Quoting Quiverfull: Too Sympathetic and Sensitive to Discipline?

Quoting Quiverfull: Too Sympathetic and Sensitive to Discipline? September 26, 2014

cryingtoddlercarseatby Michael Pearl from No Greater Joy – Child Training Marathon Revisited & Updated

Be sure and read the entire piece at No Great Joy. There are so many stomach-turning stories in this Michael Pearl penned piece, ugly descriptions of the parents, he makes a horrible comparison of a 6 year old boy to a psychologist (which I think is Pearl coded language for manipulator)  and explains his idea of spanking in loving detail.

Their youngest boy, age two or three, had a tough hide that at times absolutely resisted all control. He would whine, and whine, and cry, and plead, and demand. He was a tough nut to break, but it was a simple procedure that didn’t hurt anyone but the parents.

Again, it was their lack of resolute authority that cultivated whining in this two-year-old. Since the parents were seldom decisive, the child had learned that begging and pleading often caused them to capitulate to his will. When they said “no,” he knew it was just the starting point in negotiations. After reading our book, on several occasions the parents had attempted to exert their authority and hold out against his demands, but this tough little campaigner had always endured.

Late one night we were riding back from a seminar when the little fellow noticed that he was on the other end of the seat from his mother—with other siblings between them. He was riding in a restraining seat and whined to sit in his mother’s lap. The father SUGGESTED that it would be best if he stayed strapped into his restraining seat. The mother began to sympathetically explain why she couldn’t hold him. Based on past experiences, he knew that this was just the opening round. Their rejection of his proposal was only tentative. He was just testing the waters to see if they would yield. If by continual insistence he should demonstrate how very important this issue was to him, they would eventually come around to seeing it his way. As he pleaded further, asking for water, I could see that the mother was feeling guilty for not being close to “HER BABY”. Didn’t his tears demonstrate how important this was to his emotional well-being? After six or eight rounds, it finally reached the brokenhearted crying stage.

Mother was reaching for her baby when the father turned to me and asked, “What should I do?” Again I explained the principle: by allowing the child to dictate terms through his whining and crying, you are confirming his habit of whining and consenting to his technique of control. So I told the daddy to tell the boy that he would not be allowed to sit in his mother’s lap, and that he was to stop crying. Of course, according to former protocol, he intensified his crying to express the sincerity of his desires. The mother was ready to come up with a compromise. “He was hungry. He was sleepy. He was cold.” Actually, he was a brat, molded and confirmed by parental responses. I told the father to stop the car and without recourse give him three to five licks with a switch. After doing so the child only screamed a louder protest. This is not the time to give in. After two or three minutes driving down the road listening to his background wails, I told the father to COMMAND the child to stop crying. He only cried more loudly. At my instruction, without further rebuke, the father again stopped the car, got out, and spanked the child. Still screaming (the child, not the rest of us), we continued for two minutes until the father again commanded the child to be quiet. Again, no response, so he again stopped the car and spanked the child. This was repeated for about twenty miles down a lonesome highway at 11:00 on a winter night.

When the situation began to look like a stalemate, the mother suggested that the little fellow didn’t understand. I told the father to command the boy to stop crying immediately or he would again be spanked. The boy ignored him until Father took his foot off the gas, preparatory to stopping. In the midst of his crying, he understood the issues well enough to understand that the slowing of the car was a response to his crying. The family was relieved to have him stop and the father started to resume his drive. I said “No; you told him he was to stop crying immediately or you would spank him; he waited until you began stopping. He has not obeyed; he is just beginning to show confidence in your resolve. Spank him again and tell him that you will continue to stop and continue to spank until you get instant compliance.” He did. The boy was smart. He may not have feared Mama. His respect for Daddy was growing, but that big hairy fellow in the front seat seemed to be more stubborn than he was, and with no guilt at all. This time, after the spanking, when Daddy gave his command, the boy dried it up like a paper towel. The parents had won, and the boy was the beneficiary.

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull and Spiritual Abuse honestly and thoughtfully.

