When Parenting Kills – What Can We Do?

A child has been killed, and her older sister hospitalized as a result of their adoptive parents’ application of disciplinary techniques they evidently felt were called for.  Presumably the parents believed that they had not “crossed the line”  since this form of discipline was carried out over a period of time.

Lydia Schatz, the couples’ adopted 7-year-old went into cardiac arrest following what police say may have been a multi-hour session of ‘discipline’, and her 11 year old sister, also adopted, is in critical condition with kidney failure related to similar ‘discipline’ incurred on previous days. [Chico Enterprise-Record, Feb 10, 2010] The parents face charges of murder, torture and also a lesser charge of cruelty arising from injuries found on their ten-year-old biological son. The district attorney reportedly said that the other children in the family indicated that they, too, had “suffered similiar discipline.” The Christian, homeschooling family had never previously been investigated for child abuse.

As a Christian and former homeschooler myself, this story hits me very hard. I feel like I could know this family, could have rubbed shoulders with them at the Christian homeschooling conferences I attended when I lived in California.

According to news reports, the parents were influenced by folksy husband-and-wife authors/website/conference speakers Debi and Michael Pearl who have an avid following especially among conservative Christian homeschoolers. [Chico Enterprise-Record, Feb 12, 2010, KHSL-TV report, Feb 12, 2010] The plumbing supply line they used to whip their children is one of many possible tools advocated by the Pearls.  The Pearls point out on their website that 1/4″ plumbing supply line is cheap enough that you can have a length of it in all the rooms of your house, in your car and even drape a length of it around your neck.

Understandably, the Pearls would say this couple had taken their advice far beyond its intended limits.

However, people with a steady, normal, functional frame of reference regarding family life would say the Pearls’ approach to “training” — their word for studiously nonchalant flickings, whackings and whippings designed to condition young children to obey — is already well past the normal limits.

Normal parents, for example, don’t drape plumbing supply line around their necks to keep it handy for whippings – they just don’t.

Parents who are attracted to their methods in spite of the cruel and bizarre examples and recommendations that pepper the Pearls’ more conventional positions may lack a normal frame of reference by which to evaluate what is over the line.

And frankly, the Pearls’ advocacy of a take-no-prisoners approach to attaining complete control makes this type of tragedy inevitable in the right “perfect storm”.

I am sure the Pearls do not want people killing their children.  Their website’s defense of their methods even asks rhetorically, “When is it Abuse?” and the answer attempts to help followers identify whether they may have crossed the line.  What a red flag that is!  Normal discipline recommendations don’t bring parents anywhere near “the line.” As my husband said sadly, “if you’re wondering when it’s abuse, it’s probably abuse.”

One thing is clear, that portion of their Q & A reveals the Pearls’ awareness that following their recommendations may lead some people close to “the line.”

One risk factor they don’t seem to consider is the effect on children of attachment and trauma issues, such as RAD (reactive attachment disorder) – something sometimes associated with older-child adoptions.  It may be no coincidence that these victims were adopted three years ago from a war-torn African country.   Children shaped and damaged by a lifetime of trauma and degradation may respond differently to Pearlesque discipline than the rapid,  joyful, unconditional surrender depicted by the Pearls.

A friend of mine publicized the recent tragedy on Facebook, and a counselor responded:

While it isn’t the adoption aspect, but the dangerous parenting philosophies as a whole that need to be pointed out to the church, let me say that I don’t think it is coincidence that the children who died were adopted.
Children with RAD (reactive attachment disorder) and/or PTSD as a result of a myriad of adoption-related issues often do not feel pain the same way a child w/o issues does. Consequently, when spanked, they tend to be able to ‘take it’ on the surface, and I have seen this lead a parent to spank more and harder, as they try to ‘break thru’ this seemingly extreme defiance. It’s not defiance, and I could write at great lengths about all of the issues, but suffice it to say that the issues of RAD can make a parent go to more extremes than they ordinarily would if they have not been educated on that front.
As a counselor who works specifically w/children and adults who have trauma-related issues, I can tell you that parents who are fellow believers are often the more difficult to educate because they have bought so heavily into the church-sanctioned parenting ideals such as Ezzo and the Pearls. Been swimming upstream on this front for decades.
Having said that, the abuse, of course, extends to biological children but this doesn’t seem to come under scrutiny as quickly as does the abuse of the adopted children because it is so often easier to accuse the parents of not loving the adopted children as much as a biological child, instead of taking on an entire system of church sanctioned and church promoted abuse.
And in a follow-up message she said:
….the adopted child who has severe RAD and/or PTSD issues will often exhibit behaviors that would drive a saint to drink :-) so, in families who parent and discipline a la Ezzo/Pearl, that line between self-restraint and abuse becomes more and more unbalanced as they deal w/children who, on the surface, are tough nuts to *crack*.

If that is what these parents were dealing with, then imagine them encountering this passage from the Pearls’ website:

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. We want to impress upon him the severity of his disobedience. It takes time and thoughtfulness for the child to come to repentance. I have told a child I was going to give him 10 licks. I count out loud as I go. After about three licks, leaving him in his position, I would stop and remind him what this is all about. I would continue slowly, still counting, stop again and tell him that I know it hurts and I wish I didn’t have to do it but that it is for his own good. Then I would continue slowly. Pretending to forget the count, I would again stop at about eight and ask him the number. Have him subtract eight from ten, (a little homeschooling) and continue with the final two licks. Then I would have him stand in front of me and ask him why he got the spanking. If his answer showed that he was rebellious and defiant, he would get several more licks. Again he would be questioned as to his offense. If he showed total submission, we put it all behind us, but if he were still rebellious, we would continue until he gave over 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.

