Trained Monkeys and Seeing-Eye Dogs

If parents carefully and consistently train up their children, their performance will be superior to that of a well-trained seeing-eye dog.

This quote from Michael Pearl brought to mind a section in Robert Kunzman’s book, Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. In this excerpt, Kunzman, a researcher, is visiting a large homeschooling family in Tennessee who follow the Pearls child training methods. Gary, the father, demonstrates his child training acumen by calling on his daughter to perform for their guest:

“A year old is about when we start serious training with them,” [Gary says.] “Like this: ‘Jessica, come.’”

Jessica, who has been playing with some toys in the corner, looks up. “Come over here,” Gary repeats in a stern voice. She gives a beautiful smile and serenely walks across the kitchen and stands next to him. “Sit,” Gary orders. There’s no open chair anywhere nearby, and the two-year-old remains standing next to him, smiling happily.

“Sit,” Gary repeats.

Lauren attempts to intercede: “She’s like, ‘Where do you want me to sit, Dad?’”

“Sit down,” Garry says. His tone is one of disappointment  “All right, see, she failed. Maybe it’s the strangeness of this area, but that’s the point I make with all of them. Because you’re not in a training environment  it’s even more important for you to obey my voice.” Gary looks over at me and says, “I’m going to take advantage of this situation right now.” He turns back to his daughter. “Jessica, remember? When I say sit, you sit right then. No matter if you have a chair or anything.”

“Sit on the floor if you have to,” Stephanie advises.

Gary’s voice grows stern. “Jessica, go down to the den.” Jessica obediently walks across the room toward the doorway. Before she gets there, Gary blurts out, “Stop!” Jessica stops. “Come!” Jessica turns around and heads back to her father. “Sit.” She immediately sits on the floor, next to his chair. “All right,” Gary says approvingly. “Stand up,” he continues. Jessica rises. “Go in there and touch the living room door.” She begins to walk in that direction  “Run!” Jessica increases her pace. “Come!” She turns and goes back to her father. “Stop!” She halts in front of him. “Sit!” She sits again on the floor. “Stand up!” she rises again.

Gary turns to me. “Some of these liberal-type thinking people, you know, think that you’re creating mind-numbed robots out of your children  But they don’t understand the concept of trying to train your children in the way that they should go, training them to obey your voice. When you’re at Wal-Mart, and the kids start screaming and grabbing everything and embarrassing you to your wits’ end, you know? Or when you’re trying to talk to somebody on the phone and kids are screaming and carrying on. Your kids will humiliate you if you don’t train them.”

This passage of Kunzman’s book struck me as oh, so familiar.

The thing is, children aren’t animals, they’re miniature people who are growing into adults. It makes a heck of a lot more sense to do what we can to equip them for the adult world than to train them into obedient little automatons. Yes, children sometimes fall apart in Wal-Mart. So? Don’t take them to Wal-Mart if they’re tired and make allowances for the fact that they may very legitimately want to visit the toy aisle. Yes, children sometimes scream and carry on when you’re trying to talk on the phone. So? Make important calls while the children are at school or watching a movie or playing quietly, and realize that when children scream and carry on it may be a sign that you’ve been on the phone too long and they need some attention. What you shouldn’t do is react to the inconvenience children often present by training any sense of spirit or free will out of them!

If these people want a seeing eye dog or a trained monkey, they should go out and buy a seeing eye dog or a trained monkey.

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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.

  • Ahab

    My God, that man talked to his daughter like a pet! That excerpt demonstrated how little respect some fundamentalist parents have for their children.

    • Karen

      Most people are kinder to their pets.

  • shortcake

    I am deeply disturbed by that…it’s also uncomfortably familiar.

  • Donsie

    I am struck by the fact that Gary repeatedly cited his desire not be be embarrassed by his children as his reasoning for training them in this way. Very telling.

    • Nea

      Yeah. It’s not about the kid’s needs at all. It’s about how HE is seen and how proud HE is of HIS training.

