We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, January 30, 2010

To Train Up A Child?

This week I was asked what I knew about Mike & Debi Pearl, of “No Greater Joy” ministries. The outcome of this question led to my supplying a review of their book, To Train Up A Child, which I did several years back.

“No Greater Joy” is another one of those ministries which tend to divide churches due to legalism. The Pearls were one of the dividing issues in the last church we left, and they have a virtual cult following among home-schoolers. I will say right up front that they have some good teachings, but I can not recommend them.

So now I am going to give you my review of To Train Up A Child. The page numbers are from their 13th Printing, revised August 2000, so if you have a different edition, the page numbers may be different.

For the most part this book has some very good advice on raising children. I can’t recommend it though, because it also has many problems. One of the things that bothered me throughout the entire text was the attitude expressed: they are the experts to be consulted by all. They also project the philosophy that all children need to be spanked (for them it means use of a “switch”) which, from personal experience, is definitely not the case. There are also instances of Scripture-twisting and claiming to know the mind of God. The following are the areas I found problematic:

P. 1 SWITCH YOUR KIDS: "consistently rewarding every transgression with a switching" shows lack of compassion or common sense. Not every transgression warrants harsh punishment. There are many other corrective measures available.

P. 2 OBEDIENCE TRAINING: The book starts with bad philosophy by comparing child training with dog training. If you train a child the same way you train a dog, then you will end up with a child that is not much more than a pet.

P. 2 "TENNN-HUTT!!": Another philosophical problem. Children should not be trained like soldiers. Anyone who has ever watched the movie, The Sound Of Music, will see the problem of training children by military methods. You may get good soldiers, but not good children.

P. 4 TRAINING NOT TO TOUCH: The Pearls call this “training,” but it is more appropriately defined as "conditioning." I call it abuse to set up a scenario waiting for the child to disobey just so you can "switch" him.

P. 5 PLANT YOUR TREE IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN: There is no indication in the Bible that God put the tree in the Garden of Eden in order to "train the couple." Reading that purpose from the Scripture is eisegesis. The suggestion is to set some object out to entice the child into a "training session." This is a dishonest technique and can lead to distrust by the child. Why not wait for a real situation for the training? "Switching" the hand is excessive in my opinion; why not just smack the hand?

The next section continues this thought of "baiting for training," but then adds the idea that you want to have your child associate the word "no" with pain. This is not training; it is conditioning. I wouldn't want my child to associate any word with pain.

P. 6-7 OBEDIENCE TRAINING - BITING BABIES: The teaching is to inflict pain on the child who bites while nursing. My wife only responded with, "OW!", which startled the baby, causing cessation of the biting. If the baby bit again, she again said, "OW!" or "that hurt", which again would startle the baby. This method worked with both children and they never suffered any punishment or pain!

P. 7 COME WHEN I CALL YOU: The "booty camp." This is just plain ridiculous; it is a game that is dishonest to the child. Again, the use of real situations is better, because the child will learn the purpose is for protection rather than blind bullying.

P. 8 NEVER TOO YOUNG TO TRAIN: The claim is that a baby's crying is self-centered and manipulative. This is utter nonsense. A baby is in a new and scary world and needs comfort and security. NEVER abandon a child to cry.

P. 8 STEPS TO OBEDIENCE: "Switching" a 5-month-old child for anything is unconscionable. Block the stairs with a gate to protect the child. Punishment is for disobedience, and a 4-month-old doesn't understand the concept yet. If you want Pavlov's dog, then conditioning a 5-month-old is fine, but I prefer to treat the child as what he is; an innocent being exploring a new world.

P. 14-15 GOD-GIVEN SELF-CENTEREDNESS; TO BLAME OR NOT TO BLAME: This section starts with an unscriptural assumption: "For the purpose of moral development, God created us to exist in a constant state of need and dependence." There is no scriptural basis for this claim, so it then becomes a claim of knowing the mind of God! A baby is not really "self-centered" except for the fact that he only knows he has needs. Self-centeredness is a choice of sinful attitude, and that is not what a baby has.

