Wednesday, October 5, 2011

(How Not) To Train Up a Child

Warning--this post is long. And it is all my opinion. You are free to disagree. Just do it nicely.

I won't buy the book How to Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl because I will not add to the 1.8 million they've already gotten in royalties. But it's online so I skimmed it, and I have several thoughts on it. If you really want to read the book, you can read it HERE. I think it's an older copy because it has a different cover the the picture below. (I saw it with the danger sign on someone's blog and thought that was pretty much true.)

There is just so much wrong with the book it's hard to know where to start. So let's start with the three children who are known to have died at the hands of people following the practices in this book only taking them to extemes. And that is not the author's fault, but his book sets the stage for it. Obviously, lots more children are being beaten in secret and in isolation since this book says that every family should home school. It's only the three who have died that brought it to light. Home schooling makes it easy to get away with the abuse. And I am NOT saying that all home school families are abusive. Many of my blog readers home school. Several due to adopting children who are way behind in their education. But the extreme ones are totally isolating their children so they can have total control. (And I do not include the Duggars in this group as I have seen some do because those kids are out serving others and going places)

Four-year-old Sean Paddock died in 2006 from being wrapped so tightly in blankets that he was suffocated. There were long bruise marks on his backside. His 9-year-old brother was beaten so badly he limped. After investigation the mother was charged with first degree murder.

In 2010 seven-year-old Lydia Schatz died after being beaten repeatedly for hours for making a mistake during her schooling. Some reports say she mispronounced a word, others say she misspelled a spelling word. The beatings broke down muscle tissue allowing the organs to be damaged until death resulted. Her sister was left with kidney damage from beatings. There doesn't seem to be any pictures of her anywhere, but this one of her parents is all over the Internet.
And of course there's twelve-year-old Hana who died last May after being emotionally and physically tortured over a three-year time frame. The mother repeatedly said she didn't like the child. My question is, if she really didn't like the child, why not send her to public school so the girl could get her schooling and the mother could have a break from her? And the boy adopted with Hana could have really benefitted from the special needs services he would have received in a public school,

But on to the book itself.

First of all, the book is poorly written. This is the first paragraph. It doesn't grab me.

When you tell some parents they need to switch their children, they respond, "I would if I could find someone willing to trade." (I don't understand what he means by that) I have had children in my house that would be enough to give an electric wheat grinder a nervous breakdown. The parents look like escapees from a Second World War, Polish boxcar. Another hour with them, and I would have been searching the yellow-pages for discount vasectomies.(I don't find any of this amusing. And the WW2 thing is just plain disrespectful to those who went through it) While we try to sit and talk, the children are constantly running in and out of doors, complaining of ill treatment from the others, begging to go or stay or eat, or demanding a toy that the other children will not relinquish. The mother must continually jump up and rescue some breakable object. She says, "No" six-hundred and sixty-six times in the space of two hours. She spanks each child two or three times--usually with her hand on top of a diaper. Other than misaligning the child's spine, it seems to have no effect. I have no clue what he's trying to say, and he appears to think he's funny as illustrated in this next passage also:

"BEHOLD, THE SECOND WOE"! Just last night while sitting in a meeting, I looked over to see a young mother struggling with her small child. He seemed determined to make her life as miserable as possible--and destroy her reputation in the process. She had the "Why me?" look on her tired face. He kept defiantly throwing his bottle on the floor (assisted by her picking it up and handing it back to him) and making angry noises that forced the preacher to scream louder and louder. With threats of increasingly embarrassing displays, he forced her to put him down on the floor where he proceeded to audition for circus clown while insisting on procuring a neighbor's property. When she tried to prevent his thievery and rescue the stolen goods, he kicked his feet like an eggbeater and screamed his protest.
It was enough to make you believe the Devil started out as an infant. I am just thankful that one-year-olds don't weigh two-hundred pounds, or a lot more mothers would be victims of homicide.
(Is that supposed to be funny?)It causes one to understand where the concept of a "sinful nature" originated.
He makes a lot comparisons that he seems to think are funny throughout the whole book but really they're just junk writing.

