Lydia Schatz, Michael Pearl, and CNN

This is part of a series in which I am re-posting a number of posts I’ve written in the past on issues involving parenting and Michael and Debi Pearl. I think these posts may be of interest to new readers, and if you’re a reader who has been around with me since the beginning, they may be worth a re-read. This post was originally published here.   

CNN has investigated the case of Lydia Schatz, spanked to death by her parents in February 2010. The Schatzes followed the discipline methods promoted by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book To Train Up A Child.

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. When your children finally find an honest mechanic or a trustworthy homebuilder, it will be one of ours.

When your children apply for a job it will be at a company our children founded. When they go to a doctor, it will be one of our Christian children that heals them with cutting edge innovation. When your adult kids go for therapy it will be one of our kids-become-psychologist that directs them to the couch and challenges them to release their self-loathing and embrace hope for a better tomorrow. When your children grow old and realize their mortality and seek to make peace with their Creator, it will be one of our children that shares with them the message of God’s love and forgiveness.

My five grown children are laughing at your foolish, uninformed criticism of God’s method of child training, for their kids—my 17 grandkids—are laughing . . . because that is what they do most of the time. They laugh when Daddy is coming home. The laugh when it is time to do more homeschooling. They laugh when it is time to practice the violin and piano. They laugh when they see their Big Papa coming (that’s me) because Big Papa is laughing and they don’t care why just as long as he laughs with them.

My granddaughters laugh with joy after giving their baby dolls a spanking for “being naughty” because they know their dolls will grow up to be the best mamas and daddies in the world—just like them.

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.

Even my chickens are laughing . . . well, actually it more like cackling, because they just laid another organic egg for my breakfast and they know that it was that same piece of ¼ inch plastic supply line that trained the dogs not to eat chicken….

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 (in fact, they stopped the discipline every so often for prayer breaks), 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.

Lydia Schatz died because the Pearls told her parents that if they didn’t spank their children, if they didn’t break their children’s wills and force them to submit, their children would turn out ruined, rebellious, and miserable.

Lydia Schatz died because her parents believed what the Pearls said.

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.

  • Contrarian

    The latest No Greater Joy Magazine had a pretty hilarious article about the media attention.

  • http://www.stupiddinosaurlies.org/ Crazyharp81602

    The Pearls should be held responsible for all this. I don’t care what they say. The Pearls deserve long prison time for inciting child abuse in the name of God. Period.

    • Contrarian

      Dawkins should be held responsible for all this. I don’t care what they say. Dawkins deserves long prison time for inciting child abuse.* Period.

      * If you don’t raise up a child in the way he should go, the child will leave Christ and burn forever in hell.

      tl;dr: You’re completely ignoring the fundamental worldview clash here in favor of posturing about a sensational symptom.

      • John Morales

        A non sequitur followed by an irrelevancy and then a false claim.

        (Feeble effort)

      • Contrarian

        Oh, surely you can do better than that.

      • John Morales

        It’s more than it merits, as it stands.

  • Kevin Alexander

    I wonder if the Pearls and those who follow them get the irony in what they are doing. If the objective to what you’re doing is to break someones will, then how can you compete in secular world with an army of the broken will.

    I hate to see the smiling faces on the victims of this abuse, they appear so happy. They can’t very well frown, can they? They’d take a beating for that.

    • Contrarian

      Why wouldn’t you expect them to be happy? They have no point of reference to compare, they know *exactly* which behaviors are in line and out of line, and their parents love them and are involved in their lives and are in complete control. No uncertainty, no gray areas, no worry.

      Let’s face it, the best explanation is that those kids are *genuinely* happy.

      • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

        My parents, who followed to Pearl’s advice, spanked in this very Pearl-esque way, where the children are talked to prior to the spanking, told that the parents hate to hurt them but they have no other choice. That it hurts them more than it would hurt me. This particular sentence inflicted tons of guilt on me. I hated to be spanked or hit, obviously, but I loved it at the same time. I needed it. I hated myself so much, so deeply, that I sometimes wished my Dad would really hurt me, really beat me, in order to be free of that guilt. It’s very hard to explain how I felt.

        I went to the bathroom and cried endlessly, not that much because of the spanking but because I felt my mistake wasnt punished properly. I felt the need to feel more pain, and I didn’t want to burden my parents with spanking me. I decided to do it myself. I looked for some sort of thing, a hard thing, to cause myself more pain and to remove the guilt I felt. It could be anything really, like a hairbrush, a stick, a wooden spoon, whatever was at hand. At first I started hitting myself on the legs and thighs until it really hurt.

        I remember a day where I had gotten a spanking and it didn’t satisfy my need to feel real pain. I sat in the bathroom, hitting my head with a hairbrush, not feeling the pain I wanted to feel, shrieking out in shrill screams then cursing at myself. You are a piece of shit, everybody hates you, you are worthless, you can’t do anything, you will go to hell and marry the devil and God will laugh at you, your parents hate you, you’re going to hell anyway so kill yourself right now and release them from this burden, you piece of dirty dog shit.

        Sound happy to you?

        http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/cutting-eating-disorders-selfdestructive-behaviours/

      • Contrarian

        Congratulations, an anecdote! You win a cupcake! Or if you’d like an anecdote that disagrees with yours, I could certainly dig one up. After all, the Pearls’ magazine is full of stories of children who only became happy after their parents started using the Pearls’ methods.

      • Dianne

        The line after the one ibis quotes is telling as well: “My Dad came knocking on the door, telling me that I needed to stop the screaming or else I’d get another spanking.”

