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To train up a Pharisee

Michael and Debi Pearl’s method of discipline has many advocates, but critics say it lacks the gospel

To train up a Pharisee

WELCOMING, CLOSE, AND JOVIAL: Michael and Debi Pearl. (No Greater Joy Ministries)

Frank Varga/The Skagit Valley Herald/AP

IMMEDIATE CAUSE? Members of the Seattle Ethiopian community gather around the grave of Hana Williams on Oct. 29, 2013, after the sentencing of Larry and Carri Williams.

Frank Varga/The Skagit Valley Herald/AP

Carri Williams

Parental advisory: This article contains brief descriptions of brutal treatment

Between 2006 and 2011, three children in devoted homeschooling families died while being disciplined by their parents, professed Christians who reportedly read or followed Michael and Debi Pearl’s controversial parenting book, To Train Up a Child.

The parents are now behind bars, and their living children are with family members or in foster homes. No court has ever found the Pearls liable for child abuse, but lingering questions remain about whether there is a torturous underbelly to the parenting tactics of To Train Up a Child.

Twenty years ago Michael Pearl printed 30 copies of a patched-together book on parenting, taken from a variety of letters he wrote about how he and his wife, Debi, were using “traditional child training” with their five children. When the 30 copies were gone, he borrowed enough money to print another 3,000 copies, thinking they would last the rest of his life, “stuck away in the back of a closet full of old hunting gear,” says Pearl. He sold them for $1.50 each.

Today, the Pearls have sold more than 685,000 copies of the slim book with its 22 short chapters of no-nonsense recommendations on household rules and discipline. The book instructs parents to set strict boundaries, using the rod to “chastise” children, but admonishes parents not to discipline in anger and to build relationships with their kids. It also advocates creating a submissive and obedient will in children by “switching” them quickly and often, but not too hard and only when parents are calm.

Pearl says the method will work on any child as long as the parents are consistent and start while the child is an infant. He says his traditional advice, used rightly, will eliminate the whining and manipulation Pearl says many parents encourage from their children. He also says training is a more merciful reaction to disobedience than angry verbal berating by a frustrated parent. He says his method will greatly reduce the need for discipline as the child gets older.

But many outspoken parents and media voices call the book abusive and say it is the immediate cause in at least those three cases of fatal child abuse and torture. A petition with over 100,000 signatures is prodding Amazon to remove the book from its website.

JOY HAVLIK HEARD ABOUT To Train Up a Child when she was homeschooling six of her children, including a first-grader struggling with phonics, while also trying to keep an eye on her two mobile toddlers. She and her husband, Steve, were involved in a Great Commission Church and then a Bill Gothard homeschooling group, both of which emphasized the importance of spanking and strict discipline. Their eight children are now grown, and they are no longer involved in either group. She now says, “Some of the stuff we were taught was definitely over the top.”

A friend from Havlik’s homeschooling group told her about the Pearls’ book and she tried some of its teachings with her two youngest, but now worries that she was too harsh. She says parents should look at their motives, and remembers feeling that her family was supposed to look perfect: “It’s not just about having your family like ducks in a row. Each child is different, you don’t want them to be so overly controlled, overly disciplined that you haven’t really built a relationship with your kids.” She fears too many rules and too much control can also give kids a skewed idea about God: “They see God as a harsh taskmaster. They don’t want anything to do with God or church. That’s the tragedy.”

Havlik says parents should spank with caution and carefulness: “Stay away from formulas. Parenting is way more complicated than that.” She also approaches her kids with humility: “I want to have more talks with my kids and ask their forgiveness for times I was harsh.”

On their website the Pearls encourage parents to use a one-fourth inch plumbing supply line (a thin, flexible piece of plastic) as an instrument to discipline their children: They say it will sting skin but not cause bruising. I spoke with Michael Pearl, who said, “I have never advocated—either in private, public speaking, or in writing—withholding food from a child, forcing children to sleep on the floor or outside, constraining them in blankets (or by any other means), spanking children on their feet, faces, or backs, locking them in small rooms or tight containers, or forcing them to stay outside in cold weather.”

