“The Rod Is a Tool To Stay Connected.” Say What?

I recently got a rather odd comment on a post in which I discussed Michael and Debi Pearl and their child training methods:

You are taking the book out of context. The point they continued to emphasize was that you need to keep in communion with your children and the rod is a tool to stay connected.

Look, the book is now online, so it’s not like people can’t read it for themselves and see whether or not I’m not taking it out of context (I’m not). But the thing is, it is true that the Pearls talk a lot about what they call “tying strings.”

Enjoy your children. Make yourself indispensable to their happiness. Maintain fellowship with your children. Earn their respect. Become an example of cheerfulness. Create an atmosphere of good will that makes them want to obey you.

It’s this sort of thing that makes parents like mine praise the Pearls up and down, and quickly disavow any criticism. The Pearls emphasize having a close and loving relationship with your children. They talk about houses filled with laughter and fellowship, and turning the hearts of the children toward their parents. It’s all beautiful and bubbly and rainbows.

Except for the rod, and the idea that parents must conquer their children.

I’m honestly not sure how people like the Pearls or the commenter quoted above honestly think that the rod—or the strictly-enforced requirement that children must obey every parental command immediately and without question—is a tool to help parents stay connected with their children, to aid in creating communion between parents and their offspring. It doesn’t work like that. I mean, try transferring this same mentality to the spousal relationship: “Sorry honey, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from you lately. I guess I’ll just have to hit you with this stick! I mean, you want to keep in communion with me, right?” Sounds crazy now, right?

Look, I was raised on the Pearls’ methods, and the idea that those methods connect parent and child is ludicrous. I learned to obey my parents not because I wanted to, but rather because I didn’t have a choice. You can’t expect to end up with a child who obeys you because she wants to obey you if you don’t even give her an alternative option. It doesn’t work like that. Here’s a quote from To Train Up a Child that serves as a good example of this:

One father tells of his training sessions with each new toddler. He sets aside an evening for “booty” camp, which is a boot camp for toddlers. The child of ten to twelve months is left alone to become deeply interested in a toy or some delightful object. From across the room or just inside the other room, the father calls the child. If he ignores the call, the father goes to him and explains the necessity of immediately coming when called, and then leads him to the father’s chair. The child thus led through these paces is being programmed.

He is returned to the toy and left alone long enough to again become engrossed. Another call, and, if no response, the father gives a patient explanation and demonstration of the desired response. The parent, having assured himself of the child’s understanding, once again sets up the situation and calls the child. This time, if there is not an immediate response the child is lightly spanked and lectured. The father continues this throughout the evening until the child readily and immediately responds to a summons. Thereafter, until the child leaves home, he is expected to drop everything and come upon the first call. As long as the parents remain consistent, the child will consistently obey. This “obedience training” is carried out in the utmost patience and concentration. The spanking should not be viewed as punishment, but as reinforcement to commands.

What in the world does Pearl think the use of the rod is teaching these children? In the scenario he describes, the baby isn’t given any option but to obey. The “boot camp” won’t end until the baby obeys, after all, and if the baby doesn’t obey he will be hit until he does so. How does Pearl expect to end up with children who obey because they want to if those children aren’t given any other option, and are faced with physical pain if they don’t obey?

The only thing I remember the rod teaching me is that when I didn’t obey I would pay for it, and that I should be afraid of my mother and father because if I stepped out of line I would end up with a spanking. Even when I was a teen and my mother’s right hand girl, I still feared her, because I knew what would happen if I didn’t obey and please her—the time when I “sassed” her and was rewarded with a slap in the face, hard, was seared in my memory.

The rod never made me feel connected to my parents. Ever. Actually, it made me feel afraid of them. And that’s sure as hell not the same thing.

Busting the Mommy Myth
Sorting Out the Good from the Bad
The Radical Notion that Children Can Have Anxiety Too
Lesbian Duplex 14: An Open Thread
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.

  • persephone

    I was last whipped with a belt by my dad when I was 14. That beating did break something, but it wasn’t my will. It broke the last bit of trust I had in my parents, which led to the breaking of my trust in so many other things, including their religion.

    I’m not a Dr. Phil fan, but I happened to see an episode where he discussed corporal punishment. A young mother was complaining that her toddler daughter was becoming more difficult and rebellious. Phil questioned her, and she said that she would slap her daughter’s hand and swat her on the butt. Phil went up to her and told her to hit his hand the way she hit her daughter’s. Of course, she couldn’t do it, which led to Phil asking her how she would react to someone who slapped her.

    As you said, beatings don’t teach children anything but to be scared.

    • Ibis3

      Well, they also teach that if you want to get someone to do something, you need to use violence. That if you want to stop someone from doing something you don’t like, you need to use violence. That the person with the most strength or the best weapon is the boss and that they have the right to use violence against anyone who would disobey them.

    • The_L1985

      Or at least, not to get caught. Half the mischief I got up to as a child, I went out of my way to avoid getting caught. It didn’t work–I still got spanked–but I kept trying, because when you’re told that you’re a “genius,” you come to expect that one day, you’ll be able to keep a step ahead of your own parents.

  • aim2misbehave

    “Explains the necessity of immediately coming when called”

    I’m totally crap at childcare, but I’m still pretty sure that’s not really something a 10-12 month old child could even comprehend, much less actually do every time without having it literally beat into them, so the sound of their parents calling their name becomes like a Pavlov’s bell kind of thing but with fear and pain instead of food.