    • The_L

      Indeed. Gary has forgotten the First Law of Children:
      When they are under 10, they will embarrass you frequently, and that’s OK.
      When they are teens, you will embarrass them frequently, and that’s also OK.
      By the time they’re adults, you’ll have both figured out how not to embarrass each other so much.

    • Mary C

      Avoiding public embarrassment (and in general how you appear to other people) is a common thread through Debi Pearl’s writing as well. They almost seem to care more about that than about anything else. Very neurotic.

  • saramaimon

    oh my god that was too painful to read

  • John C

    Rather than homeschool, a couple of weeks at a dog training centre is probably enough.
    Of all the posts about homeschooling on this site, this is the most disturbing.

  • Watry

    Jesus fucking Christ. According to my vet student friend, this is a terrible way to train a dog, let alone a child, even if we leave off the problem of ‘training’ a child in the first place.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      As if the disrespect and humiliation of the children weren’t bad enough, the fact that all of this is based on outdated animal training methods just gives the whole thing a really disgusting irony.

      The idea that you have to “break the will” of your horse is not how modern trainers operate. Rather, modern training is based on mutual training between rider and horse, and mutual respect and trust, so that the horse follows the rider’s lead because it respects the rider and wants to make it happy. Same with dogs – all the old dog training methods (like that Cesar Milano crap) is based on research done on wolves in captivity which, as we’ve more recently found out, doesn’t actually reflect wolf behaviour in the wild. Same as with the horses, modern trainers teach dogs by acting in a way that elicits feelings of love and respect from the dog so that they WANT to follow directions.

      And it’s far more effective, too. If something scares your horse, you’re going to have a lot more success maintaining control if your horse trusts you than if your horse is also scared of you.

      • ako

        Not too long ago, my parents started training a new dog, and it totally wasn’t about dominance or breaking the will or punishing the dog for not obeying perfectly. They took in a dog from a bad home environment, and they put a lot of energy into making her feel more confident and secure (which reduced problem behavior a lot, and solved some of the problems completely), providing regular exercise (dogs which have burned off their excess energy walking and playing are less likely to get into trouble), giving lots of affection (a dog that feels loved is going to be more eager to please), and making sure they communicating in a way that the dog could understand (a big issue for a dog with hearing problems). This lead to an extremely sweet, affectionate, well-behaved, and happy dog. (And in terms of principles you can use with children, “Make sure they understand what’s being asked of them”, “Give them a healthy outlet for their energy”, “Make them feel safe and secure”, and “Make sure they know they’re loved” are all actually useful.)

  • smrnda

    I wanted to defend kids who break down and embarrass their parents in stores, as you pointed out that this was just normal and expected behavior. I was once at the store, looking to buy some wine. A woman was in the same aisle and was wondering around looking at wines with a kid in her cart. I’m just going to assume it was her daughter.

    The kid wasn’t having a good time, and was protesting being subjected to the boring trip of her mom walking up and down the wine aisle. I think that makes sense – the kid is confined to a cart while the adult is doing something the kid has absolutely no interest in. How would an adult like to be confined in a cart while kids run around and look at toys? We’d be bored out of our minds and would complain too. Reverse the situation and the mom would be saying she’s sick of toys and wants to check out the wine.

    I think kids need to learn to complain. Otherwise they’ll grow up and not be able to stand up for themselves.

    • Aeryl

      Hell, complaining in the store presents a valuable opportunity to TEACH for the parents who are, you know, interested in that sort of thing. Perfect time to discuss the optimal ways to get your complaints across(I know you’re bored, but throwing your stuff won’t make me move faster), how to accept disappointment(I know you’d rather not be here, but we HAVE to do this now), how to make compromises(Look, if you can hold on for just a few minutes, we’ll go see the toys right after this, ok?).

      The child may be to young to learn these lessons, but they’ll remember the measured response and it’s good practice for parents too!