But three children died after parents who had read To Train Up a Child went beyond what the Pearls recommend. The parents all had in their homes the one-fourth inch plumbing supply line, and one girl died after being beaten with it. The stories are brutal:

• Sean Paddock, 4, died in 2006 of suffocation when his mother wrapped him so tightly in a blanket that he could not breathe. His mother was convicted of first-degree murder and felony child abuse. The Paddocks had adopted six children, including Sean.

• Lydia Schatz, 7, died in 2010 from beatings by her parents over a seven-hour period. Her parents entered a plea bargain and appeared remorseful. Her father was convicted of second-degree murder and torture. Her mother was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. The Schatzes, who had six biological children, adopted Lydia and two other children from Liberia.

• Hana Williams, 13, died in 2011 of malnutrition and hypothermia. She was not breathing when her siblings found her face-down and naked in her family’s backyard. Her parents were convicted of first-degree assault and manslaughter. Her mother was additionally convicted of homicide by abuse. The Williamses, who had seven biological children, adopted Hana and one other child from Ethiopia.

Critics say older adopted children, especially from violent places, have special needs, but Pearl says his methods are adaptable to any child, no matter their “unique disability or psychological condition.” To Train Up a Child does include this warning: "There are always some who act in the extreme. These individuals are capable of using what has been said about the legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality to their children…. They would call themselves 'strong disciplinarians.' 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Matthew 18.6)"

MICHAEL AND DEBI PEARL live on 100 acres in Pleasantville, Tenn. The town is a dot on the map 80 miles southwest of Nashville. The rural community, a mess of skinny paved roads and lush green trees, is home to farmers, homesteaders, and an Amish settlement.

When their oldest child was an early teen, the Pearls left their home and Michael’s job north of Memphis to start a new life. They paid cash for the land, logged their own trees with a self-made sawmill, and built a four-bedroom home, a barn, and a shop. To make ends meet they and their five children took odd jobs: laying stone, building barns, canning vegetables, milking cows, growing and selling organic vegetables. Michael says they moved to their “hardworking paradise” because he came to the conclusion that his kids “were too pampered. Furthermore, I was bored.”

Lindsay Gallegos spent some time with the Pearls in Pleasantville. She is one of eight children raised by parents who used To Train Up a Child. “We were really entrenched in the homeschool, conservative, Bill Gothard world,” she says. Gallegos is very familiar with the Pearls’ book—her mom would make her read highlighted sections when she disobeyed—but she is also familiar with the Pearl family.

Family tragedy sent her looking for an exit from the “works-based conservative” world she grew up in, so she left home when she was 21. She drove to Tennessee on two separate occasions to spend a total of three weeks with some friends who lived two miles from the Pearls’ homestead. She went to Cane Creek Church, the Pearls’ nondenominational church. She ate a few meals at Michael and Debi’s home and remembers Debi dancing around the kitchen and getting on Michael for not taking out the trash. She hung out with the Pearls’ grown kids, turkey hunting and driving to Nashville to see a movie and get dinner.

Gallegos says the Pearl family was welcoming, close, and jovial, and that their kids had a lot of independence: “Whatever they did for their own kids worked.” She is now a mother to three—ages 5, 3, and 1—in San Antonio, Texas, but she and her husband have decided not to use the Pearls’ methods because “a lot of what they have in their book is too extreme for me.”

That’s not true for others, and I tried to interview on the record parents who love To Train Up a Child, but they all declined, given concerns about potential state intervention. They all praised the results they have seen in their children, saying their application of the principles of To Train Up a Child provides clear boundaries and quick justice. They say their homes are more peaceful, their kids are more respectful, and they are not growing up fearful or timid.

The Pearls run a ministry, No Greater Joy Ministries, out of offices and warehouses owned by the ministry, and write extensively on parenting, homeschooling, and marriage. Michael Pearl doesn’t fit easy stereotypes—he has criticized Bill Gothard and the Patriarchy movement—and does not seem bothered by the negative press: “Few people take what the media says as true, especially when they are attacking Christians, conservatives, or traditional principles. … Our Amazon sales do shoot up every time we are in the news, though.”

Kirstie and Ryan Benke married young and were pregnant within a year. When their son Creed was born, Kirstie looked everywhere for advice on parenting. Her pastor’s wife, a homeschooling mom, gave her a copy of To Train Up a Child. They tried it consistently for a year. She saw spanking as a loving response to sin, a “one time and done” reaction instead of a long, drawn-out, guilt-ridden process. 