And although this passage –though disturbing in other respects — recommends moderate force, a passage in a newsletter by the Pearls asserts that a proper spanking would leave the child “without breath to complain.”

That phrase, which horrified me when I encountered it in the Pearls’ newsletter, and which I quoted in a letter I wrote some years ago to my regional homeschooling association begging them to cancel their plans to present the Pearls as speakers at their annual conference (to no avail), takes on an even darker aspect when I think of Lydia Schatz who literally stopped breathing.

We all feel angry, saddened and sickened and above all, helpless, when we hear of tragedy like this.

What can we do beyond wringing our hands?  What kinds of things can individuals do that will truly be helpful?

About katiekind

Enjoying the second half of life. I have three sons who are the apples of my eye and a wonderful husband of 35 years--those are the important things. Long ago, out of the blue, I became a Christian. It was something I never planned on, but what joy it has been. I do website development and I like to read and garden and paint and I love beauty and truth.
This entry was posted in Ezzo/Babywise, parenting. Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to When Parenting Kills – What Can We Do?

  1. Mandi says:

    This is the first time I had heard this story and my heart is broken. I have high needs children. One with a serious anxiety disorder and his younger brother with a serious anxiety disorder AND autism. You know where that younger brother is right now? At my father-in law’s house. I had to call them to come get him 10 min ago because he exploded, hit me, and threw my lamp across the room. I used to be able to restrain him but he is too big now.

    My son’s behavior may sound horrible but any parent with an autistic child would understand what I am talking about. Anyway as awful as it can be here, I can’t even imagine striking my son like those parents in your blog did to their children. Discipline is NOT a one-size-fits all deal. There are so many kids with underlining mental issues and the problem is that there is a large chunk of society that believes lables such as ADD, Austism, RAD, ODD are an excuse to “allow your child to be a brat”. I hate hearing that.

    Let me make this clear: A loving parent would NOT tollerate unsafe behavior from any kid, mental issues or not. That is why my son is not here right at the moment. I will get him when he is calm. The biggest punishment for him is to be taken away from me. Well the rule is: If you hurt my house or anybody in it, you have to go to sit in time-out at Grandpa’s house….he HATES that. That will send a much stronger message than striking him with metal piping or whatever those terrible people used on their kids.

    I am a Christen. I am not against spanking. I don’t spank my children. I used to spank my oldest when he was younger but now taking privledges away is what getes his attention. Spanking my youngest just didn’t work. It made him angrier and more volatile. Like I said: Discipline is not a one-size-fits all. Thank for you post. I apologize for spelling errors. I am in kind of a rush.

  2. Jeff says:

    We have found the Pearl’s information a really valuable tool in parenting.

    My wife and I (and several of our friends) have adopted Mandi’s (previous comment) attitude that discipline is not a one-size-fits-all. But the Pearl’s have a general approach that is very loving and effective.

    One brilliant piece of advice they dispensed, which I think would be something every parent should keep in the front of their minds when it comes to discipline is to NEVER spank/discipline when YOU are angry. Take a breather. Revisit the issue when you are calm, composed and you won’t tower over your child like a terrible giant. From my reading, the Pearl’s advocate the kind of discipline that will not make your children afraid or recoil from you.

    It’s my observation, cases like the heartbreaking account you shared, are brought about by parents who are disciplining in the midst of their anger, or stress.

    Like all parenting “programs” and “advice,” we learned to take the Pearl’s and their ministry No Greater Joy with a grain of salt.

    As in ALL matters, especially discipline and parenting, the HEART is what is most important. Is the parent’s heart to make the child obey commands much like a pet? Or is it to promote growth and understanding, administrating CORRECTION rather that straight punishment? Is the parent venting through the rod or instructing?

    My apologies for this book of a comment. ;-) Thanks for your sharing!

    Feel free to visit my blog on my own adventures in parenting

    • Kelly says:

      Spanking in anger is not the problem. These parents were not spanking in anger.

      I hope you have had a chance to read the following article that Waterlilly wrote:

      I know it is difficult to admit to listening to bad advice. Please keep an open mind.

      Which rod are you talking about in your post for “instructing”? The “rod” of the Pearls and the “rod” of the Bible are two completely different things.

      The word “rod” from Proverbs 13:24 is actually translated as a “shepherd’s crook”. Shepherds do not hit their sheep with the crook/rod. They use the straight end for guiding and the curved end for protecting. This is the model of Biblical discipline.

  3. Pingback: TulipGirl » Blog Archive » Keeping the Pearls in Context

  4. Anne P says:

    Oh, what a SAD story! I am a Christian and a parent, who has spanked from time to time…not in anger and never with such an instrument that could go so very wrong. Those precious children already going through a hard time bonding. My goal in parenting my wondeful young through teenage sons was to win their hearts as well as teach them. There are many effective ways to teach and discipline children: from rewarding good behavior, to timeouts, to removing something they really enjoy, or have misused for the day. For example, if you do not do your chores, you do not earn allowance, etc.

    Really this comes down to common sense and deciding what is not to be listened to and what options we as parents consider. How tragic that the parents in this article did not have the sense to turn away from such bad advice. If Christian, evangelical, homeschooling parents are inclined towards the parenting advice from such sources in northern Cal, I am very sad indeed. I am an evangelical Christian mom, homeschool my three boys and am offended that somehow this “Pearl” label coincides whatsoever with Christ. This is WRONG in every sense of the word!

    • eve says:

      Something most have not mentioned: there is a bewildered church left behind that the Shatz family attended. No one had a clue of the abuse going on…not a clue-not even those closest..
      and there are bewildered and afraid children left in that church with no way to voice THEIR confusion over what happened…I’m just saying…and the pastor…going from one responsibility to the next-doing the work of several people…visiting the Shatzes in jail-doing Lydia’s funeral and of course he doesn’t know how this happened…THIS church is in shock and needs prayer
      the children in this church need prayer…please pray! Thankyou

  5. kristen says:

    I think we grieve for these children and we educate people. We point out that well meaning Christian people got easily entangled into trying to measure up to their own standards of family life rather than doing everything in love.

