TTUAC: Dogs, Soldiers, and Disturbing Analogies

To Train Up A Child, pp. 2—3

OBEDIENCE TRAINING

Most parents don’t think they can train their little children. Training does not necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli. Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the obstacles of a city street, shouldn’t a parent expect more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can’t a child be trained not to touch? A dog can be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet or fetch upon command. You may not have trained your dog that well, yet every day someone accomplishes it on the dumbest mutts. Even a clumsy teenager can be trained to be an effective trainer in a dog obedience school.

This is so disturbing. Children are not animals.

Also, seeing-eye dogs aren’t actually trained for absolute obedience. They’re trained to stop a before a busy street even if their master tells them to cross, for instance. They’re explicitly taught to pay attention to their surroundings and make appropriate decisions based on those surroundings regardless of what their master may tell them to do. And you know what? Given the context, this seems kind of important and relevant!

If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior before you rebuke (or kick) him, you will have a foot-shy mutt who is always sulking around seeing what he can get away with before being screamed at. Where there is an absence of training, you can no more rebuke and whip a child into acceptable behavior than you can the family dog. No amount of discipline can make up for lack of training.

It’s absolutely true that what is described here is bad parenting—although the whole animal analogy is, again, disturbing. It’s absolutely true that waiting until a problem manifests itself and then responding by lashing out at your child wrong and ineffective. But this is not the only alternative to training your child into total submission. This is not an either/or kind of thing. It is possible to address problems before things are out of control and to respond to a child in a holistic and consistent fashion without applying the “training” Michael is advocating here.

Proper training always works on every child.

It sure didn’t work on Sean Paddock or Lydia Schatz or Hana Williams. But then, Michael does give himself an out here—he would probably say the training employed in those cases wasn’t “proper” training. No True Scotsman much?

To neglect training is to create miserable circumstances for yourself and your child. Out of innocent ignorance many of you have bypassed the training and expected the discipline alone to effect proper behavior.

Thing is, I don’t actually expect “discipline alone to effect proper behavior.” I actually don’t either “train” or “discipline” my daughter at all, by Michael’s standards, and she’s not either out of control or badly behaved. And you know what? We’re not “miserable.” Not in the least.

But then—what exactly is “proper behavior”? I get the feeling that Michael and I have a very different definition. I don’t place any value at all on complete and total obedience. I would much rather raise a child who is compassionate, creative, and cooperative than a child who is simply obedient.

“TENNN—HUTT!!”

When headstrong young men join the military, they are first taught to stand still. The many hours of close-order-drill are simply to teach and reinforce submission of the will. “Attention!” pronounced, “TENNN–HUTT!!” is the beginning of all maneuvers. Just think of the relief it would be if by one command you could gain the absolute, silent, concentrated attention of all your children. A sergeant can call his men to attention and then, without explanation, ignore them, and they will continue to stand frozen in that position until they fall out unconscious. The maneuvers “Right flank, Left flank, Companeeey–Halt” have no value in war except as they condition the men to instant, unquestioning obedience.

As in the military, all maneuvers in the home begin with a call to attention. Three-fourths of all home discipline problems would be instantly solved if you could at any time gain your child’s silent, unmoving attention. “TO THE REAR—MARCH” translated into family language would be: “Leave the room,” or, “Go to bed.” Without question they turn and go. This is normal in the well trained family.

Actually, this analogy may just be more disturbing than the first one. Children are not soldiers—and homes are not meant to resemble boot camp or military camps. Parents are not drill sergeants. Seriously, just no.

Michael has issues, and one of his issues seems to be a need to extract immediate obedience from every member of his family. This children-as-soldiers fantasy, laid out in such detail here, is neither normal nor healthy. Family’s aren’t military units, and they’re not supposed to be based on military discipline. Soldiers, at least, get to go home at some point and have a breather; the children in Michael’s world do not. Not surprisingly, Michael has this same fantasy regarding his wife Debi. In Debi’s words:

Your husband, dud that he may “appear” to be, is appointed by God to be your immediate Superior Officer in the chain of command. Your position under him is where God put you for your own spiritual, emotional, and physical safety. It is the only position where you will find real fulfillment as a woman. Don’t worry about the quality of his leadership, for he is under the oversight of Jesus Christ. He must answer to God for how he leads his “troops.” You must answer to God for how you obey the one he placed over you. It takes faith in God to trust him when all you seem to see is one carnal man leading you—to “God only knows where.”

I want to finish by pointing out that as with seeing-eye dogs Michael is wrong about soldiers—they are actually not trained to “instant, unquestioning obedience.” If a commanding officer orders a soldier to commit a war crime, that soldier is bound to disobey. The idea that soldiers are supposed to unthinkingly obey every command and that that somehow shields them from responsibility for their action is what led to Nazi Germany and the Nuremberg Trials that followed the war, and that’s why we explicitly don’t operate under that idea anymore. And as with the seeing-eye dog, this seems rather relevant!

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.