Comments open below

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  • Allison the Great

    Translation: Children are insufferable little demons who are hell-bent on manipulating their parents. Beat them for that. Show them that you are committed to beating the everliving shit out of them until they are too afraid to even make a sound, much less do anything to annoy you. Beat them to show them that you are bigger, and because of this, can kill them if it so pleases you. Beat them because beating people is fun and therapeutic. Beat them because piss-in-your-pants-fear is just as good as respect, if not better. Beat them if they do not express joy at the thought of you beating them. If they show that they are in pain from your beating them and from their continuous (and well deserved) torture (ungrateful little pissants), beat them even more. If they should die, then they were weak and have displeased God. They are probably in Hell and you are completely absolved of guilt for sending that manipulative devil back to his home. Beat them after they’re dead to show that you’ve won. Be sure to bury them in the back yard so the cops cannot find their sinful little corpse. Burn them if you have a furnace. It is wise to live out in the country, where the disposal of the body will not be noticed by neighbors, police, and passers-by.

  • Saraquill

    When the Pearls die, how many suspects will there be?

  • Guest

    Screw that! Why is whether or not the kid is supposed to be in a car seat even up for discussion? This isn’t even a “child training” thing, Mr. Jackass Pearl! This is the LAW!

  • There’s still a part of my soul that grieves for Debi, even though I am *furious* with the woman. Michael… Michael, now, he gets no such benefit of my merciful instinct.

    That said, I don’t actually *want* any harm to fall either of them. But neither would I be surprised at it, sadly.

  • *grumble* I don’t like that translation, but I despise the message no matter how it’s phrased.

  • Anonyme

    “Now, I am well aware of the many things parents can do to cause children insecurity and hurt.”
    Probably because you’re a “shining” example of that. Whipping, smacking and striking children causes insecurity and hurt. What a concept!

    That Mr. Pearl’s obsession with control and abuse of children goes so far that he commands that a father pull over every time the child acts up, and then hit the child with a switch, is sickening.

    “I told the father to stop the car and without recourse give him three to
    five licks with a switch. After doing so the child only screamed a
    louder protest.”

    THAT’S BECAUSE THE CHILD WAS IN PAIN. It is a reaction hard-wired into us and other mammals, as well as birds. It’s a trigger for the parent(s) to defend it. It’s a “this is wrong” signal. Yes, eventually the child “obeyed” but only after a lot of pain and stress. The child probably learned nothing about respect and consequences, just that anything “out of line”=pain. I’ve volunteered at a no-kill dog shelter and have seen dogs who have been abused into “obedience”; one case stands out in particular–a sweet pitbull who had been beaten with a broom to the point that even the sight of a broom (or similarly shaped object) would make her freeze and cower in fear. This wasn’t easy in an environment where brooms and mops are constantly on hand.

    Okay, I got a bit side-tracked there. The point is, fear is NOT obedience. Do I advocate the “Sweetie, please don’t do that, okay?” method of parenting? No. But what the Pearls don’t seem to recognize is that there’s a middle ground between “being a friend instead of a parent” and “beat your child until they have no will of their own”.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    I want to meet Michael Pearl in a dark alley some day. With 1/4″ plumbing line in my hand.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    As a mother, I found this article especially offensive. Yes, kids actually do act out when they’re hungry, tired, and cold. I was 45 when we adopted, so I’d been watching bad parenting for years and knew exactly how to prevent meltdowns. Paying attention to a child’s physical welfare prevents about 90 percent of disciplinary problems.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    I went to Pearl’s website and posted a comment on this article. Let’s see if they publish it!

  • Allison the Great

    Yes, paying attention to the child’s wants/needs and trying to understand why the baby is crying is what a good parent would do. The thing about the Pearls is, they are not good parents and they couldn’t give two shits if the kid is hungry, frightened or cold. They are after all, sociopathic assholes.

  • Allison the Great

    Nobody likes what Michael Pearl is really saying in the article. That’s what he really means in every article he writes, and that’s probably what he would say if he could get away with it.

