To Train Up A Child (Book Review)

Michael and Debi Pearl are authors of To Train Up A Child (TTUAC), a little book on child training and run No Greater Joy, a ministry to parents. They have a huge following amongst Christian home-schooling families. Their child-training resources focus on consistency, the use of “the rod”, and training children before disobedience occurs. They claim not to advocate child abuse, stressing the need to never discipline in anger. They emphasize the importance of cheerfulness both with parents who discipline as well as children who receive chastisement. There is a huge emphasis on building sweet family relationships. Obviously, much of their advice is good. So, how is it that recently Lydia Schatz, a seven year old girl was killed at the hand of her abusive parent who claimed to follow the Pearl’s teachings? Sadly, this is not the first case.  Sean Paddock, a four year old boy, also was killed several years ago by parents influenced by principles read in TTUAC.

When I first read these stories, while saddened, I was also a little angered. I saw blame-casting and also felt a little condemnation. Am I guilty too because I own books written by the Pearls? Are these “witch hunters” accusing me of being authoritative and harsh simply by association? I own many of their resources and have read No Greater Joy newsletters for over a decade. We live in a society that is very quick to blame and very slow to accept responsibility. I do not believe the Pearls are legally responsible for either of these murders. This post, in defense of the Pearls, has some valid points. Certainly, there is no resource other than the Word of God that is infallible and Christians need to be discerning and prayerful while reading any book. I can “eat the meat and spit out bones” and so should these folks! However, over the past few weeks, my opinion about this has changed as the Lord has prompted me to reread TTUAC, pray and reflect on my fourteen years of parenting.

In my recent study of TTUAC, there are three teachings that I find harmful. Yes, I could find  three things I disagree with in anything! However, I believe these teachings could, at worst, lead to abuse or, more likely, damage parent-child relationships. It is probable that the Pearls address the concerns I have in publications outside of TTUAC. However, I am looking only at their book TTUAC for this review because for so many people, it is the only Pearl resource they will read. I am no longer angered by the publicity this case has received. Instead I am hopeful that through the deaths of these children, more examination will occur. While I still don’t believe the Pearls are legally responsible for the deaths, they are accountable, as Christians in ministry, for the influence they have on so many parents who look to them for guidance. Parents, who want the best for their children and seek the Pearl’s advice, will read that:

1. Parents Must Always Be Consistent

Page 60: (On spanking an infant to train him to go to bed without crying): “Those who are MOSTLY consistent must use the switch too often. Those who are ALWAYS consistent almost never need the switch.” … “Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything! We’ve raised five whineless children.”

Page 62: (On teaching children not to whine): If you gave it a 99% consistent try, you would not be satisfied with the results.”

Page 11: Every small child will have one or two times in his young life when he will decide to take hold of the reins. The stubbornness is profound… If you are consistent, this test of authority will come only one, two, or at the most three times in each child’s life.

Page 23: (On preventing anger building in a parent) “… Discipline them immediately upon the slightest disobedience.”

Page 80: (On tantrums):Once he learns that the reward of a tantrum is a swift forceful spanking, he will NEVER throw another fit. If you enforce the rule three times and fail the fourth, he will keep looking for that loop-hole until you have convinced him it will not work again. If a parent starts at infancy discouraging the first crying demands, the child will never develop a habit.

When my twins were born, I had 4 children under the age of four years old. It was during this season that I began subscribing to No Greater Joy newsletters and studying TTUAC. I was in a season of intense parenting and remember feeling so overwhelmed and so sleep-deprived. Those feelings were legitimate! I also felt burdened because I wasn’t consistent in my child training. How could I  discipline my squabbling toddlers while simultaneously nursing two babies? I truly felt that their good behavior depended completely on my consistent training and I knew I was failing in that area. I simply did not have the energy to sleep train my babies, potty train my two year old and character train my preschooler with 100% consistency or sometimes even 50%. I felt they’d lack character due to their close spacing!

I thank my Lord for showing me early in this season that such consistency was impossible. I remember praying and asking Him to help me train my children with more consistency and He revealed to me something that prompted me to put this Pearl teaching away. In the midst of my tears of sleep deprivation and stress I came across a precious scripture:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:10

“God gently leads me, ” I thought. “Gentleness, at this season is needed more than consistency.” The Lord revealed to me that Michael and Debi Pearl (and countless others I knew who followed their parenting advice) never parented four children in under four years. Having one toddler at a time makes a world of difference in how consistent you can be. The word “gentle” came to mind when I wondered if I should train… not discipline, but train. The Pearls recommend placing forbidden objects within reach of toddlers and mobile infants and “train” them not to touch using the rod. For curious infants reaching for something hot, they recommend allowing natural consequences. Often these recommendations seemed far from gentle.

“Having to always be consistent” is a ball and chain to a mother who has on her plate more than she can handle. In my case it was impossible. However, outside of “never discipline in anger,” consistency is key to training success according to the Pearls. God showed me that my desire for consistency was robbing me of joy. He showed me that He’d given me “more than I could handle” so that I would give him my load. He led me gently and I praise Him for that! He also showed me that my children weren’t doomed for character failure just because I could not train with the consistency the Pearls recommend.

2. Parents Must Spank Until Submissiveness / Repentance Occurs

Page 80:  “It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you feel like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same… If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again.”

