Some Michael Pearl Quotes on Child Training

I recently found the full text of Michael Pearl’s To Train Up a Child online, in case anyone is interested. I also found some compilations of quotes and basic teachings from both that book and another of the Pearls books, and the transcript for an interview between Anderson Cooper and Michael Pearl. I want to pull all of these things together for those who may be interested.

First, a selection of quotes and recommendations from To Train Up a Child.

The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of “every child” (p.2) for “Christians and non-Christians” (p.5) and for “every transgression” (p.1). Parents who don’t whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are “creating a Nazi” (p.45).

On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.” On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard “a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside.”

On p.44 they say not to let the child’s crying while being hit to “cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.” On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is “totally broken.”

On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And “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.” “Defeat him totally.”  On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum “a swift forceful spanking.” On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. “Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same.” They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a “wounded, submissive whimper.”

On p.47 they recommend their various whips, including “a belt or larger tree branch” to hit children.

The Pearls  recommend pulling a nursing infant’s hair (p.7), and describe tripping their non-swimming toddler so she falls into deep water (p.67).  They recommend ignoring an infant’s bumped head when he falls to the floor, and ignoring skinned knees (p.86). They also say “if your child is roughed-up by peers, rejoice.” (p.81)  And on p.103 the Pearls say if children lose their shoes, “let them go without until they (the children) can make the money to buy more.”

Next, a list of quotes from the Pearls’ book, No Greater Joy, which is a compilation of articles from their bimonthly publication.

“My two-year-old will not stay in bed when I put him down. It seems like I am whipping him too much.  No matter how many times I whip him he still gets up.”  This is their recommendation: “If your spankings are too light to gain his respect, an increase in the intensity might be more persuasive.” p.6  “If he gets up, when his feet hit the floor, spring into the room with your little switch and pop him on the bare leg one or two times.”  “Never allow him to get his way.” p.7 If a child screams or cries “Just ignore him.  Don’t be moved by it.  Don’t pick him up.”  If the child says he is hurt give him “a terrible tasting herbal potion.” p.9

On p.19 Michael Pearl jokes about a “tot” getting “half a dozen little spankings a day.”

Michael Pearl praises parents who for a year kept their young son from medical treatment and who “was so sick that when he finally got to a doctor, the doctor expressed amazement that he was still alive.” p.20

To the question “Should a mature ten-year-old be allowed to switch a two-year-old if the mother is unavailable?” Michael Pearl says sure!: “Ten-year-olds ought to be mature enough to discipline a smaller child.  In our house, there was no difference between the parents and the older children in enforcing the rule of law over the younger children.” p.24-25

When a 3 year old screams the Pearls recommend: “without saying a word go straight to the switch.  Spank her where she stands.”  “Never threaten, and never show mercy.  One squeak of a scream gets a switching.” p.26  The Pearls apparently have never read the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful!”

Here is some crazy teaching about violence from Michael Pearl:  If a child hits, bites, kicks or shoves he should get “a thorough spanking.  Children must be taught that violence is never an acceptable alternative in personal conflicts.” ??? p.27

When a 4 year old screams “Turn and walk away.  If she were to scream again, turn back and give her a spanking.”  p.30

On p. 33 “A mother describes her dilemma: `I get so frustrated with the children.  No matter how many times I tell them or spank them, they just do the same thing again.  We just go around and around.’”  Michael Pearl recommends “meeting every transgression with a swift penalty.”  “They will obey.”

On p. 34 Michael Pearl relates the story of a mother hitting her 11 month old who doesn’t want to eat any more “spinach-squash-mush” and pushes it away.  The mother “picked up her little enforcer (whip), which was lying on the table, and swatted the child’s hand.”  When the baby tries again to push the unwanted food away she “received another spat.” Michael Pearl says about this scenario: “I loved it.  It was beautiful.” (p. 35)  And then on p. 36 he says “I must encourage those of you with small children, train up your children now.  Don’t want until they are one year old to start training.  Rebellion and self-will should be broken in the six-month-old when it first appears.  Take this young mother’s example and think of ways you can train your child. (smiley face)”

On p. 46 a mother is described as ignoring her crying 3 month old, until the baby “became cheerful.” The story ends with Michael Pearl’s comment about a teenage girl visiting this mother and baby: “Maybe when this young girl becomes a mother she will have the wisdom to begin training her newborns and not wait until they are three months old.”

On p. 47 a 9 month old is left crying, sitting alone and ignored. Pearl recommends coming by to pat her on the head every 10 minutes. This is cruel and neglectful, and dangerous.

On p. 72 Michael Pearl says “switches and rods make many things mighty inconvenient (for the child). (smiley face)”

On p. 85 Michael Pearl recommends giving a little girl who won’t get into her car seat “five licks with a stinging switch.” If the girl still doesn’t get in the seat “repeat the switching.” If the little girl continues to refuse to get in the seat he says to take the seat into the house and strap the girl in it for “two or three hours.”

On p. 96: when one of the Pearls’ children tattled on another child Debi Pearl “spanked both of them regardless of who did the tattling.”

Finally, after Hana Williams died CNN did some coverage on the Pearls. I just now found a transcript of the coverage, which included some rather horrifying interviews with Michael—you can access it here.

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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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