  • Allison the Great

    I’m kind of wishing for Karma to kick in and they feel what they preach.

  • Allison the Great

    Come to think of it, has anyone ever tried to sue the Pearls for the book that they wrote and the damage it caused?

  • Astrin Ymris

    Except that it doesn’t really “work”, because you keep having to do it again and again. For some reason, corporal punishment advocates don’t see this.

    Did anyone else catch Michael Pearl’s reference to the father speaking with “calm authority, without raising his voice” to the family DOG, who obeyed immediately? Because Michael is an asshole, he seems to assume that means that the dad had trained the dog to obey by hitting it whenever it disobeyed, rather than the man had invested the time in teaching the dog what he expected, then praising and rewarding correct behavior. After all, asking the man how he trained the dog to mind so well might involve questioning his theory that inflicting pain is the only way to create discipline.

    Or maybe Michael takes it as read that it’s reasonable to treat dogs more humanely than children. 😛

    I’m thinking the later born kids, being born to an aging mother, are more likely to have subtle brain damage due to complications of childbirth rather than skillful parents suddenly losing their “touch”.

    That is, assuming there’s any truth in this “faith-promoting” little morality tale.

  • SAO

    This is sick. Any suggestion that late on a cold winter night, the tot might be tired and unable to sleep in his car seat, too cold to sleep, or hungry is dismissed. Any needs the kid might be expressing are ignored and he is to be beaten into fearful silence.

    Many bookstores refuse to sell porn. They should refuse to sell this Sadistic book, too.

  • Em

    It was also 11 pm in the story. He probably just needed sleep.

  • Nea

    I’d break comment policy if I described what I’d do to both men were I the mother in the story.

  • Saraquill

    I was thinking that even if they suffered a fatal version of the common cold, there still might be a police investigation due to all the bad will they stir up.

    Also, when I post vengeful ideas against the Pearls, I try to make them ridiculous and impractical to pull off as a sign that I have no intention of hurting them.

  • bunny

    I read this with a queasy feeling that I had heard the story before. Then I realized it was Mike’s own sick version of the “Milgram Experiment.”

  • Astrin Ymris

    Or consider that maybe he’s asking to be “held” because he’s COLD, and wants some body heat! Kids chill more quickly than adults due to their higher surface-to-volume ratio. Giving him a blanket might have cured the “problem”, and he’d have dropped off to sleep.

    Attributing all annoying whining, crying and screaming to “defiance” can be deadly.


    “…Ruthann stated that while she was screaming at and striking her son, the child defecated in his pants. She pulled him into the bathroom where she made him stand under the shower with the water set at the coldest temperature until “he got himself cleaned up”. She also made him clean his underwear. The boy was under the cold water shower for 5-7 minutes.

    The affidavit states Ruthann then made her son sit in the bathtub and continue cleaning his underwear while she changed the water from cold to hot. Ruthann stated her son sat under the hot water for about 1-1 1/2 minutes, resulting in the scald burns. She realized the water was too hot when she reached in to help her son and almost burned herself. When she was asked if her son was screaming during this, Ruthann stated “Sure he was, he was screaming when he was under the cold water too”…”

    THIS is what happens when parents become so hypnotized by the Cult of Compliance that they turn off their sense of empathy, fairness, and reason itself, in the name of “winning” every struggle with their child– at all costs.

    Ruthann and Mark Gneiser are Rescue Adopters. Websites involved in promoting Rescue Adoption are purging every mention of the Gneisers in order to distance themselves from a bad outcome of Rescue Adoption. I was looking at a praising blurb about the Gneisers on CHASK when this happened. George Orwell had nothing on the Religious Right when it comes to re-writing history.

  • bekabot

    Translation: Children are insufferable little demons who are hell-bent on manipulating their parents.

    Shorter translation: “Babies are brats — be the bigger brat.”

    I’m actively resisting writing a longer post in which I detail the suspicious features of Mr. Pearl’s story — I counted quite a few, and no doubt there are a couple I missed. It’s a moderate mercy, I suppose, that there’s at least some chance that none of this ever happened and that the whole anecdote is complete crap. (I sure hope so.)

