Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Is the Reason Why

Yesterday, through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up on the website of the No Greater Joy ministry. It all started when I read a news article about a homeschooled child whose adoptive parents beat her to death because she mispronounced a word. Horrifying. But it gets worse; then the news came out that when she died, her parents were using "Biblical chastisement" methods recommended and taught by Christians Michael and Debi Pearl and their ministry, No Greater Joy. The article stated that the ministry's website "details how hard and on which part of the body a child should be hit. It also describes a 1/4 inch plumber's supply line as an ideal spanking instrument." And so I decided to go looking around on their website to see this for myself.

This was not my first encounter with the Pearls' teachings. No, my first encounter was a few years ago when I attempted to read their book To Train Up A Child. In chapter one alone, they compare the training of children to the conditioning of mice, rats, dogs, and mules, and go on to recommend a number of questionable "child training" methods, including:
-"training" babies (young enough to crawl) by putting an interesting object in front of them, telling them not to touch it, then "switching" their hand when they inevitably reach for it
- "thumping" a baby's hand for touching your glasses
- pulling a baby's hair for biting
- training a ten to twelve month old child to come immediately when called by getting them interested in a toy, calling for them, and spanking them if they do not come immediately

But the final straw, for me, was the following story. After reading this, I refused to read another word of To Train Up A Child:

One of our girls who developed mobility early had a fascination with crawling up the stairs. At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of "No" with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.

Such was her fascination with climbing that four or five sessions had not made her stop. The thought of further spankings was disconcerting, so I conceived an alternative. After one more spanking, I laid the switch on the bottom step. We later observed her crawl to the stairs and start the ascent, only to halt at the first step and stare at the switch. She backed off and never again attempted to climb the stairs, even after the switch was removed.

Yeah. So basically, in order to train your children correctly (and in a Godly way, of course, according to the Pearls), it's a good idea to set them up for failure, ignore the fact that they are immature and have zero impulse control, punish their curiosity, spank and/or threaten them with switches... and according to them, that's not even discipline yet; that's just training! Discipline comes later: "Parents should not wait until the child's behavior becomes unacceptable before they commence training--that would be discipline. Discipline is a part of training but is insufficient in itself to effect proper behavior. Training is the conditioning of the child's mind before the crisis arises; it is preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience. "

Their recommendations regarding discipline, or "Biblical Chastisement," as they put it, is what I had the distinct displeasure of reading about on their ministry's website. This stuff speaks for itself, so I'll just let you read it. These sections are taken verbatim from an article about Biblical chastisement on the No Greater Joy ministry's website.

The soul of your child needs to be punished. He feels the need to suffer for his misdeeds. What I am telling you is well understood by the most reprobate of modern psychiatrists and psychologists. They call it a “guilt complex.” Children and adults in this state of mind often do harm to themselves. Their anger is turned inward because they hate the bad person they know themselves to be. Their soul is crying out for justice to be done to the self. They don’t know what is happening, and they will not voluntarily seek punishment, but their soul needs judgment. When your child is in the first throes of this debilitating condition, be kind enough to punish him. Care enough and love enough to pay the emotional sacrifice to give him ten to fifteen licks that will satisfy his need to experience payback.

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.

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.

Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom. I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble. If you cannot get them trained before going out in public, stay home and read our four books again.

It is much more effective to administer chastisement or punishment in a slow thoughtful fashion. Our goal is to cause the child to voluntarily surrender his will. We want to impress upon him the severity of his disobedience. It takes time and thoughtfulness for the child to come to repentance. I have told a child I was going to give him 10 licks. I count out loud as I go. After about three licks, leaving him in his position, I would stop and remind him what this is all about. I would continue slowly, still counting, stop again and tell him that I know it hurts and I wish I didn’t have to do it but that it is for his own good. Then I would continue slowly. Pretending to forget the count, I would again stop at about eight and ask him the number. Have him subtract eight from ten, (a little homeschooling) and continue with the final two licks. Then I would have him stand in front of me and ask him why he got the spanking. If his answer showed that he was rebellious and defiant, he would get several more licks. Again he would be questioned as to his offense. If he showed total submission, we put it all behind us, but if he were still rebellious, we would continue until he gave over his will.

The Bible says, “the rod is for the back.” That would include anything that is not the front—the back from the shoulders down to the feet. When training, and not chastening or punishing, any convenient place on the body is effective. When you have told a child not to touch, and he reaches out, you can thump or swat his hand. If he is trying to climb down from his chair after being told not to, you can swat his legs. But when you are engaging the child in serious chastisement, the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective. You can spank half as hard on the back with a light, stingy switch and be more effective than spanking harder on the bottom or thighs.

Children fight back because they think they have a chance of forestalling the spanking. First make sure the child never gains anything by fleeing. Second, cause the child to understand that he is further hurting himself by resisting. Slow down, stay calm. If you are in a frenzy, the child will respond in kind. If a child flees, don’t chase him. Wait and allow time for the tension to go out of the air. Slowly pursue him, explaining that he cannot win. If it takes a long time, that’s fine. Go to his hiding place and laugh at his frail attempts. Explain that if it takes fourteen days to bring him to justice, he will be brought to justice.

Know that in the end you will win. It is the quality of the win that counts. You want him to voluntarily surrender.

While quietly explaining what you are doing, drag him out of the closet or out from under the bed and restrain him until he calms down. Explain your position and then put him in a confining position. And then proceed to spank slowly. When you get to the former number of licks that he would have received, stop and say, “OK that is the ten licks you had coming; I am tired of spanking, but I must give you the other lick that I promised if you did not come to me.” Whap! “There, now that is eleven, but you still did not come, so I told you you would get 12, so here is the twelfth…” And so continue talking him through it so that he knows that he is getting exactly what you promised.

