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March 21, 2010

In Defense of the Pearls

As you may have heard by now, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz was beaten to death by her parents who claim they were following the child training practices preached by Michael & Debi Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries. The autopsy on Lydia Schatz showed she died from “blunt force trauma” being whipped for several hours after mispronouncing a word during a homeschool reading lesson, and needing someone to cast the blame on, fingers are pointing to the Pearls.

Now with all the outcry, many homeschooling parents and leaders are speaking out in blasphemous fashion to create an anti-Pearl movement among the conservative Christian community.

Barbara, a staunch Pearl critic says, “No one is blaming the Pearls for a specific death but for advocating beating a child into submission, beating a child until he cannot breathe or talk, and beating a child with a piece of plumbing supply.”

Makes you wonder if Barbara has actually read any of the Pearl’s material, because if she had she would know that they absolutely do NOT advocate any of the above.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Pearl -

The Bible calls it chastisement with a rod. We call it training. The spankings we give our children do not resemble punishment. We are not angry. We don’t lose control. We are not desirous to make children suffer for their misdeeds. Application of the rod is only a small but essential part of our training technique. You must first understand our position if you would fault us...

Our defense of Biblical chastisement should not be construed as a defense of all those who abuse this Christian duty. We believe the rod should not be used as a vent for parents’ anger. There is no place for vindictiveness or aggression in training children. The rod should not be applied at the end of an intolerance curve. Where the supreme motivation is anything other than the child’s good, the rod should not be used…

When state social workers molest children and abuse them, we do not stop all social work. We seek out the offenders and punish them according to their culpability. Likewise when some parents misuse their sacred trust and hurt their children in the name of spanking them, we do not abdicate our sacred duty to apply the rod as the Word of God has commanded…

You are abusing the child when it starts doing harm to the child. Listen to your friends-especially to those friends that share your philosophy. Ask the opinion of people you respect. If they think you are abusive, get counsel in a hurry. Ask the opinion of your older children. If your child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued, you have a problem. Children should be happy and cheerful, full of enthusiasm and creativity. If your children are fearful or anxious, you should get some counsel…

The Pearl’s teachings no way promotes or justifies violence against children. Rather, the book condemns such practices. If these parents actually read Michael & Debi Pearl's book, TO TRAIN UP A CHILD, they would have encountered numerous passages such as these:

Pages 50 and 51 say:
There are always some who act in the extreme. These individuals are capable of using what has been said about the legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality to their children. I can think of several right now. These abusers of their children would not in the least view themselves as such. They would call themselves "strong disciplinarians." "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt. 18:6)...

The rod should never be a vent for parents' anger. In the daily course of life, many people experience anger and have an impulse to strike out. There is no place for this selfish, vindictive streak in the discipline of children. Where the supreme motivation is anything other than the child's good, it is inevitable that such behavior by the parent will assuredly create problems...

There is a political move to outlaw spanking. They say, "If you hit a child, he will grow up to be violent." They do not believe the Bible, and they judge others by their own experience. The only time they have "hit" their child, or been tempted to, is when they were angry. They are correct in saying that what they call "hitting the child" may cause him to grow up and use violence as a way of resolving conflicts. But they do not understand the Christian heart. Having never experienced it, they cannot fathom the self-restraint and love that motivates true Christians. The problem is that spanking is practiced by many people motivated by self-interest, and this is what the spanking abolitionists are seeing and reacting to...

These excerpts clearly demonstrate that the Pearl's have taken space in their magazine articles, web site and child training books to repeatedly urge parents NOT TO CAUSE CHILDREN HARM!

Even though Barbara admits to only reading a few selected quotes from the Pearl’s writings, her trusted line of defense is this: "While many people can eat the meat and spit out the bones, there are people choking on them."

That may be true, but this is no reason to get rid of the meat and blame the cow for choking, people just simply need to learn how to chew better. Further, it is irresponsible and unjust for Barbara and others to openly condemn a book that they haven't even taken the time to read. God says, "do not bear false witness against your neighbor" and those who are making these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves, but they will be held accountable on judgment day. I tried on several occasions to leave comments on Barbara's blog, but for some reason they won't get posted, I can only speculate as to why?!?!

