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June 12, 2010

Nothing churns the fire deep within me like child abuse. When it comes to this issue, the intensity of my complete lack of tolerance and admittedly, grace, has increased since having a child. Working with abused and wounded children has allowed me to see the pervasiveness of abuse that goes on behind closed doors – in homes you may expect, and in homes that would surprise you.

A woman I trust and admire lent Danny and me a series of parenting books before Naftalie was born. I knew nothing of the authors, the Pearls, and their “ministry”, No Greater Joy. I specifically asked her for parenting books because I admired her perspective on health, alternative medicine, birth, and mothering. After reading the first book, I had difficulty accepting that this was actually in print, and in fact No Greater Joy brought in $1.8 million last year in sales of books, DVDs and the like. Christian parents lap this stuff up.

Here are some tidbits, direct quotes from their website:

  • In Defence of Biblical Chastisement
  • a proper spanking leaves no breath for complaint
  • I could break his anger in two days. He would be too scared to get angry. On the third day he would draw into a quiet shell and obey
  • If a child cries out in loneliness and is rewarded by being picked up, you have trained him to repeat the crying any time he wants to control the adults in his life. (regarding infants specifically)
  • When the clock struck twelve, I very calmly, and without pity, reminded him, “You are a liar, and lying is an ugly, hateful thing. In order that your soul shall be spared, I’m going to whip you.” Debi Pearl, describing her response to 6 year old son, whipping him at 12:00 daily because she could not catch him in a lie in the moment.
  • A length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line is a “real attention-getter”. (the Pearl’s suggested “rod”)
  • Spank your child. Then tell her to dry it up. And with no show of emotion, tell her to get back to what she was suppose to be doing to begin with.
  • When they do something lovely, then you can love them.
  • When a child is bound in self-blame and low self-esteem, parents are not helpless. God has given them the gift of the rod. The rod can bring repentance, but it goes much deeper than that. The rod in the hands of a righteous authority will supply the child’s soul with that moment of judgment that he feels he so deserves. Properly applied, with instruction, it will absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid.” (italics mine) (seems as though they’re describing what happened at the Cross………..exept referring to an adult whipping a small child)
  • If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do.


More than one child has died with direct connection to the teaching and practices of the Pearls and No Greater Joy. You can find an informative article here. A heartfelt blog post of a woman who knew a child who died here.

I hear and read moms from all backgrounds, classes, and belief systems comment, “whatever works for your family, you know what’s best for you and your kids“. This statement is made in regards to something as (seemingly) inconsequential as cloth vs. disposable diapering, as well as parenting philosophies and practices. I also hear, “well, I just take bits and pieces from Babywise and To Train Up A Child (the Pearl’s book series), I don’t follow everything they say“. These appear to be benign statements that allow freedom and balance for families. But with a closer look, these statements are dangerous and cannot be overlooked.

How would you respond if someone said, “I love Mein Kampf. I don’t follow everything Hitler’s saying, but some of it works for me, and I know what’s best for me“? Let’s swallow the jagged pill: “whatever works for your family” should no longer be in the vocabulary of parents. No one really believes this. We agree spitting on your children is unacceptable, even if it “works”. Taking a philosophy that is antithetical to the message of Grace and Love (a Message the Pearls have distorted beyond recognition), and choosing nuggets and helpful pointers is useless.

It isn’t just fanatical, fundamental freak-parents who are adopting these practices. With the mentality that we can glean what “works” from dangerous and demeaning parenting philosophies, the lack of respect and humanity for children slowly seeps into parenting styles – even when the intentions are initially pure. The next time I hear this, I will muster up all of the courage I can bear and share my concern. It’s time that the remark, “whatever works for us” is lovingly responded with a question of whether that statement really holds any worth. I hope I can respond with the Grace and Gentleness so desperately void in the Pearl’s philosophy.

ps: Above is a picture of Naftalie with her first bruised lip. She slipped while trying to climb up the bed. Danny and I probably overreacted when we saw the blood, but it was instinctual to be concerned. Any parenting philosophy that encourages parents to ignore this instinct in the name of Scripture is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana permalink
    June 12, 2010 6:13 am

    Those quotes made me sick to my stomach. To think that there are actually people out there that practice this stuff is beyond horrible.

    I’ve had several occurrences lately where I’ve witnessed parents disciplining there children in ways that send shivers up my spine. And only once in the last couple days have I witnessed a mother who has treated her children kindly, with respect and love. How can we expect our kids to grow up to be responsible human beings if we treat them like crap? As parents isn’t it our job to lead by example? I wish more people would take a step back and realize what they are imprinting into their child’s mind, into their values and beliefs when they act the way they do.

    I don’t know the background of the people that follow the Pearl’s teachings but you would think if they took a step back, and really looked deep down inside themselves, they’d realize how wrong the message they are sending is.