  • Hat Stealer

    Even the language the Pearls employ is creepy, and really ilustraights their mentality when it comes to children. They speak of “programming” a child, as if the child were a robot or a blank slate to impose their will upon. I suppose this sort of thinking benefits the fundies, who want to make sure that their children grow up to be perfectly brainwashed, God-fearing, evolution-hating Jesus freaks.

    • Rosie

      They think it benefits them, but I’m not sure it does. Because if you look at developmental psychology, you’ll find that these methods tend to make for kids long on shame and guilt, and short on trust…and a good many will find they don’t and can’t trust God, once they’re grown. In fact they may be unwittingly raising the next generation of anti-theists.

    • Alice

      Yes, I also think “Make yourself indispensable to their happiness” is a little creepy. Like “If your kids are happy with anyone else at all, then you won’t have 100% control over them.”

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        Yep. Of course, the Pearls would read your second sentence and fail to see the problem. The idea of raising a child to be independent is as foreign to them as the idea of raising a chair to think for itself. They’re all just property to them.

    • Cherí

      Funny, I overheard my dad explaining to a relative the other day that why my parents had homeschooled me was so that he didn’t have to “reprogram” me every evening when I came home from school. I never went to public school, and I went to a Christian university, and I still turned out (so far) agnostic and liberal. So much for my “programming,” eh?

      • Christine

        I thought that the “reprogramming” was the point of sending kids to school. I certainly see it as an advantage. Not only does it give us stuff to talk about, but she’ll be exposed to ideas that are different from ours. Clearly I’m one of those crazy liberals.

      • Alice

        I agree, but fundies often don’t see the value in learning from many different people’s ideas because they think they know everything and everyone else is wrong.

    • kcars1

      I made some comment about my children (then preschoolers) thinking for themselves — not that explicit but basically it was that I couldn’t dictate was they thought — and my FIL was aghast. He told me that I could and should program my children’s thinking (though he wanted, no expected, me to change what I thought because he said so, no attempt to persuade just an expectation of obedience)… I just smiled because while my older, a highly compliant child may have fooled me into thinking my children were empty vessels for me to pour my worldview into, my younger child quickly robbed me of that illusion… like before he could talk.

      This year, said child delighted in supporting Romney and one mayoral candidate (2 separate elections) despite my SO and my fervent support of Obama and the OTHER mayoral candidate… as a kindergartner… He’s made me a far better parent to BOTH of my children because I have to engage in conversation with him as he fails parroting.

  • kisarita

    I would suggest you change that very graphic picture

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

      I removed it, but honestly, to me it looked staged, not graphic at all. But maybe it doesn’t look that way to someone who didn’t grow up with that as normal as a child.

  • Hannah_Thomas

    The Pearl’s attitudes overall towards ANYONE it seems is extremely critical, and very unwelcoming. Anyone can be nice at times, or have something good to say.

    Much of what they say isn’t biblical, but opinion ‘marketed’ as biblical. Parents can get their ‘toddlers’ to grasp their point about coming when called without having to set up them like this. Life gives you plenty of opportunities for that. They certainly do not understand the mind of toddler, nor do they want to. That’s their first error. What does that teach the children?

    The way they constantly talk down to people is just awful. The name calling, and then their strange theories on how ‘marriage’ should work. Bleck!

    I was the same as you – I feared my parents. I didn’t trust them, and they were not the first people I came to when I truly needed guidance. Where is the bible does it state that children should have that type of fear of family? If they think that is some sort of ‘love’ their nuts! I’m OLD at this point, and I still remember this. I also remember wanting to hurt them back – after the ‘will was broken’ – and I came up for air. I resented them, and they were not in the proper place of respect due to the contempt I felt from them. No doubt contempt is NOT what they were after, but that is how I saw it. No preaching wouldn’t have changed that either.

    I was creative with discipline, because my kids were different. I learned what got the message across, and what didn’t. I didn’t want that fear inside of them, and I wanted them to have someone to guide them without that present. I didn’t want them going someplace else.

    I only remember a handful of times I put my hands on them. It was extreme error. For example, child learned about 911 that day at school. We go out to eat, and she goes to the bathroom. What does the stinker do? Gets on the payphone and dials it to see what would happen. I didn’t do the Pearl extreme, but I made it clear it happened because they could have cost someone dearly coming to the restaurant, and not a heart attack. I felt life and death needed some extra attention along those lines, and I would bet that is the only time they remember me doing it. The rest were things like slapping a hand when it was going near a fire type of thing – reaction more than discipline when young.

    I’d love to coin a term of their teaching as ‘hillbilly’, but that would do a disservice to all the proper God lovin Hillbillies in the world. They need a special term all their own, and it wouldn’t be complementary.

  • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

    This is completely antithetical to how Christians view God “the Father.” I remember have this conversation numerous times. Why does God allow evil in the world? Because free will! If God didn’t give us the choice to obey him, we would all be mindless automatons. He lets us act how we want, good or bad, to see if we will serve him out of love for him. So much for parenting being based on how God treats his children.

    They’re talking about using the carrot and the stick, but nobody cares about the carrot if they’re constantly in terror of the stick.

    • Rosie

      Which Christians? Anybody who believes that God will send people to a literal, eternal hell for not choosing his “love” probably also qualifies as being constantly in terror of the stick.

      • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

        That may be my problem. The sect I was raised in didn’t believe in hell, just a death like sleeping.

      • Niveau

        Were you a Witness?

      • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

        Sadly, yes. You?

      • Niveau

        Living with my parents so I pretending to still really believe, oh boy! I really do suspect that there aren’t many religions in which it’s harder to fake it than this one.

      • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

        Have you been to http://www.jehovahs-witness.net ? That site helped me a lot when I left the witnesses. There’s a lot of people there going through the same situation you are. I’m no longer active on the boards, but if you want to message me there, I’m bluecanary.

      • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

        God was gonna keep me out of hell if I obeyed and followed Jesus… How gracious of him, I thought.
        Now I don’t believe in my parents god. I’m agnostic.

      • Random_acct

        I think you have a distorted view of Christianity that is inaccurate. I’m sorry.

      • Alix

        I suppose this is where I make the obligatory “Christianity is not a monolith” comment again. I wish more people realized this: your version of, well, anything in Christianity is not universal to the religion.

        For what it’s worth, I’ve heard plenty of Christians who’ve told me the same thing they told lana – that the core of Christianity was “follow Jesus or burn in hell.” If that’s inaccurate, well, there’re a hell of a lot of Christians who believe it.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Because your view is the right one, I’m guessing? Only you got the correct message from God, and the millions of believers who think that the bible teaches the concept of hell are just wrong?

        And yet your god lets them believe that, and terrorize others with it. Yeah, your god’s a great guy.

      • Jurgan

        Yes, they are wrong. Show me where in the Bible it says anything to support the idea of eternal, conscious torment after death. You can, at best, find a few references to fire, which are debatable, but nothing suggesting it must last for eternity. No, I do not believe it’s arrogant to say that, as a matter of fact, something is not in the Bible. Eternal hell is no more canonical than the idea that abortion is always a sin. And, yes, millions of people believe that’s in the Bible, and they are also wrong.

      • Alix

        The problem with this argument is twofold. First, as you admit, there are references to things that can be interpreted as conscious eternal torment – Revelation in particular is a minefield for this. Sure, it’s interpretation, but so is everything else in the Bible. There is no such thing as a reading that doesn’t interpret.

        Second, Christianity and the Bible are not the same thing. There are a lot of beliefs Christians hold that are only tenuously linked to the Bible, if at all. At best, that just makes them not your variety of Christian, not categorically unchristian.

        It’s getting really annoying to see this. Someone says “some Christians believe x” and the immediate reaction from apologists is “but that’s not in my reading of the Bible!” as if your own reading invalidates any others, as if your own tradition means that those other Christians’ beliefs somehow don’t count.

        Many, many Christians believe in an eternal hell. If you have a doctrinal dispute with them, take it up with them.

      • Jurgan

        I do take it up with them. I was responding to a comment that seemed to sarcastically assert as a matter of fact that the Bible teaches the idea of eternal hell. Yes, there’s interpretation- that’s the point. Many people insist their interpretation is unambiguous in the canon, and statements like “the millions who think the bible teaches it must be wrong” seem like ad populum to me. Baby Raptor appeared to be saying that the Bible asserts the belief and anyone who says otherwise is deceiving themselves. That’s how it sounded to me, anyway.

      • Alix

        “millions of believers think”

        That’s what Baby Raptor said. E never says, anywhere, that that’s categorically what the bible says – er whole point is that the bible is open to interpretation and that yes, millions of people claim it teaches hellfire and damnation.

        Nothing you’ve said argues that that’s false. Just that you don’t like that teaching, which does nothing to disprove Baby Raptor’s point.

      • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

        I’m not sure if you are trying to argue with me or with baby raptor and alix, but since i seem to have started this, i’ll pitch in again.
        I grew up mostly nondenominational with strong southern baptist influences – southern baptist is not generally considered a whack job fringe movement. Hell for non believers was a central doctrine. The majority of Christians i have ever met believe in a hell, where you will go unless you follow jesus (thereby ‘allowing’ him to save you). I was taught from childhood (i became saved at age 4 or 5) that Jesus loved me and if i believed in and followed him i would go to heaven, otherwise i would have to go to hell (it wasn’t until later i heard teachings about how truly horrific hell would be, but living outside of the celebrations of heaven, away from my family and friends and any happiness for eternity was pretty bad).
        I am not interested in arguing how ‘biblical’ the teachings of hell are (in fact i really enjoyed Rob Bell’s book ‘Love Wins’ and wish more people would read and consider those claims.) but the proponents of hell have argued it to me time and time again, when i have wondered ‘will god really send all the people who never heard of him to hell’, and they do use scriptures to argue that yes, god will.
        I am sarcastic about it, because I was taught that god would have to send me to hell if i didn’t follow jesus, and that the all powerful and good god loved me unconditionally, and no one seemed to have a problem saying those in the same breath.
        Like i said, this is hardly a fringe movement. you might believe they are wrong (i do too) but they’re still teaching it, using the bible to do it and as Baby Raptor pointed out, god doesn’t seem to be doing much to clear the matter up.

      • Jurgan

        I may have misread Baby Raptor’s comment. It sounded like (s)he was saying “you may think it’s wrong, but millions of people disagree with you, so obviously they’re right.” If that wasn’t the case, I’m sorry. As for the larger issue: Yeah, there are a lot of people who believe that way, but a lot who don’t. I’m from a more mainline denomination, and the position of most people I talk to is something along the lines of “it’s not my place to decide who’s saved.” I like that view a lot better.

      • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

        Deleted comment because I can’t figure out who’s talking to who.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Yeah. Your god created people, giving them free will, knowing that doing so would make us incapable of living up to his standards…Because he wanted “willing worshipers.”

      You say you don’t believe in hell, just annihilation. Even then, how can you call what God did love? How can you love that? It was the act of a child on a power trip.

      • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

        I thought referring to Christians in the third person would make it clear that I’m not one, but reading back over my comment, I can see that it’s ambiguous. Let me make it clear now: I’m an atheist.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ella.warnock.7 Ella Warnock

        I’ve often wondered if god is an entity who got kicked out of his “clan” for bad behavior. They just banished him where he could do all his acting out without harming them. Didn’t work out so well for us, though, obviously.