    • eve says:

      Thanks for your comment-for the very short time I knew the Shatzes I couldn’t help but notice that they had a very strong need to please others or have approval from others rather than trusting their own appraisal of a situation. I view that as very dangerous and it proved to be.
      I just wish there had been more perception around them-people that could look into them and speak the truth and tell them that they were people pleasers-and that some of these “how-to”
      aids in child rearing actually make a lot of money off the insecurity of others when the actual gospel message is to live “by faith” -this is the way to please God.

  6. Rebecca says:

    A very well-written post, katiekind – as always, I appreciate your perspective on this.

    As for what we can do? Speak out against it, whenever we encounter it. There are many things that I feel strongly about that I still have learned to hold my peace about…things like breastfeeding, for instance. I believe it’s every child’s birthright, and yet since I don’t know anything about that random mama I encounter who is feeding her baby with a bottle, I smile, compliment her on her baby, and walk away.

    But when I encounter someone who uses the Pearl’s material? I do pray that the Holy Spirit would guide my words, and not let my personal anger at the methods make me lash out at the person using them, because I have found that many of these parents are using the materials out of a quite sincere (though misguided!) desire to do the best for their children.

    But I do speak out. I have to. In Ezekiel 3, I read “20Again, When a righteous man does turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because you have not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also you have delivered your soul.” Coupled with the picture of the Day of Judgment, where we are told that Jesus will look at us and say “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” – that’s a serious charge. It is, indeed, committing iniquity to inflict pain on a child in the Name of the Savior.

    I wish every person who calmly, “rationally”, smilingly stretched their child over the bed and struck them repeatedly could realize two things: First of all, when you do it to the least of these, you are doing it to Christ Himself. Secondly…He already took the stripes. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, He bears in HIS body the marks and bruises you are inflicting on your child. Let His blood, not that 1/4″ plumbing line, cleanse them of all unrighteousness. Your efforts can never atone, He has already done it.

    • Ruth says:

      I wish every person who calmly, “rationally”, smilingly stretched their child over the bed and struck them repeatedly could realize two things: First of all, when you do it to the least of these, you are doing it to Christ Himself. Secondly…He already took the stripes. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, He bears in HIS body the marks and bruises you are inflicting on your child. Let His blood, not that 1/4″ plumbing line, cleanse them of all unrighteousness. Your efforts can never atone, He has already done it.

      wow. this is so powerful it has me in tears. thank you for this.

      and thank you katie for this post.

  7. Indie says:

    Rebecca’s last paragraph is powerful and worth reading twice.

    I choose not to spank first and foremost because it completely contradicts Christ’s clear example and call to nonviolence and love. But I also choose not to spank because the science has shown over and over again that spanking simply does not work in the long term. Spanking does not teach children to have the intrinsic motivation to do right. It does not teach them to do right out of love for God and others. It teaches them to do right out of fear. As First John says, there is no fear in love.

    Discipline comes from the same root as disciple. We are to teach and guide our children in how to live. This is more difficult to do than spanking but it works. I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle to get this right.

  8. Hannah G. says:

    Wow, yes, Rebecca, that last paragraph hits the nail on head. Well put (I even copied that to FB status!) That’s *exactly* why I won’t spank my child. It’s not my job to punish him for his sins.

  9. jaymarie says:

    Thank you for sharing that.

    You write very well and your message is important. Good mix.

  10. <>

    Pretending to forget — why?! As if it’s up to the child how many times they’re going to be hit. This is like calling a woman a “dirty slut” while she’s being raped… as if she’s asking for it and the rapist can’t help his thrusts.

    This is sadistic, methodical, physical and psychological torture.

    While much emphasis and detail is put into this description of punishment, love and forgiveness are noticeably missing.

    Discipline shouldn’t occur when a parent is angry — true. But, if a parent is so far gone that they are this casual about beating children, even having pieces of plumber’s tubing “draped over the neck” as a constant reminder of their domination, and making disgusting jokes about “homeschooling math,” it wouldn’t surprise me that they could beat their child to death without as much as raising their own blood pressure.

    Parenting is hard. Children can be defiant. Discipline is necessary, but this isn’t it.

    God doesn’t treat His children this way, and neither should we.

  11. Jeff says:

    I understand the perspective of those who do not wish to physically spank their children, referencing Jesus’ love and nonviolence.

    But I think one would be hard-pressed to lump a simple spanking with loving instruction into the broad category of violence.

    We must always interpret scripture in light of other scripture. There are plenty which instruct parents to physically discipline their children, as well as scriptures which say no parent should frustrate their children, as well as scriptures that teach parents that children are a rich blessing and heritage from the Lord.

    Jesus said God sees the heart. I don’t believe that Jesus frowns on spanking your child as a personal affront to Him and His character and an assault on His little ones. However, I believe Jesus is righteously indignant against the parents in this terrible case, and would indeed consider this an assault on Himself as well.

    I have met parents who do not physically discipline their children – but their children cringe at their parent’s voices and who find their parent’s words more painful than a welt on the behind.

    Just yesterday in the mall I saw a mom grab her (presumed) child of about 8 years old by the neck, then fling her other child (same age) out of her chair, wrenching his arm around his back, while speaking softly and stearnly through clenched teeth.

    Then I have met other parents who physically discipline (not beat) their children within the context of the troublemaking, and make sure their emphasis is not on the spanking, but on the growing, correction, and showing them the right way.

