True Love Doesn’t Beat Their Precious Children

True Love Doesn’t Beat Their Precious Children January 26, 2014

by Suzanne Calulu cross posted from her blog True Love Doesn’t Rape

One thing I can count on daily with picking articles and updating No Longer Quivering. It’s that I will view theology and quotations that will make me nearly sick. The one taking my breath away right now is Paige Coleman’s “Pearls Before Swine”. She’s defending Michael and Debi Pearl, saying that they are not responsible for the death of Hana Grace Williams, even if the Williams hadn’t admitted they were using the child discipline advice in the Pearl’s ‘To Train Up a Child’

For those few who’ve yet to encounter TTUAC let me sum up the philosophy of the book in a few easy to understand terms. Your child is willful, sinful and disobedient and it’s your job as a parent to discipline them starting at just a few months old by switching them. You start with a tiny tree branchlet before working up to a plastic quarter inch plumbing pipe. You beat them often to keep them instantly obedient and if they aren’t, you beat them till they are.

I am shuddering writing that last paragraph as I cannot imagine wanting to do such a thing to a toddler, much less a baby. Crying is one of the few ways, the primary way, that a baby has to communicate it’s needs to it’s parents. Having needs and needing to be cared for isn’t selfish or self-centered or sinful, it’s normal. Beating a baby, or whatever sweetly cooed Christian buzzword they are using for beating this week, is something only a person without a heart would do. A child abuser, a damaged soul.

Once my children were born I would have done anything for them, I would have laid down my own life for them had the sacrifice been required. I loved them deeply and the last thing I wanted to do was to harm them in any way, emotionally, physically, spiritually. My love for them was geared towards raising productive members of the human village, with love for others, a desire to do what was right and to help the world. I could not conceive of anyone thinking that physical punishment was a good thing.

No matter the age of the child, beating them is never something you want to do. I’m not talking about a swift swat on the seat of the diapers of a toddler attempting to do something awful, such as run in the street. There are times when a tap on the rear might be called for. But those situations are rare, I hope.

When you discipline a child with physical violence, in anger or in calmness, you are teaching that child that a) violence is the way to settle disagreements, b) it’s perfectly fine to use violence on others (or their future children), c) that the bigger you are (like the parent) then you can use violence or physical force to get your way.

Is that really the lessons you want your child to learn from you?

Not meeting your children’s needs, denying the needs, trying to impose your will on a child you say you love isn’t very loving. There are many different ways you can discipline your child or teach them to self correct behavior that don’t involve violence. Disciple can be as varied as the personalities of the individual children.

Many evangelicals and fundamentalists seem to make a lot of noise about how much they love children and value their futures, but turn around and do things that turn their words into a lie. I’m not claiming that people who aren’t Good Christians ™ don’t make parenting mistakes or that some don’t use physical punishment, but most of them aren’t writing books claiming their way is the only way. The Pearls are making that claim, to the detriment of many children in the church.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say you must beat your children. It’s extra-Biblical, which goes against the scripture that says if anyone adds or subtracts from the word of God then they are damned. Many scholars have said that the “Spare the rod, spoil the child” passage in Proverbs was an addition and/or incorrect interpretation. Disciplining your child doesn’t always mean hitting.

The Pearls books are filled with dangerous, violent and abusive advice. Anyone that thinks the books are about love has no real idea what love actually is.

Comments open below

Read everything by Calulu!

Calulu is an empty nester lives near Washington DC with her husband, cats and various rescue birds. She works at a residential treatment center for children and is also the administrator of NLQ. Was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 7 years ago. Her blogs are True Love Doesn’t Rape and  Calulu – Seeking The Light

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Seeker

    I have no respect for the Pearls, and I’m surprised as well as saddened that so many Christians have looked up to them as having wisdom.

  • Nea

    I am coming to realize that it is not surprising that the Pearl readers flaunt the same selfish pride and rush to condemn anyone not like them that the Pearls display throughout their books. I’ve seen it in other blogs too, a general attitude of “well, my kids aren’t dead and they do act as the Pearls promised, so I must be smarter at reading books and being a parent than the people who complain.” Discernment is the word that keeps cropping up, or the phrase “spitting out the bones.”

    That the “bones” consist of 80% of the advice and discernment would show that any fragile threads of good are also repeated in less violent secular parenting books… Funny how nobody wants to hear that.

  • Saraquill

    Beating a child until hir kidneys fail is NOT love. I’m also sure J*sus had some strong words to say about those who picked on the vulnerable.

  • Trollface McGee

    I hate knowing that there are kids growing up with the Pearls’ methods. I hate knowing that powerful lobbies keep that type of “child-rearing” generally legal and pass laws that make investigating and prosecuting abuse more difficult. I hate knowing that parents are using these books because they actually think it’s the right thing to do because they’ve been raised in that culture. Most of all, I hate that damn book’s existence and all the other ones out there that promote blatant child abuse as good parenting.

  • centaurie

    […]well, my kids aren’t dead and they do act as the Pearls promised[…]

    Oh my f*ck*ng word! I hate, hate, hate that attitude!!!!
    Just because they’re not dead doesn’t mean they’re well-equiped for adult life! Raising kids is not about them being dead or not at 18, it’s about being able to handle LIFE WITHOUT YOU.
    (Sorry for repeating, I’m in a rageing(sp?) mood, and I should probably stop reading about the Pearls and their ilk for awhile….)