      • Alix

        Believe it or not, that idea goes right back to the dawn of Christianity. That’s basically Gnosticism in a nutshell.

  • J-Rex

    When my dad would come home from work, I would hide somewhere because I was worried I had done something wrong that day.
    I love how the Bible or any religious book can say terrible things, but as long as it’s followed by something positive, that makes it completely okay.
    “Beat your children harshly for every tiny thing they ever do wrong…and love them!”
    “Wives, submit to your husbands…Husbands love your wives!”
    Yeah, that evens out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ella.warnock.7 Ella Warnock

      When I got home from school every day, I never knew what I was walking into. If my mother was spoiling for a fight, there was no way in hell I could make myself small or silent enough to avoid it. I wonder why parents who make you walk on eggshells around them think they deserve your honor?

      I never wanted to have children, but now I think part of that was feeling that I was not a good or worthy person. Since I discovered that I am, and that being me is a GOOD thing, I finally feel that I would have actually had something to offer as a parent. It would have been okay to mother MY way. Oh, well, I guess there’s just no end to the damage bad religion and bad parenting can do.

  • Jerusha Lofland

    Years before the Pearls, there was a pamphlet on child discipline that took the church by storm and continues to be widely distributed after more than 40 years. It was the primary influence on my parents’ use of spanking. http://heresyintheheartland.blogspot.com/2013/05/children-fun-or-frenzy.html

  • observer

    Considering they’re very sure that any pain or turmoil they give you is “for your own good”, perhaps it’s not surprising a tyrannical person typically mistake fear for respect.

    • The_L1985

      When I mentioned, as an adult, that my father had made me terrified of him as a child, his response was, “Good!”

      No, dad. Not good at all.

      • Alix

        I said the same thing to my dad, once, and got the same response. He also told me explicitly that the point of trying to kill my brother (he tried twice to strangle him) was because if he didn’t he (Dad) would lose his authority in the house, and this was somehow a horrible thing.

        He was completely and utterly baffled when I cut off all contact with him. He has no idea why I refuse to even speak to him anymore, and my sister’s told me that she’s tried to explain it to him, and she just gets a blank stare.

        This abusive authoritarian mindset is so ingrained into him he can’t even process the fact that other people disagree with it. I am honestly at the point of hoping he’ll die soon and take his poison with him, because even though he’s nowhere near me anymore, he’s still interacting with people I care about.

      • Random_acct

        That is so sad.

      • kecks

        it really is sad. what makes people become and act that way? i just do not get it (since i know my dad who was abused in the same kind of horrible way, never spoke to his dad again after leaving home, but still managed to never ever slap my sister or me. he did once slap my face when my smartass 13 year old self corrected him when he tried to make our dog follow a command – he was in the wrong and getting frustrated because his way was not working with the dog. after that he was shocked and apologized for over an hour to me. never happened again). so – what makes people act that way?

      • Alix

        Good question. It varies. In my dad’s case, he was an extremely spoiled only child – carried to such an extreme that his mother would drive halfway across the state to do his laundry for him, weekly, when he was in college. He developed a really massive sense of entitlement, and seems to honestly believe that it is not possible for him to ever be wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Happy-Elf-Homeschool/100001845245034 Happy-Elf Homeschool

    I began homeschooling because my autistic child was locked in a “safe room” in public school. It’s a closet, really. I believe that homeschooling actually saved him from so much abuse and sorrow. There are still 21 states in which “seclusion rooms” or closet-locking is still legal. Our district handbook still had paddling as a consequence until two years ago.

    In short, we as a society are a long way from recognizing the civil rights all children should have. I don’t understand why more people don’t shun the Pearls and the people who believe in their teachings. Why people even who work in schools can just get away with abuse. How bad parents can keep their children as virtual prisoners. Have you read about the adopted child deaths attributed to the following of these methods?

    I just don’t know what the answer is but there is such a lack of compassion for other human beings that it’s astounding.

    • Mr. Pantaloons

      “Seclusion rooms” are legal in all 50 states if it’s the parents doing it, though. You can thank the HSLDA for that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Happy-Elf-Homeschool/100001845245034 Happy-Elf Homeschool

        Not true. If I locked my child in a closet, DFS could do something about it and my child could go to foster care. In my state (Missouri), it is only the superintendent of a district who determines if abuse happens. Social services would have to make inquiries through the superintendent. At least that was the situation eight years ago when this happened. My son’s case was featured in the COPAA report presented to Congress, and there have been bills in the past to save kids like mine presented by Tom Harkin and Chris Dodd. I have researched/blogged this before but will spare you the details as this post is mostly about the Pearls.

      • Rosa

        I’m so glad you did this work. The individual stories are how we get policies changed. I hope another Senator picks up Harkin’s disability work, now that he’s retiring.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Happy-Elf-Homeschool/100001845245034 Happy-Elf Homeschool

        Thank you, Rosa.

      • Mr. Pantaloons

        DFS would only do something if you got caught – something that would likely never happen because if you are homeschooling in a manner that you think justifies locking your kids in a closet, you are also likely buying the HSLDA’s fear campaign of CPS workers, hook, line, and sinker. CPS would never get within your front door, would never see your child, and would lack sufficient evidence to build a concrete case against you. And that’s *before* HSLDA jumps onboard to defend your “rights as a parent.”

        Technically, we’re both right – but mine is more realistic.