    Which I think is the KEY to ALL discipline (physical and NON-physical discipline). Is being able to clearly communicate to your child how to grow, take responsibility for their actions, teach them consequences (good and bad), and provide a loving home and family for a child to mature in with a proper understanding of their actions in the scope of selfless living – loving God and loving their neighbor.

    :-) Thanks again!

  12. katiekind says:

    I would like to clarify that for me this is not an issue of spanking or not spanking. The Pearls’ advice goes far past normal in the area of spanking.

    My interest is in raising the connection between the treatment these children received and the parents’ application of the Pearls’ methods in their home.

    I forgot to mention above that one of the news stories said that the parents were teaching their older daughter to implement the spankings — another very unwise, far-past-normal, Pearl idea. One hates to imagine all the possible ways that could go wrong.

    I do not know what we each can individually resolve to do to help push back against the forces that draw parents into this kind of tragedy — whatever your analysis leads you to think those forces may be.

    But I hope and pray that God will call many, many people to do what they can.

  13. Katiekind, I am linking to this article in a message to over 1,000 readers of my Hope Chest home schooling e-magazine. Thanks for writing.

  14. Jenn says:

    This is so heartbreaking. I haven’t blogged about the Ezzos or Pearls in a long time, but I may have to get back into it. Thanks for this post.

  15. thatmom says:

    Katie, I, too, am linking to your thoughtful comments in my own article today where I outlined some of the other instances of child abuse under the guise of “Christian parenting.” Informing parents of the dangers of these teachings is a start. But we must be in prayer for hearts and minds to be changed and for moms and dads to demonstrate compassion and tenderness toward their little ones and toward their older ones. (Many of these teachers recommend beating children who are adult or nearly adult!)

    We also have to be brave about calling abuse “abuse” when we see it. No one likes that word….only “bad” parents abuse, after all. But Jesus said that as we do it unto the least of these, we have done it unto Him.

  16. katiekind says:

    Virginia, thank you for speaking out so directly. I don’t know you at all but from what I can gather, you know exactly what I’m talking about, exactly the risk factors that can and do arise from an unhealthy brew of circumstances and mistaken beliefs in the culture we’re in (or in my case, was in during some of my childrearing years).

    I was shocked and saddened to read in your article that you know of another child who died at his mother’s hand, a woman who cared enough about children to write an article on international adoption for your magazine. No wonder you need to be passionate on this issue and take a stand. Thank you so very much.

  17. Hope says:

    Thank you, this is helpful information presented in a kind way. I have linked to you here, http://www.timberdoodlecompany.com/doodleblog/2010/02/17/discipline-and-murder/.

  18. katiekind says:

    Thank you, Hope! That is courageous of you to speak out!

  19. TulipGirl says:

    I have been heartened to see how many people are being bold about sharing and speaking out. . . (Thanks, Hope. . . I know y’all have a very large platform from which you are sharing. And Virginia and ThatMom and Heather and others. . .)

    And. . . honestly. . . I so do not like hearing, seeing, or even ADMITTING that abuse happens in Christian homes. But it does. We are vulnerable and sinful people. And it is a TRAVESTY that abuse is often explained away or excused or minimized, because we don’t want to see it. . .

  20. I’ve had a lot of feedback from my article, almost all positive. Hope’s link from the Timberdoodle sent about 200 people to my ComeWearyMoms blog in the past few hours. Karen Campbell is the first one to tell me about the story. ~~ Virginia

  21. WhiteStone says:

    As for “NEVER spank/discipline when YOU are angry”…there are those who suppress (or “express”) their anger quite well by beating someone else and easily self-deceivingly saying, “I am not angry.”

    I can’t get past the crying this child must have emitted (or withheld), both in the mother’s presence and afterward as she lay dying.

  22. Laurie says:

    Thank you for your warm and balanced perspective. I know the Schatzes personally, and love them. (They attended our church for several months before leaving, as I now know, to attend a Pearl-friendly church.) Lydia was the dearest of all their children to me. She was the most full of life.

    We were unaware this was what went on in their home, though in hindsight it makes sense somehow. My husband and I have spent hours poring over the Pearl literature, horrified. Horrified. Elizabeth, the mother, is one of the warmest and meekest people I’ve ever known. It’s so hard to square that with what’s happened.

    I’ve searched and searched on-line and have not been able to find any Christian literature which addresses this system from a biblical perspective. Are you aware of any such book? (All I find is written by people who are anti-corporal punishment in general, or anti-Christian, or both. ) I’m fairly well determined that if there is no such thing available I will have to write it myself.

    • Ginny says:

      Laurie, I have read your Blog, and today found your postings here.
      I cannot stop thinking about the brutal death of a 7yr. old girl at the hands of her parents. Beyond Horrid!
      I feel the pain you have through the posts you have written. You thought you knew Elizabeth Schatz. You didn’t know her at all.
      It’s shocking and painful when that happens to us. It would be nice to know what “Pearl Friendly Church” they were attending.
      Blessing to you and your husband.

  23. Pingback: child abuse in the name of Jesus

  24. Indie says:

    I haven’t actually read it, but I’ve heard that Biblical Parenting by Crystal Lutton is good. She is a pastor and it says so on the book cover which might be a turn off to some who don’t believe in women’s ordination.

    Bill and Martha Sears also have a Christian parenting book and I thought it was ok.

    Another book that I haven’t read but have heard that some like is Grace Based Parenting.

    I haven’t seen anything that specifically targets the Pearls.