Remember, you are representing all authority to the child, including the authority of God.

Biblical training, chastisement, and punishment are of God’s design. They are consistent with the laws of human nature. The final proof of the superiority of our methods is the children raised in this manner. Those who oppose the Biblical method often find it necessary to drug their children as well as themselves. The most empirical proof of God’s way is the joy. You cannot argue with joy. We parents of joy obey God and our joy increases along with our joyful children.

That's certainly not all of the objectionable material on their site, but that's a good start. Using various implements to spank/chastise/switch or whatever you want to call it... drawing it out just to make a point... spanking on bare skin... training (in other words, spanking) babies... portraying parenting as a battle between parent and child, which the parents must win at all costs, or else they are doomed forever... saying that children's souls need to suffer for their misdeeds and a spanking is the way to cleanse the soul... and if you don't agree with them, you are disagreeing with God himself and are a rotten excuse for a so-called Christian parent. I'm sure some people wonder why I am so insistent upon sharing my views about discipline and spanking in particular. Stuff like this is the reason why. You may not be talking about these kinds of things when you refer to spanking. You may not have even realized that Christian ministries were recommending things like this. But the reality is, there are several different Christian ministries that endorse variations of what I have posted here, and insist that it is THE Godly, Biblical way for Christian parents to discipline. This is why I speak up. And as long as people are endorsing and carrying out things like this in the name of Jesus, I will never stop speaking out against it.

*If you are wondering why I didn't link to the Pearls' materials, it's because I am not interested in linking people directly to the junk they have out there. If you're interested, you can easily use Google to do your own research into the Pearls, To Train Up a Child, Biblical chastisement, and No Greater Joy.


  1. Where do you find these people. I, in all honesty, am not opposed to spanking. My parents spanked me plenty growing up. That's not to say that spanking is the right way or the only way. That's not even to say that any two children can be treated exactly the same way. Children are individuals.

    With all that being said, these people are quacks at best and animals at worst. I lean heavily on the latter. I haven't seen the website but based on the reading you shared I can already picture the type of people that own it. Regrettable.

  2. Sadly, these people are pretty popular among Christian homeschoolers. I only first heard about them a few years ago. I wish I hadn't. :( There are other ministries that say similar things. It really bothers me, obviously.

  3. I just wanted to add that I realize that this stuff is not what most people mean when they talk about spanking (although there are plenty of people who follow the Pearls and the like). But when I hear people say "never spank in anger" or that it's commanded in the Bible (and I've heard both these things many, many times), I can't help thinking of stuff like this because that's what these people are saying too. I think it can escalate into a scary, extreme thing way too easily and I'd prefer to stay far away from it (especially considering some of my personal experiences, which is a post for another day). Other people may not feel the need to stay so far from it, but I definitely do.

  4. I understand your position and I certainly agree with you living out your convictions. The issue is very simple in my estimation, if someone beats (not spanks) their child, they are not fit to be parents. These parents (if you can use that title) have temper and control issues and shouldn't have children but counselors. Spanking isn't really the issue, detached parenting and psychopathic tendencies are.

    I can't say definitively whether I will spank or not. It will completely depend on my child and their uniqueness. I appreciate your content because it gives me many options. If they fit my child, great! If they don't, that's fine too. If I do choose to spank though, please don't lump me into the same category as these lunatics. ;)

  5. Obviously this has all been on my mind a lot lately; I keep coming across comments, blogs, websites and news stories about this stuff, and I just can't keep my mouth shut. ;)

    In my thinking about it all, I've come to the place where I agree that the real issue is not spanking in itself. Attached parenting and true discipline can happen in the presence or absence of spanking (and detached parenting and ineffective discipline can also happen in the presence or absence of spanking). I definitely encourage parents to have attached relationships with their kids, to know them well, and to prayerfully seek God's guidance and his heart in raising their children.

    I really appreciated this article, and I think the author says it better than I am right now. There's more I'd like to say, but I'm having trouble concentrating, lol.


  6. Good article. Stands on it's convictions while removing the gap between "spankers" and "non-spankers". Good share.

  7. Five years ago when Jason and I were first married we knew a children's pastor who used this approach on their kids. I never when what is was called (and people thought I was exaggerating). I remember the mom telling me how they "trained" their kids. It sounded stricter than we are on our dogs : ).

    I am with James in the sense that I don't know how we will discipline Henry. I am not a fan a spanking but I think that at certain times and with certain children it might be the best option (if handled correctly). For me, more than anything else, it is important that you are connected and talk to your kids. I think knowing your child is key to discipline.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

  8. You're right, there would have been no reason to link to their site. You pasted over 11 quotes from it. Their methods are obviously terrible. Couldn't you have made your point a little more concisely?

  9. Perhaps, but I'm terrible at being concise. ;) No, really, these quotes barely scratch the surface of their methods and beliefs. And because I was writing this to inform people of the specific kinds of things they talk about, I selected each quote purposely. I'm sure there are plenty of other posts out there about the Pearls that are much shorter if you'd prefer those.

  10. Good post, Jenny! Thanks for speaking up about this so openly. Members of my family adhere to Pearl and the like, so this hits (no pun intended ;P) close to home.

    My personal realization that spanking was hardly anything I could imagine Jesus doing to a child is when I started thinking of it in terms of "strike" rather than the socially acceptable "spank". Would I treat my spouse that way? Of course not. Would I apply similar force to a child's face/chest? It likely wouldn't leave a mark...but it is incredibly demeaning and disrespectful to the precious soul that lives inside the body. It's a no-go in my home.