  • Nea

    Just because they’re not dead doesn’t mean they’re well-equiped for adult life! Raising kids is not about them being dead or not at 18, it’s about being able to handle LIFE WITHOUT YOU.

    Quoted for truth.

    I hate to say it, but at least The Pearl kids have some form of functioning adulthood… whereas karma is coming for the Botkin girls at the speed of life. What are they fit to do when they’ll be unmarried and Daddy’s died?

  • centaurie

    The more and more I read these things, I’m noticing how much of this ‘training’ is about the kids behaviour (in public) reflecting badly on the parents (“If my kids have tantrums in the stores, other people will point at them and think we’re lazy parents who let their kids run wild all the time. That must never happen, since I’m not a bad parent!!!”)
    It’s rarely about teaching their kids life skills or handling their emotions so that they’ll be functional, well-balanced adults. No, the public image of the parents is *always* priority no. 1.
    Even smacking kids when they’re angry falls into this category. Since it’s all about not *appearing* angry, not actually letting the kids’ anger fade away in a healthy way, so to speak…if you get my drift?

    Healthy raising the kids? I think not. It’s aaaaaaalllllllll about the parents.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I think the unrecognized driver behind such childrearing practices is dominance aggression. Parents see their children’s misbehavior as a threat to their own Pack Rank. It may be indirect as in the example you cite of fearing that other parents will lose respect for them for not being able to “control” their kids. But there’s also a strong tendency to characterize a child’s defiance as an attempt to “take control of the whole family”, i.e., unseat their parents as Alphas of the family pack.

    James C. Dobson was claiming this ludicrous motivation as early as the 1970s with the publication of ‘Dare to Discipline’. The disobedient child doesn’t want merely to control their own life, (let alone simply get their sippy cup refilled), but in a shocking display of treasonous disloyalty, dethrone their parents as rightful rulers of the family kingdom.

    It’s in the Pearl’s writings, as it is in self-proclaimed “attachment therapists” promotional material. The acting-up child is a potential insurrectionist who must be firmly suppressed for the Good of the Patriachal State.

  • centaurie

    The acting-up child is a potential insurrectionist who must be firmly suppressed for the Good of the Patriachal State.


  • centaurie

    Oh man that link ;_;
    I’ve seen “Attachment Therapy” being floated about on Patriarchy and Quiverful blogs and sites, but I had no idea what it meant O_O

  • Nea

    Not even all about the parents – it’s ALL ABOUT the appearances. The kids have to appear perfect so the parents appear perfect, and if none of them are happy in their lives? Just never let it show.

    Debi Pearl is blatant about that in her advice books – how *other people,* not God, will be impressed if you can just put up the right facade.

  • Nea

    I hadn’t thought about the dominance aspect – that’s a good point. But it’s also about appearances. The whole family must Look Good to others and serve as a Proper Christian Model… or else the entire congregation will turn on them like a pack of wolves.

    Edited to add – it’s all about authority. Not just family authority, the church’s authority over the family, because if one breaks away and models that an alternative form of childrearing can be successful…

  • Lauren Borrero

    I would think so too. Even Jesus can only take so much.

  • Lauren Borrero

    I agree it should never have been published.

  • Saraquill

    I can’t think of that phrase without thinking of Candace Newmaker. >_<

  • Lauren Borrero

    I tolerate a lot of things even if I do not like it from time to time but I do not tolerate people who abuse kids.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I’m considering that “authority” in the sense the Pearls and their fellow-travelers use it is code for “dominance” or maybe Pack Rank would be another way to use it.

    Yes, I’m sure appearances count, and there’s a strong desire for the Quiverfull lifestyle to be well-represented in public. But even there, I think the desire not to “lose status” by looking like ineffective parents hews back to not wanting to slip down a few rungs on the public Alpha Ladder.

  • Allison the Great

    Evil. The ideas espoused by the Pearls, the Botkins, are just pure evil. Their brand of “Christianity” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they’re pretending they love the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth but what they really only care about is the strict rules they’ve made up for themselves, and these rules are SICK. They’ve thrown out every good thing there might have been about being a Christian and they’ve turned it into something ugly.

    Every thing that I’ve read on Ladies Against Feminism, everything about the Pearls and the Botkins just make me sick. These people are pure evil. It infuriates me that these people who think that women are second class citizens, who think it’s okay to hurt a baby and all the other atrocities they believe is okay, would dare ever using the word love about anything. They have absolutely NO love for anyone. They don’t love their children. They don’t value their personalities. The only thing they care about when it comes to having kids is that their kids keep doing what they are doing. They don’t value their children as individuals. They force their daughters to hide their true personalities so they can pursue an impossible standard of femininity. They tell their daughters that they are weak, that they always need a man and that their views and opinions don’t matter. That’s not love.

    These people hate pretty much everyone, and it makes me want to puke when they use the word “love” about anything. I might be an atheist but it does not seem like these people represent a god that would Love anyone. They reprsent his adversary.