  • wanderer

    Even using Michael’s own analogy, I’ve never seen a dog trainer use beatings as an effective method to train the dog. Isn’t the basis of dog training to reward their good behavior? Even in top dog shows the dog is looking for a treat or reward, not cowering in fear of being beaten if he missteps.
    And I am appalled that Michael actually thinks homes should be like military boot camps. WHERE IS THE LOVE???????
    Once again Debi is showing her true feelings by calling her husband a dud (even though she projects her feelings on other women).
    What a seriously disturbed man.

    • Angela

      Exactly! Not only do the Pearls think children should be trained like pets but they use the very worst methods that reputable trainers have long since abandoned. I know people who actually train service dogs and they NEVER hit or use punishments to train the animals. Instead they carefully control the environment so that the dog is likely to succeed at whatever task they are working on and so that the puppy never gets the opportunity to create bad habits until they are trained to avoid them. Actually, it’s a lot like baby-proofing (which the Pearls are also against). A good trainer does NOT leave out all sorts of tempting treats and then punish the dog every time he gets into them. Instead they carefully put forbidden objects out of the dog’s reach until the animal has developed sufficient self-control to resist (through positive reinforcement training).

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        “A good trainer does NOT leave out all sorts of tempting treats and then punish the dog every time he gets into them. Instead they carefully put forbidden objects out of the dog’s reach until the animal has developed sufficient self-control to resist (through positive reinforcement training).”

        I’ll add that this is a tough thing to teach, and takes a lot of patience on the part of the trainer (at least for an amateur trainer such as myself!). I have both my adult dogs trained now so that they will stay while I toss down treats a foot from their noses, or so that they will leave treats on their paws while lying down and “leave it” until I tell them to take them. It took a long time for me to accomplish this– my dogs are very food-motivated, and having food so close without eating it is very hard for them. Dogs are naturally inclined to grab food and gobble it, after all. But I eventually trained them to do it by giving them lots of pats and positive reinforcement– certainly not by kicking the poor things for doing what their nature tells them to do.

      • CarysBirch

        The best thing I ever did was teach my dog to “wait” while I fed her.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        Me too. If I hadn’t taught them this when they were small, I’d be bowled over by two (soon to be three) boundingly enthusiastic sixty-five-pound dogs every time I tried to feed them dinner. Dogs (particularly big dogs) have to be trained for the safety of everyone around them as well as for their own safety.

      • CarysBirch

        Heehee, my dog is little – 14 pounds. But she’s so food motivated that it was hard to even get the food in the dish (or the dish on the floor if I did it that way) while she was scrabbling to get at it. Plus, I can now easily keep her from eating things that might be dangerous, like dropped aspirins, and I can leave her unattended with food and not worry about it getting stolen. The other day I was planning to separate two pounds of ground beef into one pound packages, and I forgot and left it in a shopping bag on the kitchen floor and went to the mailbox! Daltrey knows she isn’t allowed to eat anything in the house without my specific okay and when I returned five minutes later it was untouched. :)

        Also it proved to me that I could train her to do things against her natural inclinations. If you can get a dachshund to leave food alone, you can train them to do anything! She’s now safe off leash and better with kids than she ever has been, things I wouldn’t have tried if I hadn’t realized I could.

        [Edit, that was really unrelated but my dog is my baby and I had to brag.]

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        You are definitely entitled to brag. My furry boys will leave food alone as long as I’m standing there watching them, but leave a donut on the kitchen table for five seconds and turn your back, and it’s history. I admit you’re a better trainer than I am:-).

    • https://www.facebook.com/jean.hoehn/info?collection_token=1524166867%3A2327158227%3A35 Phatchick

      And for that matter, Basic training is not 24/7 abuse either.

      • Mira

        Yeah, shows he thinks he’s a real manly man but hasn’t even gone to boot camp (which is, like, the epitome of manliness)…luls.

      • Lolly

        The weasel didn’t serve in Vietnam. Debi’s right, he is a dud, in every sense of the word.

    • kecks

      well, there are not so nice and very effective ways to train a dog that mirror pearl’s teachings of “to train someone up” – f.e. “force fetch” training sadly still used with some gun dogs or training involving the teletact… force fetch teaches a dog to pick everything up at once when it is told to do so: hold the block in front of the dog, pinch it’s ear or put pressure on prone collar or give small electro shock (needs to feel bad but not so bad that the dog collapses or goes into cowering in fear-mode; degree of pain involved varies greatly from individual dog to dog), dog opens mouth because of pain/stress (that’s a natural reaction) – block gets pushed into dog’s mouth. as soon as it is in pain stops – prone collar gets released, pinching stops etc. step by step dog learns to actively take the block, hold it for 1 second, 2 seconds, 1 minute and so on, till the dog connects that to a certain signal (“fetch”). this works perfectly and gets you a very reliable dog. so punishment based training works when done ‘right’ in dogs. problem is there are as effective ways to teach any behaviour you gonna wish to see with more positive methods, like f.e. shaping by clicker training or luring with food and so on. so there is just no need – and for certain no moral right – to use force based methods in training. not even in dogs!