      • ERB

        Well said.
        I was raised in a “liberal” household, but my mother would still say she subscribed to the “children should be seen and not heard” philosophy (how true that is is doubtful). The thing is, I knew not to interrupt her when she was speaking to someone else because she helped me learn that by kindly explaining to me why and telling me a more polite way to handle it. And time and again, if I was there, obviously waiting for her attention, she would give it.
        When I see a similar scenario where a child is repeating “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom,” I can’t help thinking “why are you leaving them ignorant of how to handle this situation? And why do they not feel you will pay attention to them shortly?”

  • centauri

    I was cringing the whole time I was reading that excerpt.
    Just how do they think that’s how one raises healthy, competent adults?

    • RowanVT

      They don’t want healthy, competent adults. They want complete control over the lives, thoughts, and emotions of their offspring.

    • The_L

      I still don’t understand how someone can think that top-down discipline and self-discipline are somehow the same thing. One is imposed from outside, the other is cultivated within. Just because your child comes to you when you call, doesn’t mean she’s automatically going to be able to file her taxes, empty the dishwasher, go to work on time, run errands, or cook for her own kids without ever being told to do so.

      Doing what you know you need to do as an adult is very, very different from doing what you’re being told to do.

      • centauri

        And yet almost every quiverfull-blog you read has something on it like “We’re not raising *kids*, we’re raising ADULTS!!!!!”
        And then the next post is about blanket-training the toddler…
        *facepalm* Counterproductive, much?

  • Mostlylurking

    Obedience is for dogs and horses, not children. I don’t train my daughter to be obedient, I model and teach manners, respect and empathy. I have higher expectations of her than my horse.

    • The_L

      To a lot of these people, “respect” and “obey” are synonymous.

  • Bob Jase

    “Some of these liberal-type thinking people, you know, think that you’re creating mind-numbed robots out of your children But they don’t understand the concept of trying to train your children in the way that they should go, training them to obey your voice. ”

    Wasn’t that the slogan for the Hitler Youth?

    • Kit

      Funny, I read that and thought “But you did just create a mind-numbed robot out of your child.”

      • Mary C


  • Niemand

    But they don’t understand the concept of trying to train your children in the way that they should go

    This bothers me on so many levels. Most of them have already been discussed, but I still have one point to make: How do I know where they SHOULD go? It is true that I most likely have a better idea of what is and is not safe than a toddler. But an older child or an adult? How am I able to decide what they should do better than they can? I can’t, of course! I’m not them, I don’t have their internal experience or their perceptions. What if I’m telling them to do something that they know is dangerous or undesirable (perhaps because they see something I don’t-simple example: suppose I tell the kid “get in the car” and she can see that a carjacker has just jumped into the car and is about to drive it off-I don’t want an unthinking obedient robot then, do I? Well maybe the Pearls do. They don’t seem to mind losing a kid or two now and then.)

    I just hope the Pearls’ kids grow up some day and realize that they are now more powerful than Michael and walk away from him. Just walk away, never look back, never visit, never acknowledge him in any way. Because that’s the worst revenge you can take on a dictator: not punishment, not even disobedience, but ignoring them as irrelevant.

    • minuteye

      I agree with you completely. If you keep someone safe by teaching them to obey you, and ordering them not to do things that are unsafe, then they can only deal with things that you’ve anticipated. If you give them tools to evaluate the world and make decisions to keep themselves safe, they can deal with just about anything.

  • Hannah M

    That is a terrifying passage. I was raised in a fairly conservative home, but even with us obedience was something that was taught because of its value in keeping us safe and healthy. If we lose track of the two-year-old and he wanders into the street, it’s *important* that he respond immediately when we call him to come back. Or, less imperatively, if the 3-year-old is told to ask instead of climbing up on the counters to get something she wants, it’s because she can legitimately hurt herself falling off of it. It’s not to keep the parents from being embarrassed or humiliated. It’s not a trick to show off to their friends. It’s to be used when there is a legitimate, necessary command that, if ignored, could escalate into something much more serious.

    • David K

      Exactly. I’m a pretty liberal single dad, but even then, my kids know the tone of voice that means listen NOW. I don’t ever use that tone of voice otherwise, either, which helps. After the situation has passed, I let them know why I yelled at them, and we talk about it (it’s dangerous if you run out in a parking lot/street, etc.). I’m down to maybe once a week between both a 2 and a 4 year old, and that’s including taking them on shopping excursions and such. It’s easy to get children to listen to you if you give them a reason to, and don’t just beat it into them.

