To Train Up A Child: Michael Pearl's Dangerous Child Training Advice and Renal Failure

To Train Up A Child: Michael Pearl's Dangerous Child Training Advice and Renal Failure April 10, 2011

Pearl Method Problems and Kidney Disease Detection: How Many More Zariahs Will Go Undiagnosed, Untreated, or Unreported?

The autopsy report of Lydia Schatz indicated that she died from a condition called rhabdomyolosis, the rapid release of excessive amounts of broken muscle fragments into the bloodstream. Because the body cannot process such large amounts of these fragments, they end up lodging in the kidney, blocking the fine network of microscopic tubules that filter dissolved waste products from the blood and turn it urine. When medical treatments fail to open up these blockages within the kidney created by the muscle fibers fragments, the tiny tubules die and do not regenerate.

Due to the severity of the spankings with [Michael Pearl’s recommended] plumbing line, both Zariah and Lydia Schatz suffered renal failure because of rhabdomyolysis. Had Lydia survived, we may never have learned anything about the extensive injuries in both girls, and they may never have been diagnosed and treated. Other children who develop rhabdomyolosis may sustain kidney damage that is not severe enough to cause full renal failure symptoms. If extensive and chronic, this damage can develop into “insufficiency” of the kidney which does not produce immediate symptoms and can be detected through laboratory testing. We only know the details about both children because of the publicity surrounding Lydia’s death, a matter of public record, but disease in children like Zariah will likely be missed because there may be no obvious, immediate symptoms.

Jocelyn Andersen reported on Blog Talk Radio on April 2, 2011 that she had been informed about another case of renal failure in a five year old girl within the Mennonite Community related to child abuse and the Pearl Method. Because individual States in the U.S. maintain their own Child Protective Service Agencies, prescribe different laws concerning child abuse, and limit the amount of information concerning child abuse cases because of privacy concerns, we may never learn the details about new cases of Pearl-related kidney disease unless it is reported by the families of the survivors.

Read more about how rhabdomyolosis affects the kidney, why this disease may go undetected and unreported in children who are disciplined with the Pearl Method, and why certain factors limit our ability to truly evaluate the safety of the method at

On the advent of the April 7th plea bargains of “guilty” accepted by Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz related to the harm done to their daughters, many ask hard questions about where this family went wrong. Read more about the reasons that social psychology offers to explain how people become trapped in formulaic programs like Pearl’s system in a series called Why Good People Make Dangerous Choices (Pondering Pearl and Lydia Schatz). And please listen to the archive of Andersen’s Blog Talk Radio Show on April 9, 2011 for the continuation of the previous episode’s theme concerning the Pearl Method and Lydia Schatz.

Cynthia Mullen Kunsman, RN, BSN, MMin , ND (Discussing the phenomenon of Spiritual Abuse in Evangelical Churches) 

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

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  • I’ve been speaking out against the Pearl’s on my own blog for some time now. It was quoted in the radio program discussing this case, which was awesome. Thank you for sharing this. We need to speak out before children die!

  • Whenever you pop in an exercise DVD into the machine it always starts out with a disclaimer..”Please see your health professional before following the exercises in this DVD”

    Parents need to be more aware of a child’s health and growth development before making them endure something physical…obviously an extreme ‘spanking’ causes physical injury to a child. No parent knows how much a child can endure. For some kids it could be fewer switchings than what Lydia endured. Even the law forbade the early rulers to lash a criminal with more than 39 whips from a cat of nine tails (except in our Lord’s whippings). Why do parents put their children through such sufferings?

    The type of description the Pearl’s give for how to administer this type of ‘disciple’ is NO WHERE in the Bible. Not one time do you find God dictating to the people “Whip your child with plumbing line” The Pearls are outright insane to think God desires this.

  • Sandra

    I read the Pearls books, all of them on child training about 12 years ago. It totally changed the way I was training my children. Mine are now ages 13-23 and they are happy and healthy and hard workers who want to raise their children the same way. We have never, ever given our children over 3 swats with the paddle. I can tell any of my children to do anything and they’ll do it right away and we have never had even one argument with any of them. They are not afraid of us. I don’t know how y’all can blame the Pearls for these messed up people. Even if I read to beat my children, I wouldn’t do it. That kind of abuse comes from something being very wrong in the heart. The Pearls taught me to never even raise my voice to my children, to praise them when they do good but to be consistent with discipline, but NOT abuse. Not ever. I thank God for the Pearls and so do my grown children!! They feel very loved and cared for.