  25. katiekind says:

    Laurie, thank you for posting. I’m so sorry for how this must be for you. I think more work definitely needs to be in terms of biblical evaluations. A few years ago some Christian bloggers did a little work on that. Here’s some links:

    All Things 2 All (blog):
    Doctrinal evaluation of the Pearls, part one

    Doctrinal evaluation, part two

    Review of To Train Up a Child

    Spunky Homeschool (blog)
    Review of Created to Be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
    (start there, and move on to parts 2, 3, 4, etc)

    Tulipgirl (blog)
    on Pearls and Parenting (response to an email)

    Rebecca Prewett addresses an open letter to anyone who pressures parents to adopt spanking regimens without also warning parents in high-risk situations that there are combustible situations where spanking should be avoided:
    Avoiding Millstones

    A Time to Laugh (blog) rambles through some very good evaluatory thoughts on the Pearls’ material:
    Ebenezer Vista: The Big Outing

    Hermana Linda’s large collection of links and thoughts on the Pearls

    Wendy’s chapter-by-chapter review, archived on Hermana Linda’s site

    Some of those pages have collected other links as well. Some of those reviews would combine a “no spanking” position with “the Pearls’ are extreme and here’s why” position, others in the list try to separate those issues.

    Even though that’s a lot of links, it’s really just a scattering of bloggers…there needs to be something more, in my opinion.

    It would be very nice if people with credible voices — people that conservative Christians cannot dismiss as “liberal” or “anti-bible” — will be willing, as the Timberdoodle catalog lady has been willing — to name this as something that is outside the pale, outside even the big tent of acceptable disciplinary practice.

  26. Laurie says:

    Indie, thank you for your book suggestions.

    Katie, thank you for all of that. I will be poring over all of these links in the days and weeks to come. I’ve got to say, that wading through the Pearl stuff leaves me feeling like I’ve been bathed in darkness. The abuse of Scripture and the use of weasel words and ambiguous language is sickening.

    I said in my earlier comment that I was having trouble squaring the meek woman I know with the fact of a dead child (not to mention another in the hospital). But after more reflection I’ve come to realize what it is that connects the two – the Pearl Method. Learning about the Pearl doctrine has made “sense” of what made no sense before.

    The Pearls have already taken steps to disassociate themselves from this latest tragedy (http://www.paradisepost.com/news/ci_14427370). It is very disturbing to see how quick they are to hang their loyal followers out to dry.
    I do not intend to relinquish my friends of their responsibility, but it is so painful to see the Pearl “ministry” continue on with impunity.

    Again, thank you for your post, and your links.

  27. TulipGirl says:

    Laurie, you are the 3rd or 4th person I’ve met online this week who has had a personal connection with the Schatz family. All the others were “normal,” Christian homeschoolers who had positive connections with this family. And it makes this all the more heartbreaking. . .

    While the Schatz family is in the news, I believe there are a lot more families — lovely, loving families — who are perpetuating well-intentioned child abuse. People who are wanting the best, wanting to do the “right” thing, but latch on to the wrong thing. I believe that sometimes there may be underlying issues — depression, anger, prior abuse — that exacerbate the problems. But sometimes. . . many times. . . abuse is happening by “normal” mothers and fathers who have somehow come to believe that what the Pearls are teaching is healthy — that the “no mercy,” spank until they child changes, whip and condition toddlers, repeatedly and with consistency approach is “normal” and health. When in fact, these actions are abusive — even when carried out without anger or the the extreme that leads to hospitalization.

    And this. . . this is why the Church at large and us in our own lives and circles, need to be very vocal about how these ideas aren’t folksy and wise, but harmful and abusive and put parents and children at risk.

  28. Laurie says:


    Thank you. I’ve added you to my blogroll.

    At the risk of making a nuisance of myself, I have a question. I’ve been perusing link after link after link and suddenly it hit me – “Where are all the men?” With the exception of my friend Aaron, at mustfollow.blogspot.com, I’ve not seen any other men addressing this matter. The Pearl system is a family system. Couples must be in it together to pull it off, and the wives are taught to quietly submit to the wills of their husbands. This leaves the husbands at the head of it, and I don’t think they will be reading women’s blogs or seriously considering the views of women on this matter.

    Any ideas?

  29. Camille says:

    You inspired me 4 years ago, katiekind, to speak out against the Pearls. And I don’t regret that for a second although it was the beginning of a completely new life for me.

    But I covered some of the doctrinal problems of Pearl’s theology here too. Just to add to your list. ;)


  30. Amy says:

    Every time I read anything written by the Pearls about discipline methods I become ill. I simply don’t understand how anyone can read the above description of the ‘proper’ way to ‘spank’ your child and not see the physical, emotional, and, yes I will say it, undertones of sexual abuse.

    Thank you for your thoughtful words.

  31. Linda B says:

    It’s so sad that the Pearls say give “no mercy” to our children when our Heavenly Father gives us so much mercy.

    They’ve either lost sight of that, or never knew His mercy in the first place.

  32. katiekind says:

    Thanks, Camille, I added your link to the list above.

    Laurie, thanks to the link to the Paradise Post’s article that summarized the connection and expressed Michael Pearl’s position.

    From there I was able to find an editorial by the Post’s board (I guess? Hard to tell with the online edition) and that was at least refreshing.

  33. Laurie, I haven’t yet read Samuel Martin’s book but it is on its way to me.


    I have two books that I am now giving as baby shower gifts. The first is called Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson. The second is Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Both are excellent.

    Praying for those dear children…..