The author goes on to compare training children with training all kinds of things such as animals, soldiers, and mules. From the introduction:

These truths are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children. They are profoundly simple and extremely obvious. After examining them with us, you will say, "I knew that all along. Where have I been? It's so obvious."

Our children are not animals. We can reason with them, explain the correct action or responses to take and urge them in the right direction.

The authors are judgmental and dogmatic.

Never even consider sending your children to private Christian schools, much less the public, automaton factories. Whether a classroom is based completely on Christian education or on secular principles is not the issue…God didn't make teenage boys and girls to sit together in a classroom every day while real life outside passes them by.

If someone wants to home school, fine. But not everyone is called to that and not everyone is capable. If you don't have a gift for teaching, let someone else teach your child. Just because you send them to a school, doesn't mean you aren't still responsible to teach your values and beliefs to them at home. You can still read to them, discuss important issues and even use what they are learning in public school as a spring board for some good character and values building conversations.

Spanking is not for infants! Spanking should not be the only form of punishment.
Select your instrument according to the child’s size,” writes Pearl. “For the under one year old, a little, ten to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (stripped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.” Additional advice from their Web site: Switching with a length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line is a “real attention-getter.”

He paints a picture of God as a punisher.

"No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous... (Heb. 12:11)." God's chastisement is a painful "whipping." Our "fathers of the flesh... chastened us after their own pleasure... (12: 9, 10)." The Scripture not only condones physical "scourging," but promotes it as a means to holiness--when ministered for the son's "profit."
The chastisement is represented as a sure sign of love: "for whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth. " If there is no chastisement, it is not only an indication of not being loved, but of being a "bastard" So we see that out of the very love of God springs chastisement. Thus, our original passage in Prov. 13:24, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. "
If God's love is expressed by the "whippings" He gives, then can we not love our children enough to chasten them unto holiness? I have heard a rebellious teenager say, "If they only loved me enough to whip me."

There is a time and place for discipline, but this man's whole emphasis seems to be about punishment. Really, if you set the boundaries and have guidelines, your whole day doesn't have to be about punishment. And I'm talking about your average child, not the ones who came to you with serious emotional and behavioral issues. Even then, the emphasis should be on teaching other things such as life skills, bonding and attachment and shared activities.

I would reserve the physical punishment for outright defiance. With the twins, we give them a chance to correct the behavior. Next we move to jumping jacks. This replaces time out for us because they just brood in time out. So we get some energy out. And it doesn't harm them. One tends to be lazy so it's a better thing for him that being told to sit, which is what he wants to do anyway! If that doesn't work, we sent them to think on their bed, or if it's evening, we send them to bed. If that fails, then we spank. So it's the third or fourth option. And it's three swats, not ten like the Pearls suggest. It's one extra if they kick, bite etc. during the three swats. One likes to take off running and at first I'd chase her, but then she was winning so now I just wait. And she gets the fourth swat.

Pearl says, Don't think of the rod as a weapon of defense or a show of force; think of the rod as a "magic wand."

Here are their guidelines for spanking. It sounds as though the child is the enemy to be completely defeated. Well, that's pretty much what he says.

The child should be able to anticipate the coming rod by your utterly calm and controlled spirit.
At this point, in utter panic, he will rush to demonstrate obedience. Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don't drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.
Otherwise, tell him to bend over on the bed or couch; and while he is in this position give some choice admonition. You have his undivided attention. Slowly begin to spank. If you go too fast, you may not allow time enough for the inner transformation to occur.
Use your own judgment as to what is effective. I found five to ten licks usually sufficient. Sometimes, with older children, usually when the licks are not forceful enough, the child may still be rebellious. If this occurs, take time to instruct and then continue the spanking. A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered. A spanking is made effective, not by its severity, but by its certainty. Spankings don't have to be as hard where they are consistently applied. Your calm dignity will set the stage to make it more effective.