    • guest

      I helped remodel/renovate several public day care/early education centres in the UK, and they had ‘sensory rooms’ for autistic kids–I didn’t pay as much attention to them as I now wish I did, but my understanding was they were places where kids could go when there was too much sensory overload, and I BELIEVE an adult was supposed to be in there with them–is this the same thing you’re talking about?

      • Rosa

        Probably not. This is a sample sensory room http://www.qualitylifediscoveries.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=16&Itemid=36

        The one at my son’s school is much more sparse, and they can sometimes be small, but the idea is to have a number of different sensory items that the child can use to self-regulate – usually mostly visual, plus some weighted or squeezable things, but ideally including various sounds, textures, sizes of spaces to be in, etc. They are so kids can figure out and use the sensory inputs to help themselves be calm and focused.

        Seclusion rooms are basically padded cells. http://www.dispatch.com/content/topic/special-reports/2012/seclusion-rooms.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Happy-Elf-Homeschool/100001845245034 Happy-Elf Homeschool

        Guest, I love the idea of sensory rooms. But this was a locked from the outside 6 x 4 cement room with a rectangular window in the door.

      • Rosa

        I’m so glad you got the child out. That is terrible. Has the school changed its policy?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Happy-Elf-Homeschool/100001845245034 Happy-Elf Homeschool

        Yes. They now lock children in these closets at the “request” of the parent when the child has trouble in class, is what the principal tells me. Unfortunately, when a teacher calls something “therapeutic” or uses educationalese, parents can be bullied or fooled. I am not sure if they do this as a matter of course still and then say the parents said it was ok. I only know I am very loud about it. I have a severely autistic child in another elementary in the same district. And though it has been eight years since the incident that sparked our homeschooling adventures with our other children, I am working very hard to forgive, move on, and be wise without freaking out. Thank you for your kind words.

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

      Yes I’ve read about them. As for the solution, well, we as a society need to recognize that children are people. Not possessions, not slaves, people. Easier said than done, of course.

      • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

        Amazing how it’s usually the people arguing that fetuses are people, using comparisons to slavery, who think that children are subhumans owned by their parents.

      • Random_acct

        Not true. But your comment makes for a good narrative for you I’m sure.

      • Alix

        Well, except for the fact that many of us have actually met people who make exactly the two cases Palaverer mentions, without ever realizing the disconnect.

        It’s not like humanity’s a monolith, you know.

      • Baby_Raptor

        So you know every single comment that every single person everywhere has made?


        Can you at least *try* to give some respect to people who don’t toe your line? I know it will be hard for you, but in the end, it’ll be an improvement.

      • Scott_In_OH

        Are you Frank, Random_acct? He, too, had a tendency to simply assert someone was wrong and then tack on a sentence of condescension.

  • Fina

    “Make yourself indispensable to their happiness” -that’s textbook controlling-abusive behavior!

    If you truly care for a person, you want that person to be able to be happy without you. Sure, it’s nice to know that you make them happy, that you can be part of their life – but being mandatory for their happiness? Who’d want that?

    • Fina

      As for why its abusive – it obviously binds that person to you, make them dependent on you. If they don’t do as you demand, you can withdraw whatever elements you made “indispensable for their happiness” and make them suffer until they come back. It’s the same principle as financial abuse, only more callous.

    • Pauline

      No kidding. I mean, even ignoring all other factors, on a purely practical level it’s a plain stupid thing to do. You could drop dead tomorrow, and then where would they be?

    • Scott_In_OH

      “Make yourself indispensable to their happiness” -that’s textbook controlling-abusive behavior!

      I thought the same thing. The rest of that paragraph might be nice, but that sentence is scary.

    • aim2misbehave

      That’s co-dependency, right?

      • Fina

        Co-Dependency refers to a person going along with the mental health issue of another person, thus supporting that issue.

        An example would be a wife covering up for her alcoholic husband, or someone adjusting their behavior to suit a narcissistic friends demands.

        Abuse and Co-Dependency are not the same however. The latter can lead to the former, but most abuse victims aren’t co-dependent.

  • Sheila Crosby

    I wonder if maybe the Pearls feel connected to their children because the children never complain? They never hear anything disturbing from their kids, because the kids don’t dare say anything.

    • Kate Monster

      I think that probably, they don’t care whether the kids feel connected to them. Michael and Debi feel connected, so everything is okay. The kids’ actual feelings are irrelevant so long and they maintain the facade–and if the mask slips, it’s not a failure of the system, it’s a failure of the child.

  • smrnda

    This is also abusive since, thanks to people who research child development, at different stages children are simply not capable of being able to figure out what’s going on around them. The kid engrossed in the toy who is getting hit for not coming when called doesn’t have ht brain development to figure out what’s going on.

    Of course, like all authoritarians, the Pearls *know* what babies really think, and don’t need to be corrected by experts who can do things like say, throw out trash correctly.

    • j.lup

      That bit really stood out for me: ‘The parent, having assured himself of the child’s understanding…’ How nice that parents who follow the Pearl’s method for dog-and-child training are so confident in their ability to determine that a one year-old baby understands the physical and psychological manipulation and torture they’re being subjected to. I would love to ask Michael Pearl what his advice is for ‘training’ children who have autism or other developmental or learning disabilities. And how my heart hurts to think that any parent is abusing their child like this, but even more so if their child has cognitive and sensory disorders.

      • The_L1985

        Not to mention, I’m a college professor. Sometimes grown adults won’t fully understand something you’ve explained twice. But a one-year-old, according to the Pearls, is. Soooo much wrong with that idea.