    • trinity91

      My aunt is a dog trainer and trains dogs for everything from every day obedience to fixing dogs who bite to training guard dogs, seeing eye dogs, and search and rescue dogs. The only time she uses any sort of physical control at all is with dogs who bite because that is a serious problem. Even then the only thing she does is to get them to lie down (not an easy task when a vicious dog is trying to bite you) until they are calm enough to try again and then she teaches them effective coping strategies to stress. Most of what she does though is teaching owners how to create a positive home environment for their animals so that they don’t get stressed out in the first place. As an example, most dogs who have separation anxiety can have their symptoms eliminated by kenneling them when you have to leave.

  • Christine

    “Without question they turn and go. This is normal in the well trained family.”

    I cannot imagine any non-abusive scenario where a child, at any time, would without question or comment just go to bed.

    • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

      I was going to say the same thing. If kids ALWAYS turn and go on command, then they have been intimidated into compliance. Normal kids don’t behave like perfect little soldiers.

      • Christine

        I’m as worried about the fact that they clearly are used to arbitrary instructions. There is no healthy way for that to happen, even if you aren’t intimidating them into compliance. Young children need a structure.

    • sylvia_rachel

      Yeah, that’s not normal.

      If I thought he just meant “they don’t argue about going to bed when it’s bedtime”, that would be one thing. But I don’t think that’s what he means at all :(

  • Cassiopeia

    ‘When headstrong young men join the military, they are first taught to stand still. The many hours of close-order-drill are simply to teach and reinforce submission of the will.’

    Differences between children and soldiers.
    1. The soldier has chosen to be where he or she is. The child hasn’t.
    2. The soldier is getting paid to be where he or she is. The child isn’t.
    3. No matter how badly the soldier behaves, the superior officer is not allowed to hit him or her or the officer will get in trouble. The child doesn’t have that assurance.
    4. Soldiers are expected to obey orders because one day their lives may depend upon it. Children’s lives shouldn’t.
    5. The soldier is an adult who can (hopefully) identify when a situation is good or bad. The child just sees whatever is happening too or around them as normal.

    • Emma

      Also, soldiers have more power to LEAVE the military than children have to leave their abusive parents. If I remember right, soldiers usually only need to wait 2-4 years for their tour to end, and they’re free to go. Or they can go AWOL, and accept the consequences of that. Children are stuck until they’re 18 (unless they run away, which can have even worse consequences than going AWOL). Even then, emotional manipulation by their parents still makes it hard.

    • Anat

      Points 1 and 2 do not apply to all military forces, even of western democracies. Some have draft conscripts. And pay may be low to non-existent. But still international law is supposed to apply.

  • Mira

    Ummmmm…the soldiers thing isn’t exactly right. Yeah, marching is supposed to teach you to listen to orders, but it’s also supposed to teach you how to work with a LOT of other people and move as a unit as opposed to an individual. Any training initiated in the military is meant to override your “fight or flight” mechanisms, not inspire obedience. You follow your chain of command–unless you are ordered to do something unconscionable. Then you are well within your rights (no matter your rank) to refuse to do as ordered. Soldiers (and Marines, and Airmen, and Coasties, etc) are trained because they may have to eventually KILL someone, and because they may need to save the lives of their comrades…regardless of gender.
    Kids aren’t like that. Not in the slightest. To assume that you need to train your kids the way the military trains their recruits tells me that you want to break your child down and force him or her to behave in a way that YOU have decided is right. The problem is that the military has centuries of experience to draw upon for basic training–and we’re still learning what training is the most effective, and military training is changing quite a bit. Michael is paraphrasing and right out making things up and insisting that they are a part of a “training manual.”
    Kids aren’t recruits. If you want to break your child you need to not have them.

    • Gillianren

      I’m also pretty sure it’s left over from the days where fighting was done in formations and sticks around because of its benefits. It’s not as though some general woke up one day and thought, “I know! Make them march in straight lines!”

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    “If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior before you rebuke (or kick) him…”

    As a dog owner, I am rather horrified at the casual idea that anyone who loses patience with an animal is going to kick it. I would hope that nowadays most of us understand that kicking an animal is wrong, and so is beating children. If you’re going to lose patience and kick a dog when it misbehaves, you have no business owning a dog. Because a dog WILL misbehave. It has a brain and a will of its own, and it doesn’t always do exactly what you want it to do. The same is true for children. You can’t train children into perfect obedience– they’ll misbehave sooner or later. This is what kids do. If you can’t cope with that, then don’t have kids.

    I am creeped out by this whole passage. As you pointed out, children are neither dogs, nor soldiers. They should be raised like children.

