Whose Heart Failure?

Cover of "To Train Up A Child"

I am haunted by Lydia. She died some weeks ago when communication with her adoptive parents became fractured as she read a Frog and Toad storybook during a homeschool lesson. She died because she was beaten until she went into heart failure. She died after her adoptive parents took turns holding her down while the other beat her with a 1/4 inch plumber’s supply line, for hours. She died because her parents believed sincerely in the Operant Conditioning methods taught them by Michael Pearl, who in his book, “To Train Up a Child”, tells parents they must spank until the child submits  or they have lost that child’s heart forever. She died because her parents, exactly the kind of godly salt-of-the-earth sorts of people that I have sat next to in Homeschooling conventions, relied for wisdom in a terrible situation upon the teachings of men rather than the Holy Spirit of God–or even upon their God-given common sense. Lydia died because horrible ideas have horrible consequences.

I am haunted by this story. I grieve for her and her parents and her eight siblings now in foster care. I grieve because in their spectacular case all my sins are remembered. I grieve because my dearest friend tried for years to adopt two little girls from that same orphanage in Liberia that placed Lydia and her two siblings with the Schatz’.   I remember weeping with her as she told me how she was haunted by her inability to shield her spiritual children from any harm that might be facing them at that time, and how we prayed, we prayed for them. I am haunted by Lydia, but I thought I could exorcise her ghost if I learned as much as I could about her case, and as I read I grieved  for my own struggles long ago with a recalcitrant child and the rod of reproof, knowing that apart from the grace of God, I too might be in jail.

But Michael Pearl has expressed no grief, nor even sympathy. On the contrary, in a post published after the tragedy on his Facebook page, he callously laughs. One can learn a lot about a someone as  he responds to a crisis or to his critics. Now, with nearly two million in sales filling him with smug self-satisfaction, very tellingly Michael Pearl laughs. He is laughing, he says on his blog post, at all his “caustic critics”, for our “foolish, uninformed criticism of God’s method of child training”, and bizarrely, he describes how his whole household, and households like his around the world, are filled with mirth. His granddaughters are laughing as they spank their dolls, and even his chickens are laughing because “they know that same piece of ¼ inch plastic supply line that trained the dogs not to eat chicken….” kept them safe to produce organic eggs for his breakfast. So much rejoicing in Michael’s world! Perhaps he is deluded that he is being persecuted for righteousness.

His teachings are hardly righteous. Clay Clarkson — whose book, Heartfelt Discipline I recommend–disagrees with the Pearl’s estimation that it is they who’ve got a plumbing supply line that is linked to heaven. Clarkson argues that to be consistent with the context, and the actual Hebrew words used for the “rod” and for “child” in the Scriptures the rod Pearl would celebrate with such joy would look more like a cudgel than a 1/4 inch plastic pipe, and it would be used on the back of a bar-mitzvah boy, not on toddlers and young children. The Hebrew word for rod is “shebet” and is describing the staff of a governor, and the word ‘authority’ may be substituted for its use.  Michael Pearl not only distorts this idea of loving discipline, but  he exalts the rod and  imparts it with some kind of mystical cleansing ability for the conscience that the child secretly longs for, powers that belong only to the Christ of the Cross:

“When a child is bound in self-blame and low self-esteem, parents are not helpless. God has given them the gift of the rod. The rod can bring repentance, but it goes much deeper than that. The rod in the hands of a righteous authority will supply the child’s soul with that moment of judgment that he feels he so deserves. Properly applied, with instruction, it will absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid.”

The rod is a magic wand in the hands of the parent, guaranteed to produce a new child for the frustrated parent of a strong-willed child.  Indeed, like Christ resurrected from the tomb, you will have a new child in nothing less than three days.  “Most children can be brought into complete and joyous subjection in just three days”, writes Pearl. And,

“After a short explanation about bad attitudes and the need to love, patiently and calmly apply the rod to his back-side. Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein.”

No wonder harried parents are buying into this. What a pitch.