        The author’s father heard her abusing herself, talking about how worthless she felt, and all he did was tell her to stop screaming? Does that sound like a “loving father” to you? It sure doesn’t to me.

      • Kevin Alexander

        “Let’s face it, the best explanation is that those kids are *genuinely* happy.”

        I’m glad you put the word genuinely in comic quote marks

        It’s the best explanation to you because you’re trying to defend the abuse.

        I have another anecdote for you, you can keep the cupcake.

        We rescued a six month old German Shepard. Someone had tried to make a junk yard dog out of him. You know how that’s done? You beat on him until he turns psycho. That way he can be depended on to viciously attack anyone who comes near. Except for you, of course. To you he’s all quivering joy every time he sees you.

        Contrarian, you’re right, the dog is genuinely happy.

      • John Morales

        Let’s face it, the best explanation is that those kids are *genuinely* happy.

        Let’s face it, that doesn’t mean they weren’t abused.

      • John Morales

        Congratulations, an anecdote!

        Beats your bald assertion.

      • Benjamin Allen

        @Contrarian

        It is called Stockholm Syndrome. Where the abuse victim identifies with the abuser. It is the reason why there tends to be a cycle of abuse whereby Dad Hits Mom, Son hits Girlfriend etc or Dad Hits Kid, Kid hits His Kids. You are right. It is because they have no outside point of comparison, and they eventually start to believe that they Deserve to be hit, and that their spouse or child eventually Deserves to be hit.

        When you actively seek to break someone’s will so that they will not behave independently of your will, you might love them. However, that love has been twisted. You are not loving them for them, you are loving them as an extension of yourself. Like those mothers who make their little girls do beauty pageants or put massive amounts of pressure on their child to do some sport they failed at.

        These children are not laughing and smiling because they are happy. They are laughing and smiling as a means of coping with the cognitive dissonance created by by being forced to comply with the capricious and inscrutable whims of their parents through physical force. If they show discontent or desires contrary to their parent’s will, they get hit. Their laughing and smiling is a defense mechanism. No more, no less.

        http://www.radford.edu/~tburke/Burke/Stockholm%20Syndrome.pdf

        As for their children becoming doctors and psychologists. No. No they usually dont. If they do, they are not the ones coming up with new medical innovations or new therapies…or even using good ones. This is because they reject evolution in medicine, and reject the data showing that corporal punishment is counter-productive, and often leads to severe psychological dysfunction in adulthood. Can you imagine it?

        “My dad hit me all the time when I was a kid, and I turned out fine. What you need to learn Steve is that beating children is God’s Will. Deus Wult!”

        Yeah… no. They tend to get drubbed out of graduate school or lose their license pretty fast.

      • Dianne

        As for their children becoming doctors and psychologists. No. No they usually dont. If they do, they are not the ones coming up with new medical innovations or new therapies…or even using good ones.

        No, they don’t. Certainly the Pearls’ children didn’t. They give brief bios of their children on their web site and they are not starting businesses and getting advanced degrees. A few don’t even appear to be working.

        But back to medicine. Children raised this way won’t become doctors. The reason is not that they don’t believe in evolution-you can find doctors who don’t. They aren’t good doctors and I don’t know how they explain antibiotic resistance to themselves, but they exist.

        No, the reason that children abused by the Pearl method won’t become doctors is that to complete medical school you have to be self-motivated. You must want to learn, want to understand things, be willing to study not because someone makes you study, but because you want to learn. The Pearl children don’t have that motivation and won’t be able to finish the required schooling. It’s the contrary children who have internal motivations-not just fear of being beaten-that succeed in medical and graduate school.

      • Twist

        They aren’t good doctors and I don’t know how they explain antibiotic resistance to themselves, but they exist.

        Completely off topic, so feel free to ignore, but I had a door-knocker come to talk to me about the bible the other day, who suggested that MRSA was a plague from god, foretold somewhere in the bible. Now, I don’t know the bible cover to cover or anything, but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t contain the phrase “and he created methicillin-resistant bacteria, and it was very good” amywhere in it. I attempted to explain it to him in the context of evolution, and he looked at me as though I was the crazy one and left.

      • Benjamin Allen

        Looked at you like you were crazy? Ok. This brings the Theodicy problem to whole new levels of crazy. And what about nylon-eating bacteria, and plastic-eating fungus?

      • Dianne

        Now, I don’t know the bible cover to cover or anything, but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t contain the phrase “and he created methicillin-resistant bacteria, and it was very good” anywhere in it.

        Likewise, and if it did, I’d have to seriously rethink my beliefs. In fact, the lack of phrases like that which would show true omniscience on the part of the writer/inspiration is part of why I’m an atheist.

      • Contrarian

        John Morales:

        Let’s face it, that doesn’t mean they weren’t abused.

        You get it! Of course, this makes the question slightly more complicated — if abuse makes children genuinely happy, is it really wrong? Yes, but why?

        Kevin Alexander

        It’s the best explanation to you because you’re trying to defend the abuse.

        Nope, I’m not. What in the world makes you think that I’m trying to defend the abuse? Did you read my comment or are you making assumptions based on mood affiliation?

        Benjamin Allen:

        Do bear in mind that the Pearls advocate strictly defined and enforced behavioral limits, not capricious punishment, that much of their parenting advice is the usual “spend lots of time loving your children and playing with them, not neglecting them,” and that if “defense mechanism” is indistinguishable from “genuine happiness”, then there’s no real difference.