    The sketchiest thing about the story is something Astrin Ymris and Lolly have already mentioned — this is a story about a failure, not a success. Michael Pearl is too smart of a dude not to know that, so maybe he’s doing some testing of his own — seeing whether his Manipulator Mojo will fuddle his reader into not noticing he’s spinning a loss as a win.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    I guess what I’m wondering here is why the father acceded to Pearl’s demands. THAT’S as scary as the Pearls’ childrearing practices. If someone were to tell me what to do with my child, I’d pull over to the curb and order them out of my car. They’d walk or find another ride.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I believe IIRC that this family invited in the Pearls to teach them how to discipline their children because they were having no success with the book.

  • Pixie5

    I was spanked some as a child, but not excessively. I do not believe in spanking though. Verbal abuse is what hurt me more and any authoritarian approach is bad for the child. For one thing it cuts off communication. This child just learned that he cannot express his needs. Granted, he did have to stay in the seat, that is the law and for his own good. But he learned that crying was wrong, period. Even when he is in pain.

    I do not remember this but my mother told me about one time when she felt guilty about spanking me. When I was old enough to stand up in my crib I would cry and when my mother came in I would smile at her. Since this was in her mind manipulation, she would spank me. One time she spanked me and the next day she found blood on my pillow. I had a ruptured eardrum from an ear infection and that is why I had been crying.

    I am not sure whether at that age I could have even known why I was being spanked.

    When I was three years old I would fall asleep on the floor of the living room in the afternoon. I would wake up screaming and crying from a re-occurring nightmare. My mother would grab me and shake me, yelling “What is wrong?” I would cry louder because she scared me. Not because I thought that she was going to hit me, but because I thought she was mad at me for crying. I always got in trouble for crying. She did not know how to calm me down so she put me in my room and I thought that was punishment.

    Granted she could not have known what was going through my head, but my point is that I had been punished so much for crying that I did not know that in this case she was not mad at me. Plus she did not have a comforting persona. Shaking me and yelling isn’t exactly how you comfort a frightened child!

    This dysfunctional pattern of my never being allowed to express my needs and feelings culminated in having a nervous breakdown when I was 16.

    I guess the Pearls should be mighty proud that they are helping to screw up another generation of kids! That is when they are not killing them!

  • Pixie5

    That dog is a good illustration and even the title of the book, “To Train Up a Child” makes it sound like they are talking about dogs. Children are not lessor beings, they are PEOPLE. And even so-called lessor beings, such as dogs, deserve better treatment than that.

    Raising a child is not just about discipline. Not by a long shot. You also have to have a relationship with the child. In fact just beating a child is the quick, easy and lazy way of parenting. No wonder people fall for this crap. Parenting takes real effort and commitment and some people can’t or won’t bother. This is the pre-packaged microwave dinner method of “parenting.”

  • Astrin Ymris

    Honestly? I think as long as a child is reduced to an abject, whimpering heap of defeat, Michael counts that as a “win”, no matter how his intervention escalated and prolonged the difficulty, or even whether the original issue was resolved.

    It’s all about Michael feeling his Manly power and symbolically conquering the forces of egalitarianism in the end. 😛

  • Allison the Great

    Most of the Pearl anecdotes are works of fiction.

  • bekabot

    You might be right, but if you are right, it’s stupid of him, because there can be no “egalitarianism” between an adult and a tot of two or three years old — that’s why the adult has to play the grownup role and not act like a kid ripping a doll apart because he’s been stuck in a car too long and he’s tired. (Anybody notice that the Dad in this parable acts exactly like a brat who’s way past his bedtime, and that his pastor encourages him to do it? Cripes…)

  • bekabot

    At the very least they contain works of fiction.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Actually, I think Michael portrays Dad as a milquetoast who needs Michael’s guidance in being a Manly Man. Note how at the end of the anecdote, Michael describes himself as the one the three-year-old REALLY respected? Michael is the one in control; he decides when the boy will be hit and how hard. HE’S the one pulling Dad’s strings. Michael Pearl is the actual “master manipulator” in this story.