But Pearl doesn’t just save the abuse for  little children, he heaps it on victims of domestic violence:   Here’s his sage advice for a woman whose husband is in jail for beating her:

“Think about it, lady; it is a great time for writing love letters and sharing a three-minute romantic phone call once a week. Guys who get out of prison run straight home to their ladies and treat them wonderfully—for a while anyway.”

Lovely. What does she do, Mr. Pearl, when she hears, ‘It’s all your fault! You made me do it!’ Again. When your ‘lady’ is now a bloody pulp on the floor  with all the horrified kids looking on. What terrific advice. It is a second emotional abuse of those tormented women, it is unspeakably cruel advice to these victims who need desperately the  wisdom to set healthy boundaries as Leslie Vernick  demonstrates in this discussion on “Family Life Today” She is the author of the book, “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.”

Pearl does not stop with his heresy with his exaltation of the rod.  He also teaches that a believer can achieve sinless perfection, as stated in an article titled “Living Parallel Lives in the Same Space,” ( No Greater Joy, Jan.-Feb. 2005 –I am  not giving  links to his website, I will not be responsible for any more hits he will get with this notoriety! Google the quotes) Pearl says:

“WE SHOULD AND CAN SIN NO MORE! … I have been preaching AND LIVING this gospel of sanctification for many years.” Further, in the same article Pearl claims that prisoners that he ministers to “come to me all the time, bubbling over with joy, and tell me that THEY ARE NOW FREE FROM ALL SIN” (p. 21)

This  blogger sheds  further light on these questionable teachings and the duplicity Pearl uses in responding to his critics. But it would take a book to detail all the Pearl’s unwisdom; and I haven’t even touched upon Debi Pearls own Gospel-less brand of teaching to wives and mothers, epitomized in her field trip suggestion posted in This Old Schoolhouse Magazine:  take your kids to an airport to evaluate the clothing choices of the travelers, and rate them on modesty.  What a heartless  focus: zeroing in on the tight pants and crop tops that are merely a reflection of the broken lives within the bared skin. No vision of the damaged people who need a Savior, and who might welcome some good news from winsome Spirit-filled believers. But I do not think any outreach would be successful on that little Pharisaical excursion into the world.

The homeschooling community has become  blind guides: our distorted message to these desperate people is devoid of grace: your dress is bad, your music and movies are bad and we hate your influence on our kids–and we will build ourselves the City of God, safe from you. We have experienced a kind of heart failure. When I read  suggestions like this in This Old Schoolhouse magazine I just gave up–I quit reading and subscribing to the homeschool literature, and going to the conventions. They have nothing to say to me anymore. I suggest that rather than this kind of separation from the world, we separate ourselves instead from our dead legalism, and stop funding these ministries and magazines.

The Pearls have developed a cultish kind of following devoted to their teachings, because pragmatically, they work — after all, Skinner’s experiments with mice demonstrated that! But  their teachings are straying more and more from the truth once delivered to the saints, and are well on their way to preaching another gospel. It is not okay to say that they are legitimate teachers anymore, and that there is good in what they do. Children do not need to be relieved of the guilt of their sin by the atoning stripes of the rod–they must be shown the Cross. Women can and should separate from their abusive husbands. And the Lydia Schatz tragedy is a completely  logical extension of Michael Pearl’s instructions that the parent should not stop “chastising” until the kid cries ‘uncle’–no, that is inaccurate, he teaches the child should not have any breath left in him to cry at anything, there should not be even “breath left in them to complain.” The Pearls are false teachers who must be shunned, and publicly. We have a kind of heart failure in the homeschool community when we endorse such teachings.

I wish I’d shunned this type of teaching.  We never set up a “training ground” at our house, but like Pearl I believed in the power of the rod, that it was a magic wand that would transform my toddler into a model of submissiveness. I tried as best I could, believing I was a bad parent if I didn’t wield it–but I must have done something wrong. I was an obvious failure as a mother. Our toddler tantrumed several times a day, for hours, several hours at a time, and at that time I had a newborn on my hip as well. The police made a visit to my home one night, after an alarmed new neighbor heard the screaming from the bathroom again, where for survival’s sake I’d learned to leave her  whenever she went into another bewildering rage. It was the grace of God that kept me away from her then, and all those other times.