      • John Morales

        You get it!

        Duh.

        Of course, this makes the question slightly more complicated — if abuse makes children genuinely happy, is it really wrong?

        I put it to you it’s far more likely that they’re happy despite, not because of the abuse to which they’ve been subjected.

      • Contrarian

        John:

        I put it to you it’s far more likely that they’re happy despite, not because of the abuse to which they’ve been subjected.

        For reasons laid out below, in my response to Vicki, I think it likely that correctly following the Pearls’ methods will induce happiness in children.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    CNN has investigated the case of Lydia Schatz, spanked to death by her parents in February 2010.

    Beat your child into submission. If the child will not submit, beat the child to death.

    • Contrarian

      Funny how these “beat to death” incidents only happen to older adopted children …

      • Twist

        Oh, that’s totally ok then.

      • John Morales

        Or so you imagine.

      • Binjabreel

        Uh, I’d say that rather proves the point that these techniques are abuse, torture and brainwashing.

        The adopted children KNOW HOW TO RESIST. They haven’t been brought up in a world where there is no such thing as resistance, and they- God forbid- might already think of themselves as being people, not property.

        You know, you make a pretty lousy Contrarian.

      • Yukimi

        Also, iirc three children have died of which two were indeed adopted but one wasn’t. Not that it matters and as someone has already said, it’s probably because the kids resisted strongly and parents had less compunctions in taking the Pearl’s teaching to their natural conclusion… I can’t even imagine if 3 kids have died how many have been abused badly but survived.

        I don’t think I’m going to change your mind Contrarian… because you seem completely close-minded form your comments… also you appear to disregard children’s rights and you don’t seem to consider them human beings (there you line up with Pearl nicely).

      • Yukimi

        I shouldn’t have posted the last paragraph and I apologised for judging without evidence. It tickled me the wrong way you using “funny how…” when talking about something so serious as children death’s… like it was so trivial… like the teachings of Pearl weren’t really wrong or hadn’t enabled these deaths…

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

        @Yukimi — Except children aren’t people. Before you get upset at me, hear me out. They’re, like, people-in-training, man, and they rely on us, the adults, to teach them. Of course that’s not to say that they “don’t have rights”, because, duh, they DO, just that a child’s rights are, by necessity, more limited than an adult’s.

      • Contrarian

        Please see comment #15 below for my responses to this thread.

      • Yukimi

        Did I say that children’s right=adult’s rights? (I actually think they do have the same basic rights as human beings) That still doesn’t mean they don’t have any rights. In Spain, spanking is illegal and children aren’t spoiled beasts and Spain has signed the Children’s right pledge which I would hope every country would sign and people would consider logical and humane… but it seems like I as wrong. Parents have rights and control over the children but they can’t infringe their children’s basic right to be unharmed.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

        @yukimi — Whaaaa? I never argued that children should be beaten or hit. I’m just saying that some of a child’s rights are restricted, and rightfully so, because a child cannot reasonably be expected to responsibly handle those rights. (i.e. we don’t allow children to own firearms, even though the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution.)

  • Twist

    Stockholm Syndrome comes to mind.

    This is beyond sickening. This pair of monsters should be held accountable for the violence they advocate against children in the name of their supposedly all-loving monstrosity of a god. Something I’ve never understood is that in modern western society it is not generally considered acceptable to hit anyone, under any circumstance except in self defense, and this can be backed up with assult charges and prison sentences. The only people it remains acceptable to hit are children, arguably the most vulnerable among us, those with no recourse, no other protection, at the mercy of a mother and father who are supposed to love and protect them.

    In what incredibly fucked up world does that make sense? And this, so often, coming from those who call themselves pro-life. Defend the innocent fetuses, the precious embryos, the godly blastocysts, but once it’s born, beat it to death for all they care. The Pearls seem to want silent, instantly obedient zombies, devoid of personality, curiosity and individuality rather than children.

    They have the blood of children on their hands, not just the ones who have died, but also the countless others who have suffered physically and emotionally as a result of their ‘training’. I womder if they think that their god will forgive them?

    • Dianne

      And this, so often, coming from those who call themselves pro-life. Defend the innocent fetuses, the precious embryos, the godly blastocysts, but once it’s born, beat it to death for all they care. The Pearls seem to want silent, instantly obedient zombies, devoid of personality, curiosity and individuality rather than children.

      That’s why they’re so into “unborn children”. Fetuses don’t talk back, embryos don’t wake their fathers up in the middle of the night crying, zygotes don’t have temper tantrums. These people don’t like actual people and especially don’t like actual children, so they get sentimental about “unborn children” who can’t bother them while abusing actual, real, living children.

      • Contrarian

        You are completely backwards. These people love their children. Their children are the most important thing in the world to them. Family is completely central to this type of person, even more important than their churches.

        That’s why they discipline their children so rigorously. If they don’t, their children might stray from Christianity and be tortured forever. So in order to ensure that their children don’t stray and don’t question, they buy the Pearls’ books and implement the Pearls’ methods.

        These folks follow the Pearls because they love their children, not because they want their children to go away.

      • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

        They love their children as concepts and as objects. Objects who obey. They don’t love them as individual people with thoughts, desires, and wills of their own.

      • Contrarian

        I’m not sure that you said anything coherent, Ibis, let alone provided any evidence at all.

      • Vicki

        Contrarian, I’m not sure what was incoherent about Ibis’ comment. There’s no doubt in my mind that Michael Pearl encourages parents to see children as accessories or extension of the parental self and not as autonomous individuals. I’ll dig up a quote for you.

