An explanation of the image: It is one of your blog queens who gave up her glamorous image for the sake of a point. She is wearing Three Stooges lounge pants, a “10 Reasons That Captain Kirk Is Better Than Captain Picard” T Shirt, a bathrobe and Cheetos (the national uniform of bloggers.) However, she is also wielding a plumbing supply line in order to beat any kids or dogs who try to steal her Cheetos or Star Trek T shirt.
Today we are wrapping up our review of To Train Up A Child, authored by Michael and Debi Pearl. Their approach to “child training” has drawn both applause and criticism. It is interesting that there seems to be no middle ground with regard to the Pearl’s approach to child rearing. Before we get into the Pearls’ teachings on “the rod”, we want to share another unusual way they “trained” their children.
Michael Pearl writes:
“When I was yet young I determined that I would rear no sissies. When an infant fell over from a sitting position to the floor and bumped his head, we pretended to ignore it. When a toddler took a spill, we let him lie, whimper a second and then climb back up for another try. When a toddler fell out of the wagon or stumbled into the dirt, we let him deal with it. When the young ones wrecked their bicycle and skinned their knee, we paid no attention except to say something like, “You shouldn’t go so fast until you learn to ride better.” (pp. 85-86)
With an attitude like that should it surprise anyone that the Pearls heavily promote the use of “the rod” in their “child training”?
At the beginning of Chapter 5 – The Rod, Pearl explains that he observed a “miserable, constantly complaining, whining and angry” child and his mother. He writes: “The mother, made miserable by the little tyrant’s rebellious antics, was ill-tempered toward him. But she continued to plead with him…” (p. 35) Pearl explains that he said to the mother, “Why don’t you give him a spanking and make him happy?” (p. 35)
Michael Pearl introduces his discussion of the rod as follows: “Let’s talk about spankings—sometimes called “whippings.” “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24).” (p. 35) Remember, Pearl is a KJVO kinda preacher…
One thing that Pearl excels at is proof-texting. On page 44 of To Train Up A Child, he asks whether the reader comforts his children with a rod. Then he writes: “If you have not seen the rod as a comfort to your child, you have missed its purpose.” Immediately following this statement, he quotes Psalm 23:4, as follows: “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Let’s stop right here. What does the Scripture mean by the words “rod” and “staff” in this context?
William Barclay interpreted Psalm 23 this way:
“He [the shepherd] had his rod and his staff. The staff was a long crooked stick. Always the shepherd walked with it in his hand, and, when a sheep showed signs of straying, he would stretch out and pull it back with the crook. He carried the rod at his belt. It was a stout piece of wood, perhaps three feet long, with a lump of wood the size of an orange at one end of it. With this the shepherd fought the battles of the flock, using it to drive off wild beasts and to defend the flock against the robbers who would steal the sheep.”
If the rod in Psalm 23:4 is equated with discipline, it simply does not fit the context. Does it make any sense that sheep would lie down in green pastures beside still waters only to be beaten with a rod? Absolutely not! The rod in this verse is not used to beat the sheep – instead, it is used to comfort them. The shepherd uses the rod to drive away wild animals that would hurt the sheep.
Pearl also lists 2 Samuel 7:14 “I will chasten him with a rod…” and Psalm 89:32 “Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes”, which more aptly apply to the correct interpretation of “rod”.
On page 45 the rod is called a “magic wand”. According to Pearl, it can do magic things when used on your children. Here’s what he says will happen if you don’t use the rod: “Rail to use the rod on this child (who is a bully to other kids), and you are creating a “Nazi”. Pearl concludes:
“Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein.” (p. 45)
How is the rod applied? Here are Pearl’s instructions to parents:
“Use your own judgment as to what is effective. I found five to ten licks usually sufficient. Sometimes, with older children, usually when the licks are not forceful enough, the child may still be rebellious. If this occurs, take time to instruct and then continue spanking. A genera’ rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered.” (p. 46)
What is an “instrument of love”, as Pearl calls a rod? He explains that a spanking must cause pain. Then he tells the parent to “select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch in diameter is sufficient… For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.” (p. 47)
Let’s stop right here and see what Dr. James Dobson says about the appropriate ages to spank children. In The New Dare to Discipline Dobson explains: “There is no excuse for spanking babies or children younger than fifteen to eighteen months of age.” (p. 65)
Pearl is absolutely WRONG here. To spank a baby under the age of one is ABUSIVE.
