Could Debi Pearl Be Changing Her Mind on Child Training?

I recently came upon an article by Debi on the No Greater Joy website. It was posted this past August, so it’s relatively recent. I must say, when I first saw it yesterday I was quite surprised by it. Here’s how it begins:

My grandson Roland, who just turned one, has taught me more about the development of babies and toddlers than I learned my first sixty-plus years of life. It is not that he is such a fine teacher; it’s just that, now that I’m a grandmother, not responsible for meeting the daily needs of my children, I can seriously focus on what makes him tick:  how much he understands, what causes him joy or anxiety or fear, his interests and responses—and, most importantly, what a child is capable of learning at various ages.

When he was just a few months old I began “studying” him in great earnest. I had the feeling that I was quietly listening to him speak before he could actually talk. I learned that either this little guy is a remarkable kid or all of us big folk are missing the budding intellectual life of our small babies.

Before Roland could sit up, it was apparent that he was intently studying his siblings in their play. His body language spoke volumes. His muscles tensed when they laughed, and he waved his hands and kicked his feet when they all ran outside. He yelled wildly when the other children came back inside after playing. And—the most resplendent reaction—when his siblings started saying that Daddy was coming home, Roland really got wound up.

As I observed his different responses, I could clearly see that he knew what was happening and wished he could join the parade of feet running here and there.  This baby boy was frustrated by his baby body.

It seems that Debi may be finally, finally beginning to listen to children and try to understand them where they are at rather than imputing all sorts of devious motives to them. I’m just struck by how much what Debi says here appears to stand at odds with what is written in To Train Up A Child. (For my critical reviews of the book, see here. For a critical review from a Christian perspective, see here.)

I do take exemption at Debi’s suggestion that the things she’s learning now are things she couldn’t have learned when she herself was a mother. I’m a mother of young children, and being responsible for meeting their daily needs does not render me incapable of trying to understand what makes them tick. In fact, I’d argue that trying to understand what makes your kids tick is a critical aspect of being a good parent.

Still, I find myself strangely hopeful.

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.


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