      • Twist

        Their children are the most important thing in the world to them

        That their children are unquestioning obedient is the most important thing. Children aren’t people, they’re mini robot-clones to appease the sky-daddy.

        I mean, whipping a kid with plastic supply line? If I saw someone doing that to a dog I’d think it was disgusting and abusive, but a kid? Seriously?

      • John Morales

        You are completely backwards. These people love their children. [...]
        That’s why they discipline their children so rigorously.

        May you be loved rigorously and unremittingly.

      • Contrarian

        Vicki:

        Contrarian, I’m not sure what was incoherent about Ibis’ comment. There’s no doubt in my mind that Michael Pearl encourages parents to see children as accessories or extension of the parental self and not as autonomous individuals. I’ll dig up a quote for you.

        It is not clear to me what it means to be an “accessory” or “extension” of a self (or even what a “self” is). What does it mean to “love X as Y”? Hence, Ibis seemed to be incoherent.

        Twist:

        That their children are unquestioning obedient is the most important thing. Children aren’t people, they’re mini robot-clones to appease the sky-daddy.

        No, children are souls and if you love your child you definitely don’t want her being tortured forever. So you do whatever you have to do in order to make sure she becomes and stays a Christian. Perfectly logical.

        I mean, whipping a kid with plastic supply line? If I saw someone doing that to a dog I’d think it was disgusting and abusive, but a kid? Seriously?

        Yes, I understand that you have a negative gut reaction. Homophobes have the same reaction to men kissing. Please do try to use logic and reason instead of letting your emotions rule you.

        John Morales:

        May you be loved rigorously and unremittingly.

        Aww! But you’re just over three weeks late of Valentine’s Day, sweetie :*

    • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

      In what incredibly fucked up world does that make sense?

      In a world still trying to raise itself from the quagmire of patriarchy, in which women and children are chattel, not people. It wasn’t so long ago that there was no law against marital rape (rather no such concept), and the prerogative to beat one’s children was not so far removed from that to beat one’s slaves. There are lots of spankers today who, though not as brutal as the Pearls, still think using physical force against their kids is okay.

      • Twist

        So the right to do as one wishes with one’s property trumps the rights of a child to grow up in a safe, loving environment, because children are property, as are wives.

        I’m surprised more of these goons don’t advocate spanking their wives in the same manner as their children, since this kind of mindset tends to see women as silly, irrational perma-children who need to be ‘led’.

  • JRB

    …because that is what they do most of the time. They laugh when Daddy is coming home. The laugh when it is time to do more homeschooling. They laugh when it is time to practice the violin and piano. They laugh when they see their Big Papa coming (that’s me) because Big Papa is laughing and they don’t care why just as long as he laughs with them.

    And here is my nominee for this year’s “Most Unintentionally Creepy Paragraph Written Through a Lack of Self-Awareness and/or Lack of Grounding in Reality” category.

    I know the year is still young but I think this one is going to be hard to beat.

  • seditiosus

    If you start a war with your kids, that’s exactly what you’ll get. And you might win. Or you might not. Either way, you have to ask yourself what kind of a person makes war on their own family.

  • Judy L.

    Looks like we’re in need of some troll repellent here, Libby Anne.

    The Pearls are absolutely right that their method is biblical; their method of child (and dog) training and the fundamental element of religious faith is FEAR, plain and simple*. Any sane and rational person will tell you that fear does not lead to respect, fear does not lead to healthy self-discipline, and fear does not lead to love.

    This disgusted me: “I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love.” Growing up in a house run by terror where your parents beat you is not peaceful. Children know instinctively that people who hurt them do not love them; children feel love when they are protected from hurt and harm.

    But this one really made me laugh: “When they go to a doctor, it will be one of our Christian children that heals them with cutting edge innovation.” How exactly are these Christian kids supposed to grow up to be doctors who practice ‘cutting edge innovation’ when they’re not even allowed to learn actual biology and other sciences? Unless of course what Pearl means is that all these future Christian doctors are going to beat their patients until the patient smiles and laughs and says they’re feeling so much better now.

    *God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice. This was not to test Abraham’s faith that God would do the right thing in the end, it was, and the bible is quite explicit about this, to make sure that Abraham FEARED him. And that fear, and the obedience that came out of that fear, was rewarded. Absolutely perverted.

    • Monimonika

      God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice. This was not to test Abraham’s faith that God would do the right thing in the end, it was, and the bible is quite explicit about this, to make sure that Abraham FEARED him. And that fear, and the obedience that came out of that fear, was rewarded.

      Off topic, but I’m reminded of a long ago comment somewhere on the iterwebs that I read and now can no longer find.

      The comment was about how in most other moral-lesson stories, when a deity tests a follower’s faith by ordering the follower to do something awful, it’s only when the follower refuses that the deity rewards the follower for “doing the right thing”. If the follower actually does the act as ordered, the follower is punished for being too dangerous/stupid to live. Abraham would end up dead in most of these stories.

    • Contrarian

      Judy L.:

      Looks like we’re in need of some troll repellent here, Libby Anne.

      Careful, this is more like a flytrap! :P

      Growing up in a house run by terror where your parents beat you is not peaceful. Children know instinctively that people who hurt them do not love them; children feel love when they are protected from hurt and harm.