But Kirstie says she felt like something was missing: “I didn’t see the gospel, I saw morality. Creed behaved better, but he was angry. I don’t think we were connecting the dots for him as to why he needed to behave this way.” Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp helped fill in some gaps: “Shepherding a Child’s Heart added the ‘Why are you spanking him?’ You don’t just want well-behaved kids. … You want to make the gospel attractive to them.” 

With two sons, 5 and 2, and another on the way, Kirstie says, “I have a lot of compassion for other parents. We tend to judge each other on ‘My kid is better behaved so I must be a better parent.’ … There is definitely the gospel. You expect them to sin. But other than that, every family is different.” 

Kirsten Black’s is different from some in that she has five boys and doesn’t seem to mind the football whizzing by her head as she calmly tosses a softball to her bat-swinging 6-year-old. She has short hair and funky red tennis shoes, and her husband Vince, his tattooed arm draped across their 2-year-old Uzziah, says he wants to be a Deuteronomy 6 parent, always speaking of God whether they are grocery shopping or playing in the backyard.   

The Blacks moved to Fort Collins, Colo., to plant the church that he now pastors. She says she “grew up a really strong Pharisee” and not until her late 20s, when she started having kids, did she began to understand the way the gospel transforms all of life. Now the Blacks try to talk about sin openly as they model repentance and grace: “We tell them, ‘You are going to mess up. When you do mess up, when you do sin, be quick to own it, confess it, repent, and it’s done.’” Vince Black says, “We try to show them what it means to need a Savior, and that Mom and Dad need a Savior too.”

They try not to buy into any parenting book as the one answer. Kirsten says, “When we approach those books with the hope that there will be answers on ‘how to save my kids,’ we are looking for a formula and not for Jesus to do His saving work. … I need to keep the mindset that only Jesus saves.” They discipline but say it is always done in relationship—and that their goal in disciplining is instructing their sons’ hearts. “There is always restoration at the end,” says Vince.

—Kiley Crossland is a writer in Colorado

Kiley Crossland

Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.


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  • homespun
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    I appreciate the 'attempt' to give a balanced view on the NGJ ministry.  The article title, though catchy, gives a an automatic negative connotation.  Perhaps that was unintentional?  Immediately when I saw the title was referring to NGJ, I was deeply offended and heartsick that the attack came from a Christian magazine -one that I hold in such high esteem.  The Pearls' ministry are a blessing to the Christian community.  Riddled throughout their literature are warnings that parents cannot expect the winning of their child's heart through punishment/discipline; relying on those methods betray a parents' motivation to promote a certain "image".  The summary of To Train Up a Child is really emphasizing that the relationship between parent and child, when properly nurtured, is the greatest motivation for a child to respond to training.  They encourage parents to MAKE opportunities to "tie strings of fellowship" with their children, love what their children love, etc.  The Pearls remind parents that loving and enjoying their children is the greatest ministry on the earth.  The Pearls' five children couldn't improve upon the amazing childhood they were given and are determined to give the same to their own.  That is quite an amazing testimony.  (Thank you for including the first hand account of a very happy family with independent, thriving children -all very accurate).    Further, the statement that it is not a Bible-based ministry is unfounded.   I deeply respect and admire the work of World Magazine and ultimately sought this opportunity to convey my disappointment that there was not a more delicate handling of a Christian ministry. 

  • KBaldwin
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    This article was disappointing from beginning to end--very poor reporting.  It wasn't even "news" but rather old information dredged up to ride on the coat-tails of the Bill Gothard and Doug Philips scandals as if to say, "see, here's another 'cult' doing bad things in the name of Christianity'."  And, it seemed, to also try to perpetuate the idea that large, homeschooling, child-training, debt-free families believe in a "works based" salvation and must therefore be involved in a "cult"--not true! Could they be as David and say "oh, how I love Thy law."? And what about John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments."?   I agree with other readers who call this article slanderous and call for an apology--not just to the Pearls but to the readers!!