P. 18 WHEN DRIVES BECOME SIN: Pearls say, "God will not condemn a child until he has grown into a state of accountability. However, during this transition, which occurs between the ages of about two and fourteen..." They should have said they believe God will do this, but the Scripture doesn't tell us. Being dogmatic here is claiming extra-biblical revelation. I also believe this to be true, but I certainly think two is an unreasonable age to suggest. I would think more in the line of seven or eight. Pearls then suggest that "responsibility for sin is not imputed unto him until his moral soul is fully functional." We just don't know this, and claiming it authoritatively is wrong.

P. 37 SUMMARY: Infants do not "falsely [represent their] needs to" "get [their] wants met as well." They can't reason in that fashion. What she calls false representation is nothing more than a felt need for security. The whole paragraph is full of this inane thinking.

P. 38-40 GUILT AND SELF-LOATHING; GUILT: Their theory of guilt is much like common psychobabble. It ascribes feelings to children that most likely are not there.

P. 40 THE POWER OF "ABSOLUTION": The assumption that spanking always takes away guilt is unfounded. In fact, there may be nothing wrong for still feeling guilt about something for which one is punished; it may help prevent a recurrence.

P. 42 THE CANE, NOT THE CORNER: This section is definitely only an opinion, with no factual basis. "Dark corners and dark closets breed darkness in the soul. An empty room and a pouting child incubate guilt and anger. Only the rod and reproof bring correction. Somehow children know the rod is their just due." So how were we able to train my children with very little use of the rod (actually, the hand)? We even used the corner and the empty room!

P. 43 TO DO MY DUTY: I think 5-10 swats with the "rod" is excessive. It doesn't take that much to get the point across.

P. 44 INSTRUMENTS OF LOVE: "under one-year-old" should NOT be spanked! Also, the hand is just fine for spanking; it is easier to tell that way how much pain is being inflicted.

P. 46 "Reproof without the rod is equally unbalanced, for it leaves the impression that the law has no teeth." The Pearls obviously have no imagination if they think the rod is the only way to show that the law has "teeth."

P. 48 "Use of the rod is not optional with a Bible believer." Can the Pearls back this up with Scripture? The rod has its place, but if the rod is not warranted, it IS optional.

P. 50 THE OLDER SISTER (begins on P.49): There is no biblical support for the contention that God put the tree in the garden as a temptation - to see what would happen. God knew what would happen.

P. 53-54 STRIKING OUT: Trading blows with a toddler is nonsense. The first time he hits, the object is to be removed from his hand as he is told "NO!" If he repeats the action he should be spanked then and there for the disobedience. Waiting until he has done it for 10 times is ludicrous. The Pearl's reasoning was that he wasn't being mean so it was "training" vs "discipline." Mean or not, the child was behaving in a wrong manner and must be stopped immediately; once he was told "no" it would be rebellion.

P. 56 THE PROPER RESPONSE (begins on p.55): Again the recommendation is 10 "licks". Why so many? The purpose can be accomplished without so much pain being inflicted. It would have to be an unusually stubborn child to need that much corrective action.

P. 57 A SWITCH AT NAP TIME SAVES MINE: Putting an infant down for a nap. The first question would have to be, how old is the "infant"? Babies should be held by Mom or Dad until they are asleep. They can also be carried in a frontal carrier so as to feel the security of the parent. A young child can be cuddled either in a bed or on a sofa while they fall asleep. Again, it is the sense of security and trust that is being inculcated; children need to be comforted even when they are tired.

P. 57 OBEDIENCE: A one-year-old child should never be spanked for not wanting to nap. Spanking should be reserved only for disobedience or rebellion. You can't order a child to sleep when he is not sleepy. Rather than "putting the child down" for a nap, sit with the child, cuddling him and maybe even reading or singing to him to help him get sleepy.

Chapter 10, SAFETY TRAINING: The guy sounds like an ex-drill sergeant. While his method will definitely work, it is unnecessary. Our training was done with real situations as they presented themselves, and it was just as effective.

