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Thursday, May 25, 2006


Not-quite pearls of wisdom

What’s more controversial than the mommy wars? The mommy wars combined with religious cultural wars and corporal punishment! If the web page you are viewing happens to melt your computer screen, it’s because the exponential synergy of the combined controversies up and fried your computer with the force of two small, but vocal opposing ideologies. If all goes according to my plan, these same opposing forces with also magically create such compression that your computer will turn into a big-ass diamond, and you can all sell it on e-bay and use the proceeds to take time off to finally write that novel that’s been bouncing around in your head.

I know a lot of great parents from all walks of life. These parents have varying beliefs, belong to varying political parties, and practice various non-Christian and Christian religions. Their disciplinary techniques differ as well. Some use time outs, and some spank their children. I consider them all to be good parents, and I respect their choices in how they raise their children. I do not agree with all of their methods, but I can agree to disagree on a lot of parenting topics, as long as there are no severe threats to a child’s physical and emotional well-being.

I can sympathize with parents who spank as a last resort. I know that certain kids are very difficult to get through to, and a swat on the butt sometimes does the trick. I know people who have threatened a spanking and then ended up walking away because they were WAY to angry. Spanking is a far cry from beating your kid with a two by four.

I mean, I was spanked and I turned out all-right! Just as my therapist! She thinks I am fantastic. Really, she just told me that last week.

All this controversy started, oh about the time the Bible was first written.

The article I read that started all this can be found here.This article details one man’s ideology and subsequent publications of said ideology in a book that subsequently created a large source of income for him. His name is Michael Pearl, and he is basically a guy who is a little nutty and a lot religious. He is also likely very rich, having sold a lot of copies of his book to a lot of impressionable parents.

"To Train Up a Child," was written in 1994 by Michael Pearl, who is a Tenessee Pastor. In his book, Mr. Pearl encourages parents to use physical punishment to discipline their children. He uses a lot of biblical references. I question whether hitting a child with a twig is really what Jesus would do. I do not recall any biblical stories involving the son of God, a child, and PVC pipe (or a sapling switch, mind you). But then again, I was typically daydreaming about cookies and M&Ms during biblical discussions in my religious classes as a child (CCD for those of you with a little Catholic wherewithal). I could have missed the part about Jesus beatin’ on children.

Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Pearl’s book, "To Train Up a Child":

Mr. Pearl says his ideas: "are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, [but] rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children."

Sounds great! Here is my conversion plan: I will shriek “GEE!” and “HAW!” at my child and then whack her with the branch of a birch tree instead of offering a measly firm but gentle “No”. A firm but gentle “No” is for pussies. I will refer to my daughter from now on, not as Maggie, but as “Number 7”. I can do that. Good heavens, this is going to be so easy! And my kid will do everything I say all the time!

“Michael Pearl, 60, writes in his book"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Okay, so, if I have this right, if you teach your kids that the biggest bully wins, then when they are older, they will be successful in bullying anyone who is smaller than them, and whose parents read and followed the same book. Cool. As long as your kid is bigger than most, this will work for them. The problem is, there is usually someone bigger. This creates a conundrum for parents who wish to raise a “winner” of small stature. If yer kid can’t put up their dukes, the future does not bode well for them. Okay. There’s a wrinkle. But my husband and I are tall, large-footed people, so Maggie….um…. I mean number 7, will be high up on the food chain. I’ll take it (insert Randy Newman’s song “Short People” here).

In his book, Mr. Pearl also recommends:

"Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, 'No.'"They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence."

Here’s my two cents: Shout “LIFE IS HARD AND PAINFUL AND YOU WILL COMPLY WITH IT’S DEMANDS!!!” at your child thrice daily. That oughta do it.. Consider it extra-credit towards becoming an ultimate corporal punishment parenting champion. The parenting anti-pussy.

On a more serious note, one of this guys groupies took things Tragically too far:

“While the Pearls are well known in fundamentalist Christian circles, they were largely unknown to the secular world until March, when their discipline methods were tied to the death of a North Carolina boy and the alleged abuse of two of his siblings. The children's adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, 45, a devotee of the Pearls' teachings, is currently behind bars. She is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Sean, who suffocated when wrapped tightly in blankets”
“ She is also charged with felony child abuse in connection with welts found on two of Sean's other five siblings. Nowhere in the Pearls' book do they advocate restraining with blankets; however, Sean's siblings had apparently been struck with a particular type of "rod" recommended by the Pearls: a length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line. “

All joking aside, this is getting pretty serious. An occasional and rare spanking is a far cry from serious bodily injury and death. It’s that fine line that gets pretty tricky to walk. The danger in publishing a book that suggests that God wants you to beat your children, is that if a parent is abusive and depraved to begin with, you are essentially validating their sickness by writing such a book. You just gave a sicko a green-light, from God no less, to inflict irreparable damage upon a child. Quite simply, it is wrong.

If my husband whipped me with PVC pipe, I would call the police, and they would haul him off in a cruiser with the lights flashing. I would probably flip him the bird as he was being taken away to the can. I would then take out a restraining order and get a good lawyer. A child is totally dependent upon their parents. What options does a child have when their parents whip them with a PVC pipe and tell them it’s because of God? In most cases, their option is to stay put and to get beaten. To suggest that such a thing is not only acceptable, but optimal, is unforgivable and sickening. My question is: Where is the outrage?

At the risk of offending any followers of Mr. Pearl, I conclude this:

I respect people of all religions. I know and love a lot of people who follow conservative Christian Ideologies. I bet a lot of them would agree with my next statement: Writing a book promoting violence to children in the name of God is pretty well fucked up. I chalk part of it up to laziness. It takes less time to smack a kid than it does to explain that they can’t have a cookie until after dinner, and then explain it again when the screaming and fit-pitching commences. But lazy doesn't begin cover it when a child ends up dead because your writings potentially encouraged a sick adult to inflict severe physcial harm onto an innocent child. Mr. Pearl your terds of wisdom are not so wise.