      Check your privilege! You calling a home that actually implements the Pearls’ advice (and they do exist!) a “house run by terror” is like a six-foot-six man telling Rebecca Watson that creepy men in the elevator asking for sex aren’t creepy at all. You’re placing yourself in these children’s positions, looking at the situation from your (privileged!) point of view, instead of adopting theirs.

      Children don’t instinctively know that people who hurt them do not love them. Child-rearing without corporal punishment is a new innovation in humanity; have most children throughout history known that their parents don’t love them? You seem to be making quite a few assumptions here without thinking them through.

      • Anat

        Contrarian, many people here remember from their own childhoods what it was like to undergo various forms of corporal punishment. That’s why we can place ourselves in the place of those children.

      • Vicki

        @anat: I know, right? “Check your privilege”, wtf? Some of us do know what it’s like to be hit by a parent who believes they are hitting out of love, thankyouverymuch. And it did not make me happy. It made me scared and angry.

        One wonders how Mr. Contrarian knows that Pearl-followers are motivated purely by the desire to save their children’s souls, and not, for instance, using it as a pretext for their own need for dominance and control. How is it that so many parents who believe just as fervently that unsaved children will go to hell, are able to recognize what is “off” about the Pearls’ writings?

        And how does Contrarian know that all parents who follow Pearl methods “are in complete control” and that their children have “no worry”? Where is he getting this stuff? Most Pearl followers I know are insecure as parents and grasping at something that looks like a magic formula. They have little knowledge of child development, and their behavioral expectations are wildly age-inappropriate. Is he reading the stories on NGJ and thinking they have been pulled from anywhere but Michael Pearl’s ass?

      • Contrarian

        Being spanked as a child is normal. Growing up with parents who are actually using the Pearls’ methods is not comparable to, say, growing up with parents following Dobson’s advice (as I did), and if you think it is, you need to double-check your assumptions. Hence, “check your privilege”: you have the privilege of a perspective free from that fundamentalist mindset, free from the authoritarian

        As far as personal anecdotes, guess what? I was spanked, too, by parents who did it out of love. I even got the “It hurts me more than it hurts you” line (and I believe that it did).

        As far as my knowledge, I happen to know that the Pearls advise clearly defined and strictly enforced limits. I also happen to know that uncertainty and arbitrariness decrease happiness. Hence, I predict that children who grow up with well-defined and strictly-enforced behavioral limits, protected from exposure to different viewpoints and parenting styles (hence incapable of comparing their upbringing to other children’s upbringings) will be happy. How is this controversial at all? It’s textbook brainwashing, and even easier when you make start with an infant.

        If you would like to continue with the personal anecdotes, the people I know who follow the Pearls (and I do know several families who do, some of them very, very well) genuinely believe that the Pearls are explicating Biblically mandated parenting, genuinely believe that their children will be happy, and do actually produce happy, obedient, hard-working children who are often much more responsible than their peers. The extent to which they are is usually the extent to which their parents follow the Pearls (who do indeed advocate being in complete control of everything the children experience). If you work hard enough at training someone, you can shape them into what you want them to be — what is so difficult to understand about this?

      • Vicki

        Contrarian:

        “It’s impossible to say how many licks is too many” Does that sound like strict limits to you?
        A six month old who is getting switched for not settling down for a nap or for squirming definitely does not “know which behaviors are in or out of line”.

        You may know some parents who have “successfully” raised children using Pearls’ methods, or methods they attribute to Pearl (I’m not sure that Michael Pearl used Michael Pearl’s methods, given that TTUAC is essentially a memoir/series of anecdotes, many of which are highly implausible.)

        The problem with Pearl is not only what’s there – the contemptuous attitude, the bullying, the brainwashing, the punishment. It’s also in what is not there – namely, any information about age-appropriate behavior expectations, and in the things he encourages parents to avoid – contact with parents, pastors, or anyone who is not “like-minded” about punishment. It’s the isolation, coupled with the belief that the “rod is magic”, that leads to these tragedies.
        I’ve read emails that were circulated after Hana’s death among the family’s homeschool community. These people knew something was wrong, but the code of omerta in this subculture prevented them from reporting to CPS.
        I get that you’re trying to show off your mad logic/rhetoric skillz, but this isn’t rocket science. We know it’s wrong to inflict pain on other people, just because we can. We know that the rationale given for beating children, that it’s the only way to keep children safe (in body and soul) is BS. We know spanking doesn’t lead to better outcomes, so that takes away the rationale for doing it.
        And it is impossible for you to know that all Pearl followers love their children, as it is for anyone else to know that they don’t love their children. Their range of emotions about their children are probably not that different than the general public. (Which means that some will have narcissistic/sociopathic tendencies that don’t really need to be encouraged.)
        What Pearl-followers do tend to lack is knowledge about child development, and they do tend to share certain insecurities such that often they actually feel deeply threatened by developmentally appropriate bids for autonomy – like an infant resisting a diaper change or grabbing the feeding spoon. Those are my observations anyway, which are just as empirically based as yours.

  • Lyra

    Oh, yes, the Pearls are so reasonable, because we all know that the appropriate response to someone saying that you might have had a hand in getting a child BEATEN TO DEATH is to laugh. Because it’s all so funny. HA. HA. HA. Dead kids. Phew. I think I hurt my stomach there.

  • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

    Even my chickens are laughing . . . well, actually it more like cackling, because they just laid another organic egg for my breakfast and they know that it was that same piece of ¼ inch plastic supply line that trained the dogs not to eat chicken….