  • Caitlin

    My cousins train guide dogs, and there is no “punishment” involved. Also, guide dogs are actually trained to DISOBEY commands that could put their person in jeopardy. This piece (which is about spouses, not children), discusses the application of animal training techniques to human behavior: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • Katherine

    Is anyone else picturing that scene in “The Sound of Music” when what’s-his-face tries to hand Maria the whistle and she won’t take it?

    Also, children ARE animals. They are human animals, but they are still animals, and beating any animal into submission is cruel and often inaffective. Michael is quite right that KICKING a dog when it misbehaves won’t result in a well-behaved dog, but neither will preemptively beating the crap out of it.

    • Conuly

      Tangent, in real life he DID use a whistle… because his voice was weak and it was easier than shouting across their estate every time he couldn’t find one of the kids.

      Not because he wanted them trained to military efficiency.

      • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

        Wow. I didn’t know that. That’s a neat fact!
        (I love, love, love the movie)

      • Gillianren

        The Von Trapps all hate it. Christopher Plummer isn’t so fond, either–he still calls it The Sound of Mucus.

      • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

        I can imagine.

      • Whirlwitch

        Favourite moment: “Reverend Mother, I have sinned” [opens hand to reveal spark plugs]

      • TLC

        And the kids did NOT like the way their dad was portrayed in the movie. He not militaristic or strict like the character was.

    • Ymfon

      Is anyone else picturing that scene in “The Sound of Music” when
      what’s-his-face tries to hand Maria the whistle and she won’t take it?
      Yes. The difference, of course, is that in the movie that scene was used to establish that there was something seriously wrong with the household.

    • Jenesis

      That’s exactly what I thought of — the scene where Maria’s introduction to the children involves them marching in a line and responding on command to a whistle. And this was recognized as abnormal and unhealthy in 1965.

      • Kate Monster

        Do you think when the Pearls watch that movie they think it’s a tragedy?

      • Jenesis

        I think that if The Sound of Music were written by the Pearls, it would end with Maria casting off her sinning Catholic ways and joyfully submitting to Captain von Trapp in marriage (because he’s the male, of course). When the Nazis came, Captain von Trapp would order his family to run off into hiding so that he and Maria could alternate homeschooling and beating their children on the grounds of “parents’ rights.”

  • Saraquill

    Forcing the soldiers under your command to perform an action until they pass out, possibly getting injured in the process, is really poor planning.

    • sylvia_rachel

      … and doing it on purpose is sadistic.

      • Barbara

        To be fair, purposeful sleep deprivation /is/ a part of Navy training (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a part of training in the other branches, as well, but I don’t know as much about them). There are a few reasons for this:

        A) Once you’re out in the fleet, there are going to be times when you are not going to be able to sleep (e.g. when at active battle stations for an extended period of time). It’s good to have some experience with that.

        B) It’s a facet of psychological conditioning, which the Navy is big on. Part of it is about “breaking you down to build you back up;” part of it is about malleability (let’s not forget that the military is a total institution). If you’re bound for a sub, then it gets even more intense, because spending three months underwater isn’t exactly easy on the psyche.

        Yes, you do have to do perform tasks while you are undergoing this deprivation. Yes, you could pass out. And yes, you could sustain injury (although they try to minimize the possibility for that). You also could be told to stand at attention for hours on end — not only because it instills discipline, but because there are actual situations in real life where you might have to stand at attention for hours on end.

        I think the primary difference between all of this and what Michael is talking about is that none of it is without some sort of purpose. It’s not random or arbitrary, and it’s not about obedience for its own sake. It’s about the fact that /war is hell,/ and they’re trying to prepare you for it.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yeah, that’s actually kind of what I meant, although I expressed it too cryptically: in military basic training, the stuff they make you do actually does have a parallel in the real world of military work; it’s not (or shouldn’t be) done purely for the purpose of making your life miserable.

        Combat is hell, so the military tries to train people to survive and function in hellish conditions because at some point they will likely have to — not because actually falling down unconscious is the point of the exercise. And there’s just no reason to behave as if our children need to be trained to survive in a theatre of war (or not in rural Tennessee, anyway).

      • CarysBirch

        My brother is in submarines, he hated basic training, he said the best part of it was being able to look at Pizza Hut, barely visible across the compound.

        When he went to sub school we didn’t hear from him at all.

  • Trollface McGee

    I wouldn’t allow Michael around any pet (well, maybe I’d allow him to “train” an especially disobedient, highly-venomous snake). Most trainers use a reward system. In my experience, modelling, followed by rewards works brilliantly.
    And no, personality (of animals) has a huge deal to do with how far they can be trained. Service dogs are very carefully screened based on intelligence and temperament. You can’t make animals into little soldiers, nor can you, should you with children.
    Michael has some serious issues along with a severe case of not knowing what the hell he’s talking about, the fact that people regard him as an authority instead of the village idiot is scary.