Chapter 11, POTTY TRAINING: Their philosophy on potty training is, in my opinion, just plain stupid. Using "bathroom" words such as "pee pee" and "doo doo" is inane and unnecessary. We used the words "wet" and "bowel movement." If a child is not ready to be potty-trained it will be frustrating for both child and parent, and can often lead to the child "training" the parent! A three-week-old child, as implied in the one paragraph, is much too young to try potty-training; it is foolishness to suggest otherwise! Even 3-months old is too young. Hosing a child is inappropriate and abusive. I could think of much better ideas that would work just as well for a late-comer.

Our daughter was enticed to begin potty-training when she was about 2 years old because she wanted to wear pretty panties. Our son cared nothing about it until he was almost 3, and, if I remember correctly, he also wanted to wear underwear instead of diapers.

P. 75-76 THEY BETTER NOT MISTREAT MY BABY: This whole section is inane at best. The idea that if you defend your child you make him a "sissy" is utter nonsense. Protecting one's child gives that child security! It matters not that the world is unfair, Christians still must teach fairness because that's how we are to treat others. We do indeed deserve equality, and to teach otherwise is harmful.

P. 80 TOUGH TEENS: "When I was yet young I determined that I would rear no sissies." This tells a lot about the author's thought processes. The idea of ignoring children's falls and injuries to "toughen them up" is ludicrous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with comforting a child who is injured. Yes, teach the child the difference between a real and feigned injury, but the latter should not be a problem with a child who has been raised right to begin with. For example, when a child falls down, checking to see if he is okay gives him assurance that you care about his well-being, even if he is not injured. If he is crying from a minor fall, he can be examined, pronounced uninjured, and sent on his way. Crying at a young age is usually the result of being startled about the fall, and will cease once the child sees he is okay. Comforting a child that is injured teaches that child compassion. It appears that Mr. Pearl is a regular "Mr. Macho" and wants his kids to be the same. One doesn't have to be "Mr. Macho" to not be a "sissy."

Chapter 15: The claim that a pacifier or bottle for grumpiness is leading to obesity is downright silly. The whole of chapter 15 is pure psychobabble, with mainly cause and effect non sequiturs.

Chapter 19: To say, "Never even consider sending your children to private Christian schools" is irresponsible. Why not consider a good Christian school as an alternative to home schooling? Not everyone has the ability to teach at home, regardless of what the Pearls think. And not all home schooling is of good quality! Whether you consider public school would be based on many, many variables. I do believe that public school, in general, is no place for Christians, but I do know that there are rare instances of public schools that don't conform to the norm. This would be a consideration if home school is not an option. And what about states which make home-schooling virtually impossible?

Chapter 20. This chapter is actually very good. The problems with it are primarily in his attitude towards
education, such as saying it should be finished by age 12 or 13, and a few other comments. He is also very strict on eating likes/dislikes and the ownership of toys.

Well, there you have my analysis of the Pearl’s child training ideas. While my words may sometimes seem harsh (“ludicrous,” “inane,” “ridiculous,” “stupid,” “nonsense,”), I have very little patience with people who abuse children in the manner the Pearls teach, and justify it by their legalistic interpretation of Scripture. While they are not as bad as the Ezzos, I could never recommend such abusive treatment of children in the name of "training up a child."

UPDATE 12/20/10:  I have read an advertisement for this book in a Pearl publication, which says this book teaches "God's way of parenting."  Once you claim something is "God's way" and it isn't in the Bible, you've just claimed direct revelation from God and approval from God, and that if anyone disagrees with this book, they are therefore disagreeing with God.  This is very dangerous ground.


Neil said...