  • Alice

    By using the word “communion,” it sounds like they are comparing children and parents to images in the Bible of God as shepherd and father. I’ve heard people who are pro-corporal punishment insist that Psalms 23:4 supports the idea that corporal punishment is comforting to children because they know where the boundaries are. Such BS! From what I understand, there is no historical evidence that indicates shepherds used the rod to hit their sheep. And they use the Hebrews 12:7-11 verses to claim they’re only doing what God metaphorically does to Christians. I’m positive other people have said this before, but it makes a lot of sense that their parenting comes from their view of God.

  • http://autistscorner.blogspot.com Thalestris

    Do you think they’re lying when they talk all the sweetness-and-light talk, or do you think they somehow believe it themselves?

    If they believe it themselves, HOW can they believe it? Were they brought up this way themselves? Can’t they see that love, real love, is incompatible with the kinds of things they advocate doing to your children? That someone who really loved their children wouldn’t be able to follow their methods?

    Don’t they know their children probably feared and hated them? That the children of violent parents always fear and hate their parents?

    There’s so much I can’t understand.

    • Rosie

      I don’t know if I can explain but I kind of want to try. First off, it probably really is true in a lot of cases that they think real love is exactly what they’re doing. They’ve never known anything else, and it was always called love when it was done to them. Fear and hatred are not actually incompatible with love; any victim of a trusted family member can tell you that. The feelings get mixed up and intertwined and maybe it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Many of these people also believe in a rather abusive deity, one who alternately says “fear me” and “love me” and “I love you more than anything but I’ll still torture you forever if you don’t do what I say”.

      You know, I’m kind of glad you can’t understand that. It means you’ve never been abused by someone you trusted and needed and loved.

    • smrnda

      I don’t think they’re capable of the level of self-awareness to see where their ideas don’t add up. The Pearl’s whole worldview is based on a handful of truisms and they go from there, but don’t have the capacity to see where the truisms collide. They were probably trained to parrot and not understand.

      • NeaDods

        By his own admission, Michael Pearl tried to actually understand the Bible, only to discover that the world is not cut-and-dried, translations don’t match, and times have changed since the bronze age — all of which required too much thought and discernment on his part, so he fled desperately into King James Onlyism and dogma. A controlling, authoritarian personality really CANNOT function in a world of grey areas and relativism, because there is nothing to control and no clear-cut authority. They need truisms to rely on and the cognitive dissonance between mismatched truisms isn’t half as painful as the world-shattering realization that there is no one right or wrong answer to anything.

    • Alix

      I’ll take a crack at this. My dad, though he’s not Christian and thus didn’t use Biblical language, otherwise fits this abusive-authoritarian mode perfectly.

      He honestly believes that he was raising us lovingly, and in the best way for us. He honestly believes that the best thing for us was to be raised in a strictly authoritarian home, with Dad at the top and Mom secondary, and that he could yell at us, spank us, demean and insult us, throw us into furniture, or (when my brother continued to openly defy him) strangle us. He’d lock us in our rooms without dinner, make us interrupt whatever we were doing to fulfill his whims (say, interrupting our schoolwork to make us cook him a complicated dinner because he didn’t want what Mom already had prepared – while he was already upstairs, lounging in front of the TV), shame us in front of our friends, and even chase us around the house screaming and threatening to shoot us or have us arrested for defying him.

      It’s probably not surprising to anyone that he treated Mom much the same way, emotionally abusing her if she failed to meet his standards and even once threatening her with a knife because he didn’t like the dinner she’d cooked.

      Dad told me once, during his epic battles with my brother, that he saw the family as essentially a pride of lions: the big man in charge, the women doing all the work, and if another man (my brother, in this case) challenged his place, Dad had to smack him down until he stayed down or left. Why on earth he felt the family needed to follow some crazy authoritarian hierarchy, he could never – and still can’t – articulate. That’s just how families – and the world – are, to him. If that authoritarian structure fell apart, so would the family.

      He honestly thought he was preparing us for the real world. He honestly thought constantly fat-shaming me would make me be skinny – it led to me starving myself by eating nothing but one bowl of ramen each day and still being too fat, and when I finally broke down and screamed at him to stop it, he was surprised my feelings were hurt. He was surprised. He honestly thought his constant criticism was loving criticism, helping me focus on and deal with a problem.

      He was equally surprised when I called the cops on him, the second time he strangled my brother. (I wasn’t there for the first attempt.) He was surprised when Mom decided she’d had enough and filed for divorce, and surprised when the judge granted it – and told him in court that he was a shitty father. He was surprised when we all cut off contact with him, and surprised when he learned that the only reason my sister renewed contact with him was that she wanted our grandparents’ address.

      He’s still surprised we won’t deal with him. He honestly thinks he’s done nothing wrong, and as I mentioned in a reply above, he cannot even process that we don’t see his actions as loving correction, that we could possibly see him as abusive. It’s not that he won’t admit it – it’s not even in the realm of possibility for him.

      This is why it scares me that my sister and my toddler nephew now live in the same neighborhood as my dad. This is why I honestly hope he dies sometime soon. He’s the kind of monster who doesn’t even realize people might dislike him or disagree with him, because in his mind he is so obviously right.

      And this is already super-long (sorry!), but to address his upbringing: my dad was a very spoiled only child, who has almost never had to do anything for himself. Hell, while he was in college, Grandma would drive halfway across the state to go do his laundry for him, every week. What my dad learned was that he was always right, always awesome, always in charge. That he should rightly be in charge, and that defying him in any way meant there was a problem with those doing the defying – something he enacted in the workplace as much as at home, and he never could understand why after a while people wouldn’t hire him.