Page 46: If you have to sit on him to spank him, do not hesitate. and hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. Your word is final.” (Now, to be fair, Pearl also says on page 47, “There are always some who act in the extreme and use what has been said about legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality of children.” He then goes on to warn against abusive behavior. The above is also in reference to an older child.)

There is much in TTUAC that emphasizes the need for a child to submit and repent before spanking ceases. Yes, Pearl says not to be abusive. However, for strong willed children, repentance may not come. Some children may not ever, in a spanking session, submit.

When my son was 18 months old, he learned to jump out of his crib and I decided to train him to stay in his new toddler bed. I put him to bed and kissed him goodnight and closed the door. He got up. He received a swat. I put him down. This went on for a while. He wasn’t “getting” it. He wasn’t repenting. He knew I wanted him in bed. He didn’t want to obey. He was absolutely “out of sorts” and I knew he’d had enough. I looked at his sweet little face, picked him up and took him to my rocker. We sang and cuddled. I told him I was sorry for being harsh and he fell asleep on my chest. The next night I put him down and he got up. His room was childproof. I told him goodnight and later found him asleep in his closet. He received no spanks. The third night he just crawled up on his bed and went to sleep. I didn’t win. He did. However, in the end, we both did! I now wish I’d never even tried to win. Nathan was not submitting or repenting and it did not appear he was anywhere close to doing so when I discontinued his “training.” The story of Sean Paddock comes to mind and it grieves me. Like my son, this little boy continued to get out of bed. His parents wrapped him so tightly that he suffocated. The Pearls, nowhere in their writing, suggest wrapping a child so tightly suffocation occurs. They do recommend “winning,” and being consistent. My guess is that Sean’s parents were trying to be consistent and yet discontinue spankings, not kill their son. The consequence in this case was horrifying and heartbreaking.

3. The Pearl Way Works!

The Pearls make countless claims in TTUAC that following their training methods always works. In rereading this book, there is very little mention of the role of prayer while in the midst of a training session. As a matter of fact, in the 109 – page book, I saw only one reference to prayer while training and it was not in the context of praying for wisdom in parenting but rather asking the Lord to use the rod to do its job:

(page 46) “When the time comes to apply the rod, take a deep breath, relax and pray, “Lord, make this a valuable learning session. Cleanse my child of ill-temper and rebellion. May I properly represent your cause in this matter.”

I believe this omission of prayer is one of the most dangerous aspects of TTUAC. The Lord may at any time lead parents to parent differently than a manual suggests. The Pearls present child training with a common sense approach: The child does this… the parent does this. When a child rebels…  the parent spanks. If a parent is consistent and uses the rod like this… children will behave beautifully. It sounds simple. However, parenting is complex. There is not a formula to raising well-behaved children. Sometimes the Lord may lead us to extend grace even to a rebellious child. Sometimes spanking is the wrong tool. I know the Pearls are not against prayer, but a book that ignores its role in a discipline or training session bothers me.

There is much said in TTUAC about the mother who is driven by her emotions and that not being a beneficial parenting trait.

(page 37) “The pitiful look of betrayal in his poor little eyes just breaks her suffering heart. It would hurt her too much to obey God in training up her child. Because of her fear of personal emotional suffering, she neglects the rod… To set aside one’s own feelings for the purpose of objectivity regarding the good of the child is the only true love. If a mother should smother her baby while kissing him, she has not loved him.”

I agree that emotional parenting isn’t a positive thing. However, Mr. Pearl is not a mother. This is a statement of the obvious but I think is important to remember when reading any book that involves motherhood as well as fatherhood. God put in mothers a sixth sense when it comes to caring for babies and children. Sometimes that sixth sense tells us to intervene or “give in.” The Holy Spirit speaks to mothers through our nurturing instincts. These instincts are God-given and while they can lead us astray, do not always! A practical husband may not understand and may view us as weak when in fact we are responding exactly how God has wired us.  I believe this is one reason Titus 2 tells women to teach other women how to love children. While TTUAC is co-authored by Debi Pearl, this portion is written from Mr. Pearl’s perspective..

I am not advocating arguing with husbands. I am not advocating giving into your child’s every whimper. I am not advocating being characterized by inconsistency! I am saying that always denying a mother the privilege of comforting her crying baby when training can be damaging. Sometimes, yes, it is necessary but there are no rules here. Husbands and wives sometimes need to pray for wisdom together while training. The following explains my point:

Eventually, we have had to train all of our children to sleep through the night. This has never involved spankings in the Jobe house but it has involved some amount of “crying it out.” When it comes time for this training, my husband takes the lead because I absolutely cannot check on my sweet babies without comforting (nursing) them. He puts them down and when they awaken, he puts them back to sleep. Usually they protest because they want me. However, after a night or two the nursing-in-the-middle-of-the-night habit is broken and we are all sleeping better. Our 5th child, however, took longer than a night or two. On her third night of sleep training, she cried for about an hour. I told Daniel I felt like I needed to go to her. Daniel reminded me (being practical) that we might “undo” two nights of training. However, I had “that feeling.” We prayed and Daniel agreed that I should tend to Sarah. I am so very thankful that Daniel and I sought the Lord instead of Michael Pearl! Sarah had no symptoms other than crying – no fever, tugging at her ears, or loss of appetite. However, two days later, at a wellness check up, we were informed she had double ear infections!

