Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fighting The Pearl's Teachings


From the moment my babies were born, I knew that it was my job to protect them. But I also knew that they needed more than just food, water, and to not be damaged. They needed love, guidance, discipline, and all the things that would make them people of character. Of course, none of those secondary things would mean much if I couldn't first offer them basic protection from harm.

In my quest to find a disciplinary style, I briefly fell for the Pearl's methods which they outlined in their book To Train Up A Child, and in the subsequent No Greater Joy Series. Thankfully, this was only a brief detour on our parenting journey (you can read more about it here) as I realized that I could not continue to implement their methods without becoming abusive. The bottom line was that it scared me, and while what the books promised sounded appealing, it wasn't what I was getting.

Recently, another child has died at the hands of a parent, using the Pearl's methods as outlined in their books. When a local news outlet contacted Michael Pearl for comment, he wrote the following in an e-mail:
"If indeed these parents were abusive, and that has not yet been proven by the courts, it is regretful that our teachings were not able to turn them from their predisposition to abusive habits," 

I read this on my break at work, earlier, and I could almost feel my blood boiling. I wonder if Mr. Pearl has given serious thought to what his methods would look like in the hands of a parent who could lean toward being severe. When he recommends starting with "10 licks" for a child, and more if they resist, it's easy to see how even a parent who is not by nature abusive, could go too far. More than that, the Pearl's don't leave a lot of room in their literature for interpretation. They promise perfect obedience only with perfect application of their instructions.  I don't see how Mr. Pearl thinks what he teaches would turn an abusive parent away from abuse.  I think his teachings would give an abusive parent licence to beat their children, thinking that it was God's Way.

My heart breaks for the little girl who has died, for her eight siblings whose lives will never be the same, and for the parents who did the unthinkable. I will be praying for all of them.

For Christians, there is another way to parent. One that incorporates mercy and grace. Every day when I look at my children, I am grateful I took that path.

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
Jude 1:2

ETA: Please see my post from 2/23/10 Bring Back the Boycott!

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  1. Hi Anne,

    I found my way here through thatmom and Beauty for Ashes.
    I had a short run with the Pearls myself. Dear friends who stood by them and gave me books. I would never recommend them in anyway now. I wouldn't call myself an attachment parent just one who loves her kids and God. Trying to give them what they each need everyday.

    I read Sarah's story. We have a very similar stories. My son Jonah was born at almost 30 weeks and lived 5 minutes..he had trisomy 18. We had to make the agonizing choice to induce due to severe polyhydramnios. We found Jonah had problems not compatiable with life on Valentines Day 2002.

    I also have a son who is struggling. Possible Aspergers has been mentioned. We are in the process of working that out.

    Anyway, I didn't want to just read and move on. Our blogs are even similarly named :o)


  2. I appreciate you sharing your experience. I've heard of others who've gone a lot farther in this system before finally getting out. Sometimes it seems to "work" (I HATE that kind of talk - like your kid is a broken piece of equipment) until a more strong-willed child comes along and the beatings escalate. This is when the disasters come. But I don't think those for whom it "works" are better for it either. The "hands-on" lessons in works based righteousness will not easily be unlearned.

    Blessings to you as you share the grace of our Lord with your children.

  3. Sandy, I'll have to come and check out your blog! I'm sorry to hear about your loss. It is a comfort to me to know that where Sarah is now, she has been made whole. One day I hope to meet her there and be introduced to the other children whom I feel I've come to know through their parents' stories.

    Laurie, I think you make a really good point about works based righteousness. I think if you asked the Pearl's directly, they would deny that's what they teach. But when they tell parents that switching will remove guilt from the heart of a child, they are preaching a different gospel. A violence based gospel, and hardly good news.

  4. I'm new to the Pearls - I'd never heard of them until a couple of days ago.
    It seems to them - obedience and good behaviour are the "goals" of parenting, and having both in a child is good success. But only God knows what's in the heart of a person.
    I was a well-behaved child and did very well at school. My parents thought I was fine, but they didn't know how troubled I was inside. I hid it from them so they wouldn't worry. Good behaviour alone means NOTHING, except that you're scared to make mistakes. It seems people like the Pearls do not believe in kids making mistakes, they are not allowed to make any, or do anything they consider "wrong". So they grow up and look fine on the outside. We can't see what's on the inside. Self-righteousness possibly.
    I also hate the idea that this or that type of parenting "works" as if kids are projects not people, or evil beings to conquer, or animals to train. I remember someone (maybe Dr Sears, or Dr Ross Campbell) saying we train pets, we PARENT children. There's a difference.


    Worth a read.


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