  34. Pingback: TulipGirl » Blog Archive » Vulnerable, To Abuse

  35. Kellie Warner says:

    I will recommend the book “Biblical Parenting” by Crystal Lutton.. It is a wonderful parenting book. I am so saddened by this whole mess.. I knew the Schatzs, as acquaintances 3 years ago as they were adopting from Liberia ( I had just returned from Liberia with our 2 children, and were using the same ‘local’ agency) I’ve had a hard time sleeping because of the sadness and just imagining what those poor children were thinking/feeling as this came to a head that very awful day. Not to mention the years prior. Children with trauma history just need different things than ‘average’ attached children.( not that spanking is every one of those things any child needs)
    I have 9, and have dedicated myself to the research of the brain, how it is affected by trauma, and how our children respond to the emotional lives around them. Its been a long journey, and as horrified as I am to say it, I came from the Pearls books.. I never realized how dogmatic they were, so thankfully I was a bad ‘Pearl student’, but I admit I had read their book and tried to implement it, years ago, before I knew.. Before my sweet babes came to me in all their trauma and damage. Thankfully I was very very inconsistent.
    I am so blessed to have found so many other parenting tools.
    So when this story broke, it broke my heart, esp with the little connection to them I had. We never talked about discipline…only the logistics of adoption paperwork, but part of me wishes I had kept in contact, and maybe I could have known the struggles they were having, and could have shared some of the information I have been blessed with. The information that leads to understanding these children, all children, and meeting them on their level. Its transformed our home.
    Humbly sad, and grateful for His Grace,

  36. ianam says:

    If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. — Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. — Exodus 21:15

    He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. — Exodus 21:17

    The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. — Proverbs 30:17

    And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and … offer him there for a burnt offering…. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. — Genesis 22:2,10

    The LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon…. And there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. — Exodus 12:29-30

    And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. — 2 Kings 2:23-24

    And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. — Leviticus 26:29

    And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters. — Deuteronomy 28:53

    And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend. — Jeremiah 19:9

    Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. — Psalm 137:9

    A charming book, your Bible. The Pearls are just following in a tradition of authoritarianism, violence, and punishment. If there is a God, I do not believe it authored such a monstrous doctrine as your Christianity.

    • katiekind says:

      Those are tough quotes to reckon with. Naturally, I could respond by cherrypicking other quotes that show the magnificent wisdom, love and virtue espoused in the Bible. To keep the thread on topic, I would say that it confounds me why Christian parents leapfrog past the message of the New Testament to land with a thud in the midst of the old testament proverbs.

      To you, ianam, I would wish I could speak more directly. I don’t know your situation. You sound like someone who perhaps was brought up Christian and are now realizing there’s a big world of other viewpoints out there. If that’s not you, forgive me for speculating, and you can fill me in sometime.

      I had a different journey: I grew up agnostic/atheist. I too, could sneer at Christians and their Bible and could have written your message at one time, yet later in life I changed my mind. Not that I ever learned to love those “verses” and stories. I still have questions, but such is life.

      In response, I offer that more work needs to be done to learn to read and interpret ancient literature of this type. The Bible is an ancient collection of 66 books, of varying types of literary forms. It is the most ancient literature most of us will ever make an attempt to understand, yet too often we are encouraged to take it up with no preparation, no guidance from historians, and very little grasp of even the most basic principles of interpretation or historical background.

      As modern, Western people we bring a modern, Western approach to literature and modern, Western sensibilities to reading these ancient books and are ourselves dashed on the rocks (as it were.) We have a lot of work to do if we want to understand a proto-middle-eastern culture of three thousand years ago and the way they expressed themselves.

      One thing that has helped me is to realize that you don’t read poems as if they were bank statements, and so on. The literary genres employed by the ancients had their forms. The ancients did not feel constrained to write histories and biographies chronologically, they wrote to make a point, and they were fond of hyperbole.

      The overarching story of God creating, calling, loving, serving and redeeming is the controlling narrative of the Bible. I’m sorry you haven’t been taught it that way.

      • Darren MacLennan says:

        Major props for taking an extraordinarily tough question head-on, rather than trying to dodge that – and your answer was, frankly, brilliant.

        -Darren MacLennan

      • Lurnr says:

        Wow, KatieK, your reply to that comment has just taught me volumes! I’m copying your words into my keeper file, and I might just memorize a lot of it to use when I get similar responses from people about the Word.

        Impressed and appreciatively,


    • justsomethoughts says:


      God never changes and everything he has ever said still goes.

      However these passages that you have quoted have been fully fulfilled when Christ was crucified on the cross for us..
      Christ paid for all of these things, and more.

      There is now no need for anyone to ever pay these pentalties again ever. All anyone has to ever go is to accept that Jesus Christ fully paid our debts of sins, but all of those who refuse will have to pay for their own debts, that payment will be made in eternity in hell.

      God is a God of of mercy, it is because of that mercy that he made a way for all of us to never face the second death.

      The Old Testament was the law, the New Testiment is the law fulfilled and it also where God shows us his mercy and grace.

      It is NEVER ok to beat a child or anyone to death. When people take scriptures out of context it causes nothing but grief and problems.
      And it hurts others who may not really even know or understand the scriptures to start with.

  37. Pingback: Contending with the Culture · Tragedy in a homeschooling family

  38. Noted home school author and publisher Rob Shearer has added his voice to the cause: http://redhatrob.com/2010/02/tragedy-in-a-homeschooling-family/

    Thank you, Rob!

  39. Pingback: Michael and Debi Pearl’s “Expert” Parenting Advice is Killing Children | The Zero Boss

  40. Pingback: Disturbing story of child abuse as punishment « Later On

  41. QuiltinGramma says:

    oh, katiekind….
    Thank you for your ability to write what needs to be written. If I had read the Pearl’s book when my children were young, I probably wouldn’t have any grandchildren today. I probably would be serving a life sentence for the murder of my child. I would have taken the Pearl’s tactics and applied them regiliously. I am truely thankful that God protected me from that kind of teaching.