As tragic as the recent death of this poor girl Lydia Schatz, I think it's absolutely ridiculous to blame the Pearls for what happened! Mr. & Mrs. Schatz are obviously just looking for an outlet so they don't have to take personal responsibility for their abusive and barbaric form of discipline. I mean, who even punishes a child for not pronouncing a word right, let alone beat them to death? Something is seriously wrong with the parents, and they certainly didn't learn that behavior from "To Train Up a Child." Anyone who properly implements the child training techniques outlined in that book (which is based on the Bible) have happy, obedient, loving and well-adjusted children. In fact, if these parents actually trained their 7-yr-old the right way when she was a toddler, there should be very minimal need for spankings as she got older - which is the whole point of the book.

Whoever condemns Michael & Debi Pearl clearly lacks Biblical wisdom or discernment, and should be strongly rebuked for slandering them in such a nasty fashion. If these people think the Pearls are to blame, perhaps they should also put God on trial since He is the One who inspired their teachings? The Bible repeatedly says we should discipline our children with a rod:

"He who spares his rod HATES his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." - Proverbs 13:24

“The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” - Proverbs 20:30

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” - Proverbs 22:15

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

Clearly the Scriptures teach "beating a child with a rod," so should we dismiss the Bible and blame God for this Lydia's death? Of course not!

Of the one or two families who went to the extreme and violently murdered their children in an abusive rage, thousands upon thousands of families have seen the positive fruit in the Biblical child training techniques outlined by the Pearls. Furthermore, there are over a million more families who never disciplined their children and trained up terrors of society who have NO FEAR of authority while living in rebellion, killing their peers, raping women and committing every evil act under the sun.

As a Christian homeschooling mother of five who has so far successfully trained my children to be happy, loving, confident, obedient, respectful and well-grounded individuals, I still support the Pearls 100% without a doubt, and I will continue to value their timeless teachings, as well as share them with others!

Don’t be fooled by those who ignorantly seek to viciously vilify devoted believers like Michael & Debi Pearl, for these critics obviously have NOT read the manuscripts of No Greater Joy, nor applied the wisdom to their lives.

*Read => NGJ Response to the Schatz Case


  1. Blaspheme? To be a faithful Berean and examine what is being taught by supposed Christian leaders and pointing out false teaching?

    Dani, I know we don't agree. If I recall correctly, we interacted when Sean Paddock died (yes, his mother was influenced by the Pearls as well.)

    I know -- truly I do -- that it is hard to accept when we have embraced a teacher or teaching that it may be. . . just possibly may be. . . not in line with the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To admit that means that we, ourselves, have been vulnerable to false teaching. I don't think you are willing to do that. I know it was hard when I had to do so.

    But the reality is, what Michael Pearl teaches is devoid of the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both in his theology and in his child training. It is harmful not only to children, but their parents as well.

    Grace and truth,

  2. whether or not this couple was following the 'true' teachings of the pearls, this is just one more sad example of a person acting in a way that they thought god wanted them to. How many of these countless 'isolated incidences' do we have to witness, before we acknowledge that maybe there's cause and effect here?

  3. Dear Dani,

    Many of the people who are arguing against the Pearl's teachings have read his work. We have seen the good that he has written, but we also see the bad. Mixing some very dangerous advice into a vat of good advice poisons the entire concoction. I suspect that you have not read our arguments very well. I also suspect that you have not studied what happened with Lydia Schatz. That child was adopted from Liberia 3 years ago, when she was around 5. So her toddlerhood was spent in an orphanage where she likely learned never to show weakness. It was a very sad situation. I agree that Mr. and Mrs. Schatz are guilty but I also believe that blindly following these teachings is dangerous. We are told to keep switching the child until s/he submits. what if s/he never submits? Then what? They kept switching every day and the tissues in the child's body broke down, becoming tenderized like a steak. The result was toxicity and kidney failure. Who would have imagined that you could kill a child by switching her legs and back? It seems obvious to most of us that switching a child for hours every day is wrong, but did Mr. Pearl ever say that? I have read testimonies saying that Lydia was happy, not acting at all like he said an abused child would act. So, I don't really know. The whole thing boggles my mind, to be honest.

  4. Blindly following any teaching is dangerous, and if that’s what these parents did, then they are fools who clearly lack wisdom to know how to handle situations. There is absolutely no justification for even punishing a child for mispronouncing a word, let alone repeatedly beating her to the point of death. Nowhere in the Pearl’s teachings will you find instructions to "switch" a child for hours on end all over the body, that just plain barbaric and psychotic.

