TTUAC: Laying out the Goal

To Train Up A Child, introduction

You probably know that I’ve been writing a page-by-page review of Debi Pearl’s manual on how to be a good wife, Created To Be His Help Meet. I’ve decided to begin doing the same for Michael and Debi Pearl’s child training manual, To Train Up A Child. Because the text is available online, I’m going to quote the entire thing over the course of this series rather than just excerpts. The end product will be the text of To Train Up A Child, with my commentary. I will be posting a new excerpt each Monday.

There’s a reason I’m doing this and there’s a reason I’m doing it now. There’s a lot of discussion about TTUAC, but there’s often a breakdown regarding what’s actually in the book. Defenders of the Pearls claim that detractors omit all of the good things contained in it, focusing instead on taking paragraphs out of context. At the same time, detractors themselves are often unclear on what is actually in the text themselves—and that is where you get news reports claiming, at the Hana Williams trial, that TTUAC tells parents to punish their children by shutting them outside in cold weather (something I’m pretty sure isn’t in the book). It is my hope that going over the book will help make clear what’s there and what’s not—and just how toxic this text is. And, as you may expect, I’ll be sharing some positive parenting tips and suggestions and contrasting them with what the Pearls advise.

Before we dip into the book’s introduction, a little introduction to the Pearls is in order. Michael and Debi Pearl run No Greater Joy Ministries. They have a large following in the evangelical and fundamentalist homeschool community, and are most well known for To Train Up A Child and Created To Be His Help Meet. Both books have been translated into numerous languages and have sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide. Three different children have died of child abuse in families that followed the Pearls’ child training methods, but the Pearls have not retracted any of their teachings.

Now on to the book’s introduction:


This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. It is apparent that most parents never attempt to train a child to obey. They wait until the child becomes unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice. As you come to understand the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family—no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total obedience from your children.

One way that the Pearls make parents more likely to accept the teachings of their book—and head off criticism that they are promoting abuse—is by continually denouncing yelling and out of control physical punishment (which is good) and continually speaking of creating home environments where children are cheerful and parents and children have a loving and tender connection (which is also good). Another thing the Pearls do is to differentiate between discipline and training, suggesting that discipline is punishing your kids for disobedience and rebellion while training heads off discipline and rebellion entirely (a promise that proves especially attractive to evangelical and fundamentalist parents). When taken together, these ideas help make the Pearls’ book deceptively attractive to parents, and especially to parents who may have been pointed to the book by a trusted friend.

But the problem is already visible, even in this very first paragraph of the book. What is the Pearls’ goal? To help raise healthy, compassionate, and well-adjusted children who will be able to make a positive transition to adulthood? No. They promise “a renewed vision for your family” in which, in addition to less yelling and spanking, parents will have “total obedience” from their children. That—total obedience—is the goal here. And that’s not healthy.

Any parent with an emotional maturity level higher than the average thirteen-year-old can, with a proper vision and knowledge of the technique, have happy obedient children. This is not a theory; it is a practical reality which has been successfully applied many times over.

A couple, stressed out with the conflict of three young children, after spending the weekend with us and hearing some of these principles, changed their strategy. One week later, they exclaimed, “I can’t believe it; we went to a friend’s house, and when I told my children to do something, they immediately, without question, obeyed.”

Again, what is the goal? Obedience. Not ethical or resilient or self-activated children—obedient children.

These truths are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children. They are profoundly simple and extremely obvious. After examining them with us, you will say, “I knew that all along. Where have I been? It’s so obvious.”

Throughout this book, the Pearls claim that the same principles the Amish use to train mules should be applied to training children. In fact, Michael has often referred to watching the Amish train their mules as the inspiration for his ideas about child training. I know nothing about how the Amish train their mules, or about how mules are trained outside of Amish circles, but regardless of whether the Pearls have the whole mule-training thing right (something I highly doubt), children are not mules. For one thing, children are supposed to grow up into functioning adults while mules remain, well, mules. What are children? Children are miniature people who need care, love, and preparation for the adult world. Not in the Pearls’ world, though. In the Pearls’ world, children, like mules, need only be trained for complete and total unquestioning obedience.

On Coming When You’re Called and Fear-Based Obedience
The Lesbian Duplex 12: An Open Thread
TTUAC: Bed Wetting, Cold Hoses, and Hana Williams
When Toxicity Demands a Break
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.