In our parenting journey there is no doubt that we will make mistakes. However, asking the Lord for guidance is sure to prevent some of them! The Pearl child training methods may work. Some of it is Biblical and does work. However, the claim that perfect training always works is misleading and can cause a parent to feel inadequate or incompetent when promised results aren’t apparent. It also can encourage a mother to ignore the Holy Spirit prompting her to “make an exception.”

My Conclusion:

Much of TTUAC speaks of honorable and wonderful things – relationships, love, and well-behaved children. However, without the Holy Spirit, this book could be very dangerous.  Imagine an impressionable mom, looking for parenting advice that works. Her children are out of control and she desires more than anything to train them in righteousness. She must be consistent. She must chastise until her child is submissive. She doesn’t trust her intuition. She consults TTUAC when conflicted instead of praying for guidance. It is possible to physically abuse a child and not be angry, especially if you feel you are doing it for his good. Yes, Pearl warns not to “cross the line.” However, with so much emphasis on the need for consistency in training, that bit of advice could easily be forgotten during a discipline session.

Please read this from an acquaintance of Lydia’s family.

Article from WORLD Magazine.

Over a decade ago, I turned to TTUAC because I needed help with training and consistency. The book did help me in these areas. Upon reflection, however, I realize I was adversely affected by the same teachings that had some positive results. With each parenting memory I’ve described, there was an internal struggle. I felt “wrong” for rocking my son when he refused to sleep in his bed. However, I know the Lord led me to comfort him. My husband and I felt conflicted when sleep training our baby. Yet we later realized the Holy Spirit was leading us. Sadly, through my TTUAC reflections, many memories were brought to mind where I was too harsh and failed to parent with the grace my children needed.

TTUAC does contain potentially dangerous information. At least two children have died at the hands of misled parents who went too far. It grieves me to consider how many more have likely been physically abused or even just denied the comfort of a mother’s loving arms. While I do not think Michael Pearl intends for his teachings to lead to abuse, I can clearly see how reading TTUAC could influence parents to sin or at least exasperate their children. I am not calling for a Pearl book burning. I do still believe that Christians should “chew the meat and spit out the bones” with any resource. Doing so, however, requires wisdom. So many parents who seek parenting advice are young, inexperienced and lack discernment. (I know I was!) Seasoned parents should direct young parents to resources that emphasize the need to pray for wisdom continually and are written in a gracious manner. This is a response Pearl wrote to his critics. I do not know when he wrote it or the circumstances behind it. I do know it is this tone that has kept me from readily recommending his materials over the years. I do think this writing style is not necessarily representative of his heart. However, an inquiring mother would be better off reading encouraging and edifying resources that leave her inspired to discipline her children in righteousness – not afraid of failing in consistency, convinced she must chastise until repentance or condemned for acting upon her God-given desire to show mercy toward her babies.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

There are many Christian parenting resources that, while not perfect, are written without the authoritative tone of TTUAC. Consistency is emphasized but not more so than prayer, grace and gentleness. My all time favorite is The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.

Blessings to you as you parent your children and train them in righteousness.

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48 Responses to “To Train Up A Child (Book Review)”

  1. AngelaW Says:

    I too read the books by the Pearls on child training. I think that in every situation when dealing with another living soul, prayer must be offered first and foremost. In most situations, I can react wrongly- jumping to conclusions, making assumptions based on previous similar looking situations- how am I to know what the Lord wants to show me? How am I to know- if I jump to conclusions- what He wants the children to learn? That said, I must also say that human nature plays a large role in wanting to train a child to obey authority. We are all born with the sin nature- therefore, my children are sinners saved by God’s grace just like me, and while they may not have committed the specific sins I have, I can’t overlook the fact that sin crouches at the door always ready – and that training is exactly what has to happen – training to see and know the truth (not the counterfeit- because counterfeit changes). I think ultimately the Pearls had the best intentions in mind, and were not necessarily dealing with children who obey out of love- but had in mind the children who throw temper tantrums because they didn’t get their way in the grocery store, etc… I also think that grace and mercy means nothing to a person who doesn’t know about justice first. I support the Pearls in their writings, but also it’s only a resource- not the Truth on its own. As parents- nay- as Christians- we must ALWAYS go to the Lord first.

  2. Tina Says:

    Angie, You know me so well! I too think the Pearls had the best intentions in mind also. I have loved studying books with you at our Bible study. We’ve learned so much… and the “just a resource” principle is so important! Love you!

  3. Catherine Mikkola Says:

    Amen, Tina!!

    The one good thing that I got out of the Pearl’s book, when I first read it, was to realize that my job as a parent was not about making my children happy all the time. (I’d been raised to think it was my responsibility to make everyone around me happy – and I had unwittingly transfered that lie to my parenting philosophy.) BUT, I remember feeling SOOO guilty when I didn’t follow the Pearl’s book 100% (and, sadly, we were attending a church where the pastor blamed *every* problem that occurred in a family on the wife/mother, so that encouraged my guilt all the more!). But, we arrived at a point when, like you said about Nathan, my children were NOT giving in! And, I just felt in my heart that God wanted me to do something other than spank. I now believe that if we want our children to grow up with merciful hearts, we need to model more grace and mercy than chastisement. Not that we want to let our children “run rampant”, but that, like you said, we must follow the Holy Spirit to know when and how to discipline and not Pharisaical-like law book!

