I wrote a review of Michael and Debbie Pearl here. The media is attacking them again recently because of the association the Williams family claimed to have with their publications. The story of the death of Hana Williams can be found here. First, let me be clear that I do NOT blame the Pearls for the death of Hana Williams. I'm sure there were many factors involved, but I cannot pretend to able to analyze all the reasons psychopaths like the Williams have for their horrid crimes. I have actually defended the Pearls before overly zealous critics who have not even read their materials and accuse them of promoting the brutal beatings of children. They don't; I can assure you. But when did we as Christians lose the ability to discern that even though something isn't horrible, it isn't the best way?
So I DO blame the Pearls for MANY things, and
that's what this post is about. I am not a typical Pearls critic either.
I'm a Christian who has read their material, who believes in training
my children to obey, yes even through the means of sp@nkings. Let's not
pretend all of their critics are the same. I have met several who are
just like me.
I have read a lot of their book To Train Up a Child, but not all of it, so I decided to start. The book can be found online here.
Here are some quotes that weren't in my original review of them.
together well, resolve their own conflicts and don't expect
attention when one turns the rocking horse over and gets a knot on
her head." So the first thing they do is set up unrealistic
expectations. These children were young; can we really expect not to
have to get up and ever help them resolve a conflict or discipline them
for not resolving it correctly? These unrealistic expectations can
create anger and guilt in a parents' life. The second part astounds me. I
WANT my kids to know they can come to me for a hug and comfort when
they hurt themselves. Since when is this unacceptable? Who are the
Pearls to say we as parents shouldn't be doing this? Is it in the Bible?
"Proper training always works on every child." Again,
unrealistic expectations. Either you or your child is a failure if this
isn't true with your family. I'm sorry, do the Pearls live in the
Garden of Eden? Because I don't. My children and I are fallen. EVEN IF
this statement were true about my children, NO parent can do it
perfectly! What then are we left with? This also explains why the Pearls
are against adopting older children, since those children are past the
"training age" they are impossible rejects who God can't reach (those
aren't their words, but it absolutely IS the implication of that
policy., and it is in DIRECT opposition to James 1:27 and a lot of other
verses.) Adopted children will ruin your perfect family.
should be able to take a nap and expect to find the
house in order when you wake." The context is talking about crawling
babies. Again, unrealistic expectations, and very unsafe!
practice of switching a 4 MO appears in the first chapter. I had not
repeated this claim because I had not read it for myself, and frankly
didn't believe it, but there it is.
at home almost entirely eliminates the need for
discipline--especially public discipline. Yet, should the need arise
in public, do a flanking maneuver and administer it; then go home
and train so that it never again happens in public." That's not what
the Bible says. The Bible would not need to mention discipline if
training were all that were needed. Again, unrealistic. If people are
told they must train their child so that "it never happens again," I can
totally see how this could lead to very harsh treatment. That's a tall
order, "never happens again."
"Everyone's happiness was
stake, as well as the soul of the child." This is about a training
session with a 12 MO. You see how the language takes everything up to a
completely different level? I agree, training is important! I can
influence my children greatly by how I discipline them. But their
salvation is NOT my job! Repeat after me, "I can help lead my children
to or away from God by how I treat them, but their salvation is NOT MY
JOB!" It's not their job either. It's only and completely GOD'S JOB. I
think part of the problem is that their theology is a little off in this
area. ONE training session is not going to seal the fate of my child's
soul! Heaven forbid the Pearls make parents into Gods and have them
carry with that a huge stress they were not meant to carry! (There are
other quotes like this one in the book.)
you think the father is too forceful in his
discipline, there is something you can do. While he is away demand,
expect, train for and discipline to receive instant and complete
obedience from your children. When the father comes home the house
will be peaceful and well ordered. The children will always obey
their father, giving him no need to discipline them." This is an
example of their taking submission by the wife too far. I agree that the
mother should make sure she's training for obedience, but Matthew 18
has another course of action for a wife whose husband is in clear sin,
and if there's any reason to use Matthew 18, child abuse should be it!
this whining and crying to get his way
is eventually going to lead to the mother being annoyed with the
child, it is better, regardless of the mother's feelings, to break
this tendency before it gets rooted and becomes a personality habit.
Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything!"
The context here is talking about infants being put to sleep. If you are
training your infant not cry "for anything" you are taking away his
ONLY means of communication. How else would you suggest he communicate? I
DO get annoyed when my baby refuses to sleep when I think he's supposed
to or when he wakes in the night. Part of parenting is being able to
handle my annoyances with self-control and still responding in love and
patience even when it's inconvenient for ME. Oh, how I would LOVE a
world where infants and even toddlers never whine and cry for anything,
but that kind of world would not help me grow into a less and less
selfish person! It is NOT always better to train something out of a
child JUST because a parent may be annoyed with it. Sometimes we as
parents need to get over OURSELVES and serve the "least of these," which
infants definitely are.
"My nine- and eleven-year-old
daughters came in from a neighbor's
house complaining of a young mother's failure to train her child. A
seven-month-old boy had, upon failing to get his way, stiffened,
clenched his fists, bared his toothless gums and called down
damnation on the whole place. At a time like that, the angry
expression on a baby's face can resemble that of one instigating a
riot. The young mother, wanting to do the right thing, stood there
in helpless consternation, apologetically shrugged her shoulders and
said, "What can I do?" My incredulous nine-year-old whipped back,
"Switch him." The mother responded, "I can't, he's too little." With
the wisdom of a veteran who had been on the little end of the
switch, my daughter answered, "If he is old enough to pitch a fit,
he is old enough to be spanked."" A 7 MO is incapable of defiance,
of "throwing a fit". They are incapable of anger. Furthermore, they are
incapable of connecting their actions to a consequence. They simply
don't have the mental capacity. PLEASE don't EVER "switch" any child
younger than 18 months. It can't be anything but damaging.
a parent starts at infancy discouraging the first crying
demands, the child will never develop a habit. In our home a fit was
totally unknown because the first time it was tried it proved
counterproductive." It is almost impossible to tell the difference
between an angry "fit" and a crying for needs to be met until the age of
18 months. Please err on the side of caution!