    These people shouldn’t be trusted with a dog let alone children. My parents have chickens and their dogs have learned that the chickens are off limits without ever beating them. My dog was abused by her first owners and I had to repair a lot of damage before she’d trust me (and before I could trust her, I don’t entirely trust dogs that have been “trained” that way), I hate to think what that does to a child with a more developed brain than a dog’s. The dog I got 7 years ago I wouldn’t have allowed around my 2 yer old nephew, the dog she is today will cuddle up to my nephew while he tugs on her long ears.

    • Binjabreel

      Ahahaha, I was skimming the comment section to see if someone already said this. Heck yes, Noadi.

      If you have to beat your dog with a 1/4″ rubber pipe (yikes, by the way, and this is coming from a hard-core sadomasochist) to get it to obey you then you’re a complete failure as a dog owner. I’ve had to rehab so many beaten dogs who’d flip if I picked up a stick or an extension cord or a length of rope that it sickens me to read these people casually talking about it.

      Even BF freakin’ Skinner would tell you that punishment is a terrible way of extinguishing a behavioral response, and that the requirements for it to work properly (I.e., that it be 100% consistent and reliably applied at all times and for all individuals) are so stunningly impractical that it should, at best, be considered the nuclear option for a training regime, not Plan A.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    I don’t particularly like children.

    I still think that hitting them until they’re broken down into little obedient kid-bots is just sick and wrong and creepy. Yeah, kids need discipline, but hitting isn’t discipline. Violence just teaches kids that it’s okay to, well, do violence to those who are smaller or weaker. It also teaches them to fear the very people they should be looking to for protection and guidance — their parents.

  • Agent Smith

    It’s Mandelbrot set cruelty. No matter how far you resolve it, there are always further levels of horror to discover.

  • http://trepto.myopenid.com trepto

    This stuck with me over night, and I had to come back and say it; I find the idea of children disciplining dolls with spankings disturbing.

    • Binjabreel

      There is so much that’s unintentionally disturbing in his statement that I couldn’t even parse it all, and instead I was just aware of a vague, nameless horror seeping up around the edges of my consciousness.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Contrarian,

    Do you believe in evolution? The reason why I’m asking is that there is a strange American phenomenon where many of those who reject the science are the most enthusiastic about social darwinism.
    You don’t share the sympathy that others here have shown to the dead and tortured children. Is it that you don’t think that they died from the beatings but because they were weak?

    • Contrarian

      Kevin Alexander:

      Do you believe in evolution? The reason why I’m asking is that there is a strange American phenomenon where many of those who reject the science are the most enthusiastic about social darwinism.

      Of course I believe in evolution. I’m also not a social Darwinist, although for some reason you seem to think that I am. Would you like to explain why?

      You don’t share the sympathy that others here have shown to the dead and tortured children. Is it that you don’t think that they died from the beatings but because they were weak?

      What makes you think that I don’t sympathize with those children? Is it because I don’t feel the need to signal that I’m one of the good guys by making gratuitous comments about how horrible the Pearls are? Or is it because I have assaulted arguments I felt were poor, but which supported positions critical of the Pearls? You seem to be making lots of assumptions about me, pal.

      • John Morales

        What makes you think that I don’t sympathize with those children?

        This response, where you consider disapprobation of non-consensual infliction of physical and mental pain equivalent to disapprobation of consensual pleasure-seeking.

        I mean, whipping a kid with plastic supply line? If I saw someone doing that to a dog I’d think it was disgusting and abusive, but a kid? Seriously?

        Yes, I understand that you have a negative gut reaction. Homophobes have the same reaction to men kissing. Please do try to use logic and reason instead of letting your emotions rule you.

        By the way, expressing an emotion ain’t letting one’s emotions rule them (the which you would see were you to apply logic and reason).

        (Your dismissal of an expression of empathy as unwarranted, however, is typical of psychopathy)

      • kevinalexander

        Contrarian,
        “Of course I believe in evolution. I’m also not a social Darwinist, although for some reason you seem to think that I am. Would you like to explain why?”

        I wasn’t accusing, I was asking. If it sounded like I was making assumptions then I apologize. I try to be very careful to say what I mean when I post. It’s the reason that I abandoned my internet name and use my real one.

        It’s because I believe that your arguments make no sense that I was trying to figure out where you’re coming from.

        Your defence of the Pearl’s intent is noted. They mean well. What we’re arguing is that what they are doing is demonstrably mistaken. It causes real harm to real people.

      • Contrarian

        John:

        This response, where you consider disapprobation of non-consensual infliction of physical and mental pain equivalent to disapprobation of consensual pleasure-seeking.

        They are equivalent precisely because they are expressions of revulsion devoid of explicit logical content which implicitly propose that the reviled behavior is immoral. Making that observation is hardly psychopathy (although far be it from me to question a medical diagnosis made over the intertubes).

        Kevin:

        I wasn’t accusing, I was asking. If it sounded like I was making assumptions then I apologize. I try to be very careful to say what I mean when I post. It’s the reason that I abandoned my internet name and use my real one.

        I respect that. I would like to use my real name on the internet, but (sadly) several circumstances prevent me from doing so.

        It’s because I believe that your arguments make no sense that I was trying to figure out where you’re coming from.

        I hope my explanation above was adequate. I’m allergic to circlejerks, so I do my best to break them up when I see them, even if I principally agree with the folks who are participating.

        Your defence of the Pearl’s intent is noted. They mean well. What we’re arguing is that what they are doing is demonstrably mistaken. It causes real harm to real people.

