TTUAC: Children Should Be Convenient

To Train Up a Child, pp. 5—7

If I continue going through To Train Up A Child individual section by individual section, it will take me forever to get through it. Some sections are literally only two paragraphs long. So from here on out, I’ll be addressing several sections in each post, including their titles in the quotations.


There is much satisfaction in training up a child. It is easy and challenging. When my children were able to crawl (in the case of one, roll) around the room, I set up training sessions.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is creeped out by the level of “satisfaction” Michael gains from “training” children into utter submission.

Try it yourself. Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a “No-no” corner or on an apple juice table (That’s where the coffee table once sat). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, “No, don’t touch it.” They will already be familiar with the “No,” so they will pause, look at you in wonder and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.” Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.

This one little paragraph elicits so many emotions in me. I’ve watched this done, time and again. I’ve done it myself, with my little siblings. I frequently used the living room coffee table. I would place something on it that I knew the baby wanted, and then say “no” and switch the child’s hand whenever he or she nevertheless reached for it. What sticks in my head is the utter look of betrayal, combined with anguish and frustration, on the poor child’s face as it would crumple to tears.

I also did this with Sally, when she was first crawling, it was that that snapped me out of my adherence to the Pearls’ methods. See, it didn’t work. Again and again Sally reached for the plants Sean was growing on the coffee table, digging her fingers into the dirt, and again and again I switched her little hand. She would look at me with that same look, begin to cry, and then turn back to the dirt and stick her fingers in again. What changed things for me was when I realized that she was putting her fingers in the dirt out of curiosity, not rebellion, and that I was switching her for being curious. Wasn’t curiosity something I should foster, not punish? And how unfair of me was it to have these beds of dirt and plants setting out right at her level, where she could get her hands in it, and yet expect her not to touch? It was then that I took to the internet to see if I could find any criticism of the Pearls’ methods, and, well, the rest is history.


When God wanted to “train” his first two children not to touch, He did not place the forbidden object out of their reach. Instead, He placed the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the “midst of the garden (Gen. 3:3).” Being in the middle of the garden, they would pass it continually. God’s purpose was not to save the tree—rather, to train the couple. Note the name of the tree was not just “knowledge of evil,” but, “knowledge of good and evil.” By exercising their wills not to eat, they would have learned the meaning of “good” as well as “evil.” The eating was a shortcut to the knowledge, but not a necessary path.

Hey! I wrote a blog post about this once! Except, my argument was rather different from this. Because to be honest, a God who would do what Michael describes here is a cruel God indeed.

Also, this is really bad theology. The whole point of the tree being named the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” was that Adam and Eve didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil until after they ate of the fruit. The Bible does not say they would have gained that knowledge without eating the fruit—in fact, it rather says the opposite.

The beauty of this is that thereafter, every time the children pass the ‘No-No’ object (their “tree of knowledge of good and evil”), they are gaining knowledge of good and evil from the standpoint of an overcomer.

Actually, no. Every time a child passes that object she will associate it with pain, remember being hurt, and stay away from it. That’s not called being an overcomer. That’s called being traumatized.

As with Adam and Eve in the garden, the object and the touching of it is, in itself, of no consequence; but the attachment of a command to it makes it a moral “factory” where character is produced. By your enforcement, your children are learning about moral government, duty, responsibility and, in the event of failure, accountability, rewards and punishment. In the here and now, they are also learning not to touch, which makes a child’s social life a lot more pleasant.

Because children aren’t supposed to touch anything. Seen and not heard, etc.

Apparently, in Michael’s world, moral government, duty, responsibility, and accountability are about getting hit every time you touch something you were told not to touch. That’s not what they’re about in my world. I teach my daughter Sally about all of those things, but I do it by communicating and explaining and discussing, not by hitting her when she does something I say not to do or conditioning her to absolute obedience. I want Sally to learn which rules she should obey and which she shouldn’t, and that ethics and values and responsibility are not synonymous with obeying rules. I want her to learn compassion and to approach the world with an ethical system very different from might makes right. The ethical system Michael is promoting is immature, simplistic, and dangerous.

It just takes a few minutes to train a child not to touch a given object.

This is not my experience. Sometimes, sure, but when I was trying to train Sally not to touch those pans of dirt, it literally did not work. And believe me, I tried, and for a lot longer than “a few minutes.”

Most children can be brought into complete and joyous subjection in just three days.

And can you imagine how horrifying and traumatizing those three days must be?

Thereafter, if you continue to be faithful, the children will remain happy and obedient. By obedient, I mean you will never need to tell them twice. If you expect to receive instant obedience, and you train them to that end, you will be successful. It will take extra time to train, but once the children are in general subjection the time saved is extraordinary.

Because it’s all about saving Michael time, dontcha know.

Some people say, “Child-proof your home.” I say, “Home-proof your child.”

And . . . this is where my parents got that line.

This idea is the natural extension of Michael’s proposed training sessions. The idea is that if you tell a child “no” and then switch them every time they touch, say, the expensive vase on the side table, they’ll learn not to touch the vase. This way you can leave anything you like out—a bowl of M&Ms, a laptop, a delicate decoration—and the child won’t touch it. It is true, this promises to be quite convenient for the parents.

But I happen to think that a child’s home is a place where he or she should feel comfortable and should be able to be, well, a kid. I child-proof my home because I happen to think my children are important and that I should take their needs into account. The other thing I’ve realized is that breakable items should be out of children’s reach not just because they might touch them but also because children are just becoming comfortable in their bodies and are often quite clumsy.


Have you ever been the victim of tiny inquisitive hands? The very young child, not yet walking, is keen on wanting to grab any object of interest. There is no fault in this, but sometimes it can be annoying.

Note that Michael says that the child is not doing anything wrong, but instead doing something annoying. I think one thing that parents find appealing about the Pearls’ methods is that they promise not simply to eliminate wrongdoing but rather to make children cease to be annoying. Because god forbid children should annoy their parents!

When you are holding a baby and he keeps pulling off your glasses, you cannot explain to him the impropriety of such socially crude behavior. The little tot is not yet moved by fear of rejection. So, do you try to hold him in a pinned-down fashion where he can’t get to your face? No, you train him not to touch. Once you train an infant to respond to the command of ‘No,” then you will have control in every area where a prohibition is in order.

Michael is correct that you cannot explain to a baby why she should not pull off your glasses. Believe me, I have glasses and two young children, I’m keenly aware of this. Michael is also right that it’s not a good idea to respond by pinning a baby down. But Michael is missing some options in how to handle this, which honestly, given his claim to be an expert at raising children, is a bit surprising.

  1. You can distract the baby. This is generally called redirecting. You can read the baby a book or get the baby a toy to play with. You can play peek-a-boo or tickle. Sure, this won’t always work, but in my experience it usually does.
  2. You can let the baby pull off your glasses and hold them. If you don’t want to do this that’s fine, and if your glasses are fragile it may not be an option anyway. Personally, I have fairly sturdy glasses and from time to time, and I didn’t mind letting Sally or Bobby have a supervised look at them from time to time when they were babies and found them fascinating.
  3. You can take your glasses off. If you’re moving around or watching a movie this may not be possible, but in my experience in those cases the baby is generally too distracted to go for the glasses. If you’re just sitting still and holding the baby, taking your glasses off isn’t that hard (depending, of course, on the strength of your prescription).
  4. You can put the baby down. If the baby refuses to be distracted and you can’t take your glasses off and don’t want to let the baby pull them off and look at them, you can always put the baby down and give her other things to play with.

In general, if you’re dealing with a child too young to be reasoned with, the immediate fallbacks should be redirect or remove—i.e., distract the child from what she’s not supposed to touch or remove the object from reach—and other available steps are supervise or withdraw—i.e., allow the baby to view the object up close with supervision or withdraw the child from the situation. But all of those things are apparently off the table for Michael. Apparently it’s pin the baby down or train him not to touch.

And what exactly does training them not to touch involve?

Get set for training. Hold him where he can easily reach your glasses. Look him right in the eye. He reaches out. Don’t pull back. Don’t defend yourself. Calmly say, “No.” If anything, lower your voice, don’t raise it. Don’t sound more serious than usual. Remember you are establishing a pattern of command to be used the rest of his youth. When he touches the glasses, again say, “No,” and accompany your command with minor pain. He will pull his hand back and try to comprehend the association of grabbing the glasses and pain. (I usually just thumped their little hand with my index finger. I never knew one to cry. They don’t even know that you did it. They think it was the glasses, or perhaps the “No” itself causes pain.) Inevitably, he will return to the bait to test his new theory. Sure enough, again the glasses caused pain; and the pain is always accompanied by a quiet little “No.” It may take one or two more tries for him to give up his career as glasses snatcher, but he will.

This really and truly is classic conditioning. I mean, just look:

Through this process of association the child will involuntarily recall the pain every time he hears the word “No.” There comes a time when your word alone is sufficient to gain obedience.

