Not Quoting Quiverfull: Roots of Michael Pearl’s Child Training Ideas?

Not Quoting Quiverfull: Roots of Michael Pearl’s Child Training Ideas? December 26, 2015
Image by Suzanne Titkemeyer
Image by Suzanne Titkemeyer

by Suzanne Titkemeyer – admin

Hope everyone is having a joyous holiday season with zero family drama. You might of noticed that the postings are still a little out of wack here at NLQ. The holidays and illness are making updating still a bit difficult. If I owe you an email it’s coming. This is week four of my hand infection and I’m just now being able to use my right hand a little bit, almost normal function restored.

One of the things that I received during this holiday season was a package of photos, cards and literature from when I was born 55 years ago.  Clearly things have changed a great deal in child care in the ensuing years. There are a few really surprising things in the pamphlet that the hospital pediatrician handed out to each new mother. After reading through it I can only conclude that Michael Pearl and other Fundamentalist child training self-proclaimed experts might have gotten their ideas. Outdated, old-fashioned and dangerous ideas must have been normal back on the cusp of the 1960s.

From the pamphlet:

This first bit has nothing to do with punishing children but it is funny based on what we know now about the dangers of using tobacco products around small children –

“A moderate amount of smoking does not harm to your baby.”

This advice gives me the chills and sounds like something out of a Pearlesque training manual –

“Most babies cry for an hour or two between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm. This is not colic, but simply provides an exercise period which should not be interfered with. Babies need this daily exercise to develop normally. Do not pick up the baby when crying except for normal feeding times. From the beginning teach it to be good to get attention. Crying will not hurt your baby; if crying seems excessive, report it to me. It is a symptom of the development of a manipulative and spoiled child. From the beginning your baby should be put in his crib after the 6:00 pm feeding and left to go to sleep. Handle your baby at night only for feeding. If you will follow this particular bit of advice your baby will rarely cry unless sick or hungry.”

It seems to me that what we’re seeing with Michael Pearl and the others like Gary Ezzo is the likely last gasp of old-fashioned toxic ideas about children that modern research has made obsolete. It has been said by unnamed members of Pearl’s family that his grandmother beat him exactly the same way he’s advocating that everyone beat their children. It’s as outdated as some of the other ideas that fundamentalists cling to in a book written several thousand years ago.

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  • Nea

    last gasp of old-fashioned toxic ideas about children

    Mikey himself talks about his ideas being “old fashioned” and “time tested”. The only new thing he has added to old, harsh, authoritarian methods is the addition of the concept of three types of personalities… and even he constantly slips and admits it’s bullshit by saying that people are “a mix” instead of fitting his categories anyway.

  • Allison the Great

    He added a shitload of sadism to those methods, too. That man is more than a little bit of a sociopath. From the way he writes, it seems like he views people as things and as objects. He views animals that way, too. He has no empathy and he doesn’t have the ability to emotionally connect with anyone.

  • Mirlo

    Well, if he was beaten as a baby too and left to “cry it out”, he probably can’t emotionally connect with people. The trouble is, he can’t see the damage it did him, so he’s gleefully spreading the abuse.

  • Nea

    This. The upbringing he endorses is the upbringing that not only ruined his children but emotionally stunted him.

  • pl1224

    Those ideas predate the ’60’s by a good bit. I was born in 1949, and my mother firmly believed that picking a crying baby up, except at the approved, rigidly scheduled feeding times (bottle only, of course, nursing was for poor women who couldn’t afford anything else), would “spoil the baby. Rocking and cuddling the baby was also strictly verboten, except when the baby was being fed. According whatever theory that my mother was following, “unnecessary” demonstrations of affection would produce a whiny, bratty child. According to my aunt (my mother’s sister), my mother rarely spoke to me except when she was feeding me, and that was mostly to scold me if I drooled or dribbled. My parents were the last pre-Dr. Spock generation of parents. Dr. Spock ideas made a world of difference in the lives of children of successive generations, although it was quite a while before his more “permissive” ideas were generally accepted.