      • Magpie

        This is true. Explaining the reason for rules makes it easier for children to follow them, especially in a slightly different situation. Even at four years old. “don’t run onto the road” is a rule, but what if it’s a dirt track on the farm? If you have explained “because of cars” the kids can work it out themselves.

      • Anat

        Unless your child is on the autism spectrum and s/he isn’t that good at recognizing differences in tone and what they mean. And takes rules so literally you need a law degree to formulate rules without having them backfire. In that case, sit tight and get lots of experienced support.

      • Christine

        I can’t speak for “low functioning”, but I would NOT have reacted well to child training. My parents treated me as a person when I was a kid. (They were strict, but I was allowed to question, expectations were age-appropriate, etc). Despite that, my husband complains that I act like I’m expecting unreasonable responses any time I have to use my initiative. Can you imagine what I’d be like if I’d been taught not to use it?

    • kecks

      if you are really afraid for your little one (counter, street…) your voice will show that and kid *will* react to it. evolution and stuff. emotions are in your voice, too. they hear you. i am german and i just do not get how some american parents seem to value “obedience” alone as something good. german parents even the most conservative ones do not do this. obedience was devalued here some 60 years ago because the nazis just loved obedience (“fuehrerprinzip” – one guy tells you what to do, you do it, no questions asked; after the nazis were gone people responded to questions like “why did you do that horrible thing or this” just by saying “i was told to do it”.)

      • The_L

        My mother always made it totally clear that the reason she was telling us to do something was because disobeying was unsafe. “Don’t run out into the road, because car drivers can’t see kids and they might hit you.” “Don’t get a cookie yet–I just took them out of the oven and they’re very hot and could burn you.” “Pick up your toys, so you can find them later and won’t hurt your feet stepping on them.”

        My dad, on the other hand, was a military veteran, and had the idea of “always obey orders” drilled into his head so well, that he didn’t see any need in explaining WHY. We were just supposed to to what he said, when he told us to do it, or else “you won’t be able to sit for a week.” (We never dared test that threat.) Guess which parent better prepared me for life as an adult?

        I think the problem is that over here, the fact that adults tend to know better than small children just sort of morphed into “Do what your parents tell you, no matter what, because they know what they’re talking about.” Look at 101 Dalmatians. With very few exceptions, what the parent dogs tell their kids isn’t explained. It’s just “Do as your [parent] says.” This was considered to be how normal, good parenting works. And this was in 1961!

  • K

    Poor little girl :( She is not a pet, shes a human being who needs to be treated with respect.

    I got about halfway through before I realised it wasnt someone training their monkey or dog.

  • saraquill

    Poor child must be exhausted after running back and forth at the whims of the Giver of Pain. (I do not think “father” is an adequate descriptor.) Humiliating a child like that to impress a stranger, and stripping her of her dignity and humanity must be a form of psychological abuse. It is probably backed up with physical abuse.

    • Kellen

      If this guy is into the Pearls’, there’s no “probably” about it.

      • Alice

        And the words “I’m going to take advantage of this situation” were telling to me.

  • Kellen

    The Pearls’ do have an excellent point: training guide-dogs is way easier than being a decent parent. I think I’ll go with the dogs.

  • Alix

    That is horrifying.

    The dad – the utter lack of empathy there is astounding, and his whole thing about how children need to learn to obey instantly so they don’t humiliate him in public is both telling and very familiar. My dad ascribed to the same philosophy, though without the bullshit fundamentalist backing, and … I just realized that if my dad read this same passage, he’d see it as what he wished he could’ve accomplished with us, and how he’d failed as Master of the House.

    I’ve got the shivers now. This is horrifying. That poor girl; I wish I could reach through the screen and drag her out of that life.