    Unfortunately though, there are always people that have really screwed up morals, values and beliefs (like the Westboro Baptist Church, or Hitler…). I guess it’s just up to us to make sure we surround ourselves with people who are good people, people who have proper morals, and to make sure we raise our children to know what is right and wrong, good and bad. At least we’ll know we’re providing a little good to this crazy world.

  2. jessica kiehn permalink
    June 12, 2010 7:16 am

    Yes, they make me sick to my stomach as well, Dana.
    I think what people mean by “whatever works for your family” is more like “to bed at 8 or 10, whatever works for your family.” Or “allowed to watch PG-13 or not, whatever works for you family.” I highly doubt they mean “abuse your child to shame, or not, whatever works for your family” Ya know?

    It is a scary thing that people are following these people’s teaching. Terrifying. But parents/people that read ANY book with no mind of their own, and just read and obey like idiotic robots…that’s a sad thing. People read this crap and believe it? HEAR FOR YOURSELVES! Does it feel right to hurt your child? No? THEN CLOSE THE FREAKIN BOOK and love your child. Like you said, it’s more than sad that people are following these self-proclaimed “experts” in parenting…it’s dangerous. When you throw “God” into the mix and start quoting scripture to back up your opinion, which is ironically ANTI-Christ like…well you’ll get what’s coming to you.

  3. June 12, 2010 9:54 am

    Jessica, I agree, when people say that they aren’t including abusing their children. The point I wanted to make was that that mentality is a slippery slope, and it starts out innocently. Most of the people who pick bits and pieces from the Pearls aren’t bad people, but when you take just a piece of something that is dangerous you’re doing something dangerous. Evil can sneak up on you and is more often than not hidden or cloaked as something okay (Gen 3:1). A parent can accept just using the “rod” with intentions of being more instructional than the Pearls suggest, and before they know it they got really angry about something their little stinker son did and they end up hurting him.

    Even issues that aren’t moral/ethical like cloth diapering – the “whatever works for us” mentality is in reality a selfish one, because whether you’re talking about a bedtime or film ratings, that doesn’t factor in the fact that there IS a line that you shouldn’t cross, in every area.

  4. millison permalink
    June 12, 2010 1:55 pm

    Ah Shannon, you’re getting all worked up. I admire your passion. Here–to add a calming note to your ire–is a first hand example of someone who was a big supporter of Michael Pearle and has been a very successful, longsuffering, devoted, consistent, Christian mother of 6: my baby sister. For my sister, Elyse Wilson, Mr. Pearle’s teachings were helpful. She never used them to an extreme. Example, her idea of “the rod” was a thin wooden spoon and I am not aware of it ever leaving marks on any of her children (all of them are healthy, independently minded and quite strong willed).

    Therefore, ultimately whatever is taught is not as important as how it is interpreted.

    So relax my darling daughter in-law, and don’t let these things [that are out of your control] upset you. And by the way, this latest picture looks just like Mommy! LittlevMini Me is so lovely. I still can’t get over those blue eyes. Wow….

  5. Rachel permalink
    June 13, 2010 12:14 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I found your site through the Facebook group Why Not Train a Child. This was just so encouraging to me, I couldn’t help but comment.

    I am also a fairly new parent (1 1/2 year old and six month old twins) and I am learning every day to parent with more grace and love than I was shown as a child of Pearl following parents. Even though my parents followed a strict adversarial view of parenting they were both, at heart, full of grace and very much attachment-parenting people.

    It seems like parents should be able to see the problems with parenting systems (like babywise, SACH, Pearls and even Dobson) and see past the gurus without help – it should be obvious that you don’t beat your child into submission, right?

    Well, right after my child was born I picked up my parents’ copy of TTUAC and it was horrifically absorbing. It promises so much and makes everything seem so simple and new parents (and struggling ones) need a pattern, a reassurance that they are doing the right, Biblical thing for their children. It’s hard to shake that. So thank you for speaking up – the more people speak up, the easier it will be for parents to avoid dangerous parenting philsophies that go against the very nature of Christ.

    And, as a child who grew up in this environment – NOT a strict Pearl-ite environment, but one that picked and chose the “good things” let me address the idea of abuse…

    I wouldn’t say that, in the strictest sense, I was abused. There were plenty of spankings that came close to crossing the accepted line and there was plenty of verbal issues. I am now, and have always been, an independent and strong person. I don’t see myself as a victim or whatever.

    BUT! The longer I live and the more I understand about Christ and love and life the more I can see the MANY MANY negative ways that the small, “good” parts of the Pearl’s teaching impacted my life. I find myself still hurting from things that were said to be good.

    I have a very hard time accepting love. I require perfection from myself and get frustrated when I can’t get it. I assume a humanistic, conditioning view toward life (which all spankings are…) in so many areas and I struggle with violence toward others. I can’t make a decision to save my life.