Their severe potty training rules and bedwetting rules will just make the kid more nervous and more likely to have accidents. This following advice concerns a three-year-old!

So, my suggestion was that the father explain to the boy that, now that he was a man, he would no longer be washed in the house. He was too big and too stinky to be cleaned by the babywipes. From now on, he would be washed outside with a garden hose. The child was not to be blamed. This was to be understood as just a progressive change in methods. The next dump, the father took him out and merrily, and might I say, carelessly, washed him off. What with the autumn chill and the cold well water, I don't remember if it took a second washing or not, but, a week later, the father told me his son was now taking himself to the pot.

Okay, I could go on and on. You can read the junk for yourself. And there may be a few good parenting tips in the book--like at one point he suggests parents spend time playing on the floor with their children--but it's just not worth it to find them.

I guess my parenting is common sense parenting. We take the kids potty one last time around 10. They don't get drinks after supper. If they wet the bed, they take all the stuff to the washer and they shower.

Not liking a food is not a spanking issue as far as I'm concerned. The little ones have to try a few bites of everything because it was all new to them just 20 mos ago. If you throw the vegetables on the floor, you'll get a bigger helping the second time. If they hit the floor again, you aren't hungry and I'll put your plate in the fridge until you tell me you're ready to eat it--vegetables and all. But I don't let that carry over and at no time do they go to bed hungry.

The bigger ones pretty much know what they like and what they don't. If they don't like what I fix, they can make a sandwich. I don't make a separate meal, but neither will I let food issues spoil a meal. If it happened much, we'd have to rethink it. Jasmine really only likes pastas and doesn't like any kind of meat. She has to eat a little and has to eat the vegetables (there are usually two to choose from).

If a child won't pick something up, it goes to the utility room for a week. If they destroy something, it's gone. I don't replace it. If it belongs to someone else, the offender replaces it even if they have to clean the bathroom for a week to earn the money.

Some things are just common sense, and not everything requires a spanking. I'd save it for defiance. Sometimes parents get "creative" with discipline. I've heard of making them drink nasty stuff if they lie and things like that. I would just think about what that really teaches them and if it solves the problem. Also ask yourself, "How would this sound if they told their teacher about it?" because kids do share what happens at home and teachers do have to report things they consider abusive. Since they don't live with your child, something may sound abusive to them because they haven't dealt with the issues. When two of my boys were constantly stealing, I sewed all their pockets shut. I had a teacher become very concerned about that, but I simply pointed out that having pockets is not necessary to their emotional or physical health and that you can purchase pants without pockets, but I didn't want to reward their stealing with new pants.

Some things are just childish misunderstandings or lack of experience issues. Never spank for those. Explain the expectations or how to do something, then let the child try again.

My final point is, I think this man is arrogant claiming his way is the right way and acting like people's criticism makes him more holy. No, it's people starting to recognize child abuse.

From an article by Michael Pearl (notice he refers to himself in third person in the first line)

You may have noticed No Greater Joy and Michael Pearl receiving a lot of negative press lately over advocating corporal discipline as part of a comprehensive child training program. Television reporters came out to the office. We were in newspapers from coast to coast. Even CBS, after running an uninformed criticism of us, offered to fly us to New York to answer their unfounded charges on The Morning Show. I was eager to answer, and readily agreed. Those of you on our email list were immediately informed and many of you prayed for the will of God to be done. CBS called for a pre-interview and then canceled the afternoon before the show. I think they discovered in the pre-interview that I was not the Bible thumping caricature they had hoped. (No it was Barbara Curtis urging everyone to call or e-mail and ask them to examine what he teaches and at least invite a few other people to present alternatives to his discipline method)One news outlet reviewed and gave a very positive review, saying there was nothing in our material that would ever lead to child abuse. On the bright side, our sales skyrocketed this month. Even before this recent publicity, one out of every 75 Americans have been introduced to our ministry.
It’s a battle I would not have fought so boldly twenty years ago when we still had small children at home. The potential for institutional retribution is too great—almost a certainty. But I am now too old to be intimidated, and the battle is much bigger than the spanking flap. They’re not just coming after me, but all parents who believe parenting is a God-given responsibility.

