Friday, 9 September 2011

Training or Assault? - Savita Kalhan

“Select your instrument according to the child’s size,” writes Pearl. “For the under one year old, a little, ten to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (stripped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.”

Additional advice from their Web site: Switching with a length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line is a “real attention-getter.”

When you are spanking your child and she cries and is upset about it, Michael Pearl says this:
“When she screams or flees, calmly follow through by physically subduing her. Sit on her, if you have to, and slowly explain that you will not tolerate this resistance. Explain in a normal tone (She will eventually stop screaming and listen) that you are going to give her, say, five licks for the original offense and an additional two licks for the fit. Slowly apply the five licks, counting out loud. When I say slowly, I mean with a thirty second gap between each lick and a calm explanation to the screaming child that you are not the least impressed except that you are going to spank harder and she still gets the additional two licks plus one more for her ongoing screaming. When you have finally arrived at five well- anticipated and carefully counted licks, say, “OK, your spanking is over; that is the five licks you got for hitting your brother, but now I must give you two more for trying to run away.” Give her one lick and say, “Now, that is one of the licks for running away; you have one more coming.” Give the second lick, and then calmly and slowly explain that all her licks are over now, except for the one additional lick she incurred for continuing to scream during the spanking. After you have finished, tell her that you are going to let her up now, if she stops screaming, otherwise you are going to give her one additional lick. If she stops, or at least makes a great effort to, then you have won. You may never have to go through this horrible time again. But, if she is continuing to scream in defiance, you have the option of continuing to warn and spank, or of ceasing here with a parting warning: “Next time you better not run and throw a fit; for if you do, you will only get more licks and harder ones.”

This is an excerpt from a book called To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, as reported by Child Abuse Australia. The book is published by the authors’ ministry – No Greater Joy.

In New Zealand, where there is an anti-smacking law, they are considering whether to ban this book. In the UK it is illegal to smack a child with an implement. In the past I’ve blogged about banning books and my view has always been that books should never be banned. But are there certain books that should qualify for a ban, or at least come with a warning?

Apparently the five children of the authors of To Train Up a Child were all home-schooled and are now well-adjusted adults with families of their own. But the book has been linked to cases of child abuse and even to the deaths of a few children. In each case the advice the Pearls give on “child-training” was followed by parents who were struggling to raise their children and sought advice through their Church networks. This was the book that was handed to them, this was their manual. It’s available for free on an online Christian website, and you can buy it for £4.19 on

Worryingly, it is particularly popular with evangelical home-schoolers. Michael Pearl’s sole credentials on child training, as he puts it, is raising five children. He and his wife Debi quote that the Bible and common sense are the foundations for effective parenting.

This is a huge topic and I have barely touched upon it here. (Blame my rotten cold!)
I only heard about this book recently through Twitter, but I find the idea of a book that promotes violence to very young children horrifying and frightening, and I wonder what you all make of this...


catdownunder said...

The approach of the Pearls has been likened to that of cult-like behaviour. That is always dangerous.
I would like to think that banning the book would stop the behaviour but it would be more likely to send it underground and make it attractive.
I have (not first) cousins who are being home-schooled. There are many things which concern me about the way in which they are being brought up. However the Pearl approach would not be approved of even by their parents.

Stroppy Author said...

Scary stuff. While many home-educators are of course perfectly kind, well-balanced people, the seclusion that home-schooling allows can hide a lot of abuse and dodgy practices. Very worrying - especially if endorsed by something people consider an authority, like a church.

Rebecca Brown said...

Oh my goodness, that's horrifying. And another example of people harnessing "biblical" principles that are actually no such thing for their own ends, which as a reasonably well-adjusted Christian I find highly offensive.

You're right however that banning books shouldn't really be an option; and what kind of warning could you put on it? "the authors have no professional authority or training" or similar? In which case many parenting books could be labelled similarly.

Horribly difficult situation. :(

Anonymous said...

