Michael Pearl Says Beating Two-Year-Olds is the Best Way to Get Them to Behave

michael pearl

Michael Pearl

In the March/April 2017 edition of No Greater Joy, Michael Pearl gives advice to a mother who is frustrated with her toddler’s rebellious behavior. The mother wants to know the most effective way to turn her hellion into an angel. She describes her problem this way:

My son is 2 years and 10 months. He is a bright, affectionate, patient, obedient child. Or at least he was until about 3–4 weeks ago. At that point he decided to start fighting me on EVERYTHING. Today I told him that he couldn’t wear his shoes upstairs (he never wears his shoes in the house, far less upstairs, and he was already wearing just socks) and he threw himself down on the stairs pouting. I told him to come talk to me, and when I picked him up he refused to look at me, and when I made him, he started screaming.

Then I told him he needed to eat his carrots at lunchtime (vegetables have been our number one battle his entire life, but had been going great the last year or so), and he had a gigantic tantrum. He screamed and yelled and refused to do it. I gave him mild spankings, then he went back to the table and still refused. I told him he could go eat by himself and he told me no. So I gave him a good spanking and he laid across my lap screaming “NO! NO! I DON’T LIKE IT!!!!” continually, refusing to be quiet. Eventually he gave in, but he was still angry, not repentant.

He will throw fits about the craziest things. Yesterday we went to the park, and my mom (who had played with him the whole time) asked if he had a good time. He definitely had, but decided to say “No!” I told him that wasn’t true and it wasn’t polite and he needed to say “Yes, thank you.” He refused and threw himself down on the ground and made me drag him to the car (although he stood up right quick when I accidentally drug him through dog poop). Once in the car he tried to fight me on getting buckled and then tried to hit me.

He never used to hit me, but in the last week it is like his tantrums are not effective so he is trying more intense techniques. He refuses to answer me when I talk to him if he doesn’t feel like it. Any time I ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he throws himself on the floor either in a pouty lump (which to me is a quiet tantrum) or in a full-on screaming tantrum.

The mother has tried to beat her son into submission, but her assaults have proven ineffective. Here’s what she has tried so far:

I can spank him for ten minutes and he is still screaming angrily at me to stop. Today my HAND has a broken blood vessel. I know you suggest a plumber’s pipe, but my husband bought one that was way too big so I hate to use it, and end up using my hand most of the time.

….

I want to clarify, I don’t spank him nonstop for ten minutes straight. I spank him a few times, tell him to stop screaming, wait ten to thirty seconds, and if he isn’t trying to obey I spank him a few more times, and so on. I give him a swat every time he screams no (or something similar) at me. But I’m not whaling on him for ten minutes, it just takes a ten-minute block of time sometimes for him to submit.

Pearl begins by correcting the woman about using a plumber’s pipe to encourage her child in the Lord. Evidently, the woman’s husband bought a rigid PVC pipe, and not the quarter inch supply line Pearl recommends:

I have never suggested a plumber’s pipe be used to spank a child. That was the fabrication of a sodomite reporter for Salon magazine, picked up and quoted by The New York Times and repeated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, another anti-Christian sodomite, and repeated again by Dr. Drew, the BBC, and two dozen other media outlets. In my book To Train Up a Child, I wrote of how I saw an Amish woman wearing a ¼-inch plastic plumber’s supply line around her neck on a string to be ready at hand when needed. It is flexible and will roll up in your pocket or purse. It is not PVC and it is not a pipe. I suggest any small instrument that is light and will not cause damage to tissue—like a kitchen utensil: spatula, wooden spoon, ¼-inch dowel rod, etc., but not your hand.

Pearl goes on to restate what he calls Biblical child training principles:

For the sake of our readers, especially those who are new to our material, I will briefly state the concept of traditional, common-sense child training. Children, like adults, are complex souls of conflicting drives and emotions. They [infants] come into the world with all of the passion and lust but with none of the wisdom or self-control. To say it another way, small children have a gas pedal but no steering wheel and no will to apply the brakes. Infants, toddlers, and small children require steering and restraint. Parents must apply the brakes from time to time whether the children like it or not. Children must be made to submit to the oversight of caretakers, for “a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15b).

When children are a little older (4 or 5) they are more responsive to being guided through reason and modeled behavior, but when they are two or three years old, reason is about as useful as a set of encyclopedias. Furthermore, good modeling goes unnoticed by a 2-year-old, whereas bad modeling seems to be very contagious at any age, more so when they are very young. A 2-year-old will pick up a lousy attitude like a cold in a toy store.

All psychologists and so-called “child rearing experts” agree that parents and caretakers must set boundaries, or “limits” as they sometimes call them. They also agree that parents must “enforce” those boundaries. One psychologist says, “If you don’t set and stick to clear limits, your kids will push and push until they get their way.” But the professionals don’t offer any definitive means that parents can employ to “enforce” limits. “Time outs,” where children are sent into isolation for a period of time, are not enforcement; they are abdication of authority to the attrition of time. The entire Bible verse quoted above is: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15).

Pearl spends a good bit of time analyzing the woman’s plight, looking for unstated reasons for the child’s aberrant behavior. Pearl puts much of the blame back on the mother and her inconsistent child-rearing methods. If she is consistent, Pearl says, then beating the child with the rod of correction will effectively end the child’s rebellion. He goes on to remind the woman that “the principle is that you as the lawgiver must win all contests of will. You must be the chief potentate and he the obedient servant to the rule of law.”