  • Campbell M
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    So glad to see I was not the only one troubled by the article about the Pearls. Our family looks pretty "white bread" and "suburban" compared to Michael and Debbie. We don't agree theologically with everything they espouse. Nonetheless, God has used their writings to richly nurture and bless our family. Debbie's book on Christian womanhood revolutionized our marriage. They've also helped us successfully navigate some rough waters with our four kids. I'm praying that instead of turning readers against the Pearls, this article will make people curious enough to read their work. After 10+ years as WORLD subscribers, this is the only time I remember being disappointed in your publication. The Pearls deserve an apology.

  •  Kim M's picture
    Kim M
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    As an adoptive mom, I was relieved to see an article that touches on an issue that desperately needs more attention. The article points out that each of the three cases of abuse that resulted in death involved adopted children. While the church at large seems to be taking seriously the need to care for ophans, we are sadly lacking Biblical resources, vision, and encouragement to help adoptive parents complete their rather daunting tasks. Unfortunately, most Christian child-rearing books offer some sort of formula along with expected (and of course amazing) results that can be exasperating to say the least for a parent dealing with a traumatized child. Ted Tripp's excellent book, "Shepherding a Child's Heart" brings the Gospel to parent-child interactions in a way that is robust and refreshing. Adoptive parents could desperately use more resources like this that are customized to the specific needs adoptive families face. My hope is that the body of Christ will see the dire needs adoptive parents face and seek to meet those needs in Biblical ways. In the meantime (and due to a variety of hard realities) precious little ones like Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, and Hana Williams suffer at the hands of those who most likely had sincere intentions of doing them good not harm.

  • WallaceK
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Unfair. This article reminds me of another recent World article -- the one that featured Michael Farris's picture so prominently in an article about campus sexual assault. You owe the Pearls an apology similar to the one you issued for Mr. Farris. I expect this kind of "reporting" from CNN. I'm disappointed to read it in World Magazine.

  • HomeSchoolDad
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    This article tries to appear balanced, but is just a sorry hit piece on a an excellent Christian ministry.  If this was the norm at World, probably none of us would subscribe.  It is both intentionally misleading and fallacious.  In the first line, "Between 2006 and 2011, three children in devoted homeschooling families died while being disciplined by their parents, professed Christians who reportedly read or followed Michael and Debi Pearl's controversial parenting book, To Train Up a Child."  This is ridiculous.  Are you trying to paint all homeschoolers as murderers?  How could these people in any way be called 'devoted'?The worst example of being misleading is where the author introduces the dead kids "But three children died after parents who had read To Train Up a Child went beyond what the Pearls recommend."  Why was the word "beyond" used here?  You just quoted from an interview with Mr. Pearl.  You could probably have found a more neutral word, but I believe that in context "against" would make more sense.  It should read "..went _against_ what the Pearls recommend".  It looks like the purpose of this word choice is to implicate the Pearls in this murder.  That is not 'balanced reporting'.The byline, "Michael and Debi Pearl's method of discipline has many advocates, but critics say it lacks the gospel." mentions 'critics', but this statement is not supported in the article.  Who are these critics?  Shouldn't they have been cited?  To Train Up a Child most definitely does contain the gospel.  You are citing unnamed critics lying about the the Pearl's book.In the next paragraph, "No court has ever found the Pearls liable for child abuse, but lingering questions remain about whether there is a torturous underbelly to the parenting tactics of To Train Up a Child."  What are these 'lingering questions'?  Who is asking them?  What in the Pearl's book suggests torture?  This word choice is strongly slanted.  I believe we would be better served by citing one of these critics and pointing specifically to the 'torture' part of the book.Who are the "outspoken parents" and "media voices" who are calling the book abusive?  This should be supported in facts.  I believe that we will see that behind these words are a batch of folk who are against any physical discipline.Also, who is Bill Gothard and why is he mentioned here?  Is he a kind of brush you like to paint people with?It's slanderous of you to implicate the Pearls in these murders.  There seems to be a much stronger connection to international adoption than there is to the Pearl's advice for child training. This article impugns a gospel teaching pastor and successful father who has inspired millions and through evangelism liberated thousands from sin and death.  This article says more about the author and World's editorial staff than it does about Michael Pearl.  I personally believe that it should be retracted and an apology issued.  In either event, I beg you to raise your standards.  World is my favorite source of useful news.  Please don't let this kind of reporting continue.