  • Jolie

    I know I brought up this point before- but has anyone ever tried to talk to Pearls followers about the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures ?

    What happened was that, as part of a set-up, the subjects were asked by the experimenter to inflict more and more painful/dangerous electric shocks on what they believed was just another subject, who mentioned suffering from heard disease. (actually an actor/accomplice, there were no real shocks involved). The shocks looked more and more painful, going to potentially fatal. After a number of voltage level increases, the actor started to bang on the wall that separated him from the subject. After several times banging on the wall and complaining about his heart condition, all responses by the learner would cease. If the subject would ask to cease the experiment, the experimenter would verbally prod him to continue. (After 4 successive prods, the experiment was halted).

    65% of participants, adults no more or less brainwashed than the majority of the population, inflicted what looked like a lethal shock on a human being because a guy in a lab coat told them to. This is the image I have in mind every time I hear about “training obedient children”. These children will grow up to be adults who would inflict mortal shocks on human beings if they believe an invisible man living in the sky asks them to. This is what complete and unquestionning obedience does to people.

    If I’d ever ask my child to endanger a human life like this, I’d want them to tell me to fuck off. In exactly these words.

    • Shayna

      has anyone ever tried to talk to Pearls followers about the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures?

      Their response would probably be something like “Godly parents always have their children’s best interests at heart and would never do anything like that.”

      Totally ignoring the fact that some parents don’t and would, much less all the supposed authority figures that exist outside of the parents.

    • NeaDods

      These children will grow up to be adults who would inflict mortal shocks on human beings if they believe an invisible man living in the sky asks them to

      That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. They are, after all, being raised to be God’s warriors, and we all know that the first step in training a soldier is to dehumanizing the enemy to make it easier to kill them.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        “Ich habe nur meine Befehle ausgefert.”
        (“I was only following orders.”)

  • sylvia_rachel

    Sometimes I wish my kid would just do what I say. It would make life easier. But she won’t be a kid forever, and someday she’ll have to make choices about when it’s a good idea to do what she’s told (obeying traffic signals is good; so is meeting deadlines), when it’s not so good (don’t believe everything you hear on TV ads…), and when it’s a terrible idea (what if your boss tells you to do something illegal?). So I’d be doing her, and the world, a disservice if the sum total of my parenting was to raise her to always do what she’s told. (Here’s an article about why arguing with your parents is good. Surprise, surprise: kids who don’t unquestioningly obey their parents are less likely to unquestioningly go along with their peers.)

    Aside from being SUPER CREEPY, this focus on obedience as the ultimate goal of parenting seems to assume a world in which children, even as adults, never leave their parents’ orbit. How often does that actually happen? And why would you want it to?

    • jhlee

      Yes! Excessive emphasis on obedience is an excellent way to raise children into doormats who can’t say no and are dragged about the whims of people around them, including some very toxic people. Unquestioning obedience may make life easier for the parent, but it’s an awful thing for the child’s life. Of course, to the Pearls this isn’t a bug but a feature, as another commenter mentioned.

    • Physeter

      I’m guessing it works like this: Female children go straight from their parents’ orbit into their husband’s orbit. Then he takes care of them and tells them what to think–see “Created to be his Help Meet.” Male children go from their parents to the church. They never have to think on their own, never have to make their own decisions, they just submit and let the church train them, and then have lots of kids so they can pass on the same training.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I’m guessing it works like this: Female children go straight from their parents’ orbit into their husband’s orbit.

        As in a simple transfer of ownership?

  • sylvia_rachel

    P.S. Libby Anne, I’m really glad you’re doing this!

    • Ahab

      I am too. People need to know what this wretched book is really about.

  • Suzanne

    I bought the book plus the NGJ volumes when my children were babies. Even though I didn’t mind some of their teachings I NEVER liked the fact of expecting full obedience from my children. I wanted my children to talk to me, to question me, to speak their mind. Then that’s when my training on my children began – “please talk respectfully to me, we don’t yell, sometimes you just have to listen to mommy”, etc. My children are now 7,9, and 10, yes we have some problems, and even now the don’t “obey” right away but they are great kids!

  • Mel

    I call “Total Bullshit” on the animal training methods the Pearls may have seen from the Amish.

    I live on a farm with cattle – milking cows/heifers and feeder/finished steers. In plain English: animals that can weigh up to 2500 pounds. If anyone treated our cattle the way the Pearls allegedly saw the Amish train mules, they would be fired on the spot and have about 10 minutes to get off the property. (And let’s be honest – Amish are people, too. Some may treat animals terribly and be awful example of livestock managers.)