    What I really wish is that there were more truly Biblical books on child training (maybe some have been written that I’m unaware of??) that we could point young mothers to. And, I wish there were somehow more natural opportunities for younger mothers to get help from an older woman who would “come alongside” and help younger mothers. I think many of the bigger parenting mistakes are made, certainly not out of a desire to be a bad mother, but just out of a lack of having had good role models themselves. (I know I didn’t have any role models I wanted to emulate!)

    Thanks, Tina, for your very insightful article. 🙂
    -Catherine

  4. Tina Says:

    Thanks, Catherine! Yes, that was a good teaching I learned from the Pearls too. Being consistent 100% of the time is a ball and chain. Yet, having to make everyone happy might be even worse! 😉 Love you, Catherine! You aren’t much older but you are definitely a Titus 2 lady in my life and I thank God for you!

  5. Jenny L Says:

    Great article!

    I received their newsletters for many years and I felt that there was more grace shown in those articles than in the original book. I always thought it would have been beneficial if they would have put out an updated book. In hindsight there were a few things from TTUAC that I wish I would not have done.

    I discovered some child training books that Marilyn Howshall recommended by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. “Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids” and “Good and Angry” I copied this quote from Marilyn from their website effectiveparenting.org :

    “If you are tired of all the legalistic child-training books and programs that focus on the parents’ maintaining carnal control with superficial solutions to a myriad of symptoms,
    then you will want to read and begin applying this book’s life-changing principles in your
    relationships. Honor will address the heart-related issues which bring lasting change.”
    • Marilyn Howshall author of Wisdom’s Way of Learning, and developer of the Lifestyle of Learning approach to Home Education

    Jenny

  6. Tina Says:

    Jenny,

    I agree with you. I wish they’d revise the book too. It was written in ’93 I think and I believe their other resources definitely show more grace. If Mr. Pearl would admit that his views are somewhat misrepresented in his first edition, I think he’d find much support amongst folks who’ve learned much from him but have reservations about his teachings. God used Marilyn Howshall’s writings powerfully in my life. I haven’t read them in a long time but Lisa Flanigan owned all her books when Daniel and I rented their house for 7 months (while building our’s). Her’s were the first grace-filled books I’d read after attending Ezzo’s GKGW and then reading TTUAC. Some of her materials freed me from an authoritative mindset with my four very young children. I’ll definitely check out that book. Sounds good!

  7. Boo Jobe Says:

    Well written and so true!

  8. Julie C. Says:

    Thank you Tina! Anytime people look to others for step -by- step instructions on living they will fail. God designs us that way to help us from turning it into some sort of idolitry.This special role is for our Lord. He is faithful and in-tune with the daily needs of us and our children. Really, only Jesus can guide those moments. Thanks for the perspectives on a well-inteded and helpful ministry that is sometimes taken in wrong directions. They (Pearls) are so practical and I have learned in life that sometimes practical just isn’t the answer. We humans need lots more than the seemingly obvious solution-we are complex creatures! Thankfully that’s why we have our Best Friend to turn to for advise and forgiveness when we have regrets. We can give Him the glory as we taste victory and joy, success and beauty in our relationships. And always, as mothers we can be assured that “love covers a mulitude of sins (and shortcomings and mistakes!)
    Love you and your family!
    Julie

  9. Tina Says:

    I agree, Julie! The Pearls are so practical! Yet only Jesus can give us step by step instructions for anything! Praise God that love covers a multitude of sins (and shortcomings and mistakes!) I do remember seeing that in TTUAC too.

    Anna had a wonderful time at the party! Thank you for inviting her and tell Ava that Esther has used her potty seat with success! 🙂

  10. Real Life Sarah Says:

    Tina thank you for posting this! Someone gave us this book when we had our first child, and at first it seemed wise. But as I continued reading, I was disturbed by some of the things in it. It seems there is a complete lack of grace. Frankly, it reminds me of dog training. A child is a precious gift. Sometimes they need extra love, and their behavior is crying out for that. Does God always discipline me for my sin? NO, thankfully! He is full of grace AND truth. There are consequences for my disobedience, but he always extends the hand of love to me.

    I think whatever method or guide we use for child training should be measure first and foremost with the Bible, and realize that as moms, we can’t be perfect. In my life, God actually USES my parenting struggle to teach me and my children.

    Anyway, I think your review is thorough and fair, and you back up your points beautifully!

  11. Tina Says:

    Sarah,

    Was I the one that gave it to you, LOL! I would not be surprised if I were! Thank you for your kind comment Sarah! You are a wonderful mother!

  12. Beth Thetford Says:

    link to christcenteredmall.com

    If you click on the above link you will see my favorite picture that I have in my bedroom at the foot of my bed. Isaiah 40:11 is printed below it. I wish I could buy it for you. It looks kind of like you. Its at CBD.

    I think you are so right-its in a gentle loving approach, parenting as He parents us. Its not as much about controlling their behavior but disciple-ing them to walk in wisdom and encouraging thier own relationship with the Lord. I tell moms all the time when I am asked, that there is very little that I have done well as a homeschool mom, but the things I did pour my heart and soul into were the important things and He filled in the gaps I left wide open. The things I neglected for other more important things He has come along side and provided for us so graciously. I am so thankful to have boys with strong minds and gentle hearts. I could not have said it as well as you have. Thank you.

    Will goes off to college next year. Patrick Henry if we can afford it We will miss him so much. You are still the legal guardians of our boys you know. I am so confident in that decision. 🙂 Although Will is 18, 19 in June, he could raise his brothers if he had to, they are 13 and 14 now. Of course you know that, the same ages as yours. 🙂 But if anything ever happened to us I would love for you to come alongside them even if Will did take responsibility for them.