        Of course their methods cause real harm to real people. I don’t believe I’ve contested that.

  • Contrarian

    Twist:

    Oh, that’s totally ok then.

    Didn’t say that!

    John Morales:

    Or so you imagine.

    I have quite a vivid imagination :P But actually, see the more recent post on Hana Williams.

    Binjabreel:

    Uh, I’d say that rather proves the point that these techniques are abuse, torture and brainwashing.

    Very nice point. Mind, I have not once argued that these techniques are not abuse, torture, and brainwashing.

    Yukimi:

    Also, iirc three children have died of which two were indeed adopted but one wasn’t. Not that it matters and as someone has already said, it’s probably because the kids resisted strongly and parents had less compunctions in taking the Pearl’s teaching to their natural conclusion… I can’t even imagine if 3 kids have died how many have been abused badly but survived.

    These extremes are not even a natural conclusion. The Pearls actually explicitly advocate using any method to break the children’s wills. Although I wonder, if only three children have died from the Pearls’ advice, is it really a big problem nationwide? Compare it to, for example, the dozens of children who die every summer from being left in hot cars, or the children who drown because their parents let them wander off … why do we focus on the Pearls?

    For two reasons, I think. First, the Pearls are an extreme manifestation of regressive patriarchal fundamentalist ideals, so they’re both a convenient symbol to rally against and a good illustration of how far fundamentalism goes. Second, these deaths are sensational — parents seeming to go against every instinct, beating their children to death (although it’s probably better to describe these deaths as manslaughter, since the parents certainly didn’t plan to kill their children).

    (apology)

    Certainly — apology accepted. :) It is very easy to jump to conclusions, is it not?

    • Contrarian

      Sorry, meant this as a reply above.

    • John Morales

      I have quite a vivid imagination :P

      Vividness is of less relevance than scope and range.

    • Yukimi

      By natural conclusion is that since the Pearls say you need ot keep beating your child until he submits and s/he doesn’t submit, you’ll kill the child. The Pearls also say that no children will starve themself to death and will capitulate before and although that it is indeed true (not because god says it but because usually children and in fact people in general don’t have the will to do that) but if the children do in fact persevere, they would end up starving themselves, … so death it is indeed a natural consequence of these teachings if the children don’t obey.

      I consider hitting a children, abuse (it is a crime to spank in my country nowadays and it seems to be working for our society and for the multiple countries that have adopted it). If we don’t hit adults, I don’t know why we should tolerate hitting children. I wasn’t beaten by my parents (except for one occasion by my mother when I was older) but my brother and I were spanked several times daily for many minor and major offences so I know how it feels. I’m not going for anecdotal evidence about all the damage it has done to my brother and me but for the meta-analisis recently published in Canada analising the data of years and years of studies about spanking and corporal punishment and finding that it didn’t have any positive effect in children but it did have negatives effects.

      • Contrarian

        Yukimi:

        y natural conclusion is that since the Pearls say you need ot keep beating your child until he submits and s/he doesn’t submit, you’ll kill the child. The Pearls also say that no children will starve themself to death and will capitulate before and although that it is indeed true (not because god says it but because usually children and in fact people in general don’t have the will to do that) but if the children do in fact persevere, they would end up starving themselves, … so death it is indeed a natural consequence of these teachings if the children don’t obey.

        Hmm, fair point. To be fair, the folks implementing the Pearl’s methods do not believe that they will ever kill their children because (they believe) their children will decide to submit instead of die. I do know of one family which came close to killing a child by depriving of food and water until the child was actually too weak to obey, at which point the parents hurriedly backed off and instead insisted on a weaker form of deprivation (no dessert until obedience).

        I consider hitting a children, abuse (it is a crime to spank in my country nowadays and it seems to be working for our society and for the multiple countries that have adopted it). If we don’t hit adults, I don’t know why we should tolerate hitting children. I wasn’t beaten by my parents (except for one occasion by my mother when I was older) but my brother and I were spanked several times daily for many minor and major offences so I know how it feels. I’m not going for anecdotal evidence about all the damage it has done to my brother and me but for the meta-analisis recently published in Canada analising the data of years and years of studies about spanking and corporal punishment and finding that it didn’t have any positive effect in children but it did have negatives effects.

        (I don’t know why we shouldn’t hit adults, but that’s a different story.) I was not aware of this research, but I know of the general literature on the subject and incorporate its results into my own parenting.

  • John Morales

    [meta]

    But you’re just over three weeks late of Valentine’s Day,

    Your equivocation is futile: Do you really imagine these parents have romantic love for their children?

    sweetie

    Huh? You imagine we’re intimate?

    • Dianne

      Do you really imagine these parents have romantic love for their children?

      The subtext of purity balls and similar efforts of fundamentalist men to control their daughters’ sexuality suggests that the answer might be yes. Or at least erotic lust. I don’t think we’re talking about people capable of much in the way of real love, for their partners or their children. But their expressions of “love” do show some very disturbing tendencies to look like “romantic” feelings for their children.

    • Contrarian

      John – Of course we’re not intimate, darling. I’m trolling, remember? These kids’ parents don’t have romantic love for them, just parental love.

      Dianne – It’s so easy to demonize people from other cultures, isn’t it? All you have to do is imagine that they’re less than human — in your case, to think that they’re not capable of the full range of human emotions. Is it nice, being able to see the world in childish black and white?

      • Binjabreel

        Near as I can tell, Sir, you’ve camped out on the one blog that has a policy against me calling you an ass, apparently so that you can act like a giant ass.