Michael says this training works because by the end of it, when a child hears the word “no” the child will physically relive the pain, experiencing it once again. And yet, Michael has no problem with that and is blatantly boasting about using pain and fear to coerce children into obeying his every whim.

You can also stop him from assaulting his mother with a bottle held by the nipple. The same holds true for hair and beard pulling. You name it, the infant can be trained to obey. Do you want to wrestle with him through his entire youth, nagging him to compliance, threatening, placing things out of reach, fearing what he might get into next? Or would it be better to take a little time to train? If nothing else, training will result in saving you time.

Do you see that sentence I made bold? I made it bold because it’s key. It is true that you can’t explain to a baby why she shouldn’t grab your glasses. However, you can explain to a four-year-old why she shouldn’t grab your glasses. It’s absolutely false that if you don’t train a child for instant obedience you will have to spend the rest of that child’s youth “nagging him to compliance, threatening, placing things out of reach, fearing what he might do next.” Whether or not Michael is aware of this, as children age they gradually gain the ability to listen, understand, reason, and show empathy. In what world does it make more sense to train a child to instant and unquestioning obedience rather than to teach that child how to navigate the world in a responsible manner?

And once again, what seems to be most important here is Michael’s convenience. Is it annoying, as a parent, that babies don’t know not to touch? Yes! But I happen to believe that my convenience is not the only thing that matters. Sometimes being a parent is damn inconvenient, but that’s what I signed up for. No one ever said that lovingly and ethically guiding a child toward mature, responsible, and compassionate adulthood was supposed to be easy.

I know a mother who must call a baby-sitter every time she takes a shower. You should be able to take a nap and expect to find the house in order when you wake.

Notice Michael’s concern here—you should be able to nap while your children play on their own and find the house in order when you wake up. The concern is for the state of the house, not the safety of the children. Notice too that Michael does not mention age. It would not be safe, say, for me to take a nap while Bobby, age one, is up and on his own. It would, in contrast, be safe for me to catch a short nap while Sally, age four, is watching Netflix. Notice too that this is child dependent—different children have different personalities and different levels of development.

But none of that matters to Michael. What matters to Michael is that your children not inconvenience you.

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.

  • Melody Jones

    These sections brought back so much of my childhood that I’m feeling rather ill. I wasn’t beaten as a child, but I was an intensely curious one, and my parents were still “training” me in first grade. Parents who try to raise their children with a scriptural basis usually quote a lot of the kid-friendly verses around them (at least in my old circles), like “Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him” and “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, which sounds wonderful except that apparently my curiosity, my contrariness, my everything, was wrong. And none of these traits were skills that I could have learned from someone else, it was all in my nature. But I was supposed to be a reward? Wonderful? But then why was everything I did instinctively so wrong? Things got worse the older I got and the more I found things in the Bible to argue against… everything. I likely would’ve been a difficult child no matter how I was raised, but I really wish I hadn’t had to spend so much time as an adult relearning all of the confidence and curiosity and joy that I lost when I was younger.

    ….I am so glad I’m am adult now and don’t have to be around people who say these kinds of things any more. Ugh.

    EDIT: If children are a “gift”, why do Christians advocate hitting them so much? If I gave someone I loved a gift, I would be livid if I saw them hitting it or letting bad things happen to them, especially if I still cherished the gift/person/whatever.

    • Jackie

      The Christians I know don’t advocate hitting children, but unfortunately the ones who promise easy perfection get more attention.

      I was taught it is my responsibility to not overstimulate a child – don’t expose children to something they aren’t ready to handle then punish them for it. Don’t read scary stories then wonder why a child refuses to sleep. If a child reacts with too much energy to food dyes, then restrict those foods unless there’s space for the hyper reaction. And you certainly don’t put a precious object that invites exploration within their reach until they can understand mine and yours. When children are successful at controlling themselves, that’s when they learn they can control themselves on a bigger level.

      I think Michael needs to have his hand switched every time he’s tempted to give parenting advice.

      • Sally

        “I think Michael needs to have his hand switched every time he’s tempted to give parenting advice.”

      • NeaDods

        Best solution to Pearl ever!

  • Mira

    The phrase “joyous subjugation” makes me feel incredibly ill.

    • The_L1985

      Indeed. Being “subjugated” was never a source of joy for me, no matter how hard I tried to be good; it just made me feel miserable. I felt like I was a Bad Girl and could never be good enough; I felt that the amount of pain and humiliation I was subjected to when punished was unfair, but couldn’t articulate how or why. All of this just frustrated me and made me “act out” even more.

    • NeaDods

      “Slaves, love your masters.” Sadly, searching that phrase gets several bible verses.

      • Conuly

        Sad, but not terribly surprising. You don’t get very far in life saying “rebel against those in authority!”

    • Shaenon K. Garrity

      That phrase is too cartoonishly evil for a Captain Planet villain.

  • Ms Morlowe

    This kind of reminds me of Daily Mail type ‘articles’ about teenagers who get pregnant to get benefits and because their friends are doing it. It’s all about the parents, with no consideration for the child. Also, now I’m totally picturing Michael and Debi dressed like chavs, heavily pregnant, and talking about the next kid won’t change their lives at all.

  • Guest

    It really alarms me that some parents would be hitting their baby for touching things! That’s how babies learn about the world! My little niece has just started to reach out and hold things, and I was overjoyed to see her developing this ability. Sometimes she pokes me in the neck when I am carrying her and it hurts a bit (those tiny fingernails are surprisingly sharp) but would I hit her for that? Of course not! She can barely control her hands and doesn’t understand that she can even cause pain yet. There’s no malice behind it. That the Pearls know nothing about how children develop is terrifyingly obvious. Children have never seen most of the things in the world before. They need to use all their senses to experience them. If they get switched for reaching out, that’s going to slow their development.

    As for being able to leave your baby alone, it’s nothing to do with obedience. Babies are vulnerable. They can choke so quickly. They can get suddenly ill. They can overheated. They can get hurt badly through minor falls. Even a ‘trained’ baby is going to need supervision, if you’re not an irresponsible ass. Besides, babies have short memories. If you’re not in the room can you really be certain they won’t reach for an electric socket, even if you ‘switched’ them earlier?

    This book makes me so damn angry.

    • ako

      A friend of mine has a nine-month-old niece who’s a passionate hair-grabber. This has resulted in the adults…holding her a few inches further from their faces! And giving her other things to hold! (Also, a certain amount of saying “No”, because she’s starting to respond to some words, but no hitting or anything like that.) Amazing how they managed to find a solution that doesn’t involve hitting a baby!

      • NeaDods

        If I can teach a kitten not to scratch by saying loudly “Ow! No!” without hitting it, you can teach a baby with voice and removing temptation.

      • kecks

        also works for dogs. say “Oui!” and stop playing (get up) or remove puppy. stops biting forever. no hitting or scaring the pup necessary. if a dog can learn this that fast a primate human baby surely can, too.

      • aim2misbehave

        I adopted a 10-year-old cat who’s a sweetie, but a bit of a biter. Not aggressively, but he’d use my arm as a chew toy, even if he had more than enough mint kitty dental toys to chew on. Anyways, I used a similar tactic that I’d found suggested on the internet: I made hurt-kitten noises any time he bit me. So he quickly identified biting = me in pain and knocked it off.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        I shaved my head :P

        Not because of the kid, but not having hair for him to grab on to was certainly a plus!

      • Nancy Shrew

        I’ll bet. I remember being surprised at how strong my first cousin once removed’s grip was a tot.

      • Lyric

        Slightly on-topic anecdote: when my baby son met my sister a couple of weeks ago, the look on his face was actually clearer than words. It said, “I don’t know what those things on your ears are, but I’m gonna get them.”

        She was kind of amused. (But she didn’t put her earrings too close to him, because that would have been stupid.)

    • TLC

      I think soooooo much of this just depends on what your child finds interesting. We had a tri-level house when my son was born. In the living room, we had a two-level sofa table that had all kinds of photos and fragile items on it. My son never paid any attention to it. Maybe that’s because we also had an enterainment center in the room, and we filled the bottom shelf with his books. We could always count on all the books being pulled out, and that was fine with us!

      In the family room we had a fireplace with a brick hearth and a cermic tile strip of flooring in front. Since it was so dangerous for a baby/toddler, we put all of his toy boxes there. They blocked HIS access to the fireplace but left it open for us. And because the toys were there, too, he was more interested in them and less interested in the dangerous area.

      I think any adult who expects to maintain a perfectly neat and clean house when they have kids is out of their mind and should seriously reconsider their choice.

      • Alexis

        “I think any adult who expects to maintain a perfectly neat and clean house when they have kids is out of their mind and should seriously reconsider their choice.”


        I often felt like my mother was more concerned with having a clean house than a healthy relationship with me. I mean, so many of our problems stemmed from that one issue. She would get angry enough for shouting matches if I left a few crumbs on the counter. And god-forbid I leave a pillow out of place on the sofa. Of course, my mother was (is) a narcissistic sociopathic b*tch, and so it’s all part of the same mentality, but seriously. Kids are messy. Raising kids is messy. And if you have kids ~and~ an orderly house, you’re probably not doing one of them right.

