Periodically, some Fundamentalist comes up…

Periodically, some Fundamentalist comes up… November 19, 2013

…with some insane biblical scheme for child-rearing that winds up torturing or killing kids due to some insane authoritarian command and control model. The latest of these is something called “To Train Up a Child” which, so far, has killed two children.

If somebody is urging it upon you, head straight for the exit as fast as you can.

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  • Dave G.

    This is the first I’ve ever heard of it. I probably wouldn’t listen to it in any event. I’d be cautious, however, about making it sound like something one could normally expect out of fundamentalist camps. I’ll need to find out more before commenting further.

  • Andy

    The Pearls have a long and sordid history of condoning what is viewed as abuse by many and couching it n religious terms. They have been on TV several times and continue to sell their misguided materials – this is the sort of activity that gives Christians a bad name. The sadness is that the Pearls do not see the death of a child as being other than the parents not following strictly their, the Pearl’s philosophies and strictures.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      “The Pearls have a long and sordid history of condoning what is viewed as abuse by many and couching it in religious terms

      Viewed by many” as abuse?

      I read the link, and read how these sorry excuses for adoptive parents starved this poor little girl, and how they left her outside in the cold to shiver until she died.

      The soi-disant parents deserve to be sent to what is viewed by many as prison, and to serve what would be viewed as life sentences, also by many.

      And the Pearls, who wrote this handbook for torture and murder of children, also deserve to be sent what would be viewed by many as up the river for a very long time.

      • Andy

        Marion – I was trying to be nice – my personal view of the Pearls and their vile child torture practices is that they should be subjected to them for the rest of their natural lives. I find what they describe as abuse, but unfortunately I know people who see some of what they preach as not being abusive, but being strict and concerned.

        • Marion (Mael Muire)

          “I was trying to be nice.”

          I’m sure you were trying to be what you would see as nice.

          I reply that, however, with regard to any approach to child rearing that has a track record of causing the death or serious injury of at least one child, if, knowing this, any given person continues to defend said approach and refuses to see said approach as abuse, then the nicest thing I can see to say about such a person is that they have their head well and truly up their ass.

          And that’s being nice about it.

          • Andy

            I do not disagree with you – I have had to work with people who follow what the Pearls preach – these “followers” do not see what they are dong as abuse, they see it as following the, as I have been told in no uncertain words; “biblical practices for rearing children, and to those who do not accept that, they will spend eternity in Hell,because as we know children are born to be bad”. It does little good to fight with these folks – one has to try and reason with them.. That is what it means to be nice – it hasn’t stopped me from contacting Child Protective Services, and letting the chips fall where they may.

            • Marion (Mael Muire)

              People who believe in the kind of “biblical practices for rearing children,” that have led to death or severe injury for these poor little ones, and who believe that other adults who ” do not accept
              that, they will spend eternity in Hell,because as we know children are
              born to be bad” are not the sort of people who can be reasoned with by ordinary mortals.

              Leave it to their future cellmates to “reason” with them.

              • Marion (Mael Muire)

                P.S. Do you know what prisoners – bank robbers,drug dealers, assault with deadly weapons – do to fellow inmates whom they discover are in for harming children?

                Those bald-headed guys with tatts were children once, and they often had a bad time of it from the adults in their lives.

                Those who harm children usually do very hard time when they go behind bars.

                I say, Good!

  • freddy

    Oh, yeah. I’ve been warning friends about the Pearls for some time now. Pure poison.

  • sharon autenrieth

    There have been three deaths connected to the book, actually. It’s pure evil, wrapped in lots of proof-texting and terrible theology.

  • Rachel

    I’ve heard of them :(. In fact, they aren’t the only ones preaching this stuff. About 14 years ago, before I was Catholic, my family and I went to a mega baptist church where the preacher (who was anti-Catholic) preached that babies should be disciplined with a switch (a small wooden branch) if they got fussy, threw their food, etc. I was appalled and disgusted by his recommendations.

  • Whimsy

    I first heard about the book ten years ago. My friend was relating the part about putting a toddler on a blanket and training him to stay on it. I thought, “a mother does not need to manufacture opportunities to say ‘no’ to a baby” and said that to my friend. She replied with how peaceful the home was of the family who followed the book. I’m grateful for finding ray guaredi’s and Greg popcak’s books so that I was never tempted to look into this material.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      Yes! I wish so much I had Dr. Guarendi’s books when I became step-parent. I was so out of my depth. Dr. Popcak’s books have been a great blessing for us too, especially since the family has grown.

    • Julia

      In point of fact, they don’t recommend putting a toddler on a blanket and hitting them if they get off of it. They recommend it for INFANTS.