        And sometimes? Black and white is how things are.

        You think we’re just a bunch of academics discussing this like it’s a case study? Screw you. On multiple occasions my grandfather made me climb the tree in the back yard to cut down the switch I was about to get beaten with. So go to hell, you contrarian jerk, you think you’re bringing something thought provoking to this, but you’re just a troll.

      • Contrarian

        Can’t deal with my arguments, so you’ll just resort to calling me a troll, eh? How about finding flaws in my logic, or, I don’t know, using evidence to refute my arguments?

        If you want to trade anecdotes, I’d be glad to tell you about the time that my mother kept a record of everything I did wrong one day, and then my dad came home and gave me one whack with a wooden mixing spoon for each misdemeanor. Or I could tell you about the decorated paddle my parents used to keep in the basement especially for spankings. Or the times that I was sent from the dinner table for misbehaving, while guests were over, and then spanked. Or how my mom use to walk around with a wooden spoon in her back pocket to threaten us kids to stay on task with our chores.

        Or you could turn your brain on and use it. Totally up to you.

      • Binjabreel

        Because I don’t really feel like using the incredibly small amount of free time i have arguing with some jerk who apparently thinks it’s funny to argue that torturing and brainwashing children into compliant slaves makes them happy. So you admit that the Pearls’ techniques amount to torture, but say, “hey, i’ve got some friends who get pretty good results out of torture,” and you think that doesn’t make you monstrous?

        Gosh, you mean children brought up in an environment where authority is absolute are more likely to have absolute respect for authority? Big deal. I want the next generation to understand that authority has to earn your respect like anyone else. I want them to ask questions about what they’re being asked to do and why, not just be mindlessly “productive” because someone told them to be.

      • Dianne

        Or I could tell you about the decorated paddle my parents used to keep in the basement especially for spankings.

        Oh, jeez, Contrarian. I know this is going to sound sarcastic given all the previous exchanges on this thread and I’m sorry about that, but seriously, get some therapy. Fond reminiscence of being hit with wooden spoons and having special paddles for spanking is not good for your mental health.

      • Contrarian

        Dianne:
        Those are certainly not fond memories.

        Binjabreel:

        Because I don’t really feel like using the incredibly small amount of free time i have arguing with some jerk who apparently thinks it’s funny to argue that torturing and brainwashing children into compliant slaves makes them happy.

        And yet, here you post.

        So you admit that the Pearls’ techniques amount to torture, but say, “hey, i’ve got some friends who get pretty good results out of torture,” and you think that doesn’t make you monstrous?

        Where did I say I think their results are *good*? You need to work on reading what I actually wrote instead of what you think I actually wrote.

      • John Morales

        I’m trolling, remember?

        Duh.

  • Sophia

    I find it incredibly ironic that in the example used by Michael Perl in the Youtube clip to explain the spanking method, that violence is being used to teach a child that violence is wrong. Wouldn’t that make the child more likely to learn that violence is the way to solve problems?

  • http://lovedesirepassion.com/ Macie Tyon

    Wonderful write-up person, sustain in the excellent objective. Love letters for him

  • http://www.divorceline.org/blog ????? ??? ????

    I am actually caring the distinct theme/design from the net net site. Do you run into any type of visitor getting compatible problems?

  • Pingback: Saving Children from Africa: A Quiverfull Adoption Fad

  • Pingback: The Breaking of a Child: A Story of Near Disaster

  • Heidi

    This review is unfair. That poor girl and those children should have never been treated this way. But there are parents that spank and their children are great and some awful. There are parents that don’t spank – their children can be great or awful. I have read several of the Pearls books and this is not their heart of mission for any child. These parents were sick and out of control. I don’t think most people that apply these principles are sick and out of control.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Anyone who beats a 7-month-old for crying is sick and out of control. Anyone who beats a 7-month-old for any reason at all is sick and out of control, really.

      • Heidi

        I agree. I don’t think babies should be spanked. I guess my point is more spanking is not the main part of the book, a loving relationship is. That is hard to believe if you have not read the book. I did spank, but from about 3-6 years old and 1 to 2 swats with my hand. So the Pearls methods were not mine. I am not defending the abuse of children, but I don’t think spanking equals abuse. I would not use spanking in the way the Pearls describe.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Then you’re not who was being talked about. This wasn’t directed at you. Why are you so defensive?

        What the Pearls call spanking is beating kids with wooden spoons and plumbing line. It raises welts. It can lead to bleeding. It says don’t stop until the child submits utterly, even if you as the parent are in the wrong. They call that “spanking” and it is child abuse, pure and simple. The Pearls want automatons, not independent children. They BRAG about how they have induced such fear and instant obedience that their children will do anything they say, no matter how evil or nonsensical it might be. That’s not love.

      • Heidi

        I am not being defensive:-) I am just joining in a conversation. It is hard to show tone in an this sort of conversation. I am just presenting a different point of view.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        What point of view are you presenting, exactly? You started out saying my review was “unfair.” Yes, I’m aware that the Pearls talk about “tying strings.” But they also teach parents to hit their children for crying. And then they say things like this:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/05/what-not-to-do-if-your-husband-abuses-your-kids.html

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/04/the-breaking-of-a-child-a-story-of-near-disaster.html

        What did I say in my review that was “unfair”? An apple doesn’t have to be 100% rotted through to be a rotten apple.

  • Pingback: To Train Up A Child | Awkward Moments (Not Found In Your Average) Children's Bible


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X