough confidence in their own beliefs to engage in a civil, spiritually honest discourse. Instead they must 'whip' any dissenters and keep the conversation decidedly one-sided. So much for their ability to stand up to the instruction for Christians to test all things against scripture.

  • Bushfire

    I couldn't even watch the whole video, it was so horrifying.

  • Rob

    Yeah, these guys need to be whipped themselves. Perhaps jail is too good for them.


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