What a horrible book and philosophy! Thanks for taking the time to document all that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for taking the time to address the Pearls. For a time, when I still had a child at home, I read their book and listened to some of their teaching tapes (on scripture). Several red flags came up for me in the things that they said and wrote, but I wondered if it was just me. their child training did seem harsh and also it takes nothing else into consideration such as temperaments. I know for sure that one child does need a spanking regularly and others can be spoken to. I have a granddaughter who comes to you and confesses her wrong, before you go to her! I guess the one thing that bothered me the most was the arrogant attitude which came across like they alone had the truth and the perfect children to prove it. In fact they came across that way in every area: marriage, their church and in their individual lives: perfect in every way. "Do it our way and you can be perfect too." It was definitely a red flag situation.

Paul Pavao said...

I was stunned when I met Mike Pearl. I had read the book, and I don't disagree with as much of it as you do. In fact, the thought of training my kids in advance really helped. We walked along country roads and practiced staying on the side of the road. We practiced sitting still for progressively longer periods of time, and several other things that worked really well.

Then I met Mike Pearl. Feeling grateful for the training insight, I held out my hand and told him I really appreciated his book.

He looked at my hand and said, "I don't shake hands with just anybody."

Great guy.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I trained my kids as we did things. First, it all starts with good discipline at home. Sitting at the table teaches how to sit quietly in any circumstance. We never set up scenarios just to tempt the child so as to "smack" him. Around the house they were taught to obey on the first command. They were taught fire-drills. And when they got old enough for sitting in the regular car seat they learned how to escape a car (as a pilot, all my passengers are briefed on exit procedures - I just carry the idea over to my family in cars) The rod - my hand - was a rare thing in my house because I don't believe one must always resort to pain as does Mike. I stand by my charge that he trains children like animals. And I still stand by my charge that what he mostly teaches is abuse.

Anonymous said...


I came across your blog from a link on a comment of another blog. It's interesting how the Lord works. I was sent this article several days ago by my friend Cindy Kunsman who writes undermuchgrace.com, a website for those recovering from spiritual abuse. Cindy has done lots of research on the patriarchy and the quiverfull movements. Here is the link to the article she sent me, which mentions "No Greater Joy Ministry" in connection to the beating death of a child by parents who used this form of child "training" which is really abuse.

This is how the Pearls' teach child training:
"“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.”

Yes, let's all wack our kids with a plumbing supply line!

I'm wondering if the Pearls are followers of Bill Gothard, like the Duggers?

Here is a copy of a blog post on Michael Pearl's teaching on the book or Romans:
"There are other concerns with No Greater Joy Ministries, such as their KJV-onlyism, which is stated in their statement of faith and referred to often in Michael Pearl's messages. Along with this there are numerous statements by Michael Pearl in which he essentially says he is the only person giving the correct teaching and biblical exposition of basic doctrine. For example, here are just some of his statements during his Romans messages: "99.9% of churches don't teach this", "out of 25-30 commentaries on this they were all incorrect - their basic approach was in error", "probably anything you've been taught on Romans 7 is wrong", "I don't know any preachers other than myself that teach this correctly", "here's how R.C. Sproul manifests his unbelief (before reading from Sproul's commentary), "these guys (25-30 commentary authors) don't believe like we do". When some-one claims to have the truth that no-one else within orthodox Christianity has, I get a warning bell. Particularly so when the teaching is a combination of historical errors and false doctrine. While churches differ on some doctrine, there are basic truths upon which we agree. And there is a good reason why, across all our different denominations, we are not being taught certain things. It is my assessment that the Pearls are teaching error on essential basic doctrine." http://allthings2all.blogspot.com/2005/09/michael-and-debi-pearls-no-greater-joy_30.html

Thanks for this post. It is important to expose this kind of error and abuse in the Church!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Thank you, truthspeaker, for that excellent information.

I knew these guys were cultic, but you added a whole new dimension in exposing them.

I like your blog and have added it to those I follow.

Thanks for stopping by.

thatmom said...

Such a great article, Glenn. So glad to have "met" you!

OneSurvivor said...

OK...I admit I did not read the whole article...yet. But I just had to post this after reading something you wrote in the second paragraph that was of great importance to me. Please make a correction.

You wrote: "they have a virtual cult following among home-schoolers".