    About 3-4 years ago, there was another case similar to this. In North Carolina, little 5 year old Sean Paddock was rolled up in a blanket so tightly that he smothered to death. As the investigation unfolded, it was found that these adoptive parents also were Pearl followers. In there house, was found TTUC along with plumbing tubes in most rooms of the house. Sean and his older sibling were found to have many bruises covering their bodies, some old, others new. Again, the Pearls took no responsibility at all.

    If I had written a parenting book that was connected with even one death, I would have to take that book off the market, revise it, or do whatever needed to be done with it so that it could not be misinform anyone before ever letting it go back on the market…yet the Pearl’s deny they were any part of the problem.

    One thing we could do is when we see TTUC in second-hand stores…buy them up then destroy them. If we see Ezzo or Pearl books in book stores, talk to the manager and educate them about the dangers of those books, ask them to remove them from their inventory. If Ezzo and Pearl books are unavailable maybe in the end, they’ll stop being published because people have stopped reading them.

    Lots of love to you, katiekind!
    We can make a difference…but it takes time.

    • ToilingAnt says:

      I love the idea of buying up second-hand Pearl/Ezzo books to keep them out of circulation… I regularly peruse the shelves of local thrift stores and from time to time I do see their writings available. From now on I will purchase them and do my little part to prevent poisonous teaching from being spread.

  42. Pingback: parenting as lethal power « Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God

  43. Mary Trice says:

    Thank you so much for your balanced approach! I had not even considered the effects that being adopted might play in this but my head and heart where reeling from this story and I found myself trying to sort out what could have possibly happened!

  44. theunmarrieddaughter says:

    Your problem in defending the Pearls’and their whole idea of lesser human beings to “submit” to “control” is exactly what domestic violence abusers use to defend their tactics. Childnren and women are human beings first, not tools or cogs in the machinations of proving some weirdly human construct of what god’s will is on earth. The Pearls are child abuse promoters, and it’s sad that it took a child’s death and one hospitalized in critical condition for the “Jesus really is about unconditional love, even as I let others abuse you” christians to tolerate this. Anyone adhering to the Pearls’ and their ilk, don’t love their children, they are “in possession” and desire to show “control” over their children. This holds true for those homeschooling so-called “christians” who say, “oh, but I don’t beat my daughter that badly, I mean just a flick now and then.”

    If any abused homeschooled children are reading this, and by abused I mean having to endure “flicks” “licks” or beatings with plumbing supply lines, find an adult, one not at your church(those adults will enable your parents to continue to abuse) or associated with christians. Tell them what is happening to you. if you go to the YMCA, tell your basketball coach, if you attend afterschool activities tell a teacher, find a police officer on the street, just find someone outside the church and tell them. You will be saving your life, not just physically, but emotionally also.

    Women, stop selling out your children to these ideas of submission. Go read the site “no longer quivering” about how damaging being submissive is. It is not godly, it is not christian and you are doing damage to you and your children when you sell out to the patriarchy.

  45. Pingback: Roscommon Acres » Blog Archive » The Pearls, abuse and a false gospel

  46. Magical Childhood says:

    Thanks for speaking out against the Pearls. You added really important thoughts about the adoption and RAD angle, too. I wrote about Christians and others speaking out against the Pearls here: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-23788-Mankato-Attachment-Parenting-Examiner~y2010m2d25-Childs-death-leads-Christians-to-speak-out-against-Michael-and-Debi-Pearl

    I read part of the book online last night and it made me sick to my stomach. My only comfort is in seeing the good people speaking out on behalf of the children being terrorized under these teachings.


  47. katiekind says:

    Alicia, that is a FANTASTIC article. You summed up a lot in a few words, and caught on to the semantic sleight of hand that the Pearls use to divert attention from how their recommendations apply even to young babies. By means of their special semantics they are somehow able to say with a straight face that they don’t recommend corporal punishment.

  48. Pingback: When Discipline Is Abuse « Non-Happy Endings

  49. Pingback: Spanking in Anger isn’t the Problem : Water Lilly

  50. Pingback: To Brainwash a Parent « The X Paradigm 4 Parents

  51. lori says:

    The beating and murder of children will not stop until we have laws making “spanking” and other physical forms of so-called discipline ILLEGAL. It is illegal for one adult to hit another. It makes absolutely no sense that it should be legal for an adult to hit a child. None. It is assault and should be treated as such.

    //I’ve searched and searched on-line and have not been able to find any Christian literature which addresses this system from a biblical perspective. Are you aware of any such book? (All I find is written by people who are anti-corporal punishment in general, or anti-Christian, or both. ) I’m fairly well determined that if there is no such thing available I will have to write it myself.//

    Honestly, Christianity and the bible should have nothing to do with this. If religious people can’t take a step back and use the good sense their god(s) gave them to see that beating children into submission is wrong — without looking for the answer in a book — then religion is truly useless, if not dangerous. Atheists and agnostics are often accused of having no morality because they don’t read through an ancient text, looking for a moral code; I don’t need a book to tell me that what the Pearls have written is not just wrong, but cruel and heartless and a host of other horrible things. And Christians shouldn’t, either.

    • lori says:

      I misspoke: Unfortunately, people will still beat their children to death, even if we have anti-spanking laws on the books. But such laws will help prevent some deaths because if we treat every swat as a crime, as we should, then it will be harder for people to look the other way when they see a parent hit a child. It wouldn’t be legal, it wouldn’t be “discipline,” and it wouldn’t be justified under some weird exception to the laws on assault.

  52. Pingback: TulipGirl » Blog Archive » Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse?

  53. Pingback: I do not want to write this post : It's Complicated

  54. kBells says:

    Trying to stop child abuse by outlawing a swat on the diaper is like trying to stop drug abuse by outlawing aspirin. Parents need some freedom to control their child. What most don’t’ know is that abuse of parents by children is on the uprise and may parents and many parents are afraid to defend themselves, many times from teens bigger than they are, for fear of being accused of child abuse.