    Hurting animals repeatedly doesn’t teach them to be obedient – it makes them scared of humans and far more dangerous. So how do we deal with these big animals that can hurt humans or each other? You learn the natural behaviors of the cattle and use those behaviors to make them feel safe and calm. A calm cow is much easier to move, examine and treat than a panicky one. With training, one milker can move over 100 cows to the parlor. My husband and I can move 24 steers that have gotten loose back into their pen. What do we use? Our firm but not yelling voices, our arms to point directions, and an occasional tap with a hand if a cow is stalling. A good tap is about the same as patting someone on the shoulder.

    We don’t have any children, but I do have a classroom. I don’t need to beat the snot out of my students to run an orderly classroom. What do I use? A firm, calm voice, my hands to point directions and patting people on the shoulder…..

    • centaurie

      Sounds similar to Monty Robert’s theory regarding training/handling horses: firm, calm and (understandible for the horse) communication. As opposed to voilence and anger. (Pretty sure other trainers use similar theories, but he’s still the one I think of first when thinking about non-violent training of horses)

      • Machintelligence

        The story goes that a mule will do anything when asked politely, once you have his attention.
        You get his attention by hitting him upside the head with a 2 x 4.

      • centaurie

        Oh man, that’s horrible D:

      • NeaDods

        *snort* My daddy used to tell that one.

      • kecks

        clicker training. makes big tigers and horses and dogs and dolphins and any animal you like do as told – because it wants to. positive reinforcement only.

    • NeaDods

      The book Alex and Me goes into how the researcher got the trust and cooperation of Alex the parrot by *not* starving him and shoving him into a Skinner box, but by patiently modeling the proper behavior with a research asst.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      A math teacher I used to have back in high school would simply stand in front of a classroom full of loud and unruly students and quietly but firmly say “I’ll wait…” which was code for “if you don’t quiet down now you will have less time to work and more homework.” It worked very well.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    My first reaction is the resemblance to get-rich-quick pitches. If you follow this one weird trick they are pitching, instead of doing what your instincts tell you, you’ll have it easy while all those ignorant rubes work themselves into an early grave.

  • kraut2

    You expect obedience from your dog.

    From children (my wife and I have raised two) I expect cooperation, respect, love, following instructions when appropriate and criticism when not, I do not need children that heel or give paw when I command them. We raised our children to be able to live independently at an early age.

    Training to obey is for animals. You teach children, you enable them to think for themselves to become their own persons, not a copy of yourself , you do only train them in skills.
    The Pearls “train” them because one thing only – lazy parenting. Children who are “trained” to obey do not rebel, do not challenge your authority, are what authoritarian systems expect their citizens to be. And yes, to pull a Godwin – that is exactly what the Nazis expected from their youth, and established the Hitler Jugend.

    • ako

      Even with dogs, a decent trainer won’t automatically equate disobedience with willfulness. And guide dogs are actively encouraged to practice intelligent disobedience, because a dog can learn to use its brain and not step into traffic when commanded to, and people respect that.

      This system is actually worse for children than training them like a dog.

      • MargueriteF

        I was going to post the same thing. I train my dogs for obedience, but not total obedience. I own three herding dogs, and although they’re well trained, they’re smart and sometimes disobey if they see a reason to (“I’m not going to come when you call right now because there’s a guy prowling around in the dark in the next yard over, silly human!”). Dogs can think for themselves to a certain degree, but don’t understand things as well as humans, so we train them in order to keep them (and the people they interact with) safe. Kids, however, will eventually have to think entirely for themselves. Training children to “total obedience” is creepy– the idea ought to be to raise them so they can think on their own.

      • Mel

        Ditto. I’ve trained our cattle dog to help with the animals. She doesn’t always do exactly what I tell her to do. She does, however, use her instincts and my instructions to get the job done. For example, let’s say I’m moving some cattle out of an area. We start moving the cattle and I try to send the dog to the right. The dog might bark once to me then go left. I swing right. The dog knows the dominance hierarchy of the cows better than I do and realizes that the problem is that the “alpha” cow on the left won’t move. The dog gets that cow moving and the whole group follows.

      • Rilian Sharp

        That’s really cool. I didn’t know that dogs could do stuff like that.