    • Karleanne Matthews

      This is an important point about service animals–they’re BRED for it, and even then no one is angry when they don’t work out in the training program. Dogs who aren’t doing well in guide dog training, for example, will have a career change. It’s not like you can pick up a chihuahua from the pound, give it some training, and presto, get a guide dog! And even if you could, that training wouldn’t involve violence and pain (the dogs are given “corrections”–a sharp tug on a training collar, so I guess you could argue with that…). Children are a little more luck-of-the-draw in terms of the personality you’re working with (as it should be! Transfer the breeding programs of service animals to a human context and things get really disturbing).

      Another noteworthy aspect, if he REALLY wants to make that parallel, is that the human gets trained too. My mom (who is blind) went to the program’s facility and stayed there for several weeks learning how to work with her dog as a team. Sure, sometimes the dog forgets what she’s supposed to be doing and needs to be reminded to focus and work. But at least as often, she doesn’t respond well because instructions aren’t given clearly. And it’s better to assume that she’s not just being willful: If she’s walking more quickly than instructed, the first thing to do isn’t to chastise her for not listening, it’s to see if the blacktop she’s walking on is too hot for her paws and then find a good place to put her shoes on. So if Michael suggests that things should be even better with children than with service dogs (and I agree with him there, since children don’t exist to serve us), what we ought to be thinking about isn’t perfect obedience, it’s teamwork, communication, and problem solving (based on assuming the best, instead of the worst).

    • Lyric

      Interesting that you should bring up modeling. Recently, I watched a number of videos about Alex the African Grey parrot. For those of you who don’t know, this parrot knew and understood roughly a hundred and fifty words, and was capable of manipulating them in sophisticated ways; for example, he once dubbed an apple “banerry,” because it was red on the outside (like a cherry) and white on the inside (like a banana), and he was more familiar with those two treats. Trainers said that he acted roughly like a two-year-old, and when he identified things correctly he was allowed to chuck them on the floor, which he did with great enthusiasm.

      How was he trained? Well, they modeled everything. A human trainer would work with another human, asking them the questions that Alex would be expected to answer (how many? What is it? etc). He learned by observation, probably in large part because he wanted his favorite human’s attention. And, perhaps because modeling is so very effective, Alex learned his words on the level of a sapient (or at least semi-sapient) being, not—well—a parrot.

      Michael doesn’t really want sapient beings, though. So it’s no wonder that he isn’t emphasizing modeling at all.

      I’m also wondering—when Michael talks about children wanting attention, is it always in the negative? Because—I feel fairly strongly about this—it isn’t. Always negative, I mean. Children need attention. Children need their needs met, and they also need to be acknowledged by the people whom they love. And I have a feeling that Michael regards paying attention to children as an inconvenience at best.

      Not that he’s alone in that, by any means, but I suspect he’s especially bad about it.

      • Mishellie

        Children seek out negative attention when they aren’t being given enough positive attention. So… It makes sense that Michael pearl ONLY sees his kids seeking negative attention.

      • Sylvia_rachel

        Based on what I’ve read of his writings, I would say Michael has no problem paying attention to kids, and even enjoys it, as long as it’s on his terms. Entirely on his terms. Which, since kids are actually just smaller, less mature humans, not androids, is not actually how parenting works. :P

  • Kristen Brennan

    Michael couldn’t train a service dog if his life depended on it. What he considers “training,” actual dog trainers and behaviorists call “abuse.” It goes deeper than that, though; if you’re training a high-functioning service dog (guide dog, search and rescue, whatever) you have to do it *entirely* through positive reinforcement. You reward the good behavior and ignore everything else. If you punish, rebuke, or “correct” the dog for any behavior, it will tend to get scared and stop trying new things, and when it stops trying new things, you can’t teach it those upper-level skills. When I sat down with a vet behaviorist to retrain my fear-aggressive pound pup, the first and most difficult thing she taught me was to get the word “no” out of my vocabulary. Reputable dog trainers don’t use it because it simply doesn’t work.
    Yet, in Michael’s world, it’s acceptable to beat a seven-month-old infant for crying. There is something wrong with him.

    • Christine

      ” If you punish, rebuke, or “correct” the dog for any behavior, it will
      tend to get scared and stop trying new things, and when it stops trying
      new things, you can’t teach it those upper-level skills.”

      This is what I find to be the biggest red flag about the Pearls’ methods. Yes, even more than the physical abuse. If you teach kids to only do what you tell them they can do, you are hindering their development. And this sort of restricted behaviour – only doing what they’re told they may – is considered a goal. I don’t care what means you use to accomplish this, it’s wrong. Having it as a goal (rather than as a side effect) is a sign that your plan is a bad one.

      And no, the fact that their children seem to be reasonably intelligent isn’t a counter example of this. (For starters, there is no way to tell if the Pearls are telling the truth about this.)

    • teaisbetterthanthis

      I saw two guide-dogs-in-training at the mall yesterday. They both looked like they were having the best time EVER, and like they just KNEW that after this they’d get treats and affection. They had that doggy face that just says “I get to play this game AND I get treats when I’m done! I HAVE THE BEST LIFE!!!”

      The “control them into obedience” method was NOT what was happening.

