Preacher Advocates Spanking, Deaths Fuel Debate

Michael Pearl, a Tennessee pastor whose book To Train Up a Child advocates the use of “the rod” in child discipline, is at the center of a growing debate that now includes the deaths of three children whose parents had copies of the book in their homes.  The New York Times reports:

Debate over the Pearls’ teachings, first seen on Christian Web sites, gained new intensity after the death of a third child, all allegedly at the hands of parents who kept the Pearls’ book, “To Train Up a Child,” in their homes. On Sept. 29, the parents were charged with homicide by abuse.

More than 670,000 copies of the Pearls’ self-published book are in circulation, and it is especially popular among Christian home-schoolers, who praise it in their magazines and on their Web sites. The Pearls provide instructions on using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describe how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.”

The furor in part reflects societal disagreements over corporal punishment, which conservative Christians say is called for in the Bible and which many Americans consider reasonable up to a point, even as many parents and pediatricians reject it. The issue flared recently when a video was posted online of a Texas judge whipping his daughter.

Mr. Pearl, 66, and Mrs. Pearl, 60, say that blaming their book for extreme abuse by a few unstable parents is preposterous and that they explicitly counsel against acting in anger or causing a bruise. They say that their methods, properly used, yield peace and happy teenagers.

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  1. by Marcie

    On November 12, 2011 at 11:18 am

    The “rod” means the scriptures!!! NOT an actual ROD..sheesh.
    Spare the scriptures, spoil the child. Raise your children in the gospel of Jesus Christ and they will more than likely grow up to be decent human beings. They will still make mistakes and some will fall away…but they will always have that knowledge in their mind. Someday it may call them back to the church. I am a believer in using spankings as a last resort…but i do NOT believe a child should be regularly hit as a means of punishment.

  2. by gabi

    On November 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    @ marcie
    Sorry, you’re wrong. The bible clearly states to spank your child. “Do not spare the rod” means don’t spare your child a spanking. No child should be spoiled and spared the scriptures. I think these people who wrote the book were wrong in a few aspects, but a child needs to be spanked as a lesson so they understand what they did was wrong and they won’t make the same mistake.

  3. by Kathleen

    On December 19, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Yes it means spank your child if they don’t listen. It’s obvious it doesn’t say kill your child if the spanking didn’t work. THOSE parents were very wrong. There’s a difference between spanking and hitting.Look at the older generations who did get spanked with worse than a hand…switches, wooden spoons, etc. They are much more structured than today’s generation of “talking it out”. Today’s youth is so far off the path, and I can assure you it will get worse.

  4. by liz

    On December 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    To say look at the older generation who got hit with wooden spoons and they are much more structured is so far off base. 1. Every generation claims the generation before after them is so wild 2. To claim because some of them got hit with spoons means they ended up more in line is absurd. As if that generation doesn’t have a huge amount of alcoholics, drug addicts, dead beat parents, etc but hey they got it all together right? Our generation is just less private. I’m 26 I got BEAT as a child. I have never and will never hit/spank my child and I won’t even get into the theological argument bc I am a Christian and I find it ludicrous that people use the Bible as an excuse to hit their children. I hope they are also not eating animal fat and their women are not teaching if they are gonna ignore cultural context of the time it was written to quote the bible for their ridiculous purposes.