I was so overwhelmed, and filled with guilt. According to the sort of warped thinking that is promoted by the Pearls, I did not love my daughter enough because I could not consistently wield that rod. I was so afraid of what I would do if I did pick up a rod that stings but does not leave a mark, and spank my troubled child until she was quiet, spank until there was not, in those ghastly words, “breath in her to cry ‘huggie’,…” spank until I heard that “wounded, submissive whimper.” For then the “admonition is complete.”

The wounded submissive whimper that never came from Lydia Schatz, she resisted that terrible night until her heart finally gave out. Oh, that smiling survivor  of a country nearly destroyed by recent civil war; that little girl who came off the plane so relieved that she was safe at last, only to find that she was a child soldier in a very different war–a war of wills–and she must have decided she was never going to surrender. She had lived through worse things. She thought when she got off the plane at that airport that she was done with unimaginable horrors.

Lydia, I weep for you even as I type those words. We failed you. We promoted the teachings that led to your death. I am so thankful you are safe now from all that would ever threaten you, forever. Safe in the Savior’s protective embrace, where there are no more tears–no suffering like yours there, ever again.

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45 Comments on “Whose Heart Failure?”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    I am deeply moved by this story Karen. I weep with you for Lydia (and the thousands like her that bear such suffering) and join you in thankfulness that she is truly in the arms of the Saviour now……forever.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Thank you for your comments, Sylvia. I remember, you had such a heart for the street children of Brazil, did you not? The situation for adoptions in Liberia has only worsened; the moratorium the country had imposed on further adoptions that many hoped would be eased has been extended; so the reach of this tragedy is worldwide.

      My heart is still so broken about it, but I am asking God to turn my grief into effectual fervent prayer for the Schatz family, and for the bewildered orphans in Liberia who long for a mother’s comfort.

  2. julie Says:

    I feel I have been spared the influences of the Pearls. Their teachings were recommended to us many years ago by some well meaning friends. However, at that time, I had just begun to fully understand the grace available through believing the gospel and enabled me to spot some of the legalism in their teachings.

    It was also at this time that I quit subscribing to the many homeschooling magazines and went it alone. I completely agree with your assessment of them and much of the home school movement. Which is sad because I really advocate homeschooling.

    I, too, have been humbled in my attempts to raise godly children. It takes God to raise godly children – His indwelling Spirit in them. Shame on me for trusting in my own disciplined lifestyle. Thankfully, my prodigals are beginning to turn to Jesus, in spite of me.

    A while back, my friend recommended the Pearl’s comic book “Good and Evil” to help teach our children an overview of the scriptures. Well, I have to say that it was filled with so much error, we turned it into a study on comparing what the comic book said to what the scriptures actually say. It turned out to be a great lesson for our children in spotting doctrinal error.

    Thank you for your wonderful tribute to Lydia.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Julie, thank you for your insightful and kind comments.

      We didn’t really fall into the Pearl’s camp, we watched it from a distance. I realize now this post makes it seem as if I was a Pearlite, so I have edited it a bit; instead of saying, “because of irrational belief in such false promises as the Pearls offer”, I made it more clear that it was false theology that bred unhealthy parenting. And I took out a passage that made it seem as if I had used the notorious plumbing supply line–I was only imagining the horror I would have done if I had followed their methods. No, we used corporeal punishment, but not to the Pearls gruesome extent.