      • Hilary

        Your mom sounds like Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter series.

      • Alexis

        Worse, in my opinion. At least she had one child (Dudley) who she doted upon. My mother doesn’t really love anything except her own reflection.

        I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that my mother is a failure of a parent, probably has some serious undiagnosed mental issues, and therefore I need to rely on other role models for character development and to create my own support network independent of her.

      • Hilary

        I’m sorry about your mom being such a failure, but I am glad that you can find other role models and your own support network. It was the comparison of prefering a clean house above the emotional needs of the children in her care that made me think of Petunia. If Harry can have the Weasleys as an alternative family, I hope you can find something similar.

      • The_L1985

        The Nielsen Hayden blog has a pretty good Dysfunctional Families series, if you need an online community for it. :)

  • Niemand

    Let me get this straight…

    You’re an evil, selfish murderer if you have an abortion at 6 weeks (before ANY brain activity) for reasons of “convenience”, including things like wanting to live conveniently indoors and eat regularly. But you’re a good parent if you beat your toddler to death because they’re inconveniently interested in the chotchkies you left out.

    • Conuly


      It’s not a very intuitive spelling.

      • Gillianren

        I believe it’s Yiddish.

      • Conuly

        The word is Yiddish, from Polish or Russian or another Slavic language, ultimately. (Probably Polish, I think, but I cannot be sure without digging out better citations than Wikipedia.)

        Yiddish is traditionally written with Hebrew letters. I have no idea who came up with the English transliteration for Yiddish terms, but they were batshit insane.

      • Gillianren

        Try spelling in Irish. It makes even less sense.

      • Hilary

        Transliterating Yiddish with Irish spelling . . . .

      • Gillianren


      • Hilary

        (double post – edited out)

      • Hilary

        You mean, eoaodh.

        This has got to be one of the more off-topic tangents around here. How did we get here?

        Toddlers + chotchkies > corrective spelling to tchotchkies > I think that’s Yiddish > It’s still spelled weird > quick Yiddish FYI > Irish is worse for weird spellings > try mixing Irish and Yiddish.

        And this is why LJF is my favorite blog . . . Libby, you’re great, but it’s everybody else to talk to that really makes it here.

        Finally . . . I’ve always pronounced and spelled it tzotzkies, since there is a ‘tz’ sound in Hebrew but not a ‘ch’ like church sound.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Our daughter’s named Niamh but pronounced Neev. Her biological mother didn’t let my husband have any input at the time and even her foster family will have issues spelling it correctly!!! When I was in school, I had a last name that wasn’t pronounced anywhere near what it was spelled. It’s very frustrating for a child, that’s for sure!

      • Gillianren

        I love Irish names, but I wasn’t going to even consider anything more exotic than “Seamus,” because I wasn’t going to ask teachers to spell and pronounce it, especially substitutes. But my prime example of the lunacy of Irish spelling is the word “leanbh.” It means “baby.” In Irish, “bh” makes the “v” sound, so of course “leanbh” is pronounced “liana.”

      • Hilary

        lol. I’ve friends who speak German, after growing up in Germany for several years, listen to my Yiddish music and understand it straight off. I’m used to reading transliterated Hebrew (and actual Hebrew, a little) which is a fine art. So transliterating Yiddish is a mishmash of transliterating German and Hebrew, with some Polish and Slavic accents for langiape. It would be enough to drive anybody batshit insane if they weren’t already.

      • Conuly

        I was reading through a public domain Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook online the other day. The other night, I should say, it was well past my bedtime.

        I don’t speak Yiddish, but as a New Yorker I am fairly familiar with the way it sounds and with some of the more common words. Among other things, I used to always be at the children’s museum when the Jewish schools would come in (yeshivas in the morning, parochial schools in the afternoon, I have no idea why) and it is absolutely amazing what you can pick up listening to teachers lecturing their students. Teachers always say the same things in every language, so I have a small vocabulary of the sort of words you say to preschoolers.

        So I’m reading this cookbook, and one recipe, a kleine kaffee kuchen jumped out at me. Three in the morning, and I should be in bed, and my befuddled thought was “kleine is small. Huh. I didn’t know the Amish spoke Yiddish!”

      • Hilary

        There’s a great classic movie called “Frisco Kid” with Gene Wilder as a rabbi from Poland who is sent to 1850 gold rush San Francisco to bring a Torah scroll and be the new rabbi. In the opening credits he gets robbed and everything he owns, including the Torah, are left strewn along a mile of dirt road. Later he sees some men in plain, black clothes with beards and runs up to them pouring out his story in Yiddish. Then the leader asks him, “Dost thou speak English?” He’d run into a group of Amish. Latter there is a scene with him davening morning prayers while the Amish children stare at him from behind the door. Oh, his sidekick traveling to San Francisco – Harrison Ford, pre-Star Wars, as a bank robber


      • Niemand

        It probably is intuitive in some language, but it’s not one that I know, apparently…

      • Conuly

        Well, it came to English via Yiddish, but I’ve yet to work out the reasoning behind Yiddish transliteration.

        To make things worse, there are alternate spellings of most words which came via Yiddish, but they’re all bad and only the worst ones ever gain any real currency. I don’t know why.

  • Sally

    My in-laws used the word “no” so frequently with their babies that it was often the babies’ first spoken word, and all of their babies lagged behind in language skills development. I thought the lag was due to lack of language being used with the baby because the parents were so busy with behavior that they didn’t realize how they were limiting their children’s language experience by limiting their children to only touching baby toys. I truly believe you are stunting your children intellectually if you don’t let them explore the world and you don’t join them and talk about it with them.
    That doesn’t mean you have to let them wreck the house or tear up stuff you don’t want them to touch. But if your primary goal when you spend time with your baby isn’t to help him/her learn about the world through his/her senses and the language that goes with that, you’re missing an incredibly valuable chance that you won’t get back. Brain development is at stake here.

    • The_L1985

      My “first word,” according to my parents, was “I said no-no!” (Seriously. It’s even in my baby book.)

      I know it’s unusual to start talking with an entire short sentence, but…shouldn’t a child’s first word be some variant of “Mama” or “Daddy?”

      • Shayna

        My husband’s first words were on/off. Apparently his parents would hold him up to a light switch as a baby and let him flip it. He found it hilarious.

      • Cassiopeia

        Mine was ‘goggle’.

      • victoria

        My daughter and I both had the same first word: “Hi!,” accompanied with a vigorous wave. (In my daughter’s case, it was often directed at the cat. “Hey! Hey! Heh-YO!” Perhaps not coincidentally, we’re both hella extraverted.

        (My daughter actually got “mama” pretty late — she probably had a couple dozen words before she said “mama.”)

      • sunnyside

        Myself and the next kid in our family said “mommy/daddy” first – the first “Pearl child” said “no” and had way more anxiety, anger, distrust for people, etc than we did :(

      • luckyducky

        My older child’s was “quack” (in the middle of church as loud as she could) and I am pretty sure my younger child’s was “ball.” It is hard to say because “mamama” and “dadada” are babble too, so it can be kind of hard to tell when they switch from practicing sounds to communicating.

        It took us longer than I would like to admit that our 2nd was actually using words because instead of using the first sound in the word “bah” meaning “ball”, he tended to latch onto the end of works “ahhhh” was “ball” (“l” is one of sounds mastered later).

        Luckily, we taught both baby sign language and they were both quite adept at communicating without spoke words.

      • Lyric

        It is hard to say because “mamama” and “dadada” are babble too, so it
        can be kind of hard to tell when they switch from practicing sounds to

        Plus, I don’t think it’s a black-and-white sort of thing. At six months old, my daughter goes “mamama,” when she’s discontented and about to start crying (or “ahm-ahm-ahm,” so I think she must figure that the “m” sound is the significant bit). My son is starting to do the same thing. They’re too young for it to mean “mama,” but I’m pretty sure it means, “Attention!” or, “Want!” or, “Mother, I would like to inform you that I have a need that is not being met; please stay tuned for more specific cues to follow.”

        Unfortunately, her current pressing need seems to be to eat my computer mouse rather than drink her milk like she’s supposed to be doing.

      • Alice

        My mom and grandma say mine was “wuv you.”

      • Gillianren

        My first word isn’t in my baby book, but my first sentence is–”I want down.” Having “no” be the first word is pretty common, actually, and for two reasons. One, almost all babies hear it a lot. (I had friends who were trying not to use it around their son for that reason; it didn’t work too well. For one, because I wasn’t going to focus on using a different word when their son was pulling my hair!) Two, as mentioned before, “mama” and “dada” are pretty indistinguishable from the random patterns of syllables that babies use as they’re learning how vocalization works. “No” is distinct.

      • The_L1985

        Yes, but “I said no” is different from “no.” The “I said” part implies frustration at having to repeat oneself.