      • Conuly

        When I was a baby, we had a dog that my parents figured was part coyote. I don’t know if that’s true, but by all accounts she as a smart dog and a good one. She used to bar the door to us until she had swept the yard to make sure there were no snakes, a sensible concern in Louisiana.

        Once, when I had started to crawl, my mother put me down in the hallway by the stairs with the gate open as she swept up. The dog saw this, came up to my mother, and started turning her gaze between the stairs and me, making annoyed mumbles. After a few minutes of human/canine conversation she clearly decided my mother was totally incompetent, walked over, carefully lay on the top step so I couldn’t fall down the stairs, and gave a long-suffering, reproachful sigh in my mother’s direction, because my mother plainly didn’t know enough to keep the bsby safe from the stairs.

        Instant obedience might have gotten her off the stairs, but would it have kept baby Connie any safer?

    • Conuly

      I don’t expect nearly the amount of obedience from my dog or cats that the Pearls do.

      I mean, really, what do I want the cats to do? They know “come here” and “get down” and “no squirming, I WILL clip those nails/get this medicine down yr throat/manage to get the flea meds on your neck” and one of them knows how to fetch. (She won’t do it, though, ever since she figured out that if I can call her name and get her to come, she should be able to call mine and get me to come.) They know to use the box (well, two out of three do, the other uses the bathtub, but this is a huge step up so, um, I’m almost okay with that).

      The list of things even good parents expect of their kids far exceeds that, and if you’re adding instant, cheerful obedience to the list, well, no cat or dog is going to manage to instantly and cheerfully see that the table is dirty and go wipe it up, or remember to bring a coat because it might be cold out.

      And lets be reasonable. If my cat pisses on the floor because the people she was with before never taught her otherwise, I don’t get mad at her. I don’t beat her. I put her in the box and wipe up the mess. She isn’t doing it to upset me, she’s just a cat. It’s not some stupid power struggle. I already have all the power, I’m the human.

      • Rilian Sharp

        My bestfriend’s cat was using the tub when they first took him in. Now they’ve got him using the toilet (!). I could ask her for advice for you if you want.

      • Conuly

        Thank you, but no. I know what the problem is, this cat wants a box without much litter in it and we don’t have the room for a box per cat, though that would be ideal. I actually don’t mind the tub, because it cleans easily. I’m just happy she is no longer using the floor wherever she happens to be!

      • NeaDods

        When I had a ferret that scattered litter instead of using it, I gave him a big stack of newspapers, and rolled up and threw away the top ones every night. He had the “right” place to do his business; I didn’t have too much clean up.

      • Conuly

        We don’t buy newspapers, though. Plus, we don’t have room for stacks of papers of any size. If we did, I’d get a second box and leave it mostly empty.

        The thing with this cat is she’s a semi-rescue (the people taking care of her fed her, but they had several wild children who terrorized her and I didn’t even find out she was their cat for nearly three months after I took her in. She used to run back inside if she knew they were out and about.) and came to use with a number of pesky behavioral problems, including a lack of consistent box training. If I can get her out the door she goes in the yard, but at any rate, I am happy with *any* progress she makes, and using a consistent, mutually-acceptable location to pee IS progress. I’d rather she get over her issue with kitty litter and use the box as is, her two remaining (grown) kittens prefer it with litter in it, but I’m not seeking to push her any faster than she is already going because she has already made huge progress over the past two years.

      • NeaDods

        Fair enough! Poor thing – good on you for rescuing her!

      • wombat

        My stepmother was convinced that the correct way to train a cat to use a litter box was to rub its face in its messes. I’m just glad that we were quite old when my father married her so we missed some of the early childhood horrors that fundy Christian child-raising could inflict. If you’re that bad to animals, then the way you treat kids can be, well, not good.

    • Lorelei

      I have a hearing alert dog, since I’m functionally deaf. If he’s on the ground and we’re walking on a sidewalk, and come to a curb cut, and I give him the command to walk across (because the walk light is on)–well, sometimes he plants all four of those little paws and leans backwards.
      I’ve always been glad when he has. Car come whipping around a blind spot, and my little Pùka kept me safe, by disobeying.

      The *best* trained dogs disobey as appropriate.

  • ako

    The total obedience thing is really dangerous. Children aren’t born with an inborn sense of when it is and isn’t okay to disobey, but instead learn it over time through experience. And there are people out there who prey on children that don’t know what they’re allowed to say no to. If a child is taught to obey an adult in authority without question, even if the command is strange and upsetting, they’re really vulnerable to other people’s bad intentions.