This makes it sound like all home schoolers follow the Pearls. I know for fact that is a false assumption. I am a home schooler who has never followed the Pearls. So, please, do not presume to speak for all home schoolers. They have may have a virtual cult following among SOME home schoolers, but by far not all. In fact, I can't think of ANY home schoolers that I know who follow them.

Please don't paint us all with such a broad brush.

Now...I will go and finish the article. :-)

OneSurvivor said...

OK...now I have read the article. I really appreciate your thoughts and insights on this. Thank you for writing this.

But, please, change the comment about home schoolers! A LOT of us are nothing like what you describe in your article.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi One Survivor
I think you may be too sensitive. There is no following of Pearls that I am aware of outside of home-schoolers. So "among home-schoolers" is the group of people you will find this cult-like following of the Pearls. By no means would I say this is a blanket statement about home-schoolers. I was a home-schooler and didn't know about them until my son was a senior. We have lots of good friends who homeschool who want nothing to do with Pearls, Ezzos, Gothard and all the other legalistic and aberrational teachers and teachings.

I do have to point out that, in my years of involvement with home-schoolers, with my own kids and now with all my friends, home-schoolers tend to have some of the most aberrational things they latch on to - I've been to many conferences where there is so much legalistic curriculum and ideas, especially the whole courtship movement with its many permutations. The rules about head-coverings "modest" clothing has virtually half those at conferences in what many jokingly call "homeschool uniforms."

Yes, there are many, many home-schoolers who are discerning and do not get into all this silliness and cult-like behavior, but it is ONLY among home-schoolers that I have found followers of the Pearls.

OneSurvivor said...

Thank you, Glen, for clarifying that. I guess it would make sense that non-home schoolers would not be looking to home schoolers for direction on how to raise their children. In the same way, patriarchal people are not going to look to non-patriarchal people for how to conduct family life.

"Homeschool uniforms"...now that is something I have never heard before, but I can see where it would seem to fit. :-)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

"Patriarchal" is a term that might need clarification for readers. There are groups such as Gothard and Pearls who have a very strict idea that the father is a virtual dictator almost until the child has died no matter what age they are. The father is to be obeyed even if you are married with 14 kids of your own, if your father says "jump," you ask "How high?"

In other beliefs the Bible does indeed paint a patriarchal family where the husband is indeed in authority over his wife, who submits to her husband as to the Lord. The husband in turn loves his wife and is willing to give his life for her as Christ did for the Church. This husband is not abusive or authoritatively dictatorial. This husband is responsible to God for his family. So in this sense, the Christian family is patriarchal with the Father being the leader.

OneSurvivor said...

I hear you, Glen. I was discussing with my husband this morning that I wish they would not use the term "patriarchal" because what they are doing is not a true biblical representation of the kind of loving and protecting patriarchal system the G-d has blessed us with. Or...perhaps they just shouldn't call it "biblical" patriarchal. Sadly, though, the take scriptures out of context and add to them. What they really end up having, from what I have read, is what you see, too...a dictatorship.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your post! The more I learn about the Pearls, the worse it gets... truly horrifying!

I did want to address one thing that you discussed though... Infant Pottying (not potty "training") or Elimination Communication is a perfectly valid and gentle way to handle an infant or young toddler's elimination needs. I have practiced the art of Elimination Communication with all three of my children and have never raised a hand to any of them nor have I been frustrated by the practice of "EC." Quite the opposite, in fact! It's truly amazing to watch such a tiny person communicate his needs so clearly (albeit, non-verbally) and to "catch" a pee from a newly born baby. It fills me with a sense of wonder every single time.

Babies, at birth, are aware of their elimination needs and all three of my children have been very... insistent about communicating to me when they need to go. Just because our culture teaches that babies have no control over their elimination functions does not make it true. I see proof every single day that my infant has control of her sphincter muscles because she can stop a stream of urine right in the middle and then release the muscle and continue peeing a moment later.