      • Gillianren

        Sure, and it’s an unusual first sentence. I’m just saying that “mama” and/or “dada” aren’t all that commonly listed as first words, and “no” is.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        I rarely use “no.” Even when he was a baby, I’d try to redirect rather than just saying “no” because just saying no isn’t effective. It doesn’t stop the kid from wanting it, and with his tiny little forebrain, it’s not likely to stop the kid from reaching either. But, “oh, that’s boring. Look over here, there’s something way more fun!” is not only kinder, it’s also much more effective.

        My son’s first word was “dog.” In fact, nearly all of his first words were animal names. Then he learned “walk” (for when he didn’t want to be carried any more) and “door” (for when he wanted a door opened). I think he was pretty close to his second birthday before he learned “no,” and the context was him trying to communicate to us that he didn’t want a particular thing for dinner.

        I do agree with you that most babies hear “no” far too often. I rarely go to the park without hearing some parent saying “no. I said no! STOP IT, NO! I SAID NO!” and yelling. No redirection, no proposition of an alternative, no attempt to compromise. Just “I said no, therefore you stop.” And, honestly, I’ve never seen it work. Kids don’t respond well to negativity, no matter how insistent.

      • Niemand

        My small one’s first word was danke. She was handing pieces of a puzzle to my partner and he was saying “danke” to her as she did and she started repeating. “No” as a word came much later. No as a concept came very early and intuitively to her though. One of my greatest fears when she was a baby was that I’d die* and she’d be adopted by someone like the Pearls.

        *Or she’d be taken from me for some reason.

      • KarenJo12

        My first word = cat. Older son = eye. Younger son = shoe, which he threw at me as he was saying it. I clearly fail at training children.

      • elisa

        According to family legend, I spoke mostly in a gurgle-babble with no clear words until I said (pretty late, agewise), “May I have some cheese, please?”

        I am now a spoken word poet.

      • Monimonika

        I’m not sure what my first word was, but according to my mother I said my first coherent sentence when I was around five. The sentence was, literally, “I don’t understand you.”

        Background: I was born to a Japanese-speaking mother and Swedish-speaking father on an English-speaking US military base located in the Philippines, was cared for by a Filipino babysitter, and later moved to Norway when I was two. That’s vocabulary (and grammar) from five different languages that I was mix-and-matching in any sentence I tried to speak. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t understand half of what was being said by others.

        Due to this, I was considered “slow” and in need of special education. Luckily, a doctor advised my parents to just reduce the languages I was being taught to only two. After that, I quickly went from being “slow” to “gifted” :-)

      • KristinMuH

        My 18-month-old’s first word was “Up!” and his second was “Gus” – Gus being our lovable but very slow basset hound. Mama and Dada came much later.

        Actually for the longest time ALL dogs – heck, all animals – were Gus. He only started saying “dog” a couple of weeks ago.

      • The_L1985

        I’m probably going to confuse my kids. My dog is called by his name, “doggie,” “Mommy’s good boy,” “sweet boy,” and “widdle snuggle-buggie” about equally often. :P But then, he’s a poodle, so I have an excuse for spoiling him rotten.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      My dad has a story (that he thinks is “funny”) of my sister as a baby going up to the bookcase, reaching out to touch a book, then saying “no!” and slapping her own hand.

      My son was a book-grabber too. So I put the books away until he had gotten through that phase (or, more accurately, I shoved pillows in the bottom row of shelves in front of the books). My books came through just as unscathed as my dad’s, and I never had to have a “funny” story of my kid reacting a punishment. Yuck!

      • Conuly

        I would never, ever, ever do anything to make a kid avoid books. Replace the ones on the lower shelves with board books and call it a day.

      • The_L1985

        I’ve already decided that “Pat the Bunny,” “My Busy Book,” and whatever new bath book or board book is out at the time are must-haves for my wee ones when they come along.

      • Conuly


  • AAAtheist

    “… In what world does it make more sense to train a child to instant and unquestioning obedience rather than to teach that child how to navigate the world in a responsible manner? …”

    In PearlWorld, the worst amusement park ever. Break a child’s will, equate women’s unsanctioned sexuality to damaged goods, obey your husband no matter what, and win the approval of control freaks. Who wants to ride again?


    • Nancy Shrew

      More like abusement park.

    • Kate Monster

      I’m pretty sure that PearlWorld consists of rides, snacks, and entertainment for the patriarchs, while their wives work the concession stands and the enormous mob of children stand silently at attention.

  • ako

    I’m wondering if part of the appeal of this is because culturally, Americans at least tend to be really bad at recognizing parents as having moderate right to act in their own self-interest? There’s all that competitive pressure on parents (especially mothers) to be perfect and make unlimited sacrifices for their kids, and then along comes this book declaring you can have perfectly compliant children who never cause you any trouble, and according to the book, it’s good for them! So a parent can finally have a guilt-free way to prioritize their own convenience without feeling like they’re wronging their kids.

    (Something must be going on to make people buy into this kind of thinking, rather than a more common-sense “Don’t hit, and especially don’t hit babies!” approach.)

    • krisya0507

      I think there’s something in this. When I hear parents who advocate strict discipline, they often talk about how parents today are so permissive that their children rule the house and run wild, the parents sacrifice everything and the children aren’t even grateful. I think that’s a valid criticism of some people. Parents should not bankrupt themselves giving their children a lifestyle that’s above their means. They should not place their children’s wants above the family’s needs. The Pearl followers just take it much too far. They make it seem like it’s a choice between being a doormat and being a tyrant, and it just isn’t. It’s possible to set reasonable limits for children that consider both the parents and the children’s needs and desires.

    • M.S.

      Agree with your point. As with most things, moderation is probably best in this aspect of parenting. I don’t agree with the Pearls at ALL but I think the “my child is the center of the world and I will sacrifice everything for them” strategy is not necessarily the best parenting plan either. I always say that our generation is raising a generation of narcissistic, self-centered brats (my own kids included most days!)

    • MrPopularSentiment

      I’ve had people tell me that, since I don’t hit my son, I *must* have an unruly brat who rules our home. Because there’s only two alternatives in parenting, apparently: Hitting kids, or completely spoiling them.

      It’s a ridiculous – and dangerous – failure of imagination.

      Side note, I agree with you as far as motivations go. No one likes to have their kid have a meltdown in public. It can be humiliating. What the Pearls are promising is that this will never happen.

      • Hilary

        Isn’t one of the key hallmarks of fundamentalism black and white literal thinking, regardless of what religion or ideology is involved? That would make sense with what you are saying. If there is only black and white, with nothing inbetween the extremes, the only other option from complete control is out of control. That people can exist with moderate control non-violently enforced is a middle ground too shaky to exist for some people.

    • Lyric

      I suspect this is relevant, yes. I am still struggling with my feelings that a need for “me-time” is a symptom of my fundamental inadequacy as a mother. I feel especially guilty because my twins are exceptionally good babies by any measure, other than perhaps the Pearls’ insane standards. There’s just . . . kind of a lot of them.*

      I also feel shame at not being able to exclusively breast-feed. I’m ashamed of the state of my house. I know I’m doing an adequate job, but I feel like, in this area, “adequate” is practically synonymous with “unacceptable.”

      I suspect that there’s a certain amount of sexism involved, and that fathers don’t come in for the same level of pressure. But I also suspect that Michael equates a minor whimper in the pews with having his penis leap off and flee down the aisle, never to return. It would mean he isn’t IN CONTROL, don’t you know.

      *Okay, I think two babies counts as “a lot.” Experienced mothers, feel free to gently mock.

      • Hilary

        No mockery, just love for trying your best. Two babies at the same time IS a lot of babies. Look at it this way, you’re not as bad as what we’re reading. Adequate is your kids are alive, eating, pooping, and able to love you back. Houses can be cleaned later.
        And thanks for the visual of that man’s penis leaping out of his pants, detaching from his body, sprouting wings and flying out the window. Does the scrotum go with it, do you think?

      • Lyric

        Well, I consider “better than the Pearls” to be a pretty low bar. But when I’m thinking positively, I understand that my babies are cheerful, healthy, and capable of being amused by the “Mommy makes funny noises” show for as long as Mommy can make funny noises—and that’s exactly as it should be.

        Well . . . it doesn’t with these ones.

        Which may have been where I got the image from. I mean, if you really needed an extra visual. The extra NSFW visual, for those of you who are just skimming . . .

      • Conuly

        Twins IS a lot of babies at once. Nobody would ever mock you for that, especially if that’s the first babies you have. Quite a learning curve!

      • Lyric

        They are my first, yes. And they’re ridiculously good babies—good sleeping habits, no colic, honest-to-goodness stopping the crying if they realize an adult is moving purposefully around the kitchen in a manner they associate with milk—but they’re still a lot of work, usually at the same time. And it’s the “at the same time” bit that really gets to me.