      • Mel

        We had drug dogs at our school one day. I have never laughed so hard. The dogs were having a blast. They were clearing having a great time. At one point, one of the shepherds was so excited/happy after searching my classroom that he bounced vertically into the air shaped like a comma. The officer redirected him into a sit, then petted the dog.

    • kecks

      it does work when done right. the behaviour you wish to see is trained through positive reinforcement. then the dog gets set up to fail to respond to signal – f.e. it gets offered a attractive distraction when given the command and so fails in showing the trained response to signal – and gets severly punished (without dog knowing who did the punishment most of the time; prone collars, shock collars and the like…). this is called “proofing” the dog, as in making sure the trained behaviour will show up really everysingle time the signal is given. because the dog knows what to do and he knows good things happen when he obeys but also bad things happen if not. i do not like it but this is general practice in dogs serving in police and military units (not so much for dogs who do search and rescue or sniff for drugs or land mines), especially for the “let go” command when the dog is hunting down suspects or criminals. so it is not true that positive training is always more effective or negative training does not work – but positive methods easily make up 99% of total training done and good trainers know this very well.

      • Kristen Brennan

        That makes a certain amount of sense. The trouble with the Pearls (well, a relatively small portion of the vast heap of trouble) is that they’re morally opposed to positive reinforcement. I think I remember a quote where they mocked a parent for offering their kids ice cream if they behaved at the grocery store.

      • aim2misbehave

        I don’t think it’s done at all for search and rescue dogs, or drug dogs – only dogs who are trained to be aggressive and do things that could injure humans. If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading the book “Scent of the Missing” which is about a search-and-rescue dog.

    • Karleanne Matthews

      Different trainers may have different methods, but the important thing to note is the spirit that certain kinds of training produce, I think. For example, we do use the word “no,” with my mom’s guide dog, but it has nothing to do with rebuking or denying her something she needs, and it’s not about power. It’s just that when she needs to learn that something is difficult for my mom to navigate, or a place she shouldn’t go (like in my parents’ house, she’s not allowed in the kitchen), all you do is bring her over to it, point to it, and say “no” three times, firmly. From then on, she either won’t go to that spot, or she’ll stop and let my mom feel it before continuing (if it’s something like a big crack in the sidewalk). She doesn’t associate it with “I’m angry and you’re in trouble,” which would be the real problem. I think it could be sort of the same with children, since they’ll never get everything they want (nor should they), but that doesn’t mean you arbitrarily deny them things just to make sure they know you’re in charge, as Michael suggests.

  • TLC

    I adopted a dog from the pound who had been abused. She was the sweetest dog in the world, but it took a very long time to teach her the simplest things because she was so afraid. Lesson learned: Abused dogs don’t obey. They cower in fear, or they attack. Likewise, show dogs are able to do what they do because yes, they and trained, but they are also treated with love and respect.

    I live in a military community and have seen the kids whose parents treat them like soldiers. They are NOT happy kids — they’re just survivng until they can get out of the house. And counting every single minute until they’re old enough to do so.

    I cannot imagine how much this man’s family has suffered under the guise of “Godly discipline.” Even Jesus let his followers ask questions and make mistakes. But not Michael Pearl!

  • Hat Stealer

    I am seeing this book less and less as a genuine attempt to get people to obey one families’ interpretation of the Bible, and more as an attempt by Michael to justify his deep-seated pathological compulsions. This was not written with the Bible in mind- this book was written because a mentally-ill man was put in complete control of a family, and is now trying to gain a cult-like following.

    • The Other Weirdo

      …and is now trying to gain a cult-like following.

      Mission succeeded.

  • Fina

    First – it seems to me that Michael would see nothing wrong with child soldiers.

    Second: Soldiers are already mature human beings, who are taught specialized skills and behaviors. That’s not the same as raising a human being from birth – who needs to learn communication skills, compassion, empathy and how to healthily interact with other human beings.
    Michaels methods do the opposite of that. The child isn’t allowed to communicate. It doesn’t experience empathy or compassion, and probably isn’t allowed to show it either. And it’ll certainly not learn that it’s healthy to have your own needs and limits and that you should respect them as much as those of others.

    Training someone like that also kills all initiative. Every animal trainer can tell you that, and it applies to humans as well.
    And guess what – any modern army values soldiers who can act on their own initiative. Which is not contrary to following orders – it merely allows you to react better to changes and to be more successful at your mission.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I say again: Michael should have built robots instead of having kids, since apparently a troop of perfectly obedient robots is what he wanted all along :P :P

    Also: quite apart from the fact that (as others have already pointed out) quite a lot of what he says about basic training, and the military in general, is utter horse-puckey, the guy in charge of a cohort in basic training isn’t supposed to love them, and has no particular reason to want them to love him; it’s not that kind of relationship. In fact, since he’s not going to be their CO once they’re deployed, it’s not helpful for either party to get too attached. (Respect, yes: you don’t get anywhere without respect. But respect is also not created by beating your recruits.* Sometimes people confuse fear with respect. They are not the same thing.)

