The consequences of your denial will be with you for a lifetime and will be passed down to the next generations. Break your Silence on Abuse! – Patty Rase Hopson
“While I have not yet read To Train Up A Child, I plan to order a used copy and will follow up with my own book review. “
Yes, those were my (Deb’s) words in yesterday’s post. I was so serious about reading the Pearl’s controversial book that I tracked down a copy at a local used book store early this afternoon and have already read it. I have the original 1994 edition (eighth printing: May, 1997) of To Train Up A Child, featuring an Amish family in a horse-drawn carriage on the black and white cover. This picture is significant because Michael and Debi Pearl live in rural Tennessee, surrounded by Amish neighbors who are sometimes mentioned in the book. You can read about the Pearls at their website called No Greater Joy.
The cover of the updated version looks much more contemporary than the first edition; however, I went through the book review featured in yesterday’s post and was able to verify that the items cited were indeed in the book. Here’s how I plan to review To Train Up A Child. Today I will provide an introduction to the Pearl’s child training practices, with subsequent commentary to follow later in the week.
To get us started, here are just some of the excerpts from Chapter 1 featured on the back cover of To Train Up A Child.
“We live in a horse and buggy community where someone is always training a new horse. When you get into a buggy to go down a narrow, winding, state highway filled with eighteen-wheelers and logging trucks, you must have a totally submissive horse. You can’t depend on whipping it into submission. One mistake, and the young men are again making several new pine boxes and digging six-foot deep holes in the orchard.” (also on p. 3)
It is patently clear from the start that this is a book on “Obedience Training” – which is the sub-heading on page 2. Incredibly, Michael Pearl (who I believe is the primary contributor to the book) proposes that children be trained like dogs. Under the above heading he writes:
“Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient… If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior before you rebuke (or kick) him, you will have a foot-shy mutt who is always sulking around seeing what he can get away with before being screamed at. Where there is an absence of training, you can no more rebuke and whip a child into acceptable behavior than you can the family dog. No amount of discipline can make up for lack of training. Proper training always works on every child.” (p. 2)
In the pages that follow, Pearl explains that parents must commence “training” BEFORE the child’s behavior becomes unacceptable. He explains that discipline, while a part of training, is insufficient to elicit the proper behavior. Therefore, training must start almost immediately after birth. Here’s one of the first examples of obedience training in the book – biting babies. Pearl explains:
“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 bald-headed babies). Understand, the baby is not being punished, just being conditioned.” (p. 7)
He explains that what is happening in the baby’s brain is that this information is being “unconsciously stored”. After being corrected several times, the baby has been conditioned not to bite the mother’s nipple. “This is not discipline. It is obedience training,” Pearl rationalizes. Well, here’s what I call it — CRUELTY.
Guess what…the child is “Never Too Young To Train”, according to the heading on page 8. Pearl explains that beginning in infancy, there is a battle for control. “Someone is going to be conditioned,” Pearl writes. He explains that it’s a battle of wills between the tender-hearted mother and the self-centered infant. Then he states:
“Crying because of genuine physical need is simply the infant’s only voice to the outside world; but crying in order to manipulate the adults into constant servitude should never be rewarded. Otherwise, you will reinforce the child’s growing self-centeredness, which will eventually become socially intolerable.” (pp. 8-9)
Under the heading “Negative Training”, Pearl uses these phrases to describe what he considers to be a disobedient child – “a devious little kid”, “exercising his “childhood rights” to unlimited self-indulgence, “the child spies the object of his unbridled lust,” “the child’s terrorist tactics”, and “the child becomes the Mafia or union boss”. (p. 12) If you give into your spoiled little brat, then Pearl concludes: “This compromise method is the making of a bitter, undisciplined, fleshly child – and eventually, adult.” (p. 12)
To give you an idea of the concepts explained in the pages that follow, here are some of the statements made by Pearl:
“What is the driving force in this child, and how can it be conquered?” (p. 14)
“The self-centeredness of infants and small children has all the appearances of a vice.” (p. 15)
“As the child gets older, say eight- to twelve-months, the adults begin to pay less attention to his demands, and a weaning process begins… He must learn that he cannot always be first… Guilty, frustrated parents are manipulated by their child’s whining and crying.” (pp. 15-16)
Well, that’s all I can take for today. I find it highly ironic that when To Train Up A Child was first introduced and embraced primarily by the homeschooling crowd, I was homeschooling my two children. That was a four year venture, and then they began attending a wonderful Christian school in the fall of 1999. Funny, I didn’t practice anything that the Pearls teach, and yet my daughters are godly, respectful, confident young ladies today. Stay tuned for more on “training up a child” according to the Pearls…
Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30 Luke 9:51-10:12 Psalm 74:1-23 Proverbs 12:11