    Unfortunately we live in a world where people no longer take responsibility for their actions and they are looking to cast blame on anyone in the spotlight. Blame the Pearls or blame God Himself, but by all means, don't blame the parents because they are the victims of dangerous advice. If Mr. and Mrs. Schatz really read and followed the instructions in TTUAC, and applied a half-ounce of Godly wisdom they wouldn't be charged with murder. Clearly they had their own issues of anger and a lack of self-restraint which resulted in violent abuse, not Biblical child-training. Only a fool would take the Pearl's teachings as a license to be abusive towards children, and it boggles my mind how professing Christians eagerly jump on an anti-Pearl bandwagon based on one or two extreme cases where the parents recklessly misapplied Biblical teachings and indulged in fits of rage.

    So we have one or two psychotic fools who beat their children to death compared to hundreds of thousands of solid Christian families who have produced good fruit in their children as a direct result of following the Biblical instructions outlined in the Pearl’s writings – I think I’ll go with the overwhelming evidence proving positive.

  5. Hi Dani,
    I agree with you there. Certainly blind following any teaching is dangerous. Which reminds me, where are you seeing blasphemy in TulipGirl's writings? It's obvious to me that you don't think that speaking out against any man> could possibly be blasphemy.

    Anyway, I don't know why they were punishing the child for mispronouncing the word. Maybe she usually pronounced it correctly and was defiantly refusing to pronounce it correctly that day. And I did not say that they were switching her all over her body, I said the backs of her legs and her lower back. That is what Pearl defines as the proper place to chastise. I can find the quote if you are not familiar with it. Maybe he did not say, "for hours" but in In Defense of Biblical Chastisement, Part 2 he said, "How many licks?
    There is no number that can be given. It would be better to administer more licks that are less forceful than to administer few licks that hurt severely. It is much more effective to administer chastisement or punishment in a slow thoughtful fashion. Our goal is to cause the child to voluntarily surrender his will...If you ever have a child who stands his ground of defiance and you let him win, you have lost his heart forever—unless you are able to go back and win a confrontation and keep on winning. If you ever let his rebellion triumph just one time, it makes it much harder to conquer in the future. After he gains the upper hand, one victory on your part will not be sufficient. You will have to persevere in several contests of wills until he is convinced that he can never stand against your authority."

    Ah, in this same article, I came across the quote I mentioned earlier, "The Bible says, “the rod is for the back.” That would include anything that is not the front—the back from the shoulders down to the feet. "

    So, we agree that blindly following any teaching is dangerous and I hope we agree that Mr. and Mrs. Schatz blindly following Mr. Pearl's teachings. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree that Mr. Pearl is teaching some dangerous things.

  6. Well I disagree! Again, a lack of wisdom makes people act foolishly. I'm sure you would also say God teaches some dangerous things since the Bible is what inspired the Pearl's writings to begin with.

  7. Dani wrote, "I'm sure you would also say God teaches some dangerous things since the Bible is what inspired the Pearl's writings to begin with."

    No, I would not. Is it too hard for you to imagine the possibility that Pearl might have misinterpreted the Bible? He is using the King James English and a modern dictionary to interpret it rather than the Inspired Hebrew. Those of us who disagree with Pearl are not disagreeing with God. We just do not understand God's words the same way as you do. If that seems impossible to you, so be it. Again, we agree to disagree.

    I'm just glad that you agree that it is wrong and dangerous to switch a child on the back for hours every day, even when she refuses to stop being defiant.

  8. Sorry for the two pior comments I deleted--I kept making typos.

    Thank you for your excellent article on the Pearls—I couldn't agree more. In the interest of full disclosure I should note that I am not a follower of the Pearls (or any church which puts a high value on physical chastisement), but am a libertarian-minded mom who is strongly pro-spanking and parental rights. I see this as just another secularist attack by those who would nationalize childhood and wish the State to take over the care and training of our children.


    Here is a copy, which pretty much tracks your observations:

    After having basically ignored the recent studies debunking all the NoSpanking research, the NoSpanking totalitarians, and their allies in the chattering class, are coming down hard on traditional parenting from another angle—full of nonsense and misplaced hysteria.

    Today two parents will be entering their pleas in the murder of their eight year old and the aggravated assault of her eleven year old sister. Although I am not privy to all the details of the case, from what I have read they are guilty as sin, and should fry.