  • B.A.

    I read this story earlier today on Reform Talk. I can’t imagine the terrible pain that poor little boy suffered;it breaks my heart.

  • B.A.

    Also,why the h*** did the parents have the child out at 11:00 PM???

  • B.A.

    I thought it sounded familiar,too.

  • bekabot

    Yeah, the Dad gets the Kid to mind but the Preacher gets the Dad to mind. (Also, ideally the Kid is nonexistent but ideally, the Dad is about three years old.)

  • Astrin Ymris

    You know, I was re-reading Stephen Budiansky’s ‘The Truth About Dogs’ this morning when it hit me: The “problem behavior” these kids exhibit is sending signals of physical and/or emotional distress, and Michael Pearl interprets these as a dominance challenge!

    Which I suppose isn’t surprising in itself, since Michael views ANY word or deed that isn’t worshipful as a dominance challenge, but it’s striking that wolves know to be lenient with puppyish demands for care and attention, and not demand that they adhere to strict pack hierarchy, but Michael doesn’t.

  • B.A.

    Some animals are smarter than some people.

  • bekabot

    One of the things I noticed about this story is that not only would the behavior it describes been fatal to all the parties concerned throughout most of human history, it would have been fatal within most groups of animals or “animal families” throughout known history (or, basically, throughout known time). You can’t take a cub and drop it and whack it until it screeches every two or three minutes without attracting some very unwelcome attention. If you’re a prey animal, you’ll attract predators, and if you’re a predator, you’ll attract enemies, and worse, you’ll scare off prey. That’s the basis for leniency in both the human and animal kingdoms. Always interpreting everything as grounds for a fight will get you into far more trouble that it prevents. And most people, like most animals, know it.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Oh, I can read it on IE– it’s just a pain in the mitka to have to go into it do so. Also, I’d like to have all my bookmarked references available on my primary browser. It’s more convenient for refuting TeaParty disinformation. ;-D

  • Astrin Ymris

    I found it! The story even covered the cybercleansing of the Rescue Adoption sites of all mention of the Gneisers after the arrest.

    Are forced cold showers mentioned in TTUAC or the Pearls’ website? Or does it come from Lisa Welchel’s ‘Creative Corrections’? It seems to be mentioned a lot lately in child abuse news coverage.

  • Allison the Great

    I understand completely. They deserve nothing less. To be eaten by a Hell Hound would be getting off light for these two.

  • Allison the Great

    George Orwell had nothing on the Religious Right when it comes to re-writing history.

    They do these horrible things to other people, and then they don’t stop unless they get caught. The rest of the group will keep doing those horrible things, but they’ll deny that they did what the “baddies in jail are doing, laws no, we’re not like them” did, sweep it under the rug, re-write their story and then go about their dangerous way. The re-writing of history is a common thing to them. They have no morals and they can’t face owning up to the horrible things that they’ve done. They never will, and they change their story whenever a large group of people says “whoa, that’s not cool, man”. If it weren’t for them getting called out, they wouldn’t even care. That’s why I say that they have no morals. There is a huge difference between blindly obeying a religion, playing a strict role and then knowing what you’re doing is wrong under all circumstances and having the empathy to understand why it’s wrong. In the head of someone who is quiverful or fundamentalist, the empathy and rationality is switched off in their heads. So no, they are not moral in any sense of the word.

  • Allison the Great

    Exactly! I used to work nights at a Walmart that was open 24 hours. You would not believe how many people would go out to do their regular grocery shopping – with their kids – at 3AM. Or they’d have toddlers awake at midnight. The child would be throwing a tantrum every time, even I – a person who has no experience as a parent – could tell that child was exhausted. Small children need their sleep, and this notion seemed to be as lost on the parents bringing them to Walmart in the middle of the night as much as it is lost on the Pearls.

  • B.A.