      You are supposed to do that at 4 months old when they start rolling.

      I definitely love Drs Popcek and Guerendi’s books.

  • Patty

    All my siblings subscribe to the Pearls’ ways. They have plastic switches in their cars, “just in case”. I find what I have seen of it truly horrifying, and yes, I’ve also heard there is peace in the home of the family who follows recommendations in the book. I’ve *seen more chaos than peace in the homes of the families who follow this way, but boy oh boy did I hear about said peace when my children were small and I needed to be training them to “obey”.

  • MarylandBill

    I am horrified. This isn’t disciplining a child, it is breaking them. Yes, you might end up with a quiet and compliant child, but you will have also stripped out a lot of good qualities as well like initiative and curiosity since it appears that these traits are punished as bad behavior. And to discipline any child before about 18 months is just stupid.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      “to discipline any child before about 18 months is just stupid.”

      If, even after being told a firm “no!” each time, an eleven month old baby in her high chair insists on throwing her toy onto the floor just to see Mommy pick it up and replace it, a wise Mom will, after the third rep in as many minutes, quietly pick the toy up and put it away, even if Baby cries for it. Mommy won’t spank or slap Baby, Mommy will sit and play Baby’s favorite “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” game, or some such, instead, to distract her. And then after that it’s time to go for a walk, and after that, a bubble-bath.

      Gradually, gradually Baby can learn, at a very early age, you don’t mess around when Mommy tells you not to do something. Or to do something.

      But deliberately to inflict physical pain on one so young is inexcusable.

      Most dogs I’ve met know better than to do that. And the ones who don’t, are considered vicious.

  • KarenJo12

    Fellow Patheos blogger Libby Anne at “Love, Joy, Feminism” has a very good series discussing this book at her site. I strongly recommend it.

  • Shawna Mathieu

    Avoid “Babywise” too. The author promulgates his personal theories, almost all of which have been disproved, several of which can cause physical and mental problems for children. Example: he states babies should be put on a strict feeding schedule every four hours because if you don’t, their digestive system won’t develop right – which is bunk. BTW, the author’s own children won’t have anything to do with him, which I don’t think is a real ringing endorsement of his method.

  • I’ve been discussing this book for years. There are THREE death associated with these teachings. I went on Anderson Cooper’s TV show to talk about it. You can read my post about it here:

    • Rosemarie


      I sometimes hear the claim that conservatives will ultimately gain the upper hand in the US because they are (allegedly) producing more children than those selfish, contracepting liberals, and so will one day outnumber them. Then I read about children of Protestant Fundamentalist “quiverful” families who were badly scarred by extreme discipline methods. Some of them even end up rejecting their parents’ beliefs as a result. I then wonder whether that overconfident, conservative prediction will really come true.

  • Carol Weinstock

    Someone gave me this book years ago, I have it somewhere. Kind of glad I never read it.

  • Dan C

    Why would one need to be warned against this? I see it is clearly problematic. But it is CLEARLY problematic.

    What is the attraction?

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      “What is the attraction?”

      What, indeed?

      You are familiar, of course, with the marriage proposals and fan clubs that surround serial killers who are appealing their sentences while on Death Row. Both male and female.

      What, you might ask, does this have to do with the Pearls?

      Simply this: a hypothesis: in this Information Age of ours, for every psychopath who is able to gain publicity, there will come to surround him or her a bevy of willing accomplices / acolytes.

    • In certain fundamentalist circles, there is a lot of pressure to follow these methods, or ones similar to them. They convince parents that is the only “biblical” way to raise children and that their children will be rebellious, abandoned the faith, and go to hell if not beaten into submission from and early age. People will do a lot of screwed up things if they can be convinced (or convince themselves) it’s “for the good of the children”.

      With the Pearls, it can start very early. They have a book on marriage that is popular among fundamentalist women, and a website/magazine that has articles on family. A woman who credits the Pearls with saving her marriage will be likely to listen to them on how to raise children as well. Also, the abusive parts of the book are not the majority, and people spread them around saying “take the good and leave the bad”, or don’t see the horribleness of what it teaches because it’s surrounded by talk of love, “tying heartstrings”, etc.

    • chezami

      Command and control.

      • Dan C

        The gift of being raised as a Catholic and a cultural Catholic is that this type of stuff is utterly alien.

        • bob

          You’re joking, right? Are you just checking to see if people are paying attention?

      • Dan C

        Not to say child abuse and spousal violence isn’t a problem, but it doesn’t wrap itself into religion.

        • bob

          Like hell it doesn’t.

