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Inside the extreme child-rearing guide that advocates whipping children with belts and branches. . . and has been linked to three deaths in seven years

December 13, 2013   ·   0 Comments

size: 1.2em;”>A parenting book that advocates whipping and spanking children with branches, rods and belts has come under fire after it was linked to three deaths in the past seven years.

To Train Up a Child, written by Michael and Debi Pearl, was first published in 1994 and quickly became popular among evangelical Christians as a guide to teaching young children discipline and ‘unquestioning obedience’.

But the book has been courting controversy ever since it was released, with critics branding it ‘monstrous’ for promoting child abuse, triggering psychological problems and even leading to death.

Controversial parenting book

Controversial content: Parenting guide To Train Up a Child, written by Michael and Debi Pearl in 1994, advocates whipping and spanking children with branches, rods and belts

The book advises ‘training’ children ‘before the crisis arises’, so that the child is obedient before they even know the meaning of rebellion.

An excerpt reads: ‘The parents who put off training until the child is old enough to discuss issues or receive explanations find their child a terror long before he understands the meaning of the word. A newborn soon needs training.’

‘Training’ involves whipping young ones with ‘a willowy branch’, a one-foot-long ruler, a large tree branch or even a belt, depending on how old they are.

 

The authors advise beginning a child’s training when he or she is ‘under one year old’.

The purpose of this beating is to ‘condition the child’s mind’ and make them surrender completely to their parents’ authority.

‘If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate,’ says the book. ‘And hold him there until he is surrendered. . . Defeat him totally.’

Many fundamentalist and evangelical
Christians, like the authors themselves, have gravitated towards this
guide since it claims to preach ‘Biblical’ parenting methods.

Shame on anyone who reads this book or contributes to this ministry of sadists in any way’

Indeed, one part reads: ‘When the time comes to apply the rod, take a deep breath, relax, and pray, “Lord, make this a valuable learning session. Cleanse my child of ill-temper and rebellion. May I properly represent your cause in this matter.”‘

But countless petitions and
objections have also arisen, some of which have been launched by those
whose parents used the Pearls’ techniques on them.

One
woman in her mid-twenties – who asked to be called Hannah – told the
BBC
that when she was growing up in a community of Independent
Fundamentalist Baptists in Florida, her parents read and became
fascinated with To Train Up a Child.

To Train Up a Child

Backlash: A number of petitions have been established, pushing for the book to be removed from stores and websites. Angry customers voice their opinions on Amazon (pictured)

To Train Up a Child

Monstrous: ‘If was a book on training dogs, the authors would be arrested for inciting cruelty against animals,’ wrote one critic. ‘But because it’s in the name of a 2,000 year old religion, they get away with it’

Hannah was nine when they began spanking her with wooden rulers and yardsticks, usually several times a day.

After one particular incident, her father thought she was being ‘melodramatic’ when she complained that it hurt to sit down.

We have several million very happy parents who’ve seen wonderful fruit from that
book’

‘Then he had mother look,’ she recalled, ‘and [my coccyx] was incredibly bruised and swollen.’

The incident caused Hannah’s father to abandon the Pearls’ technique, but not every parent has such a revelatory moment.

Indeed, many children have suffered the consequences when the parenting technique went awry – including three children who died at the hands of parents who followed the book’s advice.

Hana Williams was 13 when she died of hypothermia and malnutrition in 2011 after being left out in the rain in her family’s back yard in a small Washington State town.

Michael and Debi Pearl

The authors: ‘We have several million very happy and cheerful parents and kids who’ve seen great, wonderful fruit from that book and other things we’ve written,’ said co-author Michael Pearl (left, with wife Debi)

This September, her parents – who followed the strict principles set out in To Train Up A Child – were convicted of manslaughter, and each faces a possible life sentence.

In 2010, seven-year-old Lydia Schatz died from massive tissue damage after being beaten by her parents, who also read the book, and in 2006, four-year-old Sean Paddock was suffocated in blankets by his adoptive mother and father.

To Train Up a Child

Popular: To Train Up a Child has sold more than 800,000 copies and sales have not wavered in the 19 years since it was first published

Since these deaths, a number of petitions have been established, pushing for the book to be removed from websites and bookstores,  and two UK bookstores – Waterstones and Foyles – have taken it off their shelves.

And while Amazon has opted not to remove it, the website has encouraged customers to write negative reviews of the book in the comments section if they feel inclined to do so.

‘How to Hate Your Child should be the name of this book,’ wrote one enraged reader.

‘The deaths of three (at least) children hang over their heads. Shame on anyone who reads this book or contributes to this ministry of sadists in any way.’

Another customer called it ‘horrific’ and ‘sadistic’.

‘If was a book on training dogs, the authors would be arrested for inciting cruelty against animals,’ he continued. ‘But because it’s in the name of a 2,000 year old religion, they get away with it. It’s monstrous.’

According to Michael Pearl, To Train Up a Child has sold more than 800,000 copies and sales have not wavered in the 19 years since it was first published, despite heavy criticism.

‘We have several million very happy and cheerful parents and kids who’ve seen great, wonderful fruit from that book and other things we’ve written,’ he told the BBC.

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