Just now, I took a break from writing this comment because my 3 month old (who is on my lap) became wiggly and squirmy because she needed to make a bowel movement. I actually thought she was done sooner than she was and when I moved her from over the toilet she pitched a little fit to inform me that she wasn't so I held her back over the toilet and she finished up just as happy as she could be.

I am saddened that this viable and gentle alternative to full-time diapering and coercive methods of toddler potty-training has been discredited somewhat because of its association with the Pearls. Helping a young baby or toddler to the potty is just the same as helping a baby to get to sleep (by cuddling, nursing, rocking, etc) before they can do it themselves. It's the same as helping a baby to eat before he can feed himself. It's all about watching for signs that the baby needs to potty just as we watch for hunger cues and sleep cues.

This method is absolutely not for everyone, but it has worked very well for my family and for many others. Most folks who use this method (this includes myself) also practice attachment parenting and gentle discipline which are about as opposite to the Pearls' teachings as you can get.

Thank you again for your post! If you (or your readers) would like to learn more about Elimination Communication from others whom it has worked for (most of whom are as horrified by the Pearls as I am), please check out www.diaperfreebaby.org and the Elimination Communication forum at mothering.com's forums. There are also a great many EC posts on the gentlechristianmothers.com message board for Christian mothers who practice gentle discipline and attachment parenting.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Betsy,

Thanks for all your info.

My comments about "potty training" were more about Pearl's method - which is abusive - rather than the age, although I still think to expect a 3-week-old to be ready for toilet training is expecting too much. While I feel 3-month-old may be frustrating, your information demonstrates the possibility. Still, as you point out, your training is done lovingly and not abusively - and that is the key.

James said...

Read your Bible; I challenge you to search it for what God's teaching is on the subject of "the rod". You should be more upset with God than with Michael Pearl.

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

How about you read your Bible and show me where it says to abuse your children!

I have no problem with the use of the "rod" (symbolic of corporal punishment - it doesn't have to be a literal rod, but even if it literal, there is a proper use). What I have a problem with is Pearl's abusive use of it.

And I have a problem with Pearl's twisting of Scripture.

ashli said...

If readers are REALLY interested in this "horrible book," they should actually READ IT in its entirety, not in isolated snippets chased with personal opinion. The Pearls are not proponents of child abuse, but that being said, I know people who think that competitive sports are abusive and should be outlawed to avoid anyone "losing." You can't please everyone. BTW, if the Pearls are the reason those parents murdered their child, then the Winchester family has a lot of explaining to do. I would like to say that while the Pearls are eccentric there is no excuse for rudeness, and I was appalled at the anecdote about Michael Pearl not shaking hands with "just anyone." Yuck.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Ashli,

I’m not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with my report on this “horrible book.” My report is NOT “isolated snippets,” rather they are the tenure of the entire book. Yes, it is my personal opinion but I am experienced in the subject matter - raising children.

You say that the Pearls “are not proponents of child abuse,” but I submit their child-rearing practices are indeed child abuse, especially in regards to the amount of “switching” and their potty-training. Your comparison to those who think sports are abusive is a logic fallacy of false comparison.

I’m not saying the Pearls are the reason for the parents murdering their child, but what I am saying is the Pearls’ training methods lead to this sort of abuse.

Biblically, the Pearls have cult-like teaching and cult-like followers, and are very legalistic. I also demonstrated in this review how they abuse Scripture. Additionally, while it was not in this book, they do teaching sinless perfectionism.

Anonymous said...

I have to ask. Have you "erased" the following verses from your Bible.

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

Proverbs 20:30 The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13,14 13 Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. 4 You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

1 Corinthians 4:21 What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?

Hebrews 12:6-11 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth , and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth . 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence : shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live ? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure ; but he for our profit , that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.



to scourge

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous, 12/17.

I know all those passages, but Proverbs are not commands, nor are they promises. They are general principles.

The “rod” in these passages stands for discipline, whether or not there is a literal use of the rod. If you say it is literal, then demonstrate to me from Hebrews how God is going to literally use a rod to discipline his children?