    …My apologies. I didn’t mean to make an All About Me comment, but – yeah. *shivers*

  • kecks

    btw not even dogs are trained with these methods today. these guys never heard about clicker training and the like. no need for abuse. how a child can be seriously be trained like a dog only is beyond me. these guys are nuts or evil or both. only possible explanation to me.

  • ako

    Unlike this child, guide dogs are actually trained in intelligent disobedience. People who train guide dogs recognize that it’s a really stupid idea to use a living creature with an actual brain as if it were some mindless robot, and they specifically teach the dogs that it’s sometimes okay to disobey the handler (such as if they’re being ordered to step in front of a speeding car), and teach handlers to not expect constant, mindless obedience. A good relationship with a service dog is a parternship, and they’re actually treated with more respect for their brain and judgement than children given this sort of obedience training.

    Also, how vulnerable will a kid raised with these beliefs be to abuse? Especially girls, considering the patriarchal beliefs in question. Raise a girl thinking that she’s required to defer to the male authority in her family at all times in all ways, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if he’s hurting her, and what do you think will happen if the guy in question isn’t totally trustworthy and benevolent? How hard will it be for a girl who’s been constantly drilled with “Sit, stay, fetch!” to trust her own judgement, to break away from an abuser who’s ordering her to stay and take it, or to even recognize that she deserves better? One of the classic abuser behavioral patterns is to make a constant stream of excessive and unreasonable demands, and when the abuse victim inevitably fails to do everything perfectly, use that mistake as an excuse for further abuse.

    • phantomreader42

      To these monsters, the vulnerability to abuse is not a bug, it’s a feature.

    • Nea

      Like Phantomreader said, that’s a feature not a bug. It means that the girl will grow up to blame herself for being abused. It means that the girl may not even classify the things that happen to her as abuse.

      And most of all, it means that after a lifetime of being treated like dirt and being told that’s safety, while the world outside is “unsafe” — it means that she is far, far less likely to run for fear that the world outside is worse or for the knowledge that she doesn’t know how to get along in it.

  • RenadaJoy

    Wait, I thought we were supposed to be raising trained MONKEYS. Now that I realize that an enhanced seeing-eye dog is the ultimate goal of parenthood, I can stop teaching all of these time-intensive tasks that require opposable thumbs. It sucks that I’ll have to start cooking my own meals again, but at least the kids can still bring my husband his slippers and the newspaper!

  • OurSally

    My dad tried that for our entire childhood, backed up alway by violence. Maybe the reason we all left home as soon as possible.
    The revenge is this; every weekend he rang up “when are you coming to see us?” “Oh, next year”. And every single letter home was addressed to Mum. We didn’t even all make it to his funeral.

    • Conuly

      I would’ve thought you would want to make sure he was dead.

  • KristinMH

    Jesus, I wouldn’t expect my dogs to respond to such an illogical string of commands, let alone a toddler. All he is doing is demonstrating what complete power he has over her, showing off for his guest. Dude is on a MAJOR power trip.

    In the adoption thread someone posted a quote to the effect of “adoption is about giving kids the parents they need, not giving adults the children they want”. I feel like the same standard applies to bio kids. Parenting isn’t about making your child an advertisement of what a great patriarch you are, it’s a constant give and take and balancing the needs of parent and child. What an egomaniacal bastard.

    • Christine

      The really disturbing thing about this sort of child abuse advocacy is that it’s often presented as something that you do *for the kids’ sake*. So even people who agree that parenting is about the children’s needs may get sucked into this sort of thing.

  • Niemand

    Another thought I had about this post yesterday night. Leaving aside the damage to the child for the moment, consider the damage to any parent who follows the Pearls’ example. That means that they’re settling for so much less than they could have from their children. Parents who raise their children well can have their children’s respect, love, and, yes, obedience, though it will be a more intelligent obedience than this poor child is being forced to display. Instead, they’ll get nothing but mindless obedience-for as long as they can control the child in some way-and hatred. Because this child hates her father. She may never express it, she may never even consciously realize it, but violence and demand for obedience don’t produce love, they produce hate. She certainly knows that she is afraid of him. Maybe some day she’ll see that fear as a good thing or maybe she’ll break away from him because of it, but she’ll always fear him. It will never be possible for her to form an adult relationship with him. She may take passive or active revenge on him some day or she may play dutiful daughter until the end of her life, but she’ll never give him anything of her true self. The self she could have been if she’d been raised by decent people.