      If people didn’t do what he wanted, when he wanted it done, with the right attitude of submissive joy, they weren’t showing him proper love and support. And if we did do what he wanted, he’d be pretty generous in rewards (overly so, given the family finances) – Dad very much employed the carrot-and-stick method. Because he was so nice to us, giving us things we wanted (and things we didn’t want, but he thought we did), in his mind he was a loving husband and father, and all of this in his mind way outweighed the times he’d terrorize us. Not that he ever has realized he was terrorizing us.

      • guest

        Thank you for telling us that–I’ve always thought people who saw the world that way grew up beaten and abused themselves, but you’ve pointed out another, possibly scarier, path to that way of understanding the world.

      • Alix

        Honestly? I suspect a lot of abusers are like my dad – not necessarily coddled to such an extreme, but in that they developed an overweening sense of entitlement. A lot of abuse (not all, of course, but a lot) seems to stem from one party deciding they’re entitled to something and reacting really badly when they don’t get it on their schedule. A lot of systemic abuse – abuse on a cultural, subcultural, or institutional level – seems to fall into this, IMO.

        I’m also always a little leery of the old “cycle of abuse” thing – it does happen, sure, but so many of the people I know who were abused take great pains not to become the monsters their abusers were, and sometimes I think we unfairly weight the narrative in favor of the abusers by suggesting that the people who break that cycle are rare.

        (Insert standard disclaimer about the variety of human experience, and generalizations being generalizations, etc.)

      • Christine

        I’m not sure that we’re weighting the narrative in favour of the abusers by talking about the cycle of abuse. Knowledge of it is why my in-laws knew that they needed to be extra careful how they raised their kids. If we didn’t discuss that the abused often end up abusing, they would have been less likely to see that, without professional help, they’d be unable to know what a healthy relationship should be.

      • Alix

        Fair point. I think a lot depends on how the “cycle of abuse” narrative is used – I’ve seen it used a lot to diminish the possibility of escaping the cycle, by painting those who do as strange freaks.

        And see, the way you phrase it – “often end up abusing” – is a lot more reasonable and sane than what I usually hear from people, who act like it’s completely inevitable, with the implication that people who were abused are essentially already monsters.

      • Christine

        I can definitely see why you’d hate hearing about the cycle of abuse. Irony: people who grow up in unhealthy environments are less likely to be able to catch the nuance. (To a certain extent is is very difficult to straight out escape – most of the cases I know where the cycle was successfully broken it took a couple of generations)

      • Alix

        And I just want to reiterate – talking about the abuse cycle the way you are, with respect for the victims and an eye towards actually helping them get the tools and knowledge to break the cycle? That I not only have no problem with, but wish I saw a lot more of.

      • Christine

        And I wish I could think of a way to make sure that people understood the difference. It’s very sad that I can see areas where society tends too much towards black & white thinking. (Not only am I on the autistic spectrum, but I can confirm based on what I do that ticks people off, that I do indeed show black and white thinking)

      • sylvia_rachel

        The other way this line of reasoning is misused, IMO, is in “bootstraps” arguments: Person X was abused as a child yet grew up to be a non-abusive parent and productive member of society, ergo Person Y, also abused as a child, has no excuse for being less successful in life, and it must just be because s/he is lazy / lacks willpower / whatever.

      • Alix

        Yeah. Basically, I usually see the “cycle of abuse” stuff used as a way for people to wash their hands of abuse victims, not help them, and that’s my problem with it.

        “You can’t be helped” and “you should be able to do it all by yourself” are, imo, two sides of the same coin.

  • Kate Monster

    It’s like the Pearls read about Stockholm Syndrome and instead of finding it an interesting, horrifying psychological reaction to impossible circumstances, they thought, “Great! Finally, an answer to all my parenting problems!”

  • Jurgan

    The way you’ve described your parents’ discipline methods in the past make it clear they used it to cut off communication, not enhance it. The clearest example is what you call “back talk,” where you are punished for even trying to explain your feelings. This is shutting down connections, not encouraging them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

    One can argue intent all they want. That doesn’t change the fact that the book advocates beating a child until they submit. Submission is never defined and is totally arbitrary. Nor do the Pearls ever explain that certain places on the body should never be struck. That plumbing supply line is not harmless merely because it is thin and flexible. In fact, it is deceptively dangerous, especially when you factor in force per square inch.

    • jmb

      That’s why secret police forces stereotypically, traditionally, go for rubber hoses. That, and it’s less likely to leave marks…

  • kcars1

    Having working with farm animals (not much with sheep — and sheep herding is where it comes from — but a fair amount with cattle), I have to say, the rod metaphor could actually be a lot more useful than meaning of the people who actually use it assign to it. If you are in a position where you are hitting an animal as punishment to make them do what you want, you’ve made it much harder than it should be or has to be at best and have likely put yourself in the position of getting hurt.

    Plus… sheep are not that smart; beating them to get a “programmed response” is likely to get only mixed results. Horses can be kept in with a single stand of intermittently powered electric fence, cattle generally need 2, sheep need 4 or 5… and at a higher voltage constantly powered.

    The rod should be used to apply light (relative) *guiding* pressure and taps but mostly as a visual cue of where you want them to go. However, your job is actually to set things up so the animals are directed to do what you want them to do by their environment (block problem areas off, refrain from spooking them, limit options) and routine. Sounds like some of the more effective parenting advice I’ve read.

  • Whirlwitch

    “…try transferring this same mentality to the spousal relationship: “Sorry
    honey, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from you lately. I guess
    I’ll just have to hit you with this stick! I mean, you want to keep in
    communion with me, right?””

    This happens in some Christian circles. “Biblical” wife-beating is called Christian Domestic Discipline or Taken In Hand relationships. And there is such a thing as a “maintenance spanking”, which is to say that if your wife hasn’t earned a beating in a while, you should beat her anyway just to keep that good Christian love connection going strong.