    Miss you guys. There has never been anyone I admire more as a mom than you. 🙂

  13. Tina Says:

    Beth, Your sweet, sweet comment made me cry. I do feel likewise. I miss you so much! Maybe we can get together when Dad is in Charlotte for his transplant. That picture is beautiful! What a beautiful reminder of a mother’s love!

  14. Ruth MacCarthaigh Says:

    I think you wrote your piece very well. I have never heard of the book or the authors (am saved 8 years and from Ireland) but it sounds very narrow. My son was 3 when God converted me and although he was, and is a good boy, I didn’t know how to discipline him in a Godly way. I asked my pastor and his wife who reared two boys and they said that they usually slapped their boys once for every year old they were. They then said that if I did this consistently, that as he grew up, he would need it less and less. They also said that it was good to use other forms of discipline, removing toys etc from him for a while.
    It was just what I needed to hear and for the best part, it worked out very well for me and my son.

    There are times when mercy has a part to play. Sometimes over the years when my son did something wrong and knew he deserved to be disciplined for it, I would tell him that I wouldn’t punish him but forgive him, because after all, God doesn’t punish me EVERY time I sin! He understood the principle, mercy and the love I was showing him and I hope he will bring it into his adult life with him.

    Prayer is SO important to every day rearing of our kids and the every day working out of our relationship with our partners. I am not the sharpest tool in the box, but through prayer, God has took me through my new life with a wisdom that is not naturally my own. I am happy, my son is happy and so is my husband and it is all down to God!

  15. Tina Says:

    Love this, Ruth! I am thankful that God doesn’t punish me with 100% consistency. I’d be in trouble!

  16. Ouida Gabriel Says:

    What a fantastic post! After years of following ultra conservative ideas, I completely backlashed and felt hatred growing in my heart towards these people (the Pearls among them). After a lot of searching and praying about it I realized where I went wrong. I followed man instead of God. I allowed people like the Pearls, Doug Phillips, Stacy MacDonalad and others dictate how I would act, think, parent, – even love others. I realize now that these people are human just like me. They give advice but it is my job to hold it to the Word of God and see if there is any good in it. I am coming back around to being conservative in beliefs but it is because of what I believe, not because what x,y or z told me.

    I have asked God forgiveness for being harsh with these people I followed after. Some people seem to encourage the “us vs them” mentality but I believe now that most people do not want that. They just want to serve God in how they feel He is leading them.

    Thank you for this article. I am printing it out to use again in the future – and the comments too. I love what Ruth said. Sometimes she doesn’t discipline because God gives us grace and doesn’t discipline us every time we do wrong. Sometimes words are all that are needed to set the path straight again. What a amazing God we have!

    Ouida Gabriel

  17. Tina Says:

    Ouida,

    Thank you for the encouraging comment. I have been in a lady’s Bible study for about 5 years. I’ve learned so much through the encouragement of these ladies. One of the most important things we discuss is that anything other than the Word of God is a resource and only a resource. We must certainly interact with resources and hold them up to Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to show us what is truth and what is not. Each teacher/author you mentioned is just human, as all of us are. I’ve read materials from all of them and learned much from each one. However, you’re right! We can’t seek true wisdom from any human author! Blessings!

  18. Beth Says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I have really struggled with this issue of discipline since hearing of the Pearls and Lydia, knowing many who prescribe similar models as ‘the way’ of Christian parenting. I thought this was a fantastic response and very encouraging. I love how it was done in a spirit of humility and gentleness.

  19. Tina Says:

    Beth, Thank you for your kind comment. Much, much prayer went into writing this because I have learned a lot from the Pearls. I don’t want to slander them at all. I also know so many precious families raising godly children who have learned from them. I asked the Lord to “close the door” on my writing it, but instead He wouldn’t let me sleep!

  20. Sara Says:

    (Here from Amy’s Humble Musings)…just my 2 cents regarding my favorite parenting read–I really enjoyed Ginger Plowman’s Don’t Make Me Count to Three. Its basically a practical application of Shepherding A Child’s Heart.

  21. Robin in Says:

    Excellent article. More people need to read this.

  22. Lindsey Swinborne Says:

    One of my first-ever posts on my blog was written about this book and my problems with it. Our midwife gave it to us after Ali was born and though it may have given us a few good ideas, I was very discouraged by it. When I started blogging I wrote a review of it (which I’ve now deleted due to all the controversy it caused and friendships it was damaging) because so many women love that book and the Created TBHHM book. Both books really depressed me and left me feeling weighted down. As I began to measure them against godly priniciples and gospel-centered books (Shepherding a Child’s Heart and Feminine Appeal) I found them severely lacking. I also don’t like the attitude the Pearl’s convey. One of my friends, who knows the Pearls personally, got a statement from Michael regarding my thoughts on my blog about his book and he revealed an intense dislike for reformed doctrine, which is what I hold to. So, I no longer read their stuff or bother with them anymore. They may have some good ideas for homeschooling and rearing respectful kids, but there is so much to be careful of in what they say that I just avoid them altogether. I love authors who accurately handle the Word and are humble in spirit as they teach on rearing children and being a wife.