    I was also reminded of when Tom Cruise used to keep his daughter Suri out at all hours. Of course,he’s a Scientologist,but they’re just as bad and just as cult-ish. I noticed that after Katie Holmes divorced him and took Suri to NYC with her,there were no more pictures of the child out at crazy hours. Apparently,Katie put a stop to that.

  • B.A.

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I think that could be the definition of fanaticism– when neither empathy nor reason can stop you from doing horrible things in the name of your cause.

  • Nightshade

    Not a case I’d call the Winchester brothers for.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read either TTUAC or ‘Creative Corrections’, and it’s been decades since I last read Dobson. So I can’t tell the diarist what precisely is in them.

    Other than the bit about the girdle. Who can forget James Dobson’s “amusing” anecdote about his mother throwing a girdle at him for “backtalk”?

    It’s interesting that Dobson never recognizes the significance of his telling his readers that after the girdle-throwing, he made sure he was standing a safe distance away before “smarting off” at his mother again. IOW, the punishment did nothing to teach him WHY he shouldn’t have said whatever-he-said, nor did it prevent him from repeating the offense. He just made sure he was out of easy range whenever he engaged in “disrespectful” talk after that.

  • Allison the Great

    *evil grin* it’s a case you call Crowley for.

  • Nightshade


  • BlueVibe

    Thank you! Nothing like setting a kid up for failure by making sure he’s as overtired as possible, and then punishing him for not being able to manage himself. This is my biggest peeve about Christmas: People out shopping way too late with small children, and then getting mad because the kids are fussy. Take that kid home and put it to bed! Trade off sitting with your sister or something so you can both shop without kids.

    Why is there apparently no middle ground between letting the kid run the show, and a switch? My parents’ (not that they would ever have had me out this late when I was that young) answer would have been that I had to stay in the car seat because it was safer there. And Mom probably would have petted my head to see if she could get me to go to sleep. There would have been no moving from the car seat, but there would also have been no yelling, threats, or hitting.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I think Dean would make an exception to his “No ganking humans” rule for Michael Pearl. He’s practically demonified already– he already enjoys torturing the helpless.

    And I think he’d use either Ruby’s knife or the First Blade.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Today on ReformTalk, someone posted this:

    “…The abused child is from Ukraine. He was in an orphanage for over two years with a revolving door of caregivers. Because of this, he has a sever case of Reactive Attachment Disorder, making him destructive, manipulative, and unmanageable. The mother should have sought help, but could not afford it, so was trying to make it through life. The other child was adopted as an infant and has no problems…”

    I’m not sure if she was using Michael Pearl’s definition of “manipulative” or not, but I explained what RAD was and wasn’t.

  • Nightshade

    First Blade…he’d want to be darned sure to finish the job.

    Also, I can’t get out of my head…’Demons I get, people are crazy.’

  • Astrin Ymris

    Of course, it’s ‘Supernatural’ canon that demons have been tortured for centuries until all their humanity has been stripped away. Michael Pearl has no such excuse.

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    Hey, I kind of like Supernatural.

    But Michael Pearl could be one of those face-stealing people eaters (can’t remember what they’re called right now, but borax works great on ’em).

    Now if we could all get one of those Winchester day-planner things we’d be set. For a supernatural apocalypse.

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    Leviathans! I knew I’d remember what they were called at some point!

  • Astrin Ymris

    Remember: The Season 10 premiere airs next Tuesday!


  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    Like I don’t have enough on my tv watching plate for Tuesday nights as it is. No dvr-ing for me, the cable company already gets way too much from me – the last thing I want is to saddle myself with more equipment that they charge a ton just for me to have, knowingly. No bundles either those bundling freaks grumblegrumble charge me an arm and a leg for crap and lousy tech support the few times I need it grumble gripe complain…and they can get off my damn lawn too while they’re at it!

  • Astrin Ymris

    You can watch the epi on the CW site about a day or so after it airs.


    They have the Season 9 Finale up now, and the 4 preceding epis in the run-up to the finale.

    Edit: Oh, and there’s going to be a show retrospective on Monday Night!