    • NeaDods

      Look at how often that very unquestioning obedience is used to prey on the congregation, either financially or sexually. It’s not holy, it’s the grooming of a predator to a victim.

      • Jolie

        Plus, someone trained to obey will have a much harder time with peer pressure; namely to refusing, for instance, addictive dangerous drugs, sex they do not want or involvement in illegal activities. Very often they’ll be all like “I just couldn’t say no”.

      • NeaDods

        Especially if it’s someone they’ve been told they CAN’T say no to.

    • TLC

      Exactly. The kids who are taught instant, perfect, mindless obedience have no idea how to handle it when someone offers them drugs, pushes them to have sex, or tries to get them to do something wrong. When they’re adults, they’re more likely to be the victim of scam artists, especially those who tie their fraudulent schemes with Bible verses. (You don’t have to watch many episodes of “American Greed” on CNBC to see how well that works!)

      If you want to see a good illustration of the consequences of perfect obedience, watch the movie “Ella Enchanted.” It’s a new twist on the Cinderella story. A friend of Ella’s mother gives Ella the “gift” of perfect obedience when she’s a baby. So when the wicked stepmother and stepsisters come along, they figure it out and know exactly how to get Ella to do their dirty work. What breaks the spell? Love, and Ella’s determination to reclaim control of her life. I bet the Pearls would HATE the ending!

      • NeaDods

        To be honest, I preferred the movie resolution to the book version. Her managing to break the spell through force of will in the book made it seem as though she “just” needed to try harder previously, as if not breaking it sooner was a lack of strength on her part. Whereas in the movie, she had the smart idea to order herself to never need to be obedient, warping the spell and shattering it. It was insight, not something she had tried and failed at before.

      • Conuly

        Most people prefer the book, probably for the opposite reason – that insight makes her look really stupid (she never thought of that before?) whereas in the book it’s clear that she never had anything really important enough to be worth suffering over.

      • NeaDods

        Thing is, I remember that in the book she has previously given herself orders – at one point she tells herself to not *mind* what’s happening to her, only her fairy friend gets wind of it and orders otherwise. So she knows she can order herself in the book. IIRC, there’s no similar moment in the movie, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

        I’m really surprised your comment got downvoted. It’s just a different interpretation!

      • Conuly

        She didn’t tell herself not to mind, the fairy Lucinda did when Ella found her and asked for her help.

        The only time she told herself what to do was when she was at school, and then she was just reiterating the orders others had given her.

        (I read this book a lot as a kid!)

        As for downvotes, whatever, I just went and up voted myself : )

      • NeaDods

        Ah. I only read it the once, a while ago. Now if you want to talk about the meanings of Little Princess, I’m your woman!

      • Conuly


      • NeaDods

        You’ll be horrified – I didn’t read it until college, and then because I was taking a course on book illustration. (I was getting in trouble for returning over and over to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, so someone suggested I try Little Princess.) But I sure made up for lost time – I could probably quote it from memory now.

      • Conuly

        Well, Wolves is a great book as well.

    • AztecQueen2000

      A couple of years ago, there was a little boy in my neighborhood who got lost walking home. Because he’d been taught that people in the community were to be trusted no matter what, he got into a car with a total stranger. Two days later, the police found his body.

  • Gillianren

    I’m pretty sure even the Pearls agree that my child is too young to start “training.” (He’ll be a month old on Monday!) However, as soon as I heard that they exist and what they want you to do, I added them to my “be a better parent than” list. You see, I’m aware that I won’t be a perfect parent, even if I believed that there were any such thing. I know where my problem areas are, and I know I won’t be able to avoid certain issues completely. I also know I can be a better parent than that. My goal for parenting is in many places a “what not to do” list, not a “what to do.”

    On the other hand, I hope that the things I’ve learned–both to do and not to do–will help me raise an intelligent, well-adjusted person who knows when to question and respects, not fears, me. Do we truly love that which we fear? I don’t think so, and I want my son to love me.

    • Christine

      I made a very unfortunate joke once, to someone I’m not that close with. See, my usual “why can’t my daughter sit still half as well as other kids her age” comeback to myself is “well at least I’m not hitting her when she gets up & runs around”. That’s not necessarily a good out-loud response though.