    Thanks for this excellent post Tina! I’m amazed that at least 2 of your points were noted by myself when I did my review too. I was so frustrated by the across-the-board statements because no matter what I did, my strong-willed child did NOT obey perfectly like their book promised. And I didn’t like the idea of treating my kids like animals either.

    A friend of ours who is a pastor did a comprehensive review of CTBHHM, adding to what I had written, and did an excellent job picking it apart but has deleted his blog in recent years. I know several other excellent gals on the web have done so as well.

  23. Tina Says:

    Great thoughts, Lindsey. Originally, when I was praying through this review, I had some theological questions but my husband did not want to dissect Pearls teachings in that way. Through my hubby, God guided the direction I went about this review. If Daniel didn’t want to investigate Pearl’s theology, then I knew I was to leave it alone. I am not equipped to tackle that subject alone. I can only write from my own experiences as a mother and how TTUAC teachings have affected me. Yes, there is plenty on the internet to guide folks who care to take on his theology, but without my hubby’s help – I’m not one of them.

    Lindsey, I have loved meeting you through your blog and facebook. Your posts reflect that you possess so much joy in your little ones. I can tell you are delighting in them! Blessings!

  24. Lindsey Gruen Says:

    ….If God had a manual on child-raising, he would have written it himself! :o) I have also been encouraged by Sally Clarkson’s writings and that of her husband, as well as authors like Turnsky & Miller, and Dr Sears (who is a Christian and used to have a book on baby and childcare written from a Christian perspective but I don’t think it’s in print any longer though still able to be found) as good resources. I find reminding myself that just as God’s grace is for me, it is for my children as well who are also children of God!

  25. Melissa Says:

    Thank you for a fair a balanced review. I am still new at this mothering thing myself – 4 years in with 3 children. I came across TTUAC when our oldest was a baby, and found it helpful in teaching boundaries early on, teaching them ‘no’ I hadn’t looked at the book much since then, until recently. I appreciate how you presented the faults you see, and acknowledged there are good parts…so many current reviews make them out the be akin to Satan himself. I don’t see that as their intention.

    Regardless, I found your post helpful in pinpointing some of my blind-spots, that I think are a result of TTUAC. I have a tendency to learn more towards harshness than gentleness, following a ‘formula’ and putting pressure on myself for the results, rather then leaning on the Spirit, trusting my husband (he is more gentle than I in this area) and casting my cares upon God as I go through a difficult phase in parenting with 3 small tots.

    So, thank you for this post. I came across it via Amy’s Humble Musings, and have been blessed and edified in reading.

    Blessings to you are your family,
    Melissa

  26. Brenda@Coffeeteabooksandme Says:

    It’s sad that they do go to an extreme. They had the best series of articles about why some homeschoolers are leaving what they have been taught (walking away from the Lord as well as family) called Jumping Ship.

    I have wanted to recommend it on my blog from time to time but I don’t want send anyone to be influenced by their extreme way of disciplining.

    My husband bought one of their books when our ADHD son was very young. Some of their teaching would have worked with his more placid sister but never with a hyperactive little boy.

    Sally Clarkson has been writing a series on her blog this week about being gentle and compassionate in our discipline.

  27. Tina Says:

    I know what article you are speaking of and it is excellent. I’ve learned much over the years from their writings which is why I said I’m not calling for a “book burning.” If you keep on reading all NGJ resources, I see more grace, relationship building and even more flexibility in discipline. However, their key resource for child training and the book young parents start with is TTUAC which I think is written in such a way that exudes wisdom, especially in the young parents drawn to it. Certain personality types can easily “spit out the bones.” I thought I could too but I realize now that I actually swallowed a few. That doesn’t mean the Pearls are evil and have nothing of value to say. I’m just not recommending TTUAC as a parenting resource. So many bloggers out there hate the Pearls. I’m not one of them. I’ve just had several Mama friends confess confusion and acknowledge his authoritative tone was a stumbling block as it was for me. Not sure of the answer here… except to be honest. “This is a good article but this book has some issues…”

  28. Erin Says:

    I am so glad to read this. Someone gave me TTUAC when my first son was born. I read it and wondered where was the mercy and compassion. I am no master parent, but my best understanding is that I am to parent like God parents me. Sometimes there is chastening, “the rod,” natural consequences, etc. But there is ALWAYS grace. And compassion. How can I be harsher on my child than the Lord is on me?

    I have enjoyed “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” I think it gives more of a balanced approach to Christian parenting.

  29. ChristineG Says:

    Thank you, dear sister for this excellent and heartfelt post. I know this must have taken you hours to put together and it is well worth the effort. It will bless and encourage many mothers.

    I am another mama of a large, homeschooling family (we have 6 with #7 due in October) and although I have read the Pearls, I didn’t like the mother I was becoming after doing so and I went back to simply partnering with the Lord, prayerfully considering my parenting and guiding my children as gently and clearly as possible. Whenever I read any parenting book, which isn’t very often anymore, I remember that it will contain errors. It is human. Some, sadly, contain some very large and harmful errors.

    May God richly bless you and your family.

  30. Teri Helms Says:

    Tina,
    I appreciate your investment of time and first hand knowledge in writing this informative article.
    I have 5 sons, and read TTUAC when the first was but 3 years of age.

    I am deeply saddened by these situations, as ultimately they fuel the world’s fire against those “dogmatic, crazed, home-educating Christians.” And in some cases, they are correct.