    Those are just a few random things of MANY that I can trace directly back to the lack of grace and the influence of gurus like Doug Phillips and Michael Pearl on my family. There are eight of us – I am the oldest. The younger children, who have never been spanked and have been parented in a completely different way and they are clearly much more healthy than us older ones – physically, spiritually and mentally healthier.

    So keep speaking up about this. Sometimes all it takes to change a heart is one person. I know it was people like you who showed me a better way and helped me start and continue my journey of healing and grace and forgiveness. 🙂

  6. Mary B permalink
    June 13, 2010 9:27 pm

    Hey Shannon,
    I showed this to the Schells this morning, and we talked about it for a long, long time. This has been on my mind since I read it yesterday. It’s just so, so wrong, eh? The Schells (Justin, specifically) thought you might be interested in “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp. It’s like “Love and Logic” with more aspects of respect and grace from the Lord thrown in for good measure. I’ve seen it in action, and it’s really lovely. Henry is a sweet, sometimes strong-willed kiddo, and is turning out to be well behaved and fun to be around.

  7. Don't "Shepherd" permalink
    June 14, 2010 12:17 pm

    “Shpeherding a Child’s Heart” is more of the same without the “down home” feel:
    Page 106 “’Punish him [a child] with the rod and save his soul from death’ (Proverbs 23:14). Your children’s souls are in danger of death—spiritual death. Your task is to rescue your children from death. Faithful and timely use of the rod is the means of rescue.”

    [really? Not Jesus?]

    Page 151 “Remove his drawers so that the spanking is not lost in the padding of his pants.”

    [Naked spankings. Good for producing future sexual issues.]

    Page 154 “Rebellion can be something as simple as an infant struggling against a diaper change or stiffening his body when you want him to sit on your lap. The discipline procedure is the same as laid out above. You have no way of knowing how much a child a year old or less can understand of what you say, but we do know that understanding comes long before the ability to articulate does….When our oldest child was approximately 8 months old….Obviously he was old enough to be disciplined.”

    [really?? 8 months old? Can’t talk, walk or successfully feed himself, but is emotionally mature enough to purposefully rebel?]

    Your child can turn out to be well behaved and fun to be around without your hitting him, but you knew that, didn’t you? 🙂 Thank you for the blog post, it was very interesting and well written!

  8. Sheryl permalink
    June 14, 2010 11:22 pm

    You’ve stirred some passion (and how much more passion can we have than our own children….and then the innocent, voiceless children of others). There is a tremendous need for disciplining children, but the GREATEST need is loving them unconditionally and teaching them love. The discipline (even tough love, in later years) has to come from loving the child and wanting the best for them. I’m so thankful my grandbabies are in homes with mommies and daddies who love and adore their children. What a huge, deep gift that is!!! You girls are such great mommies and love and nurture so beautifully. Your children will one day rise up and call you blessed!!!

    P.S. This picture of Naftalie is amaaaaazing. She’s so beautiful and those eyes just melt me!!! LOVE YOU!!

  9. June 14, 2010 11:57 pm

    Thank you Mom! Your message really blessed me this morning. How could I NOT get worked up about this? Children who are not treated as the blessing and responsiblitiy they are breaks my heart, and many times when my heart breaks my heart’s fire is kindled. This issue is very dear to my heart, especially as my daughter is expressing her (stong) will more and more and I learn to navigate discipline and boundaries with Love and Grace. I love you Mom.

  10. Sheryl permalink
    June 15, 2010 1:04 am

    And you and Danny WILL “figure it out”….and will come to disagreements, and will go through tough passages (parenting) and will have exhausting times, but you will “learn to navigate discipline and boundaries with Love and Grace”, as you so beautifully expressed. There is no greater joy, no greater love, no stronger tie than the love we have for our children! You’re awesome, sweetheart. I love you too my precious Shannon!

  11. Dennis permalink
    June 15, 2010 12:48 pm

    Interesting. Parents take too much credit and too much blame. The intent is to raise your kids to be independent adults capable of doing good works.

    We all swim in our own time. Would this discussion have come up 70 years ago? Are we more, or less, satisfied with the actions of children and adults today compared to 70 years ago? Going even farther back, did you hear about the father who put his son on a rock and was seconds from running a knife into his heart because the idiot thought “God told me to”?

    The older I get the more gray I see and very, very little black and white. Could just be my eyes getting worse.

    • June 15, 2010 9:10 pm

      Great points Dad. I think we all see more gray the older we get (which is a good thing because I saw everything in black and white for a very long time). But we have to acknowledge there are areas with no gray, don’t we? Just because something is socially acceptable (like whippings/beatings 50 years ago) doesn’t mean it’s good orbest (like the ubiquitous cigarette smoking in the US). What Jesus said is eternal: it has been true for thousands of years and much of it was true before He spoke. Extending patience, Grace, respect andwisdom have been and always will be the way to go. By the way, thanks for never hitting me with plumming line.


  1. Whatever Works??? | Why Not Train A Child?

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