  55. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I grew up in a christian home and my parents were “pioneers” of homeschooling. I have been held on a pedestal my entire life as a “model” of the homeschooling community and wonderful fruit of conservative christian life. What no one knew is the terrible abuse that went on in our home.

    As a survivor of moments of extreme abuse myself and diagnosed with PTSD from the situations I grew up with in our home I can attest that children who live through things like that can become very hard to impossible nuts to “crack” Things that would have a normal child broken, humbled and maleable/teachable can be like water on a ducks back to kids who have faced death (or what they think might result in death). You learn to survive. You learn a mask and you maintain it at all costs. At some point…Somewhere along the way you decide that to break is to show weakness and that you would rather die than show weakness because weakness = a vulnerability to the antagonist. So you take whatever is dished out with a stoicism and steely resolve that most people would not think possible for a child to muster.

    The Pearls (to my knowledge) have never addressed training scenarios with children from severely traumatic backgrounds. Their material is geared towards the typical American children who’s exposure to violence is watching Sat. Morning Cartoons. Although the abuse in my childhood home happened without input from the Pearls or any other Christian teachers I have cringed reading some of their materials…I feel as though I simultaneously can see through two lenses. The perspective of the Pearls writing it, with their goals and intentions in place, knowing their hearts desires…And the more terrifying perspective of a mother losing her grip on reality, overwhelmed with life and desperately looking for any method and means of retaining her version of control. She would have been able to interpret all sorts of implications from the Pearl’s writings that they never intended and she would have gladly used it as justification.

    Thank you for having the courage to speak out against immoderate words. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of the still mostly silent group of children like me that grew up in homes where abuse was a frequent visitor. Most of us do not have the freedom to this day to share our stories even though we are well into adulthood. As you speak out against abuse though please do not spend too much time upon Mike Pearl. The issue is abuse and parents who feel out of options and desperate to try anything. While Mike Pearls teachings are one small fringe area of concern in the bigger picture of what is happening in many conservative homes he is hardly the end all that I have seen some make him out to be. This subject of parental “domination” teaching that all too easily lends itself to parents feeling justified and even ordained by God to dish out “whatever it takes” discipline is far far more pervasive than the reach of Mike Pearl and NGJ Ministry.

  56. Upstreamliving, I agree that the problem of parental domination and abuse is much broader than just the Pearls. I actually removed reference to them from my main blog post because I realized it was being a distraction from the main point — that child discipline must never be an excuse for abuse and that control issues are a huge part of the problem. It would be easy to say, “I’ve never heard of Michael Pearl and I don’t use plumbing line to beat my kids, so this doesn’t apply to me.” I want people instead, to say, “What are WE doing? Is this really right? Are we relying on the grace of God or on brute force?” Also, to be aware of symptoms of abuse in others so we can offer help, or in serious cases, bring in outside intervention.

    My post is at: http://comewearymoms.blogspot.com/2010/02/child-discipline-or-child-abuse.html

    I have since sent out Karen Campbell’s open letter about the Pearl’s to my large home schooling e-mail list, as well as a link to Michael Pearl’s outrageously arrogant and disgusting “laughing at his critics” post, but I haven’t put these up on my blog yet and probably won’t.

  57. Michelle says:

    I want to mention something regarding biblical bible quotes.
    The Old Testament’s statement that if “you beat them with a rod, they will not die. Proverbs 23:13 is wrong.
    Countless children have died. Jesus went against many of the Old Testament teachings.
    King Soloman wrote the quotes that support physically assaulting children.
    Well, King Soloman and his son heavily taxed their kingdom and was otherwise brutal.Was that based on God’s teachings?son he was ousted. Who have him the right to have power over the people?
    Here is a quote by Rehoboam.
    “Whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, so shall I add tenfold thereto. Whereas my father chastised (tortured) you with whips, so shall I chastise you with scorpions. For my littlest finger is thicker than my father’s loins; and your backs, which bent like reeds at my father’s touch, shall break like straws at my own touch.”
    So people like Michael Pearl are following the teachings of brutal leaders not God or Jesus.
    Does this make sense?

    What are one of the things that Jesus said about hurting children:
    “whosoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were profitable for him that a great millstone had been hanged upon his neck and he be sunk in the depths of the sea”.

  58. Pingback: TulipGirl » Blog Archive » Speaking Out, Updated. . .

  59. Pingback: Those Who Don’t Agree « change

  60. Pingback: In depth Analysis of Pearl’s Teachings | Why Not Train A Child

  61. middle child says:

    I have had no problems with disciplining my kids. Sometimes it is good for us parents to give punishment to our kids, but this is absurd. Kill them? These parents must be sick psychos. It is very disappointing to see these cases where we know that the child suffers because of his parent’s ignorance. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do about it.

  62. Pingback: Godly discipline turned deadly « The New Atheist Times

  63. SUSAN BAILEY says:

    I am appalled at the Pearl’s advice on spanking. I cannot believe he hinted at homeschooling in math while the child counted the number of licks he received. How sick is this man and his wife? She advocates pulling the hair of a nursing baby if the baby bites you. How can churches and christians condone this type of behavior? Please visit their website and read Child Training Marathon Revisited and Updated. You really won’t believe it.

  64. Sabrina Toss says:

    This is indeed a sad story which should make parents and parents-to-be think about the best way to discipline children. I believe that children should be spanked because it is also written in the Bible but not all people know about the kind of rod that Kelly described. She is definitely right, the rod is not used to hit the sheep, the straight end is used to guide the sheep while the curved end is to protect them.

  65. Pingback: Christians & abusive parenting: Several good articles « A Quiver Full of Information

Leave a Reply to ianam Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s