      • Feminerd

        Not a mother, but I’ve babysat enough to know that yes, two babies is a lot!

      • Rosa

        Two at once is totally a lot! Humans generally have one at a time because a human baby is a LOT of work. If it were super easy to raise twins we’d be way more prone to them than we are.

      • ako

        It sounds like you’re doing well in a tiring and stressful situation. A lot of parents who probably feel like they’re just being adequate, who need the occasional break where they drop the kids in the playpen (or in front of the TV) for an hour, who don’t keep the house clean all of the time, and who generally don’t live up to some high-pressure idea of perfection turn out to be absolutely wonderful.

        Needing some me-time is fair and reasonable, both because it’s better for your kids in the long run if you take care of yourself (and aren’t too tired, hungry, or stressed out), and because you’re a person of value in your own right, and you don’t owe your kids endless sacrifices to spare them minor problems.

      • Gillianren

        I am now working on a piece called “Lies My Lactation Consultant Told Me.” We’ve only got the one kid, so the pressures are slightly different, but I know what you mean about the shame. Do you also get awful advice, including outright misinformation?

      • The_L1985

        “I also feel shame at not being able to exclusively breast-feed.”

        Don’t be. My mother deliberately used a combination of breast milk and formula, so that we got the enzymes from the breast milk but other adults could still feed us. There is nothing wrong with going breast/bottle, and don’t let anyone tell you there is!

  • Conuly

    Redirect, redirect, redirect. It works just as well as punishment, without being mean.

    I never had a problem with the nieces grabbing my glasses or hair because when they did it I put them down and did something else with them, or turned them around, or started playing a clapping game with them. Redirection is the real key to a happy life.

    And since past experience suggests we will come around to animal training again, I’ll just jump start it and mention that kittens have a number of objectionable habits, and you really cannot reason with them. Among other things, kittens at the developmental stage roughly analogous to older toddlers love to climb up your legs. And what does the sensible human do then? Hit them? Jump around and shake your legs wildly? Panic?

    No, the most sensible thing to do is simply wear old jeans for three weeks until they outgrow it on their own. Cuddle and praise them when they play without climbing up your legs, gently remove them when they do as soon as they get high enough for you to reach. If it works on kittens – and it absolutely does, better than any form of punishment would – then it most definitely works on babies. I love cats, but even the dumbest baby has more intelligence and potential than the very smartest cat.

    • Randomosity

      I loived it when my kittens climbed up my legs. I even encouraged one particularly agile kitten to leap into my arms to get a treat. She did this until she was two and discovered other sources of amusement.

      But hand-biting. Not OK. They’ll grow out of that on their own, too, but I still had to gently move my hand away. Sudden moves caused them little claws to come out and grasp. Kittens practicing hunting. Such good mousers they became.

      • Conuly

        I have one cat who has a strong need to chew things, so every time she snuggles me she ends up biting my fingers. I just curl them up and remove my hand. She isn’t doing it to hurt me, that sort of biting wouldn’t even faze me if I had fur like she does!

        I could hit her, but then she wouldn’t love snuggling me anymore. It’s just not worth it.

      • Randomosity

        And I so totally want my furbabies to cuddle and snuggle. Mine aren’t kittens anymore, but they keep the mouse population down to non-existent and they’re so friendly and affectionate. You never get that when you hit them.

      • Hilary

        My furbutts snuggle and cuddle no matter what. As soon as they can claim a lap when I’m on the computer, or take up 80% of my pillow when I’m trying to use it, bam! there they are. Totally worth it for the purring and soft cheek rubs.

      • The_L1985

        I’m tempted to get a kitten myself, now that my parents have decided not to speak to me anymore. I live in Florida. There are anole lizards everywhere. The more fluffy things that there are getting rid of lizards, the better.

      • Deird

        When my cat bites me, I put my hand over his face. Not at all painful, but incredibly irritating to him – so he learned not to bite very fast.

    • NeaDods

      I startled the mittens with a loud voice. It worked without hurting them and generally teaches them not to claw in about a week.

      • Conuly

        I generally save the loud voice and clapping for things that are either actually dangerous (chewing on power cords) or are likely to end with my dinner on the floor.

      • NeaDods

        Watson drew blood with her enthusiasm; drastic measures needed! (Also, I’m amused that I missed what autocorrect had done to “kitten.” I suppose I could shout at mittens, but it probably won’t do any good!

      • Conuly

        Ouch, blood drawing is not okay! Yeah, I have a high tolerance for kittenish hijinks due to some seriously irresponsible pet ownership when I was a teen.

      • ako

        After it was clear that my kitten was growing into a biter, I got a spray bottle and filled it with water. (I left it lying around, so it was generally cool-to-room-temperature, depending on how recently I’d filled it.) Damp fur and mild irritation did disciplinary wonders.

    • WordSpinner

      I just got my first kittens (moved out of my parents house) and oh God… the younger one thinks my hair is a play-toy and likes to crawl into the covers and start biting my back. (In play. It tickles more than hurts.)

      I generally just remove him when he tries. Hopefully he’ll start to associate “Cuddle time” with “No attacking the big person.”

      But then again, I can hold him baby-style and pet his spotted tabby belly, so it isn’t all frustration.

    • Gillianren

      I had a cat who was fond of climbing one of my friends. She was almost six feet tall in heels, so we referred to it as “climbing Mount Sheena.” Mostly, as I recall, she either put up with it or handed him to me.

    • Mogg

      I had a cat which I adopted as a near-adult, who once decided that the best way to get to my lap was to drag herself up with her claws rather than jumping. No beating required – the combination of my reaction from having a painful startle and then having her claws detached from my leg and no lap to sit on meant she didn’t try it again. My current cat was a very rough player as a kitten and one of his favourite games was “attack the human ankles”. He learned quite quickly that if he wanted to play the game he had to do it with his claws in, or the ankles would not participate. He learned the word “gentle” very quickly, no physical “training” in the form of hitting required. He’s an incredibly gentle but still playful cat now as an adult, and easy to handle even though he’s nervous, because he trusts that humans who hold him won’t hurt him and he knows to control his claws and teeth.

  • NeaDods

    So… much… to… rant… about…

    I’m noticing that there’s one subject that Michael’s as fond of as his own fantasies of masculinity – it’s the notion that by smacking your kids around they will be happy, grateful, loving, etc. These methods — methods which focus entirely on getting children to wallpaper over everything they actually think and feel in favor of *showing* only approved emotions — are supposed to guarantee not just no-fuss child raising, but actually boosting the child’s love and attachment to the parent.

    Has anyone bothered to do a study on this? Because from the outside in, it’s not hard to correlate the flood of the “Joshua generation” running pell-mell from this lifestyle and this teaching to “smack ‘em around until they love it.” (A theme, I must add, which is prevalent in much of the creepier BDSM fiction. Think about THAT for a moment.)

    Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.” Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training

    You. Are. Abusing. Period, end of sentence. Michael is teaching parents to deliberate setting up their child to fail so that the parent can cause them pain.

    Think about that sentence. THINK about that sentence! It’s horrible enough without Michael’s metaphoric jollies in talking about how “satisfying” it is to deliberately set the child up to fail so that the parent can cause them pain.

    One little switch is not “enough” to teach a stubborn child. Or a confused child who can’t understand why they’re being hurt. Or a child who isn’t developmentally ready to put two and two together and even realize that touching that tempting thing and Mommy hurting them is even related.

    This right here is why children get beaten to death – because Michael promised love and obedience and some kids just aren’t wired to deliver that and some parents can’t get enough of the “satisfaction” of pounding someone too weak to fight back. This right here is why indoctrination works, why patterns repeat, even why we end up with religious far-right people like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin who are so proud of their incurious ignorance. Because their earliest lessons, before they’re even out of the cradle is that curiosity and exploration HURT THEM. Physically. Instantly.

    I remember reading some horrible childraising advice by a fundie that talked about how kids know their “sin nature” because they start crying when you approach them and they’re doing something wrong. (His example was unrolling the toilet paper.) And they do it faster. Well, maybe that kid wouldn’t cry if they didn’t associate you with random pain. Maybe that toddler wouldn’t do it “faster” because he didn’t know that you were about to take it away.

    In any other situation, deliberately setting someone up to fail is considered immoral. Setting them up to fail so that you can amuse yourself hurting them is the stuff of monsters.

    And that, nakedly, is Pearl’s advice.

    • phantomreader42

      In any other situation, deliberately setting someone up to fail is considered immoral. Setting them up to fail so that you can amuse yourself hurting them is the stuff of monsters.

      There is one other situation where deliberately setting people up to fail so you can manufacture an excuse to hurt them is celebrated by some people. It involves a man, a woman, a magic fruit, a talking snake, an invisible tyrant in the sky, and untold generations being cast into a firey torture chamber…

  • Cassiopeia

    Heaven forbid children be inconvenient or annoying.

    I also have glasses and (for some unknown reason) children love me. As a result I’ve held a number of children who are really interested in the strange contraptions on my face.