    • Random_acct

      Which “Christian circles”? Me thinks you are pulling this one out of your backside.

      • Alix

        They aren’t. Whirlwitch gave you the terms these groups use – Christian Domestic Discipline, Taken In Hand. They exist. Try googling them before spouting off.

        Also, Whirlwitch never claimed these were things all Christians did – they use the word “some.” Some. Christianity’s not a monolith, and unfortunately not all the groups claiming the label Christian are … very nice.

        Just another unfortunate fact you have to deal with, I suppose.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Yup, calling someone a liar because you’ve never heard of something is really classy and loving.

        Again, develop basic respect for people before you try interacting with them. If you give respect, you’ll get it back. That, at the least, should motivate you.

      • Whirlwitch

        I provided a number of links in a reply. That comment did not make it through, presumably caught by a spam filter. Ask a reasonably intelligent person to teach you how to use Google, or just ask them to Google the term Christian Domestic Discipline for you. Get said intelligent person to help you with the hard words. Be aware that these sites are for adults only.

    • anonymous

      oh.my.god. I just googled that and found this gem on the first website that came up: There is another intimate matter during which many wives have been known to say, “Stop”, yet when asked later, they will say, “When I say that, I mean ‘Don’t stop now!’” There are times when the words she uses may mean something quite different. As one lady put it, “When my actions or words have been quite unreasonable, and you say I have earned a spanking, what makes you think I will immediately decide to be reasonable? Now I have even more motivation to continue being unreasonable. You must listen to what I say when I am reasonable and calm. Don’t listen as much to to what is coming out of my mouth at that exact moment, during my unreasonable behaviour. If you do, we both lose!”

      • Things1to3

        The usual way around this would be to have an actual safeword, one for “yellow” and one for “red” levels, but TIH and DD don’t usually have safety in mind.


        Interesting article on the difference from a TIH perspective.

    • Things1to3

      I was researching Domestic Discipline and Taken in Hand relationships recently. It seems to me that it’s an excuse for people who might have been members of the “evil” BDSM communities to practice with “god’s blessings.” I tend to have issues with them though because they don’t always discuss consent and SSC before they start, nor is there a clear way for the things to be re-negotiated if the parties beliefs/ideas/comfort levels change.

      • fencerman

        At the very least, however you feel about TIH/CDD relationships (and there are a LOT of possible dimensions to abuse there), at least they’re between two legally equal, presumably consenting adults. That makes a huge difference about whether a practice ought to be tolerated or not.

  • John Small Berries

    How does Pearl expect to end up with children who obey because they want
    to if those children aren’t given any other option, and are faced with
    physical pain if they don’t obey?

    That seems pretty consonant with the mindset of “humans have free will to choose between going to Heaven or suffering horrific, unceasing torture in Hell”. The child is free to choose the physical pain, so if they obey instead, clearly it was their own choice to do so, and not the parent forcing them to obey. Or something.

  • Mel

    I wouldn’t use this method to train a dog let alone a child.

    • Richter_DL

      My father grew up on a farm after the war, where horses were still a major asset in agriculture. His parents, a widowed sister of his father’s, and a widoed uncle, had banded together and shared three horses for all kinds of heavy lifting required on the farm. The young generation – my father and his sister and the others’ children – joined inn, of course.

      One of these, son of the widow, was always treating the horses with sticks, to get them to do what he wanted. The others treated the animals differently, but nobody ever really stepped in either.

      Now, once, that man was feeding the horses, and doing so turned his back to one. And the horse bit him, repeatedly. Horses have not only good memory but can discern faces and people. He got what he bargained for – the horse saw an opportunity to hit back.

      This method is a bad idea with animals. It can’t be a good idea with children. And that is leaving aside the lusty comments about whippin infants in the book aside, which are just disgusting. I really hope eventually, one of Pearl’s children will have the opportunity and courage that horse showed.

  • fencerman

    “Sorry honey, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from you lately. I guess I’ll just have to hit you with this stick! I mean, you want to keep in communion with me, right?”

    Actually that sounds a lot like a BDSM relationship. Which is fine to have between two informed, consenting adults. What’s worrying is when someone wants to inflict that on a non-consenting child.

    • Things1to3

      It is a BDSM relationship, except the consent part is non-existent between parent and child and fuzzy at best between husband and wife (in Christian Domestic Discipline, or Taken in Hand relationships.)

      I find power exchange relationships fascinating between consenting adults, but when they have a scriptural mandate and misogynistic underpinnings they can quickly cross the line into abuse.

      • Richter_DL

        Staying within BDSM terminology, that’d be Gorean.

    • jmb

      It’s missing the Safe, Sane, and Consensual aspects.

  • Alice

    Hmmm, the idea that only pain can change behavior….How many of us carry this mentality into adulthood, believing that if we just yell at ourselves loud enough and long enough, that will make us change our unwanted behavior? Even though we know logically that inflicting emotional pain on ourselves only makes us feel more discouraged and fearful.

  • CarynL

    My husband and I are in agreement that we will not spank or otherwise physically punish our children. Both of our sets of parents did. I was not spanked often because I was generally a good child and wanted my parents to be happy with me and love me. When they spanked me, I vividly remember crying frantically, not because the spanking hurt (it did, but not a lot unless my dad was the punisher) but because I thought that I had failed them and they must not love me. My husband was hit often by his mother into his teenage years. He tells me that when he was about 16, she went to strike him and he caught her arm, pushed her away, and told her to never hit him again. That is not love.