  • Kit

    Here’s a question: How do the children raised on these methods become adults and change their relationship with their parents from child/parent to adult/adult?

    I understand that at some point, usually in the early 20s nowadays, children and parents go through this weird phase where we’re not entirely sure how to relate to each other because the children are becoming independent and – I’m sort of in this phase now, so I feel like my parents and I now have more ‘adult’ conversations even though they still help me out with grocery money every now and then. They don’t tell me what to do anymore – more often than not, when I talk about a problem I’m having, they’ll say “Well, you’ll work it out, I know you will.” Sometimes they’ll express opinions they definitely wouldn’t have if I were a child, etc. My parents are still my family, but now I’m an adult-family-member communicating with another adult-family-member and we aren’t responsible for each other’s well-being or anything anymore.

    Do children trained under these methods HAVE a similar transition psychologically where parents stop being parents and more like close-adult-family-members? Wouldn’t it be difficult if you were taught to obey all the time? What does a relationship between an adult trained under these methods and their parents look like?

    • Mel

      Dunno. If the Pearls believe in “multi-generational faithfulness”, they might not want that relationship to ever change. Plus, we’ve had some interesting convos about if Mike Pearl is a narcissistic psychopath. I’m gonna bet he doesn’t ever want anyone to question him or this methods.

      • aletha

        Isn’t it in this book where he gleefully states that to this day, his married daughter will fall on the ground immediately if he tells her to?

      • NeaDods

        I know that he’s demonstrated that kind of behavior on TV. The thing is, his married daughter should be autonomous, not programmed; Pearl is, as usual, bragging about something that makes him look like an abusive creep.

      • Alice

        So creepy. Also, that story always reminds me of Nicky and Claire Pike in the Babysitters Club books where he keeps telling her to “crumple” i.e. fall to the ground immediately. He said he would do that on her wedding day when she was walking down the aisle. He was 7, and she was 5. So every time I hear the Pearl story I think, “Michael is so freaking childish.”

      • Lucreza Borgia

        He indicates that all of his children will do as he says still.

    • NeaDods

      As far as I can tell, the relationship never changes. As long as the father loves, he overrules the children, who are meant to be clones instead of independent anyway.

      • Anat

        I think you meant ‘as long as the father lives’, but it looks more interesting the way it came out.

      • NeaDods

        Yes and yes. Occasionally ipad can be profound!

    • sylvia_rachel

      Yeah, that’s my question, too. (Well, one of many :S)

      I know adults whose parents (or older siblings, in a couple of cases) still treat them like kids. They don’t enjoy it…

    • Alice

      I’m pretty sure they believe the father has absolute authority over his daughters until whatever age they get married and are under the absolute authority of their husbands. But I’m not sure how it works with the boys.

  • Conuly

    I doubt the Amish train mules this way, but at any rate, one reason to use mules over horses is precisely BECAUSE they are not instantly obedient all the time.

    Unlike horses, you can’t make a mule work to death, or go into an unsafe area. They trust their own safety judgments over yours. Horses are smart, but mules are smarter. That’s why people talk about being “stubborn as a mule” – because you can’t convince a mule to do something that it thinks will get it killed, but you might be able to convince a horse. Which in the long run is bad for the horse and probably bad for you, too, if you’re riding at the time.

    • wildly_curious

      The Amish use mules because they are fantastic farm labor animals. They consume on average 30% less feed than a horse, can handle higher temperatures, have stronger hooves, have less of a tendency than horses to overeat to the point of colic, live longer than horses, and are narrower than horses and therefore better suited for tilling row crops. Also, when it comes to pulling things, horses have two distinct chest muscles, whereas mules only have one wide one. This gives them a strength advantage when pulling. Finally, they have that whole hybrid vigor thing going on.

      The fact that you can’t bully a horse like you can bully a mule may be a small part of why the Amish use mules, but it’s pretty low on the list versus the other things I mentioned. If safety was an issue, they’d use them on roads for pulling their carriages.

      Source: I’ve worked with mules in an ag labor setting before.

      • Conuly

        I will absolutely accept your knowledge over mine, though my rambling point was more like “this seems like an exceedingly stupid goal and method to use with mules”.

  • JetGirl

    The Amish, huh? Has anyone read the article in Time (and just recently, in Vice) that talks about rampant incest and other sexual abuse in some of the most conservative Amish communities in Bolivia?

    • Conuly

      They’re Mennonites, not Amish.