Michael Pearl continues to preach the gospel of ritualized child abuse. His materials are widely read in some Evangelical circles, generating $1.5 million in annual sales.  I pastored numerous families over the years who thought Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child, was the go-to text for parents wanting to practice Biblical child training.  The good news is that Pearl’s sphere of influence is shrinking. Some Evangelical parents now realize that beating their children into submission is child abuse, and that there are other, more effective ways to discipline their children.

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12 Comments

  1. Ian

    I love how detailed these letters are. It is almost like Michael Pearl is writing them himself. The writer always says what they do wrong, leaving it open for Pearl to correct him/her. I noticed Debbi Pearl also gets these same types of letters.

    How the heck did you “accidentally” drag your kid through dog poop? Come on, now. Any parent would change direction, pick the kid up, warn the kid, or something before they drug them through poop.

    Of course the kid doesn’t like a spanking. Who would?

    I’ve got nothing. I still hold to some of the values I grew up with, but my thoughts on discipline have changed. I hope this lady gets it figured out before she beats her kid with a pipe or a whip, in the form of a water supply line. There is a time and place for discipline; but If I saw someone whipping a kid with a water line, I’d probably have to intervene.

    Reply
  2. J.D. Matthews

    I don’t have enough blood pressure medications to deal with the likes of the Pearls. Suffice it to say, we’d all be better off if the Earth just opened up and swallowed them whole. I frankly don’t see how the Earth has resisted doing so to this point.

    Reply
    1. howitis

      Children have died at the hands of parents using the Pearls’ disciplinary methods. If this was a just world, Michael Pearl would be rotting in prison as an accessory to murder. That he isn’t is pretty much proof that we do not live in a just world, and there is no god.

      Reply
  3. Neil

    Sounds like the child is reacting to an overbearing, ineffecutal mother. That’s where the problem lies, not with the boy himself. Beatings with the hand or with ‘an instrument’; what century are these people living in? The 17th?

    Reply
  4. That Other Jean

    Just about every child discovers that he/she is a separate person, able to voice his/her opinions, at about the age of two years. Most of them begin by saying “NO!” loudly and repeatedly. Why does this seem to be such a shock to a certain stripe of Evangelical parents? Is it because Evangelical children are not supposed to have opinions separate from their parents? How are such super-obedient children supposed to grow up to be independent adults?

    Reply
    1. Brian

      They are not supposed to grow up to be independent adults. The harm done by sick Christians who hit their kids is done in order to hurt the child, to break the spirit and leave a remnant that is an obedient soldier of the Lord, a hapless biped that bows to Authority and averts the eyes. The pernicious abuses taught by Michael Pearl are enjoyed by countless believers who revel in harming themselves and their progeny. Praise gentle Jesus! Now, stop for a minute and just consider: What would Jesus do with a two-year old? Why of course dear God Himself would beat the shit out of the little prick, wouldn’t he? A child wanting to wear shoes upstairs needs to be beaten senseless. Is this not obvious?
      By the way, I believe the Pearls write a lot of their own letters to use as instruction in their abusive ways.

      Reply
  5. Geoff

    No doubt these people would view the European countries that have banned even the smacking of children as liberal, ungodly, politically correct, and namby pamby.

    After reading this I can sincerely say that they are wrong and that this ridiculous violence against children is a sickening blight on any modern country aspiring to class itself as civilised.

    Reply
  6. Brian

    You know, my mom used to get frustrated with a house of young boys crashing around and she would chase us with fly-swatters and wooden spoons. I am not condoning this behavior but want to point out what a far cry it was from the studied brutality of a sick Pearl. He plans his tortrurs and carries them out with glee. He seeks and destroys childhood and says God made him do it. Men who harm children like he does need to be Dextered, in my humble, Jesus-gentle opinion. (You remember Dexter?)

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      That’s how I was raised too. The infrequent spankings stopped at a young age. My dad did hit me in the mouth at age 14. I deserved it. This was the last time anyone laid a hand on me.

      Reply
      1. Angiep

        I was spanked as a child and as I remember, it just left me feeling humiliated. But it was definitely an effective control method, as it instilled fear. As to your point about being hit in the mouth, I once witnessed my aunt smack my teenaged female cousin in the face, and I was shocked. The resulting rage in my cousin’s face and overall body language was off the charts, and I didn’t blame her. I don’t condone spanking now, but even then I felt touching the face was off limits.

        As for Pearl, I have a very strong suspicion he wrote this letter himself. It sounds contrived, not at all the heartfelt description of events as depicted by a loving mother.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          This was the only time either of my parents hit me in the face. I said something very coarse to my father and boom I was picking myself up off the floor. I definitely didn’t do that again.That said, violence is never an effective disciplinary tool. Much like war begets peace, all that violence does is bring a temporary cessation of hostilities. Peace begets peace. If we want our children to act differently, we first must model appropriate behavior. Easier said than done. ?

          Reply
  7. Brian

    Easier said than done.

    It certainly is difficult at first, especially when one has been scrueled in the black book interpretations of childhood-hating Christians. But there are wonderful, supportive helpers around. When I was a dad with young’uns, I read a book by a guy called, Norm Lee. He had been brutally abused as a child and became a teacher later. He promised himself that he would not repeat the abuse he suffered. Instead, he tried something like a non-punitive parenting and wrote a book that is free on the web, Parenting without Punishing… It is at http://www.nopunish.net/
    I heartily recommend it to anybody wishing to support childhood free of punishment and abuse.
    When I started down this path, it was near impossible to imagine what Norm was suggesting but very very quickly, as I attempted to move away from the punishment paradigm, my children taught me that Norm was right in his advice to stop punishing, to stop it completely.
    There are many others out there now who are living free of the old harmful paradigm and their children thrive in the world and care for themselves well, setting healthy boundaries for their own lives. I am forever thankful to this amazing child advocate.

    Reply

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