The point of the article is not that corporal punishment is wrong - I am 100% for corporal punishment. But it does not have to be a literal rod for one thing, and if you do use a rod these passages do not justify using it on a child who can’t even walk yet, nor do they justify excessive use of the rod.

I’ve got a strong suspicion that you are UnprofSer from the string at Def-Con, based on your misuse of Scripture and the link that is supposed to support your position.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


You posts are not anything Christlike. You have set up your legalistic interpretations of Scripture as the end all and be all. You have put yourself in the place of a cult leader.

You call me a coward for who knows what reason - I guess name-calling is easy for you. However, as an anonymous poster I would say your actions are cowardly.
Anyone who accepts your legalistic interpretations and requirements are already deceived as you are and apparently as unteachable as you are.

Now how about being more Christ-like - since you claim to be a Christian - and stop bombarding my e-mail box with comments to this post which will not be printed.

Anonymous said...

The Pearl's are child-abuse advocates. We pretty much parent the exact opposite of what they recommend-co-sleeping, no spanking, no use of punishment. We have a wonderful relationship with our children, and have found more humane, Biblical ways to enforce the rules rather than physically hurting them.

My parents were not quite as cruel as the Pearls, but not far behind. And I can testify their methods do not work. My family is torn apart because of it. My dad has nothing to do with me or my children because I will not allow him to hit my children. My only sibling is an angry, bitter person with many personal problems. When he/she was younger he/she slept with a knife in the bed because of fear of my dad. I can still remember being in absolute terror as my father entered my sibling's bedroom in the middle of the night, spanked him/her hard and cruelly, and my sibling started to scream in terror--all because he refused to go to sleep. Was that really necessary???!!!! I so understand the frustrations of children not sleeping, but is it really worth causing domestic violence in a home all for the sake of sleep?? I think not!! This is just one of many examples of the fear and terror me and my sibling lived under while being treated in a fashion very similiar to the Pearls. After going through counselling, I am slowly healing, but it is a long process. I want my children to be mentally stable when the leave my house someday, so they don't have to waste so much of their life trying to heal their minds.

The Pearl's should be in jail!!!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Anonymous 7/17,

I have no problem with spanking, and I think that when scripture mentioned the "rod" it was referring to corporal punishment. HOWEVER, spanking must be used only when all other methods of discipline have failed and never done in an abusive way. We were only blessed with two children, and I spanked only one time for a very serious infraction after nothing else worked - and that ended the issue. Open-handed on the rear end and two swats to sting.

My father was an abusive man, using fists and belts, and that is totally improper. More than a few swats gets abusive, and striking as to cause much pain and leave marks is abusive. The Pearls' method is 100% abuse.

And, as noted in my commentary, punishing a child for not going to sleep is asinine as well as abusive.

The Piper's Wife said...

Anonymous 7/17,
I am so sorry to read of your abusive childhood and I just grieve with you over it.

Continue to run to the LORD for your comfort, counsel, and wisdom. I commend you for choosing to parent your children with love and compassion.

Anonymous said...

you are all phsyco! you dont beat a child or malnourish it! this is going back to the dark ages. a child born unto you is a gift fom GOD. you should treat them as such, and nurture them. read the BIBLE more carefully and remember this was written long ago, when the language was different, therefore some parts may have been translated incorrectly. there are alternitave methods to punish a child that dont include abuse!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 11/7/11,

You say to read the Bible carefully and yet you claim it may be "translated incorrectly." The Bible is translated correctly, but that isn't the problem. The problem is that people like the Pearls abuse what it says by taking it out of its context. Corporal punishment in and of itself isn't abusive; the way the Pearls apply it is.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of something I read long ago, don't remember where. The author was a child development expert brought in as a friend of the court on a case where a pastor at a church-run daycare left marks on the bottom of a nine-month-old because the baby would not stop crying when ordered to. The defense tried to argue "Spare the rod and spoil the child," and characterized the child development expert as a Godless New York Jew brought in to tell good Christian people how to raise their children (almost in those words).