    But the NoSpanking Zealots really want to put spanking, Christianity, and Michael & Debi Pearl on trial

    The Pearls are proponents of traditional parenting. Their most famous book is "To Train up a Child"--which to a large extent was based on the child discipline techniques of the Amish. Along with a LOT of other things they advocate spanking. Their advise is quite responsible—they certainly do not advocate beating nor even disciplining when angry—and warn repeatedly not to injure the child.

    But their secular sins are threefold. The Pearls believe in the admonishment in the Bible about sparing the rod and spoiling the child, they do not think a spanking should just be a couple of ineffective thuds on a child's well insulated bottom-- used only as a last resort, and they do not favor hand spankings.

    Many prospanking parents do not like to use hands to spank—some argue that hands are for loving and caressing not causing pain--others note that the Bible specifically mentions a rod. And there is the practical consideration—as kids get older-- unless you want them to think a spanking is a silly inconvenience—you need to upgrade to a wooden spoon, paddle, hairbrush, belt, switch, etc.

    What the media is really outraged about is the Pearls have suggested the use of a quarter inch PVC pipe for spanking. That sounds terrible—but, in reality, it is no worse than any of the usual spanking implements parents have been using for eons—indeed it is better in one special way—it stings as much as a switch—but does not cause bruising or marks—unlike a switch, which always leaves nasty welts.

    It is now essential self-preservation that a parent must never leave the slightest bruise or handprint on the child's bottom—otherwise they will find themselves on the fast track to jail. The PVC pipe is less likely to leave any ”war wounds”(as Debby Boone and her sisters called them ) than even a hand spanking.

    The beating these parents gave their two children is despicable—but the speculation that they may have used the PVC pipe is irrelevant. An adult can kill a child with their bare hands as easily as with the plastic pipe or any other spanking implement.

    Millions of parents spank their kids, and millions of parents follow the Training Up advise of the Pearls. As far as I know, this is the very first time someone who read one of the Pearls' books killed their child.

    And they killed their child because they were not even remotely following the advise of the Pearls—nor did they have any sense of common decency and humanity.

    If I could get my hands on these child abusers—I would do a lot more than beat them with a quarter inch PVC pipe.

  9. Fantastic points Becky, thanks for sharing. I left a response on your FB post too!

    TTUAC is a FANTASTIC book, and instead of loaning it out, I just buy extra copies to give out because it's the kind of book you want to have around to read again and again.

    Of the one or two barbaric abusive parents who beat their kids to death, then point the finger at the Pearls like "they made them do it" - there are close to a million more families who have benefited tremendously from the biblical wisdom offered by the Pearls, and have successfully trained up happy, loving, respectful and obedient children.

    These anti-spanking Nazis are just a reflection of the liberal Dr. Spock generation who is responsible for destroying children and society with "permissive" parenting and "natural & logical consequences" which have proven to be a failure. Now we have over-populated prisons and reckless teens who violently act out because they have no fear of authority and were never spanked as children!

  10. Dear Dani and Becky,
    I have read and considered your points. Please read this. Notice that she quotes Mr. Pearl, you can check the quotes as she links to them on his site. This explains why we are saying what we are saying. Please don't condemn us without reading our points. <3

  11. Hermana Linda – With all due respect, I read the articles yet I still don't see your point exactly? The Pearls are NOT teaching parents to beat a child to death.

    Michael Pearl’s description of bringing an angry child into compliance seems more than reasonable. A proper spanking should leave a child without breath to complain, not until he "cannot breath" like Barbara twisted. More kids lose their breath by throwing themselves on the ground in hostile temper tantrums, yet we conveniently ignore that fact letting rebellion rule.

    In his article, Angry Child Pearl writes:

    "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. On the fourth day I would treat him with respect and he would respond in kind. On the fifth day the fear would go away and he would relax because he would have judged that as long as he responds correctly there is nothing to fear. On the sixth day he would like himself better and enjoy his new relationship to authority. On the seventh day I would fellowship with him in some activity that he enjoyed. On the eight day he would love me and would make a commitment to always please me because he valued my approval and fellowship. On the ninth day someone would comment that I had the most cheerful and obedient boy that they had ever seen. On the tenth day we would be the best of buddies."

    So an angry bratty child feels fear for a day or two in remorse after not being allowed to selfishly manipulate the situation, but the end result in less than 10 days is a loving, confident, cheerful, obedient and delightful child. What's the problem exactly? God says repeatedly to "fear the Lord" so I don't see why fear is such a bad thing, especially when the child realizes there is nothing to fear five days later?