  • Rick
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    JB83 nailed it.  Why the title for this Article?

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Thanks for a reasonably balanced article on child training.  Refreshing.

  • Meg I
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Seventeen years ago or so, World Magazine was one of  the first publications to warn about the Ezzos and their child rearing/parenting ideas in their book "Raising Kid's God's Way."  My husband and I had already listened to their messages via cassette tapes and the Holy Spirit graciously showed us to "be careful, be very careful."   I think part of it was their arrogance in every message and then the heretical statement which they made in their original messages, "If you are not doing it our way, you are not doing it God's way."  Years later Dennis Rainey and Tim Kimmel discussed child rearing and some of the dangerous methods that were popular at the time.    One thing they emphasized about these methods is that they did not force the parent to study the Word for themselves (the whole counsel of God) and also, they did not have to lean on the Holy Spirit's guidance  while parenting as the "sure to work formula" was already handed to them through these methods.  God says in Isaiah that your "ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way walk in it...'"   Thank you for still being a watchman on the wall about  teachings like the Pearls and Ezzos.

  • Travis's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Thumbs down.  The main reason I subscribe to WORLD is because it's one of the few news outlets that  doesn't publish sensationalist pieces like least not often.  And it's STALE sensationalism. The newest "information" in this article is 3 years old.

  • veritas's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    The problems with "To Train up a child" are too numerous to mention. Comparing children with dogs and rats, suggesting inflicting pain on an infant by pulling their hair, pushing children into a pond to 'teach' them about the danger of water. . . All of this suggests rules and harsh punishment without any love or grace. A detailed list of the suggested harsh punishments are at Heart of Wisdom, a homeschooling blog.The Pearls seem unconcerned about the deaths of 3 children who were severly abused by parents who claimed to follow his book. Maybe Mr. Pearl didn't suggest severe abuse, but he suggests inflicting physical pain as the formula that always works. It doesn't take much imagination to see how the focus of inflicting pain in the name of 'training' without love would lead to inflicting greater and greater physical pain if the promised method doesn't work. There are hundreds of books on Christian parenting that are doctrinally correct, with real parenting tips. Check out Ted Tripp's Shepherding a child's heart, or William Farley's Gospel Powered Parenting.

  • BartV
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    All of these comments are very thought provoking and help give a more balanced perspective.  Thank you all for sharing.

  • JordanC
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Frankly, I am growing tired of World's increasing focus on exposing issues with Christian ministries. I'm not saying this ministry mentioned here or any others they have reported on in recent months are without fault, but neither is World, and neither are any of us. To be on a perpetual hunt for the latest juicy story of a Christian leader stumbling is both unbiblical and unproductive. The information being presented as of late does not appear in any way to be an attempt to bring about reconciliation, but rather to expose and to further humiliate. That is not what Christians are called to do. I would hope that those in leadership at World as well as those who are writing these articles would honestly consider what it is they are seeking to accomplish, and prayerfully determine whether it is supported in God's Word. Until then, may God's people read such articles with discernment and not give in to the temptation to perpetuate gossip, but rather be in prayer for those who are struggling.

  • Air Force Wife
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    See Tim Challie's excellent, in-depth review of To Train Up A Child. He dissects the Pearls' (unorthodox) theology. Just because a method "works" in the sense of "gets my child to behave correctly" doesn't mean it is Biblical or theologically sound.

  •  Ed Walkwitz's picture
    Ed Walkwitz
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    The gospel cannot be "trained" into a child, which is why Paul only charged church elders with having their children well-disciplined.  Only the Holy Spirit can get through to a child's (or adult's) heart with the gospel.  We can only share the gospel with our children, which we should do.  Thus it's incorrect to say that instruction on disciplining and spanking children (which is right out of Proverbs) is "training up a Pharisee."  The title was very disappointing.

  • matt12
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    this article is confused and confusing...seems to conflate a lot issues...on some points it seems to approach being slanderous; didn't know of the Pearls, but to insinuate them as Pharisee trainers???  CherryB strikes it well in terms of how the article relates their book to the tragic deaths of children.

  • JB83
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    A well-written, balanced article by Mrs. Crossland. A poorly-chosen, misleading title for two reasons: 1) It was biased, verging on slanderous (poorly chosen)2) It wasn't at all the theme of the article (misleading)Editor fail.