    I just move them out of grabbing range and say ‘No’ firmly. Then I distract them. Works well enough without the need for hitting (not that I could, none of them are my kids).

    I do have a question. What if you leave a no-no object out while you’re taking a nap and your child, unknown to you, touches it?

    What have they learnt? Not, ‘I shouldn’t touch this’ but ‘I can touch this when Mummy isn’t in the room’. That’s already teaching them to go around you rather than obey your rules.

    • Jayn

      Which brings me to my own question–how do you deal with a no-no object that is a permanent fixture? I’d rather keep such things out of reach myself, but that’s not always an option. (I can’t help but be particularly concerned with the litter boxes) I can see your point about teaching a child to go around the rules, but then that leaves my only options as constant supervision to make she ze doesn’t decide “Ooo, sandbox!” or potty training the cats.

      • Conuly

        Can you put a gate up around the box that your cat can get over but your kid can’t?

      • onamission5

        I have a lidded litter box and the opening is turned toward the wall, with just enough space for the cats to slip in and out. This keeps the dog out of it as well as kept the kids out when they were wee.

      • Gillianren

        My son is already inching a bit during tummy time (he’ll be two months on Thursday!), so the discussion of how to babyproof has gained a new urgency. One of our issues is that it is literally impossible to proof part of our apartment. I sew, and because our apartment is carpeted, we can’t be sure that I’ve gotten all the pins up off the ground. I don’t want to discover I’ve missed one when it’s embedded in his hand!

        So what are we going to do? Baby gates. We’re going to use baby gates to keep him out of the more public parts of the apartment, because the kitchen isn’t safe and the sewing area is in the living room. If he’s going to be in the living room while I sew, he’s going to be in a playpen. This isn’t any part of training or anything to do with convenience. We’re trying to keep him safe, because that’s our job as parents.

      • The_L1985

        You just explained, in a nutshell, why I insist on only buying either safety pins, or straight pins with big colorful heads–I don’t like losing pins or needles in the carpet!

      • Gillianren

        It’s impossible to have a working needle for embroidery that won’t disappear into the carpet when you drop it! I have some safety pins, but not many, because they aren’t convenient for sewing. (Though I do use them for threading elastic, especially the really narrow elastic.) They certainly aren’t convenient for pinning patterns. I don’t find the ones with the big colourful heads that practical, either; they’re more likely to get broken when they’re sewn over.

      • The_L1985

        In a sewing machine? You’re not supposed to sew over any kinds of pins at all. It can break your needle, throw the timing off, or otherwise wreck it.

        The big heads make it easy for me to pull the pins out right before my machine gets to that point.

      • Gillianren

        I’ve never heard that before, and I took a sewing machine basics class. My mother’s been sewing over pins for probably more than fifty years.

        ETA–okay, yes, it can break your needle or your pins, but I’ve never heard that you should never sew over them. You just replace the needle/throw away the broken pin and move on.

      • sam

        my grandmother had a large magnet on a skinny rope and would drag it across the carpet around where the sewing was going on.

      • Christine

        We fenced off large portions of our apartment, because we have a lot of open storage shelves. (She can reach over the fence if she wants a music book, but it’s still helpful). I know the idea of the same fence for dogs and for kids is a bit offputting, but we really like our

      • Mogg

        I don’t find it offputting. I use a baby gate if I have to seperate pets for some reason. I have at various times had newborn kittens and their mother, foster or visiting-for-a-while dogs, and new puppies gated safely away from other household pets, either until they got used to each other and learned the house rules or until they went to their new home/own home whatever. I certainly didn’t beat my friend’s dog, who recently stayed for three weeks, when the gate was accidentally left open and he chased the cat onto a table – that was the responsible human’s fault.

      • Christine

        I found it quite practical – saves on design costs, we know it’s chew-resistant. But I really appreciated that they had two different packages for the different lines.

      • trinity91

        FWIW my grandma just used pin magnets to get all of them out of the carpet. They’re strong handheld magnets that are made to pick up all of your pins that get strewn about.

      • Gillianren

        It doesn’t work when they’re tangled in the carpet fibers.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        It would at least let you know where they are?

      • That Other Jean

        Could you use something like a floorcloth under where you’re sewing? A plastic tablecloth, tarp, big piece of canvas, or something similar would let you find the pins you dropped more easily, because they wouldn’t be tangled in the carpet, I use a magnet on my tile floor; I would think that a non-fuzzy floor covering over your carpet would make picking up pins with a magnet fairly simple.

      • Gillianren

        Honestly, gating him off from the sewing area is simpler. I don’t mind an occasional mild stab, because I’m used to it (we once lied to a friend’s child and told her that we were allowed to handle pins because “they don’t hurt grown-ups”), but I don’t want to risk it with him. The corner my sewing area is tucked into would require maneuvering to get a floor cover down, and I really don’t feel like dealing with it.

        Not to mention the fact that keeping him out of the kitchen is at least as important to me, and given that the public areas of the apartment are a circle, just isolating the hall is the simplest way of doing it.

      • Monimonika

        The moment you mentioned the words “sew” and “carpeted”, I knew what you were going to say next. Way back when, my little sister’s middle school had a new sewing room built and part of the design included carpeting… *facepalm*

      • MrPopularSentiment

        I have two litterboxes in the house. I just used “natural consequences.” If my son reached in, I’ll pull his hand out (gently! I don’t just yank!) and say “eeeew, litterboxes are dirty! We have to go wash your hands now!” And then we go wash hands. He very quickly learned that reaching into the litterbox not only doesn’t get him what he wants, it also means having to go clean up (which is time that he doesn’t get to spend playing).

        We also had some trouble with him wanting to put toys into the litterboxes. For those, we just made it a rule that he can’t reach in and get them. Instead, “the toy is in the litterbox now. I’m sorry, but it’s dirty. You’ll have to wait until the litterbox is cleaned.” Then we’d just leave the toy there until the kid went down for a nap or something, so he wouldn’t see us reaching into the box and take that to mean that it’s okay. Then we’d clean the toy and put it back in its normal spot. Again, he learned pretty quick that toys that go into the litterbox can’t be played with for a while.

        But that’s all in the toddler phase. When he was in the crawler phase, we had to be a little more creative. We had a babygate at the entrance to the kitchen and the office (kitchen has obvious dangers, and the office had lots of wires, expensive computer stuff, etc). We moved the litterboxes into those rooms, so they were out of the way.

        That’s what worked for us. Obviously, mileage may vary. Now, at two and a half, my son is still very interested in litterboxes, especially if there’s a cat in them, but he knows not to touch or throw stuff into them.

      • victoria

        Some combination of supervision, mechanical solutions, and removing temptations.

        Where possible, you move dangerous/delicate stuff to places that are off limits to the kid. Our litter box is in the laundry room, and when the kiddo was small she just wasn’t allowed there because nothing good could come of that. (We put a cat door in the laundry room door and kept the room locked with a chain.) Then some things are mechanical solutions — we didn’t go wild with the childproofing, but we locked a couple cabinets that had cleaning supplies, etc., put covers on empty outlets, and put a gate at the top of the stairs. And then you keep them either where they’re contained or where someone has their eyes on them pretty much all the time. Luckily that phase doesn’t last too long!

  • M.S.

    His example of “training stations” by setting desirable objects up and then “switching” the baby’s hand when the baby reaches for the object is very cruel indeed. That is baiting. That is almost like he is seeking out the opportunity to switch his baby’s hand. I find that so odd and so cruel and I could not imagine doing that to a child.

    • The_L1985

      Not to mention that the only time you should “hit” a baby’s hand is a gentle push or swat away from the thing baby shouldn’t touch. Using a switch strikes me as unbearably cruel on a child of ten, much less an infant!

      • M.S.

        And even then, you push or swat a baby away if they are reaching for something dangerous… but ultimately you try to remove objects your baby shouldn’t touch out of their reach. At least that’s how I see it.

    • Sally

      I guess it’s “bait and switch.”
      Sorry, it’s not actually funny.

  • Alice

    Geez! If I was treated like that as a young child, I think I would have been walking on eggshells all the time, trying not to touch ANYTHING in the house without explicit permission. Way to kill curiosity. Also, it teaches kids mindless obedience instead of “This is dangerous” or “This belongs to someone else.”

    • The_L1985

      Oh yes. I actually learned a rather bizarre lesson from authoritarian scare-parenting: A neat new thing to do that Daddy hasn’t mentioned yet will either get you in trouble or it won’t. If it’s OK to do, then doing it will be fun and you’ll learn stuff. If it’s not OK to do, then you may as well do it anyway, because you’ll probably do something else naughty today, like wet yourself or spill your drink, and then Daddy will spank you today anyhow.

      I did learn from an early age that blanket forts, that staple of childhood, were taboo. I saw pictures of blanket forts in some of my favorite books as a kid and wanted to make my own. So I took down some of the couch cushions to make the walls–and immediately Dad descended upon me like one of the Furies, insisting that I put it back and not make a mess. Insistence that I was going to put all the cushions and blankets back when I was done didn’t help.