Not so. I think most of us feel that way. We try to find what works best for each child. We try to find nurturing ways to help them make right choices. We don't believe spanking is appropriate for every single infraction.

Their family is
HERE. Look at all those pretty little grandchildren. I pray they aren't raised using his methods!!

These comments are all just my opinion. I am not a parenting expert but I have 1 step child, 2 birth children and 5 adopted children. We also fostered 11 children. I have a master's degree in elementary education. But my thoughts are just from my own experiences and what I've learned and from common sense.

Okay. I'm done. Your turn.


Momto16 said...

I love u.
Thank you for writing this!
I pray that the abusive light is shed on the Pearls methods so that people stop using these methods. Cant even imagine hitting an infant. I have no words for that. Its just unreal to me how someone could be so inept to follow this type of advice!!

One Crowded House said...

the bed wetting and being "unclean" part is really hard for me because I have two kiddos over the age of 8 who still struggle with that. I can't imagine making them feel like terrible because of it and insisting they wash with the hose.

that is just cruel.

We haven't spanked anyone in quite a while- but like you- when we did- it was the last resort and only after many chance to make the right choice were given.

I agree that spanking a baby is just messed up.

The writer thinks very highly of himself it seems.

Hevel said...

Seriously? Spanking has never worked for us. Ever. Or for my adoptive parents. They still did it, because they believed Pearl and his buddies. For a child with a traumatic background--and most children adopted beyond infancy have had some trauma--corporal punishment just doesn't do the trick. And then it just goes on and on, a viscious circle.

Also, I "love" how the Pearls hang a whole cult of physical abuse on one OT verse while they forget all the rest of the Writings.

kayder1996 said...

The Lydia case was the one I was talking about when I posted yesterday. Literally turned my stomach when I first heard it. Just tragic beyond belief.

Kathy C. said...

Yeah, spanking a baby is crazy. Personally I would just redirect up until about 18 mos or so at least. But I've never had one younger than that do something that I felt was totally defiant rather than just a typical baby thing. After that I pretty much redirected, or put them down for nap.

The Lydia case really gets me because I have children who struggle in one area or another at school. Okay, today Kayla was really playing a game with me intentionally sounding out a word wrong that she knew. I told her she had probably been setting too long and needed to recharge her brain so she could do 100 jumping jacks and then come back and see if she could do it. Even if she wasn't playing a game, it still wouldn't hurt her and it does get the oxygen moving and blood pumping. But to spank for a homework mistake? Crazy! And for hours until she died. Criminal.

Ceci said...

I read their book as well. I took what I could and trashed the rest. I didn't agree with everything he said. I did write them. I asked them if they had any advice (curious to see what they would say) on parenting an adopted child with one or a lot of the following: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other issues. They wrote back and said that their stand was that "adoption was about a ministry and not about family." I am still trying to figure out what that is all about. Maybe you punish like any other child, which I totally disagree with. Not sure! Thanks for your views!

Kathy C. said...

Wow. I don't think he'd have a clue on how to parent special needs children.

And some of his stuff may work if you started with a very young child without those needs. I don't think I would ever spank a child who already had gone through so much and had so much loss.

Sometimes it really is hard to know what to do though. But some of those children do not understand the correlation between actions and consequences so may not have a clue why they are being spanked.

I think the punishments would have to make sense to them--you don't eat the food, okay, it will sit right here in the same spot until you're hungry or you hit your brother, you can't be near your brother for now. That kind of thing.

My favorite adoption book is "the Connected Child."

Kathy C. said...