    You know who, in real life, made people stand in rows in all weathers for hours and hours for no reason whatsoever, under threat of violence (or worse) if they didn’t obey? The SS guards at Nazi concentration camps. Just saying.

    *There are some interesting psychological sketches of this in the Aubrey & Maturin books, contrasting crews led by flogging-happy “martinet” captains like Michael Pearl, who are feared but not respected (also see: Bounty, mutiny on the), with crews led by captains who expect a lot from their men, but are reasonable and fair and inspire respect through actual leadership. Not saying Patrick O’Brian is actual history, but he did base his novels on a ton of research in primary sources.

    • Gillianren

      Actually, one of the problems on the Bounty was that, instead of using flogging as discipline as was typical at the time, Captain Bligh was just really sarcastic. Contrary to the image that has come down to us through history, he was mellow for a commander of a Royal Navy ship at the time.

      • sylvia_rachel

        ::goes away to read up on William Bligh::

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

    “Training does not necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli.”

    Who taught Mike that rats can’t reason?

    http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2010/01/sci-brief.aspx

  • teaisbetterthanthis

    See, and his original analogy is a GOOD one, but he came to a strange conclusion.

    Seeing-eye/guide/service dogs are trained to pay attention to their surroundings, notice cues (from “oh, it’s the hand, that means stop” to “my human is doing a thing that precedes a seizure, I should get them to sit down so they don’t get hurt”), and act accordingly. They guide their humans through the best path so their human doesn’t get hurt. They obey commands, but they also make decisions based on the evidence in front of them — because that’s their JOB.

    I saw a guide dog in my workplace Friday afternoon. His human and the human’s parent needed to go into the university’s bookstore, partly to get textbooks and partly so the student (and dog) could familiarize themselves with the store for future trips. The dog gently pulled his human toward the door that was button operated (even though another door was physically closer), and waited for the doorway to be clear (I’d actually opened the door and stepped to the side so they could walk through) before continuing — the dog pushed the button for the next door with his paw. His person’s parent did tell the dog “okay, we’re going left,” and the dog navigated arounded people and displays until they got to the section they needed. Some of that involved going to the right of a display, or pausing — but the parent didn’t yell at the dog that they had said LEFT, they just followed along until saying “okay, stop”.And, even though the dog didn’t follow commands to the letter, he followed the spirit of those commands — the dog saw the options in front of him and chose the best one. Sure, that probably took significant training, but shouldn’t the ultimate goal be to have a child who makes the best possible choice, rather than just doing what he or she is told regardless of consequences?

    And, well, I’d quite like for these fundamentalists (and evangelicals) with no military experience to stop using the military for analogies. They always, ALWAYS get it wrong.

  • Sam

    I find it disturbing that the goal is obedience rather than discipline; and discipline is portrayed negatively. Discipline leads to self-discipline; discipline does NOT need to be spanking or beating.

  • Jolie

    It’s really fascinating and at the same time scary how profoundly anti-democratic, anti-progressive and, in a sense, neurotic their ideas are.
    The “army model” presupposes that, in the vast majority of cases (of course, excluding violations of international law) you need to obey your superior and (assuming war) shoot the enemy; as opposed to- say, carefully pondering the morality of your superior’s orders and the relativity of the terms “superior”, “ally” and “enemy”- resulting in a ten-pages essay to hand to your superior along with your refusal to comply. The reason for this is, roughly, because this is a crisis situation, you’re at freakin’ war and the enemy will kick your sorry ass before you have the chance to argue.

    Then, there is the- shall we call it- comprehensive-democratic model; if we are to draw upon analogies with state institution- think of how a Parliament works (again, ideally), and how it’s radically different from how the Army works: in order for something to become law, it needs to be justified and discussed among politicians representing various groups with different interests within society- in a situation where everyone gets a vote. You can’t introduce a policy and *not* discuss it: there needs to be debate, there needs to be accountability to the public and there needs to be a collaborative process. If we had the Army functioning as Parliament, that’s a military dictatorship and it’s usually not pretty.

    Now- people like the Pearls think most aspects of our lives should be run like the Army; what they forget, however, is that the Army is structured the way it is because it addresses specifically situations of immediate and urgent crisis: the neighbouring country is invading and we need to save our lives NOW. In times of peace, in the normal course of life, it is the parliamentary model you need; otherwise you run the risk of ending-up with some really bad decisions. If your focus raising your children is to raise all soldiers and not citizens able of critical thinking and debate- then you probably have no idea how times of peace feel like. You probably think that the majority of people are the enemy out to get you and that we are permanently in crisis. You see general cooperation of minds in bettering the world as impossible or unthinkable. Which, as you may guess, is NOT a healthy way of looking at the world.

  • Jurgan

    “If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the obstacles of a city street, shouldn’t a parent expect more out of an intelligent child?”