      My next attempt at blanket forts was in the kitchen. We had a small kitchen table, and I decided that draping a blanket over the table, with the chairs as walls, would make an ideal fort. I was immediately told not to bring my blanket into the kitchen. So I have never built a blanket fort.

      • Gillianren

        You’re never too old for one . . . .

      • abb3w

        Ob XKCD….

      • The_L1985

        I know. But I used that example to show just how extreme it got.

    • NeaDods

      Emphasis on “mindless,” sadly!

  • JarredH

    You know what I find really weird about Michael invoking the story of Adam and Eve and the tree as a “Blibical example” of his “training not to touch” method? Adam and Eve did touch the tree. They went so far as to eat the fruit. Why on earth would you bring up an example in which The Almighty (allegedly) tries your proposed training method and fails??

    • phantomreader42

      Because Michael thinks he’s a lot better at it than almighty god.
      I’m not sure if I’m joking or if he’s really that arrogant.

      • NeaDods

        He’s trained his wife to consider what he says as the will of god, I’m just sayin’….

    • Randomosity

      Seems to me that Original Sin is the sin of sentience. Isn’t that what knowledge of good and evil actually is? How dare you have morality without mindlessly obeying someone above you? How dare you think and ask questions? Eve asked a ton of questions, all of which were answered truthfully. Then and only then she ate. And shared.

  • Jurgan

    One thing that’s unclear to me- you were raised a devotee of the Pearls, but your husband was not. How did he feel about you raising your daughter this way? Did he know you were regularly switching her? As you’ve frequently said, communication is key, and I wonder what sort of communicating on parenting strategies the two of you did.

    • Libby Anne

      My husband wasn’t raised on the Pearls or homeschooled, but he did grow up in a (much more mainstream) conservative Christian family and was raised on Dobson. He never read To Train Up A Child, but I guess from my descriptions of it that it didn’t sound all that different (and in some ways, it’s not). When I questioned the Pearls’ methods and started telling him what I found online, and reading him excerpts, and talking about new ideas about how to do things differently, he was totally on board. So yes, there was communicating on parenting strategies throughout.

  • phantomreader42

    But how could you expect Michael to understand that children gain the ability to listen, understand, reason, and show empathy? He’s an adult, and he clearly never gained any of those abilities.

  • LadyCricket

    (quote)When God wanted to “train” his first two children not to touch, He did not place the forbidden object out of their reach. Instead, He placed the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the “midst of the garden. (/quote)

    …and how well did that work out for God?

  • Niemand

    You should be able to take a nap and expect to find the house in order when you wake.

    The house? Who gives a fill-in-the-blank about the house? I want to arrange things so that I can be sure that the baby is in order when I wake up. The house can be fixed. The baby, not so much.

    • The_L1985

      Indeed! Keeping the house neat can wait until the child is old enough to learn basic tidying-up in zir own room. Until then, there WILL be a mess.

    • ArachneS

      I’m also a little surprised at the idea that you would be taking a nap and considering it normal to leave a baby or child around the house while you are sleeping. ESPECIALLY with a kid too afraid to notify or get in trouble with the parent if something happens while the parent is asleep. WTF kind of skewed perspective worries about the house not getting messy when you sleep, rather than the children who could be harmed by being unsupervised and uneducated on the thinking skills needed to address emergency situations.

      • Angela

        My son has a small playroom that is thoroughly childproofed and contains only toys that are safe for him to play with. I rarely nap while the kids are awake but occasionally if I’m really exhausted I’ll place a baby gate in the doorway so I can lie down for a bit while he plays. My room is close enough that I can easily hear him if he fusses and it keeps him (and the rest of the house) safe. For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would would rather torture their children than take a few reasonable precautions.

      • ArachneS

        This makes sense as the precautions you take are for your child’s welfare as well as anything else.

        I was more talking about the idea of house-proofing your child so that one can nap while they roam the house unsupervised. It seems completely backwards on top of the unnecessary cruel method it uses.

      • ArachneS

        Oh that you was a general “you”, I don’t mean to sound like I’m saying it as a personal accusation towards Neimand.

      • Niemand

        FWIW, I didn’t take it as a personal accusation. Though I do let the 10 year old run around the house while I’m napping, so technically I do let a child run around unsupervised while napping…The difference being that xe’s no toddler and knows that in an emergency waking me is the expected response, not something xe will get into trouble for.

      • The_L1985

        There was a point in time when my extremely inquisitive brother had to be supervised literally every waking moment or he’d be into something. At one point, my mom thought her collection of crystal animals had been stolen by the babysitter. After much questioning and an attempt to watch a video, it was determined that while the babysitter went to the bathroom, baby bro pushed a chair up to the wall, got down the pretty shiny things, and shoved them into the VCR.

        Anyone who thinks you can nap while toddlers are awake is dead wrong.

  • krisya0507

    I shudder to think about how my son would fare if he lived in a household like this. I really think he would be one of those horror stories you read about children being starved or beaten to death. He has an iron will. It’s impressive/frustrating. When he is really worked up about something, he will go to literally any lengths so he doesn’t have to give in. It usually starts with a small issue, like he doesn’t want to pick up his toys or go somewhere, but he quickly loses sight of how it started and basically just doesn’t want to do what we’re telling him to do because HE wants to be in control. I think parents using the Pearl method would escalate with him because they would be so afraid of ‘giving in’ or letting him be in control. The louder he yelled, the harder they would hit, the more things they would take away, and it would turn into a game of chicken to see who would give in first. Just thinking about makes me ill, because I really think he wouldn’t give in and would be in danger with some parents.

    My husband and I both have a similar stubborn streak and control issues (over ourselves, not others) so we understand where he’s coming from and what’s going on inside his head. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, but we are consciously not turning his outbursts into power plays. He has a legitimate desire to control his own actions, and I think that desire is inborn and mostly not within his control at this point. We tend to downplay his behavior, try to circle back to the original issue, find a way to help him feel in control of something, and wait until later to talk through and help him deal with what he’s feeling. I hope that we’re doing the right thing, and I hope that as he gets older and more able to moderate his feelings, he’ll meet us halfway and negotiate rather than shout and throw things. I guess time will tell, but not matter how his life turns out, my goal will never be to break his will.

    • Hilary

      It sounds like you are doing the best for him. He’s lucky to have you as parents, and someday you may have an extraordinary young man who can accomplish great things in his life. Imagine all that stubornness determined to help people, or not let himself get hurt, or focus on an important goal.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      The friend with the cry-baby son is this stubborn. She doesn’t have the mental space to be this accommodating and doesn’t know what to do anymore. His behaviors are maddening and frustrating to me and I’m not dealing with a quarter of the mental health issues she is.

  • Kay

    This ENRAGES me. A grown man isn’t supposed to be able to control himself if he sees a bra strap, but a TODDLER NEEDS 100% SELF CONTROL.

    • AAAtheist

      Excellent point!

    • MyOwnPerson

      Maybe that’s precisely why grown men don’t have self control around women. Maybe Michael needs to show babies bras and switch them when they gaze too long or reach out. Or better yet, he should teach them to close their eyes when they’re nursing. One look at boobie, one switch. Then the young lads will always associate boobs with pain, virginity achieved!

    • Angela

      So true!

  • Anna Y

    I frequently read your blog, and maybe I missed an entry specifically
    dedicated to this, but it puzzles me that you don’t point out the
    connection between the Pearls’ child conditioning methods and their
    beliefs about who should become a parent. I think it’s worth exploring.

    Pearls (and the rest of Quiverful/conservative Christian adherents)
    believe that EVERYONE should reproduce. This is so fundamental an
    assumption, that it’s not even brought up very often. Basically, the
    model is, you stay sexually pure until marriage, then you get married,
    and breed. If birth control isn’t expressly verboten, it is at least
    frowned upon. This is important to keep in mind because under this
    system having children is not really a choice. You don’t sign up for it.
    You get married and have sex and that leads to children. If you want to
    have sex (as a man, because as a woman it’s pretty much your duty to do
    this whether or not you want to have sex, ever), you get married, and
    accept that having sex will produce children. Period.

    you’ve talked a lot about raising your children. I think you are a
    great mom. I wish my mom was anything like you when I was growing up. If
    I decide to have children (which is unlikely at this point), I hope I
    can be as good a mom as you are. BUT, part of the reason you are such a
    good mom is your basic personality. Things that you consider tedious,
    things that you consider annoying, things you are willing to be patient
    with, take active participation in, pay attention to. Yes, maybe,
    arguably, everyone is capable of cultivating the necessary personality
    traits that would make them good parents, but I’m not sure everyone is,
    and I’m definitely sure not everyone is willing to!

    truth is, most people are not prepared to go out of their way to the
    same extent that you do to have and raise children. Most people are
    disgusted by a lot of things that you have to put up with to raise a
    baby (drool, diapers, burping, baby food, baby food going splat on
    everything in a 10 foot radius, etc). Most people don’t find the inner
    world of a toddler fascinating, and are not interested in participating
    in their games/learning/exploration.