    Despite the fact that I was a very young and inexperienced mother, the Lord was faithful in prompting me to the fact that His grace is paramount in all things…even our discipline!

    Again, bless you for your very well thought out, articulate thoughts.

    I think that my very godly pastoral father summed it up well…” Wherever there is extreme righteousness, extreme hypocrisy is lurking right around the corner.”

  31. Jen Says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I feel much the same way and had been saddened in the past few months by both the death of Lydia and by the slanderous backlash against the Pearls. I was so discouraged because we have gleaned wisdom from the Pearls website and resources over the years but then were hearing all over the blogosphere that so many others had been so negatively affected by their teachings. Beacause of this confusion, I have completely avoided talking about it on my blog but I think I will post a link to your article (if that is O.K.) because I feel like it is truthful, fair, and balanced.

    I have probably read a hundred parenting books and have gleaned wisdom and insight, practical ideas, and encouragement from almost all of them and have also realized that NONE of them is full of absolute truth. After all, they are written by fallible humans. The only source of complete reliable truth is God and his Word.

    For me, it has been easy to “chew up the meat and spit out the bones” whether I am reading the Pearls, the Ezzos, Dr. Sears, Dr. Dobson, Sally Clarkson, Tedd Tripp, Scott Turansky, or any others. However, I have realized, in recent days that MANY young mothers are (perhaps) not as able to glean what is good and leave what is bad – at least, not without feeling bad about themselves if they do. This has been a bit of an eye-opener for me!

    I appreciate your post. Thank you for listening to the Lord’s leading on writing this.

  32. Tina Says:

    Jen, You may certainly link. It is my prayer that just maybe this post will bring a little peace!

  33. Liz Stetler Says:

    You have described so many of my exact conflicts with the material… hit the nail on the head. I want to give your article to everyone I used to recommend TTUAC to! Thank you!

  34. Kerimae Says:

    Wow, I just feel so, so, so sick. My heart is so broken over the deaths of these children and of the fallout for the living children involved. But I admit that I also felt like we couldn’t blameshift off of the parent(s) either. You know, trying to parent out of the fear we’re royally going to mess up our kids if we don’t do it “the right way” is incredibly stressful. The pressure to be 100% consistent, whether it is in child training or scheduling or *whatever* can be very discouraging to say the least. I loved your words on gentleness YES yes yes. For me, the main thing above all is to remember that every book, even Christian books/blogs/etc, is written by a (wo)man who can barely see through the glass. Every mommy needs to be in the Word (the most perfect parenting book ever!) every single day (every.single.day) for greater clarity. I’m so, so sad about all of this. :((((

    Keri Mae

  35. Tina Says:

    Keri Mae,

    The Word… YES! YES! YES! … And on her knees, all the time!

    And I agree – These parents ARE responsible, not the Pearls. My post is a call to responsibility. Parenting “how to” books gain popularity because parents really want to do things right! We need to stay in the Word and point others toward Jesus – not books that point toward a system. Many resources offer suggestions but emphasize the role of prayer and the Holy Spirit in everything we do. I’m on a quest to find some good ones 🙂 but you are right. The Bible is the only perfect one!

  36. Susan Richardson Says:

    Thank you, Tina, for taking the time to share this. I love you.
    Susan

  37. Laurel Says:

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting on my book review of TTUAC. I, too, do NOT blame the Pearls for Lydia’s death. Rather, I want to shine God’s LIGHT into the darkness that can be found if parents are following the Pearls without praying for discernment and wisdom as they parent each of their individual children.

    I so connected with you right from the start, when you said that you had 4 under 4 when you twins were born. When my twins were born … I had 5 under 5. (When I found out I was expecting twins, my “older” kids were 1, 2, 3,.

    Blessings,

    Laurel 🙂
    mama of a dozen

  38. MissusLeata Says:

    This is an excellent reveiw. Thank you so much for writing it!

  39. good links for the week Says:

    […] Tina Jobe writes a book review worth reading on Michael Pearl’s To Train Up a Child. […]

  40. Amanda Says:

    I am so concerned and horrified that there are people out there who claim to be Christians and write books like this! I do not comprehend how it is even possible for a parent to look into the little face of a child, the child God had has entrusted them with and treat them like a first degree criminal worthy of such unloving treatment! When we look at Jesus and the love He shows, the grace, the mercy, the compassion and understanding how could anyone think that they have a right to treat their own child with anything less? Praise God He does not always “give us what we deserve”. Instead, he gently woos us with His love, his kindness, his gentleness. Of course children need discipline, but much more so they need incredible, gentle, Christ-like love. The people who advocate such parenting do not seem interested in raising a loving, self controlled, grace filled person, but rather a defeated, wounded person with a crushed spirit who is easily controlled. How incredibly sad.