I was home-ed contact in Bath for many years and heard horrifying tales of this kind of thing going on in evangelical Christian families in neighbouring districts. Unfortunately never with names so I could do any reporting. I have also heard of it in schooled Christian children, so it is more of a Christian issue than a home-ed one, but it gives home-ed a bad name for the majority of us who would never hurt our children. And aren't Christian. It's sick, wrong and appalling in this day and age and I do think it should be banned. And such parents should be given prison sentences. I child is utterly dependant on the parents and abuse is unforgiveable. I used to be a Christian, but can't recognise my former faith in what is going on in most churches today.
Marie-Louise Jensen

Lynda Waterhouse said...

very disturbing. Particularly the selection of a weapon to hit a child under one!Also the notion of subduing children and using your power to 'win.'This feels like only a few steps away from saying children need evil/devil beating out of them.

Anonymous said...

Lynda, that's EXACTLY what they do say, I'm afraid. This is what this is about.

Nicky said...

I am appalled not least by the fact the fact that it is linked to a Christian website as if this is what Christians believe. Should it be banned? I don't know; if it we were we wouldn't know that people were advocating this approach which would make the view harder to rebut.

John Dougherty said...

I'm sorry, hitting a baby with a stick? Better that the perpetrator be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck*.

The bit I find truly horrifying (it's all ghastly, but this is the truly abusive bit) is:

"Give her one lick and say, “Now, that is one of the licks for running away; you have one more coming.” Give the second lick, and then calmly and slowly explain that all her licks are over now, except for the one additional lick she incurred for continuing to scream during the spanking."

To say, "only one more" and then "actually, there's another one" is a trick worthy of Flashman. And to tell a child that they deserve to be hit with a stick because they became distressed whilst being hit with a stick? These people are monsters.

Anyone who does this to their children is practising a religion of abuse and control, not of love. Perfect love casts out all fear; it doesn't instill it.

I'm going to stop now before I start frothing at the mouth.

Luke 17 v2. And, no, I'm don't believe I'm quoting it out of context.

zornhau said...

I think that there's a difference between books that advocate a stance, and how-to guides.

So, a hard libertarian book that says the state is by nature criminal - fine, can't ban that. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to say things we disagree with.

A terrorism how-to guide with tips on bomb making and infiltrating government buildings - yes, let's ban that.

In the same way - if you want to debate child rearing techniques, and advocate corporal punishment; fine. I think you are a ####, but I you have a right to have your say.

A manual on how to beat children? No. Ban it. That's not freedom of speech.

Savita Kalhan said...

Catdownunder - They do seem to be cult-like. Some of their other beliefs are extremely insidious too, but not suitable for discussion on a children's blog!
Anne - It is scary and particularly as their readers take their word as gospel.
Rebbecca, Marie-Loiuse and Lynda - Religion has always been twisted to suit people's needs. Here it's used as an excuse to beat an under one year old with a stick. That's what they're preaching to the members of their ministry and anyone else who needs an excuse to beat a child. It's sick. Clearly there are some home-schooled kids out there whoe need protection from over-zealous parents.

Savita Kalhan said...

Nicky - Barnes and Noble pulled this book from their shelves, as have some other independant book sellers. About time did the same.
John - I've been frothing at the mouth ever since I heard of this book, which was only last week. I shelved my original blog post to write about this instead.This book has been out for a few years, but seems to have slipped under the radar...until recently when linked to a few deaths. Tragic and horrifying.
Zornhau - I don't agree with book banning - but this is the exception.

zornhau said...

I think I can imagine other books you'd want to ban. Thee's nothing magical about the printed word. The issue is freedom of speech, which self-evidently has its limits.

I'd always argue that the freedom to discuss ideas is sacrosanct, but instructions and exhortations are not.

Liz Kessler said...

This is utterly horrific. And I'm sorry, but freedom not to be violently abused trumps freedom of speech any day.

To me, that's completely straightforward and obvious in any country that considers itself to be a civilised society.


Juliet said...

