Couple claims God wants us to beat our children

The Orange County Register/August 18, 2011

God wants you to beat your children. At least, that’s what Michael and Debi Pearl believe.

Their book, “To Train Up a Child,” which they co-authored and published in 1994, is a step-by-step guide on the “proper” way of inflicting physical pain onto your child for the purpose of training him or her to be obedient.

The book, which has over 650,000 copies in print and a slew of followers devoted to its concept of childrearing with “the rod,” relies primarily on conditioning children to obey their parents by introducing painful stimuli in response to an undesired behavior. As Michael Pearl puts it “even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli.”

Throughout the book the author offers dozens of examples on the “appropriate” use of force when training a child, beginning with infants: “One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for baldheaded babies). Understand, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned. After two or three times of biting, with the accompanying head hurting, the child programs that information away for his own comfort. The biting habit is cured before it starts. This is not discipline. It is obedience training.”

The following excerpt, taken out of Chapter 5: The Rod in “To Train Up a Child,” gives a chilling view into the mind of a man who takes it upon himself to interpret the Bible and God’s word:

“The parent holds in his hand (in the form of a little switch) the power to absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, instruct his spirit, strengthen his resolve, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid... A child properly and timely spanked is healed in the soul and restored to wholeness of spirit… A child can be turned back from the road to hell through proper spankings.”

Last year, “To Train a Child” followers Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were accused of murdering their 7-year-old adopted daughter Lydia, who was beaten to death during a “training” session after she mispronounced a word while reading a children’s book. Her older sister Zariah, who was also severely beaten, suffered severe injuries, including kidney failure. The Schatz’s used a 15-inch plumbing supply line, a spanking “rod” or “switch” which is advocated by the Pearls, to inflict a series of beatings over two days that left one daughter dead and the other gravely injured. The Pearls’ book was later discovered in the home by investigators. The Schatz’s pled guilty to murder charges earlier this year in a last-minute plea agreement and avoided a trial.

The case, as well as Michael and Debi Pearl’s unconventional parenting advice, is once again in the spotlight thanks to Anderson Cooper and CNN, who in the past few days released a video interview with both the Pearls and Butte County California District Attorney Mark Ramsey. In it, Ramsey confesses that while there is no question in his mind that the Schatz’s actions were directly influenced by the teachings found in Michael and Debi’s book, the First Amendment protects the Pearls’ right to “say awful things,” and they will not be formally held liable for the actions of Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz.

During the CNN interview, Mr. and Mrs. Pearl also maintain their innocence in the beating death of Lydia and assure viewers that their training method does not promote anger or abuse, but rather a calm, methodical and effective method of spanking a child into submission.

“Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain.”

A statement describing the basic foundation of “To Train Up a Child” on their website reads: "These truths are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, but rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train His children. These principles are profoundly simple and extremely obvious. After examining them with us, you will say, 'I knew that all along. Where have I been? It's so obvious.'"

For Debbie and Michael Pearl, it’s simply what God intended.

For 7-year-old Lydia Schatz, it was a brutal end to an innocent life at the hands of parents dedicated to “training” her.

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