    Why would any parent settle for obedience, fear, and hatred from their child when they could have love, respect, and understanding? Why settle for an obedient robot when you could have a creative child-and, eventually, adult-who will delight you and the world with his or her creativity, understanding, compassion, and maybe even grandchildren? I feel sad for any young parent who reads the Pearls’ book and takes its advice. If it were up to me I’d recatagorize the book from nonfiction to fiction. Specifically, horror fiction.

    • Anat

      Why would any parent settle for obedience, fear, and hatred from their child when they could have love, respect, and understanding?

      Because they see the obedience path as more certain than the understanding path? Because they don’t trust themselves and their child to be successful in the ‘love, respect and understanding’ path?

      • Niemand

        Then why have them at all? I can certainly understand not being sure that your child will succeed if you try to teach them right from wrong and how to live a good and successful life, but if you’re so certain that the child will fail* that you don’t even want to try, why have the child in the first place?

        *Or, more to the point, that you will fail. That is, that you** don’t have it in you to raise a child who can succeed in life. If that’s so, then fine, some people simply don’t have it in them and that’s fine. Don’t have children. But don’t make a child miserable by giving them life and then depriving them of any chance of success or happiness.
        **I hope this goes without saying, but just in case, that’s a “generic you”, not directed at the person who wrote the comment I’m referring to.

      • chervil

        “Then why have them at all?”

        Because a dark and angry God must be appeased? Because parents want to assure themselves that they are seen favorably by their god, so they torment their children in his name? The more the better?

        Burnt offerings are ancient history, the temple has been destroyed, now homes are churches, fathers are holy leaders and children are the new burnt offerings.

        Funny, how we are considered the selfish ones, while offering up your children to increase your own godliness, to torment and torture them, hit and humiliate them to show how godly you are is selfless.

      • Jayn

        Oh, but he’s not doing it for his sake, he’s doing it to teach his daughter how to be Godly, and then she can go out into the world and show other people what Godly People are like and be a good witness to make the world more Christian and help save more people. More people will get into Heaven because of him, so it’s totally selfless!

        The fact that his daughter will be totally unprepared for how to do the ‘right’ thing when someone isn’t there to tell her what to do will never cross his mind.

    • chervil

      “Why would any parent settle for obedience, fear, and hatred from their child when they could have love, respect, and understanding?”

      Because the parents see their children not as individuals to cherish and adore but as their life-long human sacrifice to God?

    • Nea

      Instead, they’ll get nothing but mindless obedience-for as long as they can control the child in some way

      And if/when she snaps, her father will never, EVER understand why. Ever. She smiled, didn’t she? That meant she was happy, didn’t it?

      He has no clue that he’s simply taught that tiny child that outward expression has nothing to do with inward emotion… *even when the rest of his own family* is pointing out that while she stands there, serenely smiling, she is actually confused and doesn’t know what to do.

      At least he gave her a clear instruction after someone else pointed out the problem instead of beating the utter crap out of her for “rebellion” simply because she didn’t understand. Of course, this has probably already happened to her and it will happen again, but I take an infinitesimal ray of hope for her that she wasn’t pounded on then and there, nor was the family member who explained the problem (publicly) rebuked for speaking up for her.

      Which doesn’t excuse the fact that the father wouldn’t need to have it explained to him if he wasn’t asking the ridiculous and inhumane to begin with.

      • RenadaJoy

        Nea, this really struck home with me.

        My husband is completely incapable of recognizing when I am upset or angry, and has a hard time believing that I am feeling that way when I say I am because my biggest smiles break out when I am under emotional duress. At least I am able to tell him how I am really feeling, even though my body hasn’t quite yet learned to get with the program.

        I find it deeply ironic that adherents of this child raising philosophy claim that they want to raise up generations who will impact society for Christ, when they’re actually creating generations who will smile and cooperate without any resistance when the Antichrist comes along (according to their literal interpretation of the bible, that is.)