      Not that the Amish haven’t also recently had their share of incest scandals.

      • JetGirl

        Thanks! I thought they were connected. Well, they were, but it’s been a few hundred years.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        My writing partner is an Anabaptist minister who lives near Amish country. He described the relationship as follows:
        * Mennonites are one step beyond Anabaptist.
        * Old Order Mennonites are one step beyond Mennonites.
        * Amish are one step beyong Old Order Mennonites.

  • Saraquill

    “As you come to understand the difference between training and
    discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family—no more
    raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a
    cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total obedience from your children.”

    Is it me, or does this sound like something inspired by 1984?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Invoking Godwin’s Law, this reminds me of a scene in a B&W movie set in World War II, “Is Paris Burning?” In the scene, the German occupation authorites are making an example.
      We first see young cheerful face after young cheerful face step into the camera, all sparkly-eyed, all young, all cheerfully obedient, double Siegrunes on their uniform collars and NSDAP shields on their Stalhelms. Then the order is given, and the massacre/extermination begins.

  • Machintelligence

    Slightly off topic, but not disastrously so, is a post at Butterflies and Wheels about dealing with sibling rivalry (mostly). You might not want to get caught up in the context, but paragraphs two through five have some real insights about approaches that don’t work well, and the reasons that they don’t.

  • wombat

    “Any parent with an emotional maturity level higher than the average thirteen-year-old can, with a proper vision and knowledge of the technique, have happy obedient children.”
    And so if our methods don’t work for you, or your children are obedient but not happy, or any of a laundry list of other not-’perfect’ outcomes, it must mean that you don’t even have the maturity of a thirteen-year-old. You miserable failure.

    • Rosa

      Yep. The method can’t fail, you can only fail it.

      #1 mark of bad ideology.

  • sam

    I’m so excited about this!

  • Lucreza Borgia

    This is gonna be painful to go through.

  • Hilary

    Libby, my one concern is – take care of yourself while doing this. From what i know of you and this world via your blog, going through this book as an adult and mother could be triggering as all get out. I think it is a wonderful idea, a true act of tikkun olam, but don’t neglect you emotional health and boundaries while working through this. Ctbhhm has caused enough blood pressure problems already, and this looks to be worse. I totally respect that you are an adult woman and you know you strengths, limits, and boundaries, but as a daily reader I’m voicing the first thing I thought of when I read this post, that you need to make emotional self care an integral part of taking this book apart piece by piece. Also, I’m glad to hear that you are going to include good parenting techniques along side it; it’s just as important to build up what is good as it is to tear down what is evil.

    • sunnyside

      That was my thought as well and my parents weren’t strict adherents. I’m so glad you’re doing it, Libby Anne, but it’s going to be hard to read and I imagine harder to write.

      I remember finding the book when I was a teenager (after they’d mostly abandoned it, other than occasional accusations of willful disobedience or manipulation when I just did what I wanted/need to do) and starting to put things together. As an adult, this is going to be even harder because I really can’t understand why they would choose to see us that way. I can’t even fathom…hating my children. Because that’s what it felt like and that’s what it sounds like. No care, no respect, no love.

  • aihley

    Their training methods do sound quite similar to the Pearls’.

    “We recently found out that one of the so called trainers killed a mule because it showed resistance in not wanting to pull a wagon.

    So what he did was put a team of mules on the front and tied the resistant mule on the back to get it to succumb to his way of training. Which was having the team up front pulling on it and forcing it to run on the back of this wagon, when it obviously did not want to do it. The mule showed so much resistance that fell to the ground and he let the team drag it until it thrashed around and broke its neck. Told the owners that it got sick overnight and died.

    Another episode that happened with another individual was the horse wouldn’t load onto a trailer so he takes a rasp and beat it several times in the head until the rasp broke. Then he got mad when he broke the rasp so he grabbed a whip and continued to beat it until it loaded.

    Ive watched a lame horse being led out from the barn and being hooked up to a buggy only to pull it 12 miles one way and 12 miles back. When the horse approached from coming back the wound that had made it lame was profusely bleeding and the horse was in very much pain. It was obvious to the owner but they put it out to pasture after unhooking it.

    Saw a buckskin about a week ago have so many spur gouges on it’s sides that it looked like it got hit with a machine gun and they had it in a round pen that had broken glass (2 beer bottles), rusted nails, old rusted horseshoes and rock with dirt for the footing.”

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