His response: "I'm not going to argue religion with you. I'm not even going to argue corporal punishment. I am going to say very clearly two things: any beating that leaves marks is abuse, and any punishment of a nine-month-old infant for disobedience is abuse. A nine-month-old child cannot stop crying on command."

Anonymous said...

I was raised in a large more or less fundamentalist Christian family with adopted siblings.

My parents didn't "spare the rod" or the wooden spoon, or the plastic strap, the belt, tree branches,etc. etc.

How did I turn out?

A good, well adjusted, polite person that abhors all forms of violence. Oh yeah, and I'm an atheist. lol

Regardless, I am so happy to see Christians stand up to this author's sickening child torture.
This book is not about "spanking" its about terrorism and torture. There IS a difference.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I agree that corporal punishment in and of itself is not harmful, and is in fact beneficial. However, there is a vast difference between corporal punishment and abuse, and it is the latter which the Pearls teach.

As for you becoming an atheist, I would say that IF your parents were true Christians, then they did not properly teach you the faith.

Leena said...

Even if anonymous's parents were true Christians, him becoming an atheist means little about his parents. We were born with free will.

My parents used to give away the Pearls book, I've hated that book since I was a child, even then I knew something was wrong. Then I grew up and got married to a man who thought I should be punished whenever I did something "wrong", to the point he tried to kill me. When he was arrested and I was free, I went nuts and did a lot of bad things, all while my father continued to try to "punish" me in to Christianity. I ran further and further. The only thing that stopped it was the preacher who walked into the bar onwas working in and just loved me. Who didn't condem or think I needed to pay for my sins, I already had.

Oddly enough, in my mid-twenties I was able to learn there are consequences, and I turned my life around and there was no "rod" involved. And I did a lot worse than not go to sleep on time. Why can't we believe that children dont constantly need hit to learn? Obviously, it doesn't work for some of us.

I'm now the single mom of two little boys, I work part time, go to college full time and I homeschool them. I get compliments constantly on their behavior, and I very rarely spank. I try to tie the punishment to the crime, and right now I am the worst mommy in the world, because they dumper all their shampoo out to play with, and I made them by more out of their allowance, but they have sure learned not to do that again.

TulipGirl said...

Thanks, Glenn, for your balanced and thorough review of TTUAC. It is sad that it is still being promoted among Christians, when it is so clearly unBiblical.

Anonymous said...

I am sorely tempted to take my copy of this book and cross out every "switch" word and replace it with "abuse" or "bully" or even "Prepare for Therapy". Just an afternoon of changing the words would give a whole new light to this manipulative abuse manual. I find it ironic that after this book was given to us my toddler chewed it up along the spine.

Kate said...

Infant potty training is abusive? I know when my son has to poop and I take him to the toilet instead of pooing all over himself and this is abuse?? What do you think people in tribal communities do without diapers? Do they all abuse their kids? Speak against the Pearls for every other reason. But taking a baby to the toilet is not abuse, and they never so much as hint at any sort of punishment for not going in the toilet!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I suggest you go back and actually read again what I said. I never said potty training was abusive. I said hosing a child who soiled his pants was abusive. I also stated that 3-weeks old was much too young to try to train, and that it is foolish to suggest otherwise.

Potty training is indeed right and proper, but not to be done abusively.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

I know this is an old post, but for some reason I stumbled on it and read it. Could you explain your comment at the end:

"I have very little patience with people who abuse children in the manner the Pearls teach, and justify it by their legalistic interpretation of Scripture. While they are not as bad as the Ezzos, I could never recommend such abusive treatment of children in the name of "training up a child.""

You know about the Ezzos? You think they are worse than the Pearls? In what way, because the Pearls are HORRIBLE. I can't imagine worse. And our church brought in Ezzo materials. What I read about the Ezzos has definitely got me concerned. But I'd love to know what you have learned about them.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I'll tell ya what, I'll post an article on the Ezzos in a little bit, as soon as I convert my notes to a blog format. I'll start work on it immediately.