Immediately following this section, Pearl cautions parents who would act in the extreme. To his credit he states: “The rod should not be a vent for the parent’s anger… There is no place for that selfish vindictive streak in the discipline of children.” (p. 48)
Then Pearl share his “Philosophy of the Rod”, which is: “The rod is the parents’ main tangible aid to bring the child to understand the judgment of God—and eventually the grace of God.” (p. 50)
Here’s the part of To Train Up A Child that bothered me terribly. It has to do with “Persistence”. Pearl begins this section by saying that some have asked, “But what if the child only screams louder, gets madder?” (when being spanked).
This is how he responds:
“Know that if he is accustomed to getting his unrestricted way, you can expect just such a response. He will just continue to do what he has always done to get his way. It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you fell like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same. On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive, whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again. If this is the first time he has come up against someone tougher than he, it may take a while. He must be convinced that you have truly altered your expectations.” (p. 80)
Immediately following these instructions, Pearl writes:
“There is no justification for this to be done in anger. If you are the least angry, wait until another time. Most parents are so guilt laden and paranoid that they are unable to carry this through to the end.” (p. 80)
And right after the above statement is this statement:
“If you stop before he is voluntarily submissive, you have confirmed to him the value and effectiveness of a screaming protest. The next time, it will take twice as long to convince him of your commitment to his obedience, because he has learned the ultimate triumph of endurance in this episode in which he has prevailed. Once he learns that the reward of a tantrum is a swift forceful spanking, he will NEVER throw another fit.” (p. 80)
We believe the above excerpts from To Train Up A Child demonstrate that the Pearls provide conflicting instruction to parents about the use of the rod. On the one hand they are told to spank with the rod until they “conquer” their children by having them surrender their will; yet they are to use the rod without being angry…
You may recall that we began this series with a post called “Are Plumbing Lines Being Used as Weapons of Child Destruction?” It does seem rather odd to us that such devices would be used as rods. Who came up with that idea? One possibility is Michael Pearl. Here’s how he answers the question “What instrument would I use?” (as a rod) on the No Greater Joy website:
What instrument would I use?
Michael Pearl responds:
“As a rule, do not use your hand. Hands are for loving and helping. If an adult swings his or her hand fast enough to cause pain to the surface of the skin, there is a danger of damaging bones and joints. The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.”
Armed with instructions from the Pearls and my fellow blogger, I (Dee) headed off to my local Home Depot to get me a plumbing supply line. Being plumbing challenged, I sought help from a man in an orange vest. I explained I needed a plumbing supply line about 1/4″ in diameter. He led me to Aisle 4 and then asked me what kind I needed? “Huh?”, I intelligently replied. He then went on to offer me all sorts of lines: cooper, metal, hard plastic, clear, and so on. “Don’t know,” I muttered. Then, he said, “What do you need it for?”
I then went on to explain that there was this guy in Tennessee who believes that people should spank their kids with such an instrument. His eyebrows hit the top of his head and he nervously glanced around. Fearing he would call security, I hurriedly explained that I was writing a blog that would be critical of such a thing. He still seemed suspicious and said he had absolutely no idea what sort of line I needed but he walked around with me (probably to insure that I wouldn’t start beating customers) and we decided on one that seemed to fit the bill. You can see it in the picture at the start of this post.
Here is the problem. I am an occasionally intelligent person yet I had no idea what Pearl was talking about. Can you imagine a young, naive couple trying to pick out such an item? I wonder if anyone went home with a copper pipe to punish little Johnny? Frankly, this was a very disconcerting, yet revealing, visit to Home Depot. Thankfully, your glamorous blog queen escaped being questioned by the police.
Lydia’s Corner: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:26 Luke 10:38-11:13 Psalm 76:1-12 Proverbs 12:15-17