  • massageon

    YES THEY ARE AFRAID OF YOU! That’s exactly what’s happening in their minds when you give them an “order” and they do it right away. I am STILL afraid of my Mother and she was an abuser, JUST LIKE YOU. Your kids may seem well adjusted but that’s because they overcame you, not because you helped them.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    A couple months ago, after reading about the 1/4-inch Plumbing Line (TM) on this blog, I found myself in Home Depot picking up furnace filters. I found a roll of said Plumbing Line and experimentally whacked my hand with it, whip-style.

    Bad move. Very painful. Hand did not feel “right” for some time afterward. Type of thing I’d only use on someone if I were going berserk or really hated their guts.

  • Ayla

    You are a terrible mother and your children will grow up to hate you.

    You’ll deserve it.

  • Sandra

    My kids are not afraid of us. If they were, they would move out. Our oldest are 20 and 23, both have very good jobs. We let them finish homeschool at age 16 so they could go on to a local college. So they make good enough money to live on their own, but choose to stay here. We play games a couple of nights a week together and go every where together and work together on our farm. My kids have even talked about doing skits to just show people that training a child the right way does not make them scared to death. No one that knows our family would ever say we are abusers. That is just an ignorant statement. If my children are going to hate me, they would hate me already. I grew up in an abusive home and I left when I was 16. I know what abuse is and I know what training is. The bible tells us to spank our children. To not do that, in the right way, is simply trying to do things the wrong way. God is ALWAYS right. People aren’t.

  • Sandra

    My children do not agree with you. They say they want to train their kids the same way. I don’t see how y’all can’t see that you CAN discipline your children without being angry and beating them. My children have never been beaten!! I thank God for my kids and for the great relationship we have. I just told the what y’all wrote and they laughed. They said they are NOT afraid of us but they just respect us as their parents and obey us because God says to and it’s right. If trained right, a child will not even need to be spanked hardly at all. NONE of our 5 children ever even got a spanking past the age of 10. They don’t walk around afraid of us. If I abused my kids I would deserve to be hated, but that’s not the case. I have a great relationship with all 5 of my children and they always get compliments in stores and restaurants about how well behaved and polite they are. Wait until your kids are grown and see if you can say that and also that you have never had an argument with them. I can say that. My kids are happy with us and us with them. Too bad for you that you can’t see the truth.

  • Lithp

    Your family is blinded by your own self-righteousness. That is all.

  • cynthia

    You’re children aren’t happy or healthy! They are animals that have been beaten, broken and brainwashed by lazy, self-aborbed parents. You can torture anyone into believing or acting how you want, but they aren’t their own people, they are your creations. The ONLY reason anyone would follow these abusive tactics is because they are sociopaths who have no empathy, only seeing how others should please them, how their needs are the only that are a CLASSIC narcissistic sociopath. It is abuse by any definition, including the word of the Bible. You haven’t loved your children, you have resented them and now only see them as your creation. If it were possible I would see you and others like you in jail, not just the ones who used your ‘blessed’ method to kill their children.

  • cynthia

    I doubt they will all hate her, some may be so traumatized and brainwashedt hat they aren’t even able to have that feeling on their own. Their free-will was destroyed, they are now the image their parent created out of either her narcissism or sociopathic mind…I think she hated the idea that she may not be seen as perfect or seen as the psychotic person she really is, someone who only wants people who make her feel good, I doubt she ever even liked, let alone loved, anyone.

  • cynthia

    How dare you say this is God’s will. I suspect the reason you are as narcissistic as you are is because you were abused. You know, abuse is repeated in the next generation, its a learned behavior. I guess you were a very good student, unfortunately instead of making you an empathetic person it made you a monster. Now you may sentence your children to repeat the abuse on another generation. I said it, I’ll say it again, you are a narcissistic, sociopathic monster who had children with someone equally horrific and damaged. I will pray for your grandchildren, I will waste no prayers, or God’s time, on you, you are not deserving.

  • Tiffany

    Sandra,anyone that puts y’all in text is ignorant and I suppose your children don’t disagree because they have never known ANY different. If someone was abused for years they may believe it’s normal….So if the BIBLE said kill your child would you???? WEIRDO? People are adopting and killing these kids because of this book. There is no need to inflict harm to a child to make them obey you. Would you like anyone to swat you when you didn’t do what you where told?? What if I paddled you if you ran a stop sign or wrote a bad check???? We need to abuse and torture child molesters , and abusers NOT CHILDREN…..