When I first started reading this post, I thought you were quoting from an imagined dystopia in YA fiction. I was really shocked at this calm promotion of violence. It has nothing to do with Christianity.

Savita Kalhan said...

Zornhau - I lived in the Middle East for several years in a country where it was very hard to find any books because most books were banned. I used to smuggle books in! But yes, there probably are other books I'd ban, and an instruction manual on how to beat a child has got to top the list.
Liz - I completely agree. The problem is that the people who need to see the obvious truth are walking round blinkered.
Juliet - I wish it was a dystopian YA read and nothing more.

zornhau said...

SK - Wasn't your issue that of living in a conservative country, rather than censorship itself?

Miriam Halahmy said...

Weird - I also thought it was a dystopian read at first - I just can't believe this kind of book is out there and available. Terrifying!!

Savita Kalhan said...

Miriam - yes it's utterly terrifying.
Zornhau - Yes I guess so because pretty much everything was banned. So the question of whether to ban a particular book never really arose...

Nick Green said...

Banning the books isn't the answer. This book just made 19 more people aware that this sick practice is being promoted. Better to engage with and confront the people and cultures (and cults*) that are perpetrating this warped practice.

*Feel free to pun further.

zornhau said...

If you ban the book, then it becomes a marker for that sort of attitude - you can bust somebody for owning it, giving you legal justification for then looking at their childrearing practises with a view to spotting abuse. Also, it's a way of saying: "Actually, the society you're in dissapproves."

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

I cringed at the first line, but then thought it was something from a hundred years ago. I'm shocked beyond words that this is a recent book. I believe in freedom of speech, I hope like you that Amazon will stop stocking it. And I also HOPE that what these people have written is against a law, rather than it being banned because we don't like what they say. Choosing a weapon to hit a child with is a million miles away from a spank on the bottom.

Nicky said...

Savita - I think Barnes and Noble were right. Freedom of speech does not require that horrific stuff like this should be actively promoted.

Anna Bowles said...

I think most people, on finding that ‘the society they lives in disapproves’ of something they believe is right will tell society to get knotted, and do whatever it is more. That’s certainly the case with technically illegal things I’ve done in the past (which, of course, do not include child abuse).

Giving the police the rights to break into a house on suspicion of someone owning a book is dangerous. Does anyone really think that in practice this will be used purely to look for unequivocal criminality on the level of child abuse and not to, say, look for other minor excuses to harass people whose attitudes, religion or ethnicity happen to be unpopular?

Amazon et al can certainly choose not to actively promote books like this, and I’d certainly choose not to publish it if an MS came across my editorial desk, but I think that’s as far as you can go with censorship, unless you want to simply fuel the adherents’ belief that they are being persecuted (most extreme religions thrive on the idea that they are the persecuted minority) and create ill-defined state powers that can easily be abused in the future.

Rose said...

abusing children is wrong, unforgiveable and not only that but it has been proven in many cases that this has NO POSITIVE EFFECT WHATSOEVER. It is widely accepted knowledge that using violence on children only PROMOTES violence and abuse. so, if a person has had an abusive upbringing, they are far more likely to think this is acceptable.

This is dangerous.

It is dangerous to their future chidlren, and it is also dangerous to the community in which that person lives. if they see wrongdoing, they are far more likely to believe that tackling it in a physical, violent way, which can obviously land a lot of people in very deep trouble.

thankyou so much for posting this, its really made me think. I dont mean to criticise anyone's way of bringing up their child, but i firmly believe that abusing kids is NOT the solution.

Sue Barrow said...

My nine month old grandson was with us for the weekend, not yet crawling but learning to wave and clap and wooing us all with his winning smile. He has also developed an ear-piercing high-pitched scream to attract adult attention which his parents are trying to discourage by using a firm tone of voice and shake of the head. After I read this sickening text I wondered, would this be the type of behaviour these misguided brutes would use a ten-to-twelve inch long willowy branch or one-foot ruler to deter on a nine month old baby?