Carri and Larry Williams charged in death of their daughter.
Debate? As another child dies after her parents
follow the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of "To Train Up a Child," I find it hard to accept that parents buy this book and consider its directives. Recommendations from the book include using a switch on a child as young as six months, for older children, a quarter-inch plumbing line flexible enough to roll up and keep in a parent's pocket, and a 15-inch plastic pipe that killed the latest young victim of the Pearls' followers.
A New York Times article titled "Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate," reports the death of Hana Williams, a thirteen-year-old, in Washington state after child deaths in California and North Carolina-at the hands of others who believe corporeal punishment is acceptable, even necessary to raise disciplined children. Precisely what pastor Michael Pearl preaches and explains in his book. Frankly, I don't see much to debate.
I call the Pearl methods nothing short of abuse. We know that abused children often become abusers later in life, but Pearls' devotees claim good results. The declared successes fly in the face of decades of research confirming that abused children can become abusers themselves. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states: "Often the severe emotional damage to abused children does not surface until adolescence or even later, when many abused children become abusing parents."
That's for the children who survive. Even if abused children don't become abusers, they may well experience post traumatic stress (PTSD). According a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, "Childhood victimization was associated with increased risk for lifetime and current PTSD."
What I find frightening is that there are over a half million copies of "To Train Up a Child" in print and that the book ranks quite high on Amazon. People are buying into the Pearls' philosophy, but fortunately not everyone as this excerpt from one reader's review reveals: "It started out ok. I wasn't too crazy about it because the writers are very abrasive. It starts off referring to her children as military soldiers and servants. So we were not off to a great start. However, when it got to the middle it's like I hitched a ride to crazy town! I am a pro-spanking parent. I understand a swift pop on the hand or leg, but there is a line between discipline and abuse. So when I get to page 74 is when I really thought these people are CRAZY!! They recommend to a mom, who has a 7 month old, to 'switch' him on the bare bottom or leg 7 to 8 times for getting angry. Then if he is still angry to do it again until he gives in to the pain. Oh and the switch for an under 1 year old they recommend is from a willow tree or a 12 inch RULER(pg44)!!"
There are almost 800 hundred more negative reviews with which I agree, but hundreds that endorse the Pearl method. It is dangerous advice that victimizes children and can readily turn into abuse. In too many cases, following the advice in "To Train Up a Child" sadly leads to the death of a child-- all in the name of raising obedient children. From where I sit, there are no worse ways. I have one suggestion: Use Michael and Debi Pearl's suggestions on them until they stop attempting to pass off their destructive torture as good parenting.
Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. No. 5; Updated March 2011. http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/child_abuse_the_hidden_bruises
Eckholm, Eric. Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate. New York Times, November 7, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/us/deaths-put-focus-on-pastors-advocacy-of-spanking.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper
Widom, Cathy Spatz. "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Abused and Neglected Children Grown Up." American Journal of Psychiatry. August 1, 1999;156:1223-1229.
Copyright 2011 by Susan Newman