Book: To Train Up a Child
Authors: Michael and Debi Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries
Type of Book: Instruction manual for beating children
Availability: Not linking to it. You don’t want to buy it. If you do want to buy it, I will not abet such a bad decision.
Comments: This is one of the wickedest books I have ever read and, given who I am and what I read, that is saying a lot. This is a book so vile, written by a man so degenerate, that there is literally no way for a moral person to discuss it with anything approaching neutrality. It is a book written solely with the intent of breaking the wills of small children, beating them into submission, and it has become a text used by witless Christian parents to beat their “willful” children to death. And Michael Pearl is okay with that because he says those parents didn’t beat their children with love in their hearts or they wouldn’t have struck their children repeatedly with plumbing line until their muscles broke down and clogged their kidneys with biological debris, killing them.
This book is deeply problematic beyond just the content, which we will get to in a moment. This book upsets me so much because though I am an atheist, I know excellent and fine Christians. My grandfather was one. He would have rebuked a man like Michael Pearl and if Pearl beat a child or a dog with a piece of wood, a belt, or plumbing line in front of him, Pearl would have found out what it is like to be at the mercy of a larger, angry man. That is not because my grandfather was some sort of vengeance seeker. Far from it. He was not a man who looked for fights. He would have rebuked Pearl because genuine believers cannot stomach the harms done by True Believers. Many Christians today have the same reactions to the Westboro Baptist Church. This book is so deeply problematic because in fundamentalist, legalistic circles, people use this book in the place of their own judgement as Christians, parents and decent human beings.
This is not a condemnation of Christianity. It is a condemnation of Christians who use Michael and Debi Pearl’s disgusting book of abuse, a book so profoundly horrible that if it was used against prisoners it would be illegal and if it was used on POWs it would be considered war crimes. So if you want to defend Christianity, don’t do it here. Christianity is not what is being discussed here. What is being discussed here is child abuse in the name of Michael Pearl, not God or Jesus, and the way that unthinking faith leads people to do terrible things.
The purpose of To Train Up a Child is to use Amish horse training methods on children, and even then the Amish would likely turn their backs on Pearl if they knew how their methods of taming wild animals were used on children.
Don’t get lost in the details. Pearl in Chapter One lays out a bunch of explanations of how it is that he is not disciplining children, but rather continually training them so he does not have to discipline them. He uses Proverbs 22:6 as his rationale:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Fair enough, but when “training” consists of pulling a nursing infant’s hair, hitting them continually, deliberately putting them in harm’s way to show them they must obey all commands, even those that make zero sense on any rational level, hitting them if they do not obey quickly enough for your satisfaction, what you are doing is brainwashing your child to follow your demented ideas, not any sort of Godly path. Mindless, shattered, fearful automatons will never depart from the path you put them on.
Michael Pearl (and I refer to him mostly because even though his wife is a co-author, the book is written by him in first person, his wife referred to in the third person) gives a lot of lip service about how one must be calm when beating one’s children. But as he says that a parent must be calm when training their children, he also goes on to say many times that a child must be trained until they are submissive or broken (he actually uses that word). He recommends a course of whippings wherein the whippings continue until the child submits. So as he gives lip service to the notion that a parent must have their head clear when engaging in his training methods, he also insists that training continue – sessions of whippings – until the adult feels the child is broken. The child’s physical welfare is never a part of the parent’s clear mind. In a way, a clear and “Godly” minded person doing this to a child reeks of sheer sadism.
Why should you “train” your children? To make them blindly obedient in all situations, of course.
Training is the conditioning of the child’s mind before the crisis arises. It is preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience.
The last quality I would want in any human being is unquestioning obedience but Pearl insists this is to make a child happy because obedient children who have limits are happier. There is truth in this – children with boundaries live happier lives, but Pearl does not teach boundaries. In fact, as I will discuss, he doesn’t even permit them in his home. He insists his children are the best examples of his methods being sound, but when we are finished discussing this book, I will discuss Pearl’s children, one of whom is living a hardscrabble life, engaging in bizarre prophetic visions, barely able to feed her children because her shattered mind and blind obedience made her prey to a man like her father.
People may find this hard to believe, but Pearl advocates beating children when they are infants. Here’s what Pearl did when his babies were able to crawl:
Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a “No-No” corner or on the apple juice table (another name for the coffee table). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, “No, don’t touch that.” Since they are already familiar with the word “No,” they will likely pause, look at you in wonder, and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.”
Pearl says to switch lightly but when you have an implement in your hand to strike an infant, I posit you, the adult, may have little idea what it feels like to have your hand “switched.” On his site Pearl says to test the implement on yourself but given that he recommends repeated whipping sessions, the adult can easily lose track of how hard he or she is hitting.