Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate
By ERIK ECKHOLM November 6, 2011….
The pastoral mood in the hills of Tennessee offered a stark contrast to the storm raging around the country over the Pearls’ teachings on child discipline, which advocate systematic use of “the rod” to teach toddlers to submit to authority. The methods, seen as common sense by some grateful parents and as horrific by others, are modeled, Mr. Pearl is fond of saying, on “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules.”
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….
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….
Some conservative Christian parents reject the Pearls’ teachings and have started a petition drive asking sellers like Amazon not to stock their books.
Crystal Lutton, who runs Grace-Based Discipline, one of several Christian blogs that oppose corporal punishment, said the danger with the Pearls’ methods is that “if you don’t get results, the only thing to do is to punish harder and harder.”