      • Nea

        Oh, RenadaJoy, that was heartbreaking to read. I’m glad you’re finding a way out, even if ingrained habit is very hard to break.

        The ironies of this upbringing would take an hour to list. They’re not raising an army, they really are raising compliant machines, too terrified or cowed to do more than smile serenely while obeying orders regardless of how insane or inhumane those orders are. They’re supposedly going to impact society for Christ… and yet they’re taught to fear and misunderstand society to the point that when they do go out in it, they end up as rhetorical roadkill, completely unprepared for a world of different viewpoints, different goals, different beliefs, and no hard-and-fast answers.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    Why have kids if you don’t want or like kids? Incidentally, my son never humiliates me in public. He rarely has a meltdown at the store because we time going to when he’s just a nap and some food and is feeling good. And while we’re there, I keep him engaged by asking him to name the food we see, or help me by carrying the basket or choosing the kind of fruit we should buy. As for the phone, I make my important calls either when he’s asleep, or I ask my husband to take him to the park for a little while. And if it’s a social call, “kiddo wants to talk to you too!” and passing the phone over works perfectly well.

    • Nea

      Because his culture tells him that he must have kids and he must have lots of kids and they all must behave in a certain manner or there’s something wrong with HIM. It all boils down to his ego, his reputation, and his sense of self.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Precisely. And you see that in how he treats his daughter like a possession to show off. I do the exact same thing when I have guests, except that I show them my paintings, or my latest crafty creations. He is treating his little girl not as a person to be nurtured but as a thing he’s made – and he’s showing her off as such.

  • Rena

    That was a totally disgusting example, what an egotistical maniac!!!!
    Too close to home, tooooo close. My mother prides herself to THIS DAY regarding how she “trained us”, bragging she “trained us like Dogs”. She is proud to say it exactly like that.
    Many memories of walking around two steps behind my mother in public as she’d shrilly yell “Heel!” (the Dog Command for follow close). I didn’t notice it, but to this day she STILL DOES IT and I’m 30. When I was visiting her she commanded “Rena, HEEL!” and I started following her around, confusing and upsetting my husband who wan in shock. She also commands my father to “Heel” and is always accusing him of running off in public, I don’t know how he survives.

    • Niemand

      Not that you asked for my advice, but may I suggest you walk away from her and never go back? Don’t spend time with her, don’t communicate with her, especially don’t let her see your children lest they learn the same lesson. She doesn’t deserve the pleasure of your company.

  • sylvia_rachel

    Holy SHEEP.

    I’ve read this kind of horrifying description of how you turn a small child into a mindlessly obedient robot whose only permitted emotion is “happy” before, but it’s amazing how much more horrifying it is when, instead of being written by a proponent of the system, it’s documented in this calm ethnographic way by a neutral third party who hasn’t drunk the kool-aid.

    I’m pretty sure that producing mindlessly obedient adults is a feature, not a bug — there’s an article where Michael Pearl boasts about how his adult kids, who are themselves parents, are so well trained that if they were holding a glass of iced tea and he yelled “HOT!” they would immediately drop it, even though it’s obviously not hot. I don’t think it occurs to him that anyone might find this a TOTALLY APPALLING parenting outcome.

    The Pearls believe, or claim to believe, that they are somehow saving kids’ souls by beating them into “happy” submission. The Inquisition is supposed to have believed something like that, too…

    • K

      Thats disgusting.

      He has completely and utterly broken and crushed the spirits of his children.

      Why do they advertise breaking a child as a good thing, when things are broken, theres a problem with them tbat needs to be fixed. They see children as a gift from God, but why do they break that gift right in front of him.

      Anyone wishing to train their child in this way should start saving up for therapy before the pee stick dries. Its going to take a lot to undo the damage theyve done.

      • Stacey B.

        You’re right, they claim to love children, especially in their views on abortion: an unborn child is precious and needs to be saved, but once the kids grow up, it’s a different story. If they can glorify a fetus, how is that they can treat their children so shamefully?