    But let me assuage the feelings of any of you who might be feeling a little sorry for the infant/toddler me–my Daddy absolutely adored me and never lost an opportunity to show it. I was secure in his love until the day he died on January, 7, 1994. It is thanks to him that I’ve always been a reasonably happy, optimistic person.

    One more tidbit about the era in which I was born and grew through childhood,. Both of my parents were two-pack-a-day smokers, beginning before I was born. And my Dad was an anesthesiologist and my mom had been an R.N.! Like most of their friends, they smoked, drank, ate enough meat to clog the arteries of an elephant, and considered vigorous exercise to be a mania fostered by “health nuts”. For those of you who think that the goings-on in A&E’s “Mad Men” might be exaggerated, put your doubts to rest. The TV show captures the era perfectly. (Well, in reality, I do remember the lamps being a bit uglier.)

  • Astrin Ymris

    I once read where parents were advised to spank their kids for not producing a bowel movement every day… this as even referenced in a children’s laxative advertisement.

    One wonders if Donald Trump was subjected to this… it would explain a lot…

  • persephone

    This kind of advice stems from the belief that men know best and science fixes everything, and women are too soft-headed and soft-hearted and can’t properly do anything, even love the children they birthed. The arguments behind this training regimen was to turn children into the best adults they could be, the best adults being ones who were perfectly replaceable and conforming cogs in a machine of business and industry, that would uphold “traditional” values, and do what they were told when they were told by their obviously more intelligent and educated betters.

  • persephone

    I remember this as a major plot point in the movie The Group, which
    starts in the early 30s. One of the women married a pediatrician who forced her
    to strictly keep the baby on a feeding schedule, and breastfeed, which left the child
    crying and miserable, and the mother tired and miserable.

  • Mary

    Science is exactly what has proved this stuff wrong. This was never science. It was always about elevating “no one else should ever have needs that are inconvenient to me” into a moral principle and childrearing technique.

  • Astrin Ymris

    “No one else should ever have needs that are inconvenient to me” is pretty much the entire CPM in a nutshell! Well… there’s also the “White Christians deserve all the nice things” meme going on, now that I think of it. So many kinds of privilege!

  • bekabot

    This kind of thing was in vogue when my mother was a kid (she was born in the same year FDR was first sworn into office). These aren’t Biblical precepts at all…they once passed as the latest thing. They’re late-Art-Deco ideas. Society then was going through a phase in which human relationships were supposed to be managed “scientifically” — in much the same way that they’re supposed to be managed on a cost-benefit basis today. The theory was that by “scientifically” raising and feeding and training children (and by desisting from “sentimentality”) a whole new (and improved) race of humans could be produced. These ideas were very popular, as you might imagine, on the Nazi and Soviet fronts. They integrate extremely well with notions about eugenics. But it wasn’t only Germany and Russia who were into this stuff: during the interwar period the entire first world and much of the second world believed in it and looked eagerly forward to the maturation of their perfect little soldiers. (God learned ’em, though…he saw to it that what the system ended up producing was a generation of poets and musicians. It’s more dependable than the ten commandments: whatever can go wrong, will.)

    Though this kind of thinking was widespread when my mother was growing up and though her parents lived in a town, fortunately they’d both been born and brought up on farms, and knew better. So she was spared the worst effects of this approach (thank heaven for the favors it bestows).

  • persephone

    It was sold as scientific and obviously espoused by doctors. That science later came out against it is just typical scientific progress.

  • Poster Girl

    That is seriously screwed up. If your baby cries, tend to it. Full stop.

    Admittedly, I’m an earthy crunchy hippie who co-slept and nursed both my kids past age three, but at ages 8 and 10, they’re independent, well-adjusted kids who DO cooperate with me and their dad. Picking them up when they cried didn’t remotely result in spoiled willful kids. If anything, particularly with my oldest, I have to explicitly encourage critical independent thinking, because she’s too ready to buy into whatever my values are.