    I honestly don't know how Mr. and Mrs. Schatz could possibly misinterpreted the above description to read, "beat your child with blunt force trauma over a period of hours leaving bruises and multiple whip-like striations between the child's lower back and knees causing a breakdown of muscle tissue so there will be fatal damage to the kidneys and other vital organs."

    Sadly, Lydia did not survive the misfortune of her parent's foolishness and a lack of wisdom which manifested in an uncontrollable deadly rage, for IF they actually did follow the Pearl's teachings she would likely still be alive today!

    The purpose of a spanking is not to cause any lasting bodily harm, but to cause spiritual correction. A spanking should be swift and cause short-lived pain that makes a point. That point is that the small pain they feel now will prevent them from feeling great pain by the act they are committing, which could cause them loss of their lives in some cases. For instance, if a child tries to run across the street, using “natural and logical” consequences could cause the child be run over by a car and killed. When we tell our children to "stop" - it means NOW, not after I count to three. By then it could be too late.

    On a side not, a bit more slander from the link you provided: "Michael and Debi Pearl preach a different gospel, one in which sinless perfection is possible in this world."

    Yet in this article where Michael Pearl Answers the Critics, he states the opposite.

  12. Hi Dani,
    I appreciate your well thought out answer. <3 You make some good points.

    "I honestly don't know how Mr. and Mrs. Schatz could possibly misinterpreted the above description to read, "beat your child with blunt force trauma over a period of hours leaving bruises and multiple whip-like striations between the child's lower back and knees causing a breakdown of muscle tissue so there will be fatal damage to the kidneys and other vital organs."
    Sadly, Lydia did not survive the misfortune of her parent's foolishness and a lack of wisdom which manifested in an uncontrollable deadly rage, for IF they actually did follow the Pearl's teachings she would likely still be alive today!

    The purpose of a spanking is not to cause any lasting bodily harm, but to cause spiritual correction. A spanking should be swift and cause short-lived pain that makes a point."

    We don't exactly know that they did that, although I agree that it is very likely. But I keep on wondering the following: If they were following Pearl's teachings, how long would they continue to spank for defiance? When does Pearl say to stop? What if the child has the mindset (from her early childhood in the orphanage) to never give up and remain defiant? And, if they were to calmly chastise her for long enough periods of time, is there any way her flesh could slowly break down over time? These are the allegations I've been reading. I don't know if they are true. What you say makes a lot more sense, I agree. The very idea of someone whipping their child for hours on end sounds outrageous. Who would have the energy, except in anger? Yet, who remains angry for hours on end? I read that they were taking turns. Even more outrageous. We certainly agree that the Schatzes are guilty and deserve their punishment.

    "On a side not, a bit more slander from the link you provided: "Michael and Debi Pearl preach a different gospel, one in which sinless perfection is possible in this world."

    Yet in this article where Michael Pearl Answers the Critics, he states the opposite."

    The reason people say that is that in that very same article he states

    ”I teach that through our death with Christ and participation in his resurrection, it is possible in this life, moment by moment, temptation by temptation, to reckon one’s self dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God and, thereby, to fulfill Christ’s command to “sin no more”. There is no such condition as being unable to sin, but the Christian is able not to sin. Why does that bother some people? Shouldn’t we expect our ministers to obey God in all things, to walk in holiness both publicly and privately—all the time?

    So, while he denies teaching the doctrine of sinless perfection, he states that it is possible to live without sinning.

  13. I was spanked when I was a kid when I misbehaved.

    I grew up to be a rather proper upstanding adult.

    Not sure if one had anything to with the other. Not sure if my parents not shoving their religious dogma down my throat had anything to do with that either.

  14. I am a pro-spanking person and I believe that it's time to use the paddle written with a memory verse to spank the buttocks!

    Any unbiblical form of punishment is bad as spoiling the child. Dani thanks for your powerful entry!

  15. Persephone - I suppose your idea of being a rather upstanding adult is rather relative. Perhaps if your parents shoved their religious dogma down your throat just a little bit you would not have grown up to be a transsexual drag queen?

  16. Perhaps, but I don't think that would have changed my getting both flavours of puberty in my teenage years.

    That and considering my mom was Catholic, had I gone to a Catholic church I may have had something else shoved down my throat.

  17. Franklin, I kind of like this paddle--called The Proverbs Paddle --it has the message imprinted on it (though I wish it had "train up"), is also cute--but will certainly get the message across.


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