    To be fair,
    most people have a lot of pressures and responsibilities that they
    juggle and precious little “me” time and they don’t flipping feel like
    giving up the “me” time or, worse yet, potentially defaulting on vital
    responsibilities. Maybe these people shouldn’t be parents. But some of
    them choose to be parents anyway (because let’s face it, our culture
    tends to romanticize parenthood, and it’s easy to have illusions about
    what’s involved until it’s too late). Worse yet, plenty of regular
    people don’t go out of their way to be parents, they get pregnant by
    accident, and either they choose to go along or simply don’t have the
    resources or opportunity to access abortion services (oh, and anyone who
    suggests adoption at this point is a weapons-grade asshole, because the
    emotional costs of giving up a child you just gave birth to are not
    negligible, whether or not you think you can make a good parent). Hell,
    I’m sure plenty of people who have children just haven’t given much
    thought to what makes for good parenting practices, or have some
    terrible misconceptions (and it’s not like those are hard to come by).

    back to the Pearls. They don’t even have a concept for “not suited to
    being a good parent”. The only way you don’t become one in their world
    is through infertility (or maybe, MAYBE an asexual man might choose not
    to get married). And they are very much in the business of telling
    people “here’s a simple 3-step recipe for solving this set of problems
    in life”. Ultimately, what’s going on here is the Pearls explaining to
    people how to deal with the progeny that “happened to them” and is now
    annoying the daylights out of them. Since classical conditioning tends
    to work on animals (and, despite your argument that there’s more to
    people than that, and that they deserve to be treated as more than that,
    you have to admit that Homo Sapiens Sapiens is a species of animal),
    they are trying to be helpful by teaching people the techniques.

    while I agree with your criticism of techniques, I think you are
    neglecting the criticism of the basic assumptions that underlie their
    use in the first place. If being a parent is not a choice, then the
    Pearls are simply teaching you some skills that might help you cope with
    an unpleasant but unavoidable part of life (granted, they wrap it in
    promises of actually making parenthood rewarding, but the stick to that
    carrot is having annoying unruly monsters running around destroying your
    life, and it’s invoked constantly in the book). There’s a world of
    difference between that and making a voluntary commitment to making
    considerable personal sacrifices in order to guide new individuals to a
    well-adjusted adulthood they are equipped to handle.

    • Alice

      Can’t remember for sure, but I think Libby talked about this in some of her pro-choice posts.

    • Jolie

      There’s this thing I’ve read on Cracked, and found it pretty wise:
      So, how to tell if you’re ready to have kids:
      If your main concern is with how you will fit children in your life, then you’re probably not ready; you may need to wait a few more years, or maybe parenthood just isn’t really for you.
      On the other hand, if your main concern is with whether you’re going to be a good parent to them, or that you might screw them up, unless there’s something glaringly obviously wrong, then you’re probably fine.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    I feel like this is a logical extension of the “you MUST have children” mentality. If children are seen as something you just have to get through rather than something you are actively choosing, it makes sense to try to come up with ways to make it less unpleasant, less of a burden, less of an inconvenience. I mean, that is precisely how I think of housework.

    But when you actively choose to have children, with the assumptions that you have legitimate alternative options, it’s different. It can still be hard, it can still be scary, it can still be frustrating, it can still be annoying, but these episodes are challenges to be overcome, puzzles to find a solution to. In their own way, they are fun (albeit sometimes only in retrospect).

    • Alexis

      Just going to point out that choosing parenthood (instead of it being an accidental or unplanned experience) is not a cure-all. My mother chose to raise me – I’m adopted, after all – and still became an emotionally abusive horror story. I agree with your general point, that parents who want to be parents are less likely to be abusive, but I just want to be sure that it’s also out there that it’s not a guarantee.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        True, and I should have given that a nod. There’s also some issues with mainstream narratives regarding parenthood (images of cozy sleeping babies, for example) that might leave people unprepared for the realities of the choices that they are making.

        But I do think that, generally speaking, people who freely make an informed choice are predisposed to having an easier time of things than people who feel like they have none.

  • Saraquill

    A much more immediate solution for those who find children inconvenient is birth control.

  • Helix Luco

    what is it with this guy and naps?

  • Susie M

    Pretty sure touch is how babies learn. He’s so…..eeeek.

  • Hilary

    I just found this, too good not to share, 100% off topic, but for all the Firefly fans here who need some uplifting inspiration to take the extra-icky taste of the Pearls out of their mouths:

  • Squire Bramble

    Forgive me if cut-and-paste is not allowed on this blog, but this part of TTUAC always reminds me of this:

    The swiftest crawlers were already at their goal. Small hands reached out uncertainly, touched, grasped, unpetaling the transfigured roses, crumpling the illuminated pages of the books. The Director waited until all were happily busy. Then, “Watch carefully,” he said. And, lifting his hand, he gave the signal.

    The Head Nurse, who was standing by a switchboard at the other end of the room, pressed down a little lever.

    There was a violent explosion. Shriller and ever shriller, a siren shrieked. Alarm bells maddeningly sounded.

    The children started, screamed; their faces were distorted with terror.

    “And now,” the Director shouted (for the noise was deafening), “now we proceed to rub in the lesson with a mild electric shock.”

    He waved his hand again, and the Head Nurse pressed a second lever. The screaming of the babies suddenly changed its tone. There was something desperate, almost insane, about the sharp spasmodic yelps to which they now gave utterance. Their little bodies twitched and stiffened; their limbs moved jerkily as if to the tug of unseen wires.

    “We can electrify that whole strip of floor,” bawled the Director in explanation. “But that’s enough,” he signalled to the nurse.

    The explosions ceased, the bells stopped ringing, the shriek of the siren died down from tone to tone into silence. The stiffly twitching bodies relaxed, and what had become the sob and yelp of infant maniacs broadened out once more into a normal howl of ordinary terror.

    “Offer them the flowers and the books again.”

    The nurses obeyed; but at the approach of the
    roses, at the mere sight of those gaily-coloured images of pussy and cock-a-doodle-doo and baa-baa black sheep, the infants shrank away in horror, the volume of their howling suddenly increased.

    “Observe,” said the Director triumphantly, “observe.”

    Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks–already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly. What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.

    “They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives.”

    • shuttergirl46q


      • Feminerd

        No, Brave New World.

    • Ymfon

      This was my association, too.

  • Hilary

    I’ve left some off topic posts here, but after spending time with my 7 month old godson earlier tonight, I was holding him and thinking what it would do to him to ‘train’ him ala Pearl. Upon reflection, if anybody did that to him, I’d rip their arms out at the socket. If his father didn’t beat me to it.

  • Jolie

    So, Michael says place interesting objects in front of your toddler and hit them every time they express the slightest curiosity towards them. That way, when these toddlers will grow up, and the wonders of the world, as explained by science, will be within their reach, they will stick to the belief that the world is no more than 12000 years old and that there’s a pit of fire and brimstone where you go when you die if you’re not a conservative, Republican-voting, heterosexual, homophobic, sexist member of so-and-so-particular-church; because they will be worshipping a schoolyard-bully deity believed to slap them hard if they ask too many questions.

  • Nicola

    You know, reading this really highlights the problems with the “Everyone (white and Christian) must have lots of babies!” mentality. I don’t want children, and I can relate to finding them annoying. As a liberal feminist atheist, I can say “I find children annoying, and I’m not sure I want to sacrifice my comfort to that extent, so I won’t have any”. If I was a fundamentalist/evangelical woman, on the other hand, I’d feel as though I had no choice but to reproduce, and then frantically try to find any way to hate my life less.

    In other words, I think this book exists, at least in part, because the Pearls, and their readers, never wanted children in the first place – or, if they did, they wanted to raise armies for god, not independent adults.

  • Mogg

    I’m amazed that Michael Pearl believes that babies don’t understand fear of rejection. That’s a huge driver of behaviour no matter what age, including the very youngest of babies. His methods, if you give any credence to psychological attachment theory, are a recipe for creating children with problematic attachment patterns, that can’t interpret social acceptance and rejection well and are confused and/or fearful in social situations.

  • Rilian Sharp

    “assaulting his mother with a bottle held by the nipple”. Whose nipple is doing what here??

    • Conuly

      The nipple of the baby bottle is presumably being used as a handle, though it is an awkward turn of phrase.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Oooooh. Ok thanks.

  • DataSnake

    There’s another problem with the Pearls’ “I’m in charge because I’m bigger and stronger than you” approach: kids don’t stay small forever. Pull out the “rod of correction” on a seventeen-month-old and they learn to fear you. Try the same thing on a seventeen-YEAR-old and you’re gonna have a bad time.

    • Alexis

      Especially if you’ve conditioned that seventeen-year-old to believe that violence solves problems.