Hevel--I noticed all the verses were from OT law sections. Nothing about grace or mercy. If God had punished everyone so serverly when they made mistakes, none of the Israelites would have made it from Egypt to the Promised Land!

Hevel said...

I beg to differ: Hebrews 12:9-11 is not in the Old Testament, and Proverbs is not of the Law. It's part of the Ketuvim, the Writings, one of the the three poetic books of the Tanakh. ;)

Anyway, yes, G-d is not the cruel and heartless disciplinarian as the Pearls make him appear. One of these days I'll finally finish up my whole post on why what they say makes absolutely no sense from a Jewish POV--even if they recite that one verse from Proverbs as their mantra.

Kathy C. said...

I was thinking of his use of the passages in Deuteronomy. I do realize Hebrews is NT and of course Job is in the books of poetry. My devotion book based on the women of the Bible just released and now I am working on a book of devos that goes through the whole Bible using little known facts or "trivia." I've just got the Israelites to the Jordan River and am where the priest are going to cross first with the Ark of the Covenant.

I'll look forward to hearing what you have to say about the Pearls teaching because I had never heard of them until last week when I read about the third child to die.

Kathy C. said...

I went back and looked at my post and I see that the Hebrews passage is in what I cut and pasted from their book. Guess that shows how impressed (NOT) I was with their book.

SusanJ said...

As a human being I think the Pearls and their like are a real curse on the planet and children and adults alike. They have written books that basically are 'How to abuse your child' and because of the Freedom of Speech laws, get away with it. I have often wondered if I wrote a book entitled 'How to care for your elderly parents, with or without dementia' and proceeded to talk about hitting them 'for their own good' etc - whether IT would be banned ??

That being said - I also do NOT agree with spanking/hitting a child EVER. One, a child deserves as much, if not MORE protection under the law from being hit than us adults, animals and even criminals. Two - how can anyone honestly say 'We don't hit' and then spank their child? It didn't make ANY sense to me as a child - and it makes none now. The only lessons it taught me were fear, pain, anger, hate and resentment. Oh and that my parents didn't love me. No, being told in the post spanking 'pep talk' ..."Oh we love you" told me no such thing - as THEY, the ones who were supposed to love and protect me had just HIT me, and actions speak louder than words.

There is no respect in hitting, nor any love. Just ask a beaten spouse. Respect is a two way street. You don't get it simply by bigger bigger and older or by being the parent.

My parents lost my love, trust and respect with the first smack. I have never trusted or respected anyone who hit me - and would never want to instil the idea into a child who may grow up to equate love with being hit - leaving them open to violence in their relationships.

As for the Bible, JESUS ... would NOT have hit a child, didn't hit child, and warned us of hurting them. The golden rule being to love God, and then to treat one another as we would like to be treated. I don't know about you ... but I don't like being hit ... do you ???

Kathy C. said...

Thank you for sharing Susan. As I put somewhere in one of these past two post, I will occasionally spank. But it is only for continued defiance. And that's only if I can't get their attention another way. Three of my children will correct their behavior with just a mild scolding. Some are more stubborn. Today one of my children hit his teacher and was sent home from school. I did not spank him for that although his hitting his teacher was totally inappropriate because it would have been like, here, let me hit you because I hit her. Instead he will be missing some activities because I cannot trust him to have appropriate behavior. I think that will reinforce the lesson much better.

waitingarms said...

I am so horrified that there is not more outrage in the adoptive community over Hana's murder and the torture and abuse her brother suffered. Everyone seems to be laying the blame at the Pearls' feet but not with the murderers. I really believe with or without the Pearl's writings all these evil "parents" would still have killed their children. I think evil people gravitate toward materials that support their depraved thinking.

Kathy C. said...

Waitingarms--I agree that it's the parents' fault. But I hate that there's a book out there they can point to and say they were only trying to do things God's way according to that particular book. ANd the Pearls say not to spank in anger and they don't say to lock a child in the closet for days on end with no food. I just can't get past the fact that they spank children who are little more than newborns.