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    What did the title have to do with the article? Don't spank so the kiddos don't grow up to be Pharisees (outside clean inside dirty)? Whole thing seems slanted against spanking and the Pearls. Here is an idea, lets discuss how people take books on healthy eating and take it to the extreme. The people cited for killing their children obviously took discipline to the extreme.

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    If whatever the Pearls did with their five children worked, as this article points out, than why is their book wrong? That's a bit like saying the instruction manual for how to build this machine is incorrect, but the machine runs beautifully. I'm disappointed that World would allow the author's bias against the Pearls to be so evident in this article, particularly in the title. 

  • Chex Mix's picture
    Chex Mix
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    To Train up a Pharisee? Seriously?

  • DakotaMissions
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    As a pastor, I recommend Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart first when asked about parenting. I would also add, though, that To Train Up a Child is the only parenting book I know of that gives specific enough instructions about corporal punishment to guide a parent that has had no positive exposure to the practice before. If a parent needs some practical help about how to spank, or if they need to hear someone talk frankly about a subject that even most Christian advisors shy away from, then I think the Pearl's book can be very helpful.

  • AmyK
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    It's interesting to me that the photo chosen for this article is one of the more unflattering pictures of the Pearls that I have ever seen.  It makes them look like rag-tag mountain hillbillies instead of the extremely intelligent, articulate, and wise people that they are. That photo sends a subliminal message that plants a stereotype in the reader's mind.  Also, I was really surprised to read the slant that their message lacks the Gospel. Having grown up in a Christian home, going to church all my life, never without the church, I feel that it was Mike and Debi's writings that caused me to understand what the Gospel really is and gave me a vision for my children that was different - and far superior -  than what I had always known. I am so thankful for the ministry of Mike and Debi Pearl. My children are flourishing because I now understand the Gospel and have taught it to them.

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Lousy article. The author's bias is clear from the title. The main point of this story should be how ridiculous our world has become that authors of a book that specifically warns against abuse would be implicated in others' child abuse.

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    This is a fairly balanced article, though the title COMPLETELY sensationalizes it and gives the entire story an accusing tone against the Pearls.  My wife and I read the book, and, like anything other than the Bible, gleaned from it good points and tossed out what we felt went a bit too far.  We also heard the Pearls speak many years ago when our children were young and felt encouraged by them that GOD, not the Pearls or their book, is our ultimate Guide to parenting. The problem in conservative America is that too many Christians read something they like and put its teachings up on a pedestal where only Christ belongs - whether that teaching is on parenting, church-growth, marriage, health, financial stewardship or most anything else.  Jesus must be first and foremost and He will "hold all things together" (Col. 1:17), including our families. 

  • OrthodoxJ
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Thanks for the interesting article on a subject I have been thinking about.

  • CherryB
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    This was a very poorly written argument.  Toward the end of the article you quote how Michael Pearl in his book has strongly condemned the behavior of those who have misapplied his ideas.  Accusing him for others' misapplication of his methods is akin to condemning those who teach driver's ed for those who drive drunk while driving!  Many people misuse the Bible--should we condemn the authors of God's Word--even Him--for that?  In Hebrews 12 we are told that God disciplines those whom He loves.  Does this mean God is harsh and does not understand grace?  It seems the author of this article is unsure of how grace, love and discipline go together, but they do.  Implying that Mr. Pearl is responsible for the abuse that he himself condemns is defamation of his character.  I'm sorry, but this is the type of article I expect from the world, not from WORLD.

  • COShock
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    I appreciated the balanced view and the reminder that parents need to be aware of our need of the gospel and our need to offer it to our children in the ways we relate to, encourage, and as needed, discipline them.  Reading the title and subtitle didn't prepare me for the more balanced views in the article.  I'd like to meet several of the families mentioned including the Pearls.  Praying for those suffering from abuses of all kinds -- tragic. As always, appreciate World.

  • martaboise's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:24 pm

    Mainly a good balanced article. I just wish the part about "including the gospel" and "the why of discipline" could have come earlier in this rather long article.  I'm afraid the busy Moms who need that part might not have time to get that far in the article before getting sidetracked!