      • Niemand

        If they can glorify a fetus, how is that they can treat their children so shamefully?

        A fetus can’t talk, move in a conscious manner, or do anything else that would challenge them. It’s safe for them to “love” a fetus because they can project anything they want onto it.

  • A Reader

    I couldn’t even finish the passage. My dad was strict, he had serious anger issues, and he could be very controlling, but even he would never do that. This is sickening. How can these people respect those with different beliefs, how can they function in the world, if they’re so heartless that they treat their own children like animals??

    • Nea

      They don’t respect other beliefs and they consider the world evil, that’s how.

  • Rilian

    This is the kind of training that typical schools (try to) do.

    • Christine

      *citation needed

      • Rilian

        Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
        Also, 11 years of direct observation. And other people telling me their experiences.

      • M

        I haven’t read Dumbing Us Down, but I strongly doubt the author argued that public schools try to crush all spirit out of children and turn them into mindless drones. Additionally, my public school experience did nothing of the sort- chalk me up to counter-anecdote, please. I was on the debate team, I argued back with my teachers (and won sometimes!), and I basically forced the guidance counselor to write my letter of recommendation for a full scholarship to the school I wound up attending (not what was in it, just get it done on time). If I’d been a broken, spiritless husk, I’d never have done any of that.

      • Christine

        Rilian, there is a difference between not teaching creativity and breaking all ability to think for oneself.

        And 21 years of direct observation, discussions with certified teachers and reading curriculum standards completely disagree with your claim. Things like “critical thinking” and “how to form an argument” completely undermine this sort of lack of thinking.

    • sylvia_rachel

      It’s certainly nothing like anything I experienced in any of the public schools I went to. One (overcrowded, underfunded) school in Spain in the early 1980s was pretty bad, but the problems were due mostly to sheer inattention than to anything like this — my class had 60 students, and believe me the teacher didn’t have the time or energy for this kind of crap. The rest of my schools were, I would say, good to great in terms of valuing creativity, offering opportunities for negotiation, and teaching critical thinking.

      I will say that I had bad experiences with bullying in junior high and the latter half of elementary school, and I wish someone had been more on the ball in doing something about that.

      I know lots of people have bad experiences in public school, but an awful lot of people have good experiences, too.

  • smrnda

    Have to say, I attended public schools and we were allowed a lot of leverage to pick how we would learn, what to focus on, what types of projects to do, and even how we’d be graded, and this wasn’t some elite high school but a mostly working class high school in an urban area. We got to choose what books to read and what topics to write about. I don’t remember it being particularly stifling.

    Now, I will say that a reason for this might have been that I attended a predominately minority and immigrant schools in the US, where teachers realized they didn’t really share the same culture as their students and that the teachers admitted that they had to be willing to listen to the kids in order to teach and connect with such a diverse student body. They realized that a bunch of Latino, Slavic, Jewish and Black kids would probably not enjoy stuffy literature about upper class British people, and that history should not just focus on white male property owners.

    • Rilian

      That wasn’t my experience at all, and I went to government schools in 4 different cities. So it’s not very likely, is it, that I just happened to get crappy ones.

      • M

        Depends entirely on the socioeconomic level of your parents, actually.

    • ako

      I also had a public school education (including four different schools by the time I was eight – my parents moved around a lot), and I had a lot of opportunities to make choices, be creative, and approach projects and assignments in varied and innovative ways. It wasn’t perfect, but overall I consistently received a good education, and teachers generally showed some flexibility in working with student strengths and weaknesses. (I had one history assignment where I turned in a hand-sewn beaded bag, and a couple of really good teachers who were fond of letting me write stories or poetry riffing off the works we were reading, rather than a steady stream of analytic essays.) I had a lot of choices, including some really cool opportunities to learn new and different things, and it wasn’t anything like this sort of rote drilling.

  • Rilian

    If you had a good time, I’m happy for you. Regardless, I should be allowed to leave school if I choose so I don’t suffer. I did leave but I wish I had known sooner that I could do that.