Saturday, 18 February 2017


What are we, as Christian parents, to think and more importantly do when Godly discipline turns deadly and a little child is senselessly killed at the hand of his parents desperately hoping only to "train up a child in the way he should go"?

Nearly four years ago, I wrote about out the death of Sean Paddock at the hand of his mother, Lynn Paddock. Paddock was eventually convicted of her son's murder.

A week ago another couple, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, were charged with the death of their seven year old daughter, Lydia. Her eleven year old sister, Zariah, was recently released from the hospital. The parents are scheduled to appear in court in just a few days.

These two tragic events have at least one common thread - the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. Those that have been reading my blog for a while know that I have written multiple posts critical of the Pearls and their child training and marriage materials.

In one very lengthy and detailed post, A Switch or A Cross, I wrote about the lack of clarity in the Pearl's teachings, including methods which I feared could lead loving well-intentioned parents, especially mothers, to extreme disciplinary actions toward their own children. I wrote,

After listening to Mr. Pearl at a seminar a few years ago, I came away with a very different interpretation than what I had when I only read the book To Train Up a Child and some newsletters. As everyone does, I took my background and applied it to the material. After the seminar, I realized my idea of training was very different than Mr. Pearls. His method of training and answers to specific questions were not exactly what I thought appropriate in many areas. I began to realize that if I could misinterpret it so could others. While my misinterpretation may not be harmful some else's very well could be. I don't know what is going on in other homes.

Now consider what Laura Mather, a friend of the Schatz family, wrote about Lydia's mother,

"Elizabeth, the mother, is possibly the warmest person I’ve ever known. One of the hardest things for me, has been squaring the soft, meek woman I know with the hard cold fact of a dead child (and another who was at that time critically injured and fighting for her life).

Her feelings capture exactly why I stopped reading and recommending the Pearl's material. As parents, most of us could never imagine the possibility that within a mother we know lies the potential to harm. But the deceptively alluring promise of complete obedience and sinless perfection does indeed lead parents astray and, in the worst cases, do the unthinkable. Especially when you have an author like Michael Pearl admonishing parents in very emphatic terms not to reject his teaching,

"If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do."

And just what is this wise counsel that will make us fit to parent and will liberate our children's soul and conscience? Never show mercy, not even one time.

Consistency on your part will break that habit in just a few days. Never threaten, and never show mercy. One squeak of a scream gets a switching. (NGJ, Vol 1, pg 26)

The idea that a parent is never to show mercy is absurd and leaves only the choice of a rod as the solution to childish infractions. To Schatz that allegedly meant showing no mercy to her daughter for "mispronouncing a word during a homeschool reading lesson."

However, contrary to Pearl's self-proclaimed wisdom, God's Word says clearly that mercy has a definite place and judgment is reserved for those who never show any,

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:13

Laura's husband, Paul Mather, on his blog and in Salon pleads for the Christian church to speak up and speak out.

"I would love to see the people rise up and say no to the Pearls, that this will not stand. I would love to see the Pearl system become anathema, disgusting, and shunned by the world. I would love to see the Pearls out of a job. Before another child dies."

I said no to the Pearls years ago and will once again add my voice to the Mathers, TulipGirl, Timberdoodle, Karen Campbell, Virginia Knowles and a growing chorus that pleads, enough!

Homeschooling father, author, and conference speaker, Rob Shearer commented on the recent tragedy and summed it all up very nicely,

Every child is a precious gift from God and dear to His heart. Even when they stomp their feet and disobey – it is a misguided sense of pride to think that this in anyway impugns our position, dignity, or competence as parents.

Focus on love – not on creating an image of obedience and perfection. by Spunky of Spunky Homeschool

Blessings, Glenys

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. James 2:1


  1. It is so tragic that there are people abusing scripture and leading so many families astray! Thank you for speaking out against this issue, and for making me more aware of how to pray that mercy will triumph over judgment! Visiting from #countingmyblessings!

  2. After reading online about these couples who abused their children, I think there was something much deeper there than using the Pearl's way of childrearing. They were just downright abusive. They held the child down for 9 hours and beat her. You cannot blame the Pearls for that. The guilt is on them. I looked up that Pearl comment from Vol 1 Page 26 and it was taken out of context. They were answering a letter from a parent whose child had a habit of screaming temper tantrums when she didn't get her way. She wasn't outgrowing it. So the Pearls suggested that one squeak of a scream would get a switching, to break the habit. They said it would take 6-8 times. Now, I personally disagree with using a switch or wooden spoons. I prefer raising Godly tomatoes way of child rearing over the Pearls. But the Pearls do have training wisdom that doesn't involve spanking. Such as (in my own words) when the child is immersed in play, call him. If he ignores you, say, "Oh, too bad you didn't obey mommy's call! I had a treat for you. Maybe you will obey mommy next time and come running." If he screams for the treat and you give in (showing mercy?), then you create a bad whining/screaming habit. That is training, but the wrong direction. Don't be mean and eat the treat in front of him, just try again later. When he comes running at your call, reward him! Consistently with words and occasional treats. I think this kind of training is needed. Sadly, there will always be abusive parents, but should we throw away all training books? It just seemed overboard to me, and I'm not a Pearl fan. I think this is an important discussion and I need to read your prior post on it. Janine

    1. The danger is that there are parents out there who are not sensible and controlled like you. The Pearls are very outspoken and should be aware that they have a following who hang on their every word. With often disastrous results- such as in bad advice for battered wives and now in child rearing... of course we need training books, but we should be going to the Word, not hanging onto the words of men as if they are gospel.. The Pearls should stress that there are limits in the parents chastising their children. For the children's sake... Teaching them that God is just *and* merciful.

    2. I agree with everything you just wrote. Having seen the Pearls in person, I left the conference early because he seemed arrogant. I think his arrogance comes from having to constantly defend himself though. They do have a lot of good things to say. But, you are right, I think they should stress there are limits and they need to talk much more about mercy, and less about spanking. And I am truly amazed that they do have such a following. This was the only parenting/homeschooling conference I've ever been to with all seats taken. It is difficult for me to realize that some people do hang onto their every word. And you are right, parents shouldn't treat their books as if it were Gospel. But I live in an area where adult tantrums in public are common. And I can't help thinking that these spoiled brat adults would have benefited from a parent that cared enough to train them in many ways that the Pearls suggest. To teach them that they are not above other people, that they shouldn't scream at clerks when they don't get their way or the price lowered, or cause a scene when their food isn't made to their specifications, or call corporate HQ to complain about not being treated with a smile. I've heard quite a few children say about others, "TJ needs a spanking." or "Why don't TJ's parents teach him not to act that way?" And TJ grows up to act out vulgarly and cuss people out, and stomp and scream like we've been seeing on tv lately. These adults are out of control and it seems like they are begging for an authority figure (it will have to be the police, I guess) to reign them in. No discipline lands you in jail, so I don't want the Pearls' books banned...but I do get that you are trying to say we also need MERCY, not constant discipline. I'm really enjoying your blog! Janine

    3. Janine... it is interesting that you said Michael Pearl seemed arrogant... that arrogance comes across in Debi's writings too... it is very obvious that they are not of the quiet spirit that is so precious in the LORD'S sight.. we are to be humble...


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