Four years ago, a 4 year old little boy by the name of Sean Paddock died when his mother wrapped him so tightly in a blanket that he could not breathe. This month, another young child, 7 year old Lydia Schatz, died after being "disciplined" - repeatedly hit with a plumbing supply line - by her parents, until her organs had shut down. Her 11 year old sister was hospitalized in critical condition for the same reason. The common thread between the two? Both families followed Michael and Debi Pearl's books and methods for Christian child "training". Both were Christian families who subscribed to these barbaric teachings because they believed them to be biblical, and both will have to live with knowing that their children died at their own hands.
Supporters of the Pearls (and sadly, there are millions, based on the number of books they sell) will tell you that these cases are different, that these parents had a propensity towards violence, or took things too far, or weren't following the teachings correctly.
And surely, these loving Christians, the Pearls, wouldn't advocate something as heinous as beating a child with plumbing supply line? In fact not only do they specifically recommend 1/4 plumbing inch supply line, but they also tell you where to get it (easily found at Home Depot, for your convenience), and instruct you to buy it in bulk so you can keep a length of it in every room of your house, and even keep one around your neck to serve as a reminder. They advise parents to whip their children until they have "no breath left to complain."
Michael Pearl has responded to criticism with this statement:
"We do not teach corporal punishment, nor hitting children. We teach parents how to train their children, which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument to hold the child's attention on admonition. Over one million parents have applied these biblical principles with joyful results."
Besides sounding like a page from a cult leader's mission statement, Mr Pearl's words are egregious lies. Applying any kind of spanking instrument IS HITTING! Any adult doing the same thing to another adult could, and should, be arrested for assault. And "limited and controlled?" Until a child is out of breath is limited and controlled?
"No, officer, you don't understand. Yes, I beat him repeatedly, but it was limited and controlled."
"Oh, well in that case, carry on."
IT'S ALL HITTING, AND IT'S ALL WRONG. How anyone can reconcile hitting a defenseless child, in any fashion, for any reason, as being acceptable is something that I will forever fail to understand.
Possibly the most disturbing part of Mr Pearl's statement is the final line, "Over one million parents have applied these biblical principles with joyful results" I don't believe that any part of what the Pearls preach is biblical, and in fact I think their message is decidedly anti-Christian, as I blogged about here. A single, often misquoted, taken-out-of-context scripture about "sparing the rod" (which was used to guide and protect sheep) does not change the gentle, loving spirit of a Jesus who would never hit a child. I want to be very, very clear when I say that I love God, and I love Jesus... but that if calling someone a Christian associates this kind of parenting in your mind, please! feel free to call me something else.
And finally, as to the "joyful results." I think Sean Paddock and Lydia Schatz would disagree, as would the millions of other children who are being shamed and hit and forced to be fearful of their own parents every day. I pray that Sean and Lydia are now experiencing the peace that they never received in life, and I pray that the Pearls will be exposed for what they are before another innocent child has to die.