  • Betty

    I commend your courage to try to enlighten others to the joy of raising happy, healthy children who love you and others. Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear from some of these who accuse you of brainwashing about the state of their children’s mental and spiritual health? My children grieve when they see the countless sad faces of others their age. They recognize that learning to be healthy emotionally has made all the difference for them as your children too have learned from you. Being taught at a young age not to be carried away by their uncontrolled emotions through loving training in word and at moments using physical attention getters, a spank on the rear. Being taught by loving parents also in control of their own emotions, not overwhelmed and exasperated but happy and loving. I’m sorry for children who’s parents are clearly driven by anger, revealed in their angry accusing comments. Perhaps those parents have never spanked their children, but the manipulative emotional games are unbelievably destructive to the parent-child relationship which will transfer to all the child’s other relationships as well. To accuse you of brainwashing because your children love you reveals a complete lack of ability to function in healthy relationship. I’m confident such accusers live with a trail of broken relationships in their past including their ex-spouse and grown and gone children who rarely contact them. Good job Sandra, at raising happy kids in an unhappy culture and at attempting to open the eyes of some emotionally manipulative and out of control individuals.

  • Betty

    but Tiffany, the Bible does not say to kill your children. You reveal your angry inability to control your emotions in your accusations and name calling. If you had experienced a loving parent such as Sandra who taught you to respect and love others you would not be so angry today. People are not adopting and killing because of the book, that is absurd. You are correct, a normal functioning individual – for that matter even a slightly less than normal functioning individual (perhaps like your angry self) possesses the common sense not to beat a child to death even if they read it in a book. I’m quite certain you have never read the book to learn for yourself that the authors promote being a loving parent in a peaceful home where children don’t fear angry verbal or physical outbursts but instead have constant loving expectations around them that allow them the freedom of self expression and discovery without burden. A consistent expectation of behaving in a loving social manner frees children to enjoy all of those around them without prejudice. I’m sad for you Tiffany, that you have not experienced such freedom in your life. I hope that somehow you can come to an honest revelation about your relationships and then revisit the idea of parenting purposefully such as Sandra has done.

  • Betty

    Wow, Sandra you are attempting to dialogue with some really angry people here. Remember what you have taught your children. To love! These ladies have missed that in their lives and only love will reach them. They can’t possibly relate to your being renewed and having a new understanding when they are still in bondage to such anger. Your children stay near you because you love them. They find the peaceful, accepting environment you provided them to be comforting and relaxing. These ladies have not known such consistent love. I know you realize you will not gain their understanding in this forum so remind yourself to show love in your expressing your wisdom. These ladies shut down their pc’s and rant and rave through their entire lives while you shut yours down and enjoy quiet days and loving relationships. Hopefully, somehow these ladies eyes will one day be opened to that and they to will understand the intricacies of creating a healthy non-abrasive consistent environment for children to grown in and enjoy.

  • Betty

    Well of course it did. The point however is not to whip the child though Headless Unicorn Guy, I have used the same tool but never hard and never in anger. The point is to cause a discomfort to gain the child’s attention when his emotions are out of control. There have been moments I spanked my kids to gain their attention, to make them realize their behaving in a way that is unacceptable in our home and will be unacceptable in society. The discomfort is brief and serves to calm. My kids have never been angry for getting a spanking but rather have always realized how foolish they were behaving and regretted their actions. There have been times spanking has been a punishment for serious offenses like hitting a sibling in anger or lying. The same type of offenses that police arrest individuals for in public. For offenses like going berserk or really hating someone’s guts. Having received careful truing as a child mine will never even consider such an action as you suggested against anyone.

  • Betty

    Sisterlisa, the Pearls do not say ever to “whip your child with plumbing line” they teach proper discipline from a loving, emotionally in control parent. These people were out of control, demented and killed a precious child. The Pearls don’t teach anything of this nature at all, to the contrary they teach to be in control and loving to provide a free healthy loving environment for children to develop in freely.

  • Betty

    Cynthia, you need freedom from your angry torment. I’m so sad for you intense resentment that could only have come from unloving outbursts sprung on you as a child. So sorry for you difficult past. Perhaps someday you will find healing from your torment and then will be able to dialog in a healthy non-accusing manner. Then too, you will perhaps understand the merits of providing a consistent expectation of respecting relationship from children so that they can live in a non-violent, non-ouburst environment and blossom to healthy happy adults.

  • SisiL78

    Dear Sandra,
    It is not at all healthy for a 23 year old to want to live at home and play board games with their parents several nights a week instead of having a relationship with friends and peers.
    It seems to me that you are, to paraphrase Shakespeare “Protest too much, methinks”
    You claim that your children are well adjusted but they were hit (you say paddled, same difference) on a regular basis. I started to read the Pearl’s book. I was horrified about the passage of putting a tempting object within a child’s reach and then hitting them with a switch when they try to.
    Basically they are teaching to LURE a child into a normal response and then HITTING them for it? To what, teach them to never explore? To teach them to never be curious and to just sit there afraid of everything new or enticing?
    Yes, that’s the purpose. Just like you taught your children. Day after day they sat at home all day “learning” whatever you taught them without the benefit of daily peer interaction, without the benefit of extracurricular activities or free choice in their learning and reading activities. Did you censor their book choices from the library? Did you monitor all activities they had with other kids?
    Then they went to a local college. Did they get to choose the college or did you? Did they go to someplace really close by so that Mommy could still monitor their every move and make sure that they were home every night???
    And now Mommy makes sure that they are home socializing with their parents instead of out with the evil twenty year old peers that might tempt them to do sinful things.