    • Kate

      The attraction is the promise of guaranteed results. This kind of parenting theory exists in the context of near-crippling fear of ‘failing’ as a parent by raising ‘rebellious’ children who might fall into sin or rebel.

      Sadly, I know of Catholic families who ascribe to this parenting ‘method’. Their reasoning tends to consist of assuming that all of the problems of modern, sinful society are caused by failures in parenting and discipline since the pinnacle of the 1950s. Nevermind that the children of the 1950s were the young men and women of the 60s and 70s….

  • That some children have died on account of this wildly un-Biblical nonsense* can have the effect of being a wake-up call, although many will not wake up. It’s a shame that such a severe consequence is what it may take for some. The reality is that physical death is not all that flows from this. The households managed in these ways suffer a kind of spiritual death. Those many who emerge from such upbringings without having been killed or physically maimed—and let’s be honest, most come out physically alive anyway—are damaged in other insidious ways. The Lord also famously warns in Scripture that one knows the quality of a tree by its fruits. A discipline that generates misery is a poor one.

    *It has consistently been my experience that those who most adamantly insist on “Biblical” principles do so with respect to principles that are nowhere in the Bible, except of course in the imagination of one who misreads the magical proof texts of abuse in the most dishonest or imbecilic of ways. This too is an issue, because often the dishonesty is not deliberate. “Train up” a child—or indeed a grown adult—to believe certain false things about certain passages in Scripture, and, like trying to heal an injured soul of the long-term consequences of physical trauma, it’s a devil of a task to disabuse such a person of the lies.

    • Rosemarie


      >>>*It has consistently been my experience that those who most adamantly insist on “Biblical” principles do so with respect to principles that are nowhere in the Bible, except of course in the imagination of one who misreads the magical proof texts of abuse in the most dishonest or
      imbecilic of ways.

      So true. When I was in Evangelicalism I learned the hard way that, just because an author claims his method is the “biblical” way to do something, doesn’t make it biblical or right.

      I was a teenager at the time and totally obsessed with losing weight, even though I wasn’t really overweight (the way too many teenage girls are, unfortunately). I read two books that claimed to give the “biblical” way to lose weight (really!). One encouraged fasting for ten days on nothing but water; because, y’know, the Bible mentions fasting, and if you fast you may lose weight, so that must be the “biblical” way to lose weight, right? :-/

      The other advocated eating only two meals a day, breakfast and supper. The author pointed out that, during the Exodus, the ancient Hebrews gathered manna only twice a day, morning and evening. She then argued that God’s design for humanity was that we only eat two meals a day, and that adding a third meal went against God’s design and was tantamount to gluttony. (Who knew lunch was sinful?)

      I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say, both of these books messed me up when I tried to apply the principles in them. So yeah, just because someone thinks they’ve discovered the “biblical” way to do something doesn’t mean they’re right or what they’re advocating is good.

  • Dee

    When my oldest daughter was a toddler, the wife of a couple we know gave me an this book. They had 5 children and started using the method when their oldest was what she referred to as a disobedient, out of control 4 year old. I read the book and was horrified by what it prescribed. I will say that the couple we knew were extremely loving, dedicated parents. They followed the physical discipline part – she had a rod in every room of the house and one in the minivan – but they also took the part about discipline meaning “to teach,” very seriously. They both spent a ton of time with their kids doing all sorts of things, and while strict were very loving. Their kids are mostly grown now, all but one are finished with college and working in their field of training. One is in his medical residency, two are nurses, and one is a church youth leader. They are very well adjusted people with individual personalities and interests, and the family is very tight knit.

    I could never discipline my children this way, but I think the cases where it fails dramatically are ones where the parents are the wrong parents to begin with – those who want to whack their kid and have them obey, rather than taking the time and using the energy to truly teach them. I can see how this would attract people who are about power and control, not love, and that would be a disaster. Our friends actually used the rod rarely – they had earned the respect and love of their kids through a lot of time and love and their kids wanted to please them.

    • Heather

      One of the most tragic things about these deaths is that all of them, I believe, were of children who had been adopted after infancy. They likely all had some kind of attachment or post-traumatic disorder and that is why they were acting out in a way that couldn’t be cured by these “parenting” techniques.

      You don’t even have to be a sadistic control freak to be led to take these “methods” to abusive extremes. All you need is for your child to have special needs and to trust these “experts” that if their spank, starve, freeze methods aren’t working it means that you’re not spanking, starving, and freezing your kids enough and you just need to keep at it until they finally turn into docile, obedient, well adjusted children. (Or until they die, I guess. Whichever comes first.)