    The thing is, he’s not expecting more. He’s expecting the same, or perhaps even less. Animals can be trained, yes, but when I say I expect more out of a child, what I mean is that I expect some degree of self-sufficiency. At some point, they should be able to make their own decisions, and I don’t see how training for blind obedience helps that process. Just out of curiosity, in the Pearls’ world, how do boys transition to married life and suddenly being in charge? All their lives, they’ve been told to obey their fathers without question, and suddenly they are the fathers? Is it a shock to suddenly be the one giving the commands, or does it seem natural to take on that role?

    • Lyric

      I suspect they end up as petty, horrible tyrants, partly from the thrill of finally, finally having a say in something, partly from having no idea what responsibility looks like and how it works.

      Michael Pearl probably sees nothing wrong with that.

      • Christine

        Actually he probably sees it as a benefit. Look at what is portrayed as proper masculine behaviour in CTNAHM. This is probably one more sign that their method “works”.

  • shuttergirl46q

    And let’s not overlook that he’s completely misusing military commands. Anyone who says TENN HUT! in today’s Army gets to do push ups. And a lot of them. The whole point of drill is not obedience, it’s to move a unit from one point to another in the most efficient way possible. Oh and I get soooo ticked off when he completely glosses over the fact that women do in fact serve in the military. Whether he likes it or not, we’re there.

  • j.lup

    The Pearls warn that you have to start terrorizing children when they’re still infants for their methods to work, so the guarantee that it ‘works with every child’ doesn’t apply in the cases of of Sean Paddock or Lydia Schatz or Hana Williams, as all of these adopted children were too old when their adoptive parents began abusing them according to the TTUAC method. Michael Pearl has argued that not only is he not responsible for other people killing their children using his methods, but that in the cases of these three children, the parents weren’t properly applying his methods because there wasn’t the opportunity for ‘training’ early enough. He’s a fucking psychopath and a public menace.

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    As someone who went through basic training I find the analogy particular disturbing. Basic training is designed to break down the way a human acts and thinks; to make the trainee dependant on their fellow soldiers and instructors. Parents raise their kids to be independent, so they can live in society on their own. The Pearls want to prevent all independent thoughts and actions; that’s no way to raise a fully actuated human being.

  • Composer 99

    Michael Pearl’s notions of the goals of military training (“instant, unquestioning obedience”) appear to come from the time when European armies were made up of convicts. (At best, maybe the mass conscript armies of the first half of the 20th century.)

    Anyone insisting on military-style discipline for children, whether the extremity of the Pearls’ notions or some lesser version thereof, forgets the single most absolutely crucial difference between professional soldiery and children:

    Military servicepeople can reasonably expect, over the course of a normal tour of duty or career, to enter into circumstances where they will have to put their own life or health at risk, kill or maim others, operate under adverse conditions involving lack of sleep or food, and where a moment’s hesitation while under fire can lead to disaster, all as a matter of course.

    By contrast, it is unusual, abnormal, and indefensible that children should ever be obliged to enter into such circumstances.

  • Helen

    Michael’s idea of family seems remarkably similar to that of Captain Von Trapp before Maria shakes things up. I daresay he’d approve of using a whistle to issue commands to children as well.

  • Jeff

    While we’re picking apart the dog/child comparison….

    Dogs develop differently than humans. They reach adulthood relatively quickly: a two-year-old dog is pretty much an adult; a two-year-old child is still a baby.

    If a puppy and a baby were to be born on the same day, the puppy would become an adult while the baby stays a baby. The now-adult dog would live out its adult life, and reach old age, and most likely die from the complications of advanced age before we’d trust the human child to drive a car.

    Judging by the snippets you’ve provided, it sounds like Mr. Pearl doesn’t think this is a distinction worth contemplating. He seems to be of the belief that there’s no reason why a young child shouldn’t be burdened with all the responsibilities and expectations of adulthood (with none of the independence and autonomy, of course; they’re adults when it’s convenient for him to have them be adults, and children when it’s convenient for him to have them be children). After all, dogs of the exact same age can handle themselves just fine, so why should the kid be let off the hook?

  • Rose

    I guess Michael doesn’t realize how intelligent most animals actually are. I’ve had rats before, they’re darlings, and they’re also very, very intelligent. Same with dogs, goldfish, cats, dolphins, animals are totally capable of reasoning (i.e. making judgments based on surrounding evidence). He can’t get his basic facts straight, he shouldn’t be teaching anyone anything until he actually knows what he’s talking about.

  • DataSnake

    “If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior before you rebuke (or kick) him, you will have a foot-shy mutt who is always sulking around seeing what he can get away with before being screamed at.”
    Bullshit. Let me tell you a true story about two people who owned pit bulls. One of them treated the dog with love and affection, only scolding him when he broke a rule. The other regularly beat the dog to show him “who was in charge”. The dog who was treated well learned in very short order not to chew up the furniture or pee on the rug, and is to this day his owner’s best friend. The dog who was beaten regularly ripped his owner’s arm off.


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