    I know a family like yours. They are just 12 years ahead. A 33 year old younger daughter who despite a masters degree and a CPA who is on an allowance and who Daddy used to drive her everywhere until she turned 30 and her 36 year old sister who despite a masters in LIS cannot find a job b/c she has zero ability to socialize normally, she’s been so conditioned to not understand the outside world. Neither sister has independent hobbies and its all about what Mommy and Daddy like and what clothes Mommy and Daddy approve of and how much allowance Mommy and Daddy let them spend (yes, even the sister who works as an accountant and probably could support an entire family!!! she is on a about 20/wk allowance).

    The fact is that your kids might not be scared of you killing them. But, they have been conditioned to believe that being this attached to their parents without making choices of their own and without leaving to live their own lives is normal. You have basically trained up your children to be your pets, not your progeny.

    If you love them you’ll tell them that maybe its about time they should get their own place (maybe they can at least be roommates to ease the transition) and to limit “family night” to once a week (not Friday or Saturday) so that your kids can start being ADULTS.

  • NotBob

    Please help me spread the word about these abusers with severe mental health issues. Their story involving “To Train Up A Child” in a nutshell is below. Please feel free to copy and paste it elsewhere on the web.

    After a serious report of child abuse was made by numerous people against Danielle and Curtis Kekoa III, they are once again promoting their use of the abusive principals taught by Michael and Debi Pearl in the book “To Train up a Child”

    Their website:

    It took Social Services several weeks to actually investigate the report, giving the Kekoas plenty of time to cover up whatever might have been going on.

    Now Dani Kekoa claims that Social Services commends them for using the abusive tactics taught by the Pearls. The Pearls openly encourage “discipline”, as early as 6 months old, “Whippings” with the “rod” as they call them are ineffective unless it causes pain. The Pearls teach how to “Whip” in such a way that it causes pain but doesn’t leave any marks so that the “government” can’t prove the abuse. Someone needs to stop these abusers.

    Obviously Adams County Colorado doesn’t take child abuse seriously NOR substance exposed newborns given Dani Kekoa’s self admitted marijuana usage throughout her pregnancy. Apparently Colorado Social Services also doesn’t feel it necessary to examine ALL 6 children during an investigation, in particular the youngest two who are the most venerable and the potentially substance exposed newborn.

    Also alarming is that these children aren’t registered with any school district, aren’t involved with any church or social groups, or extra curricular activities and therefore have no visibility in the community. Outside contact of any kind is strictly prohibited. Social services is aware of all of this and did nothing. We wonder how children die. Let’s be proactive instead reactive when a child is in imminent danger.

    Call Adams County Colorado Department of Human Services and tell them to reopen the case! (303) 287-8831

  • shelly ann ulman

    I am a new christian who grew up in a messed up home, I would love to teach my children the right way but I am so confused by the world and it’s desires to make my children like them….. We have have very well behaved children but do not instantly obey and have a bad attitude when they don’t want to do something? I really want to appeal to their heart and help them have a cheerful heart when it tough situations….Not sulk around and say woe is me you know? But we are at a loss for words do we continue to sit back and what our kids get lost in their own selfish desires and be unhappy whenever they don’t get their way or do we ste;p in and do something? and is that something spanking? Please if you are interested in helping you can email me at shelly816002@msn,com…. We have no Godly examples in our lives and we have very well behaved children I just want to keep their hearts and love them the way God loves us, and I believe in biblical discipline but just don’t know how to apply it properly…. Blessings to you and I am full of joy hearing that your kid love you and you had raised them this way with a smile and calm:) Thanks a bunch

  • Mordant C.

    …”mine will never even consider such an action as you suggested against anyone.”

    Yeah, it’s hard to get in a barney when your kidneys have packed up.

  • Mordant C.

    “… or really hated their guts.”

    DINGDINGDINGDINGDING! We have a winner.

    Pearlites hate their kids’ guts — I mean, really loathe their kids with a passion. You don’t beat someone till their kidneys fail if you love them. You don’t leave someone outside in the rain to die of hypothermia because you love them. You do it because you detest them so deeply that you don’t even think of them as alive.

    I say “their” kids; of course, the saddest aspect of many such cases is that the kids aren’t “theirs” at all.