  41. Heidi Says:

    While I understand the criticism of TTUAC, also understand that there needs to be much more discernment. I started reading the books when my youngest two were 3 & 4 (total of 4 boys and a blended family) and started applying what I was learning. In not coming from a Christian background to begin with, my understanding was flawed. However in continuing to read the articles and books and the Word and pray, my discernment has grown. Several things the Pearls do touch on is our own attitudes towards not only our children, but our husbands and ourselves. If our attitudes are wrong, the discipline will swing too far in either direction. I must say though that this was part of the meat that I felt we needed in our home. I had researched several different sources of parenting help and sadly most was too wishy washy and did not give me help in tangible ways. But my advice would be to read all the articles they’ve written as well as watch the DVDs. Some things are just better watched, paying careful attention to body language as well as voice intonation. There are many excellent sources for help in training our children. Heart strings need to be tied betwixt parents and children as well. If there is no relationship between parents and children it’ll be like blowing into the wind. Discipline needs to be done along the way when they are small, just as speaking of God and His ways in every aspect of our daily lives with our children. There also needs to be a better understanding of the difference between Biblical chastisement and discipline as defined by our society. The two are very different. As they grow older, if attitudes have not been correctly dealt with within the parents nor the children, it will show in the respect and fellowship between them, or the lack thereof. Always, always, ask God to deal with your own heart first. For those parents who have either gotten to the point of being harsh disciplinarians without tenderness and love, religiosity is rearing its ugly head. The children will run away as far as they can when they are old enough. For those parents who have disregarded and discarded the teachings all together, yours are the children I see screaming and throwing a temper tantrum in the stores and restaurants because you have failed to train and instead allow the children to run your home. They will be the master manipulaters and users in society. Either way is ugliness. Screaming at and berating your children or your husband for that matter is just as abusive as physical abuse. Bribing is just as detrimental as reasoning with a young child. Think thru what you are teaching them. There needs to be proper consequences for wrong actions. There needs to be a balance. We are not and will never be perfect as parents, but the main goal is to season everything with love and tenderness and pray that God will direct us in parenting. For those who see the Pearl’s advice as horrible and abusive, search within your own heart for the chip that remains on your shoulder. There may be a valid point they make and you don’t want to listen because you know he is correct. Our perception of things is filtered through our own baggage and hangups. As far as consistency goes, I know of areas where I was just plain lazy and did not want to do what the Holy Spirit was telling me. That is also why years ago, families all lived together to help one another. Being a good parent is very demanding, especially when the children are small. The whole premise is to work like crazy when they are smaller so that as they get older the reins will naturally become looser from mom and dad as they step up to take hold of them. We tend to get things backwards in our society and want to let the children go and play all the time and have fun without teaching real life skills. Then we want to clamp down when they become teenagers who still don’t want to think of anyone but themselves and don’t want to listen, then the real battles begin. It is horrible what happened to the children who were killed, but it was by parents who needed more discernment before applying what they were hearing, not too unlike blaming guns for killing people. Guns don’t kill, they are just another tool that must be used with respect. People kill, out of anger, ignorance, or a thousand other reasons…When we don’t think clearly, horrible things can happen. The Pearls books and things are just another tool to be used with respect to the circumstances involved.

  42. amy Says:

    I think you handled the material and this review very wisely. Your opinion reflects my own experience as well! I’m saddened that our family’s first years are a little dark because of my own attempts to apply what I learned using these books. But the Lord has been faithful and will continue to show His astounding grace to us on this path even when we misstep time and again. 🙂

    Thank you for your graciousness in this post; a true reflection of His…
    amy

  43. Susan Says:

    Hello, I stumbled upon this web site following the recent news reports, wondering what this book is. I also read other discipline and parenting books following great difficulties with my son. My son was extremely rigid and had to have things his way. People gave me all sorts of advice and thought I should have established a smacking program, and generally thought I was (and still am) a bad parent. Turned out my son has Asperger syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder. He CAN NOT comprehend that there could possibly be an outcome to any situation other than the outcome he has in mind, and he has great difficulty transferring learning from one situation to any situation that is even ever so slightly different. I am SO GLAD I never listened to anyone’s advice to lay a hand on him. Yes, we have had to adjust our lives and do many of the things this book apparently warns people will happen if you are lenient, and it has been a tremendous strain on my life, my husband’s life, and our marriage. My son may never establish a true connection with another person due to his Aspergers; my meeting him “half way” has enabled us to establish a deep, trusting relationship that is so essential for him to stay connected to the real world. Please, get the word out that one should not judge people whose children have great difficulty with social rules and emotional regulation; much more often than not, a child with behavioral problems has a neurological dysfunction that prevents them from being able to follow the rules. Expecting an extremely rigid child to respond positively to a very rigid discipline program is definitely not a realistic expectation.

  44. Samuel Martin Says:

    Tina,

    I absolutely loved and rejoiced in this post. I want to share it with everyone I know.

    Blessings to you.

    Sincerely,

    samuel martin
    http://www.biblechild.com

  45. Jenn Says:

    Thanks so much for writing this post. I’ve never followed TTUAC, but did get sucked into the Ezzo methods with my first child. Your post helped put words to how I feel about child rearing methods like Ezzo and Pearl. Very well said.

  46. homeschooling Says:

    homeschooling…

    […]The Jobe Journal » Blog Archive » To Train Up A Child (Book Review)[…]…

  47. Jen McDonald Says:

    Hello!
    I know this is an older post, but I would LOVE to print part or all of this in Home Educating Family Magazine.Can you please contact me at letters at hedua dot com for more info? Thank you!

  48. My 2 Cents on the TTUAC Headlines Says:

    […] I have been in real angst over the death of a child recently from a parent who claimed to follow the To Train Up a Child book. This book was a real help to me in helping me learn to parent my children and because of that, I have bought multiple copies and I believe I gave one to you. This review was the most humble and gracious one I have read regarding the incident(s) and put into words my current thinking about this book, and that is why I am forwarding it to you for your consideration. link to tina.thejobes.com […]

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