      I was trained in behavioral therapies when I worked with autistic children before I was married. I was able to spot the repellent Operant Conditioning techniques the Pearls espouse, and reject them–things such as setting up a “training session” for a toddler engrossed in play, interrupting him with a friendly call to come to Mommy and Daddy, and spanking him if he does not come immediately. Or putting his favorite food in front of him, and spanking his hand when he touches it, until he learns to obey your command, “no, don’t touch.” This is a teaching more compatible with BF Skinner than the God of the Bible. So I rejected the behaviorism of the Pearls, but unlike you, was not able to spot legalism, due to my own bondage. I judged secretly anyone who did not measure up to my Godly Standard. I remember being shocked at a friend’s decision not to spank her children–she knew her own heart’s darkness, and could not entrust herself with the rod. I thought she was disobedient to the word of God.

      I was quite the proud legalist back in the day. I really did believe in the dominionism rife in the movement–I was the editor of our home-school group’s newsletter, I was Mrs. Practically Perfect on the outside, and impossibly controlling and fearful on the inside. Thanks be to God, in His mercy He broke me of that. Now I delight to err on the side of grace. I enjoy His rest. And I have won my children’s trust back.

      I am thankful that it seems our prodigals are coming to their senses as well; one child has recently even made what I consider to be profession of faith–not done to please me as she did as a child. It was a desperate surrender. Yet this one is experiencing severe struggles in piecing their life back together again. Years of bondage and stinking thinking have taken their toll. But at least we are on this side of the struggle! And the other one is willing to be made willing, and is praying with me. Almost went to church with us a couple of weeks ago! And the pastor preached so movingly on the cross that day. (Ah me! I am tired. I write fragments when I am tired, sorry.)

      I have discovered there is one reward in being the parent of a prodigal–experiencing a small part of what the Father might feel–the anguish of rejection, of watching them make disastrous decisions, that longing for them to be restored to your heart. Parents of prodigals can know Him more intimately. It is another aspect of the fellowship of His sufferings, I think. I would not willingly choose it, never! but its bittersweet intensity I would miss, I would really miss, having known it.

      Ah, time to put my droopy head to bed. I really enjoyed your comments here, and also things you have written elsewhere. You are very wise! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Sylvia Says:

    You have a very good memory Karen :). Yes we have just returned from our recent three month stint in Brazil. It was a tearful goodbye as we have become so attached to these dirty, barefooted, BEAUTIFUL children who live in such poverty.

    In 2006 we thought we were embarking on a peaceful (early) retirement in the Florida sunshine, but God had different ideas ahaha! Our daughter Amanda moved to Brazil in 2008 and works with the project full time (she is a teacher) and would not leave now for
    ‘all the money in the world’ despite the regular setbacks and dangers.

    I am fully convinced I have the correct answer to the question “where would Jesus be found if he were still here on earth? – Saddleback church (for example) OR walking and talking with the impoverished children in the slums of Brazil/Liberia/Africa/India etc.etc….”?


    • Karen Butler Says:


      Your comment reminded me of the other blessing in parenting a prodigal–following them into the byways and alleys of their increasing degradation, and being reminded of the lostness that is right outside of our comfy Christian ghettos. Our prodigals bring these dreadful souvenirs home when they visit.

      I am so thankful for those eye-openers–like the gutter punk who came in with one of ours from the rain, we dried his clothes in our garage, and he said the next morning, his face brightening as he heard my little daughter recite her Bible verses for me, “I remember that. I used to go with my grandparents to church, and they took us to Sunday School. I learned that verse!”

      It was a good memory for that son of heroin addicts–his mom died when he was four, and whose dad is in jail. I know his grandparents are still praying for him, and I still do too.
      I am haunted by these kids too, Sylvia. I need to get out into the alleys again, and not just weep about it.

  4. Karen Butler Says:

    I listened this morning to a helpful radio show on parenting,
    Family Life today, and the guest Mother of six Leslie Leyland Fields Author of “Parenting is Your Highest Calling and Other Parenting Myths” was discussing myth #3, “Successful Parents Produce Godly Children.” She said this

    “It’s important for us as parents to recognize that we cannot work or earn our children’s salvation; we cannot work or earn our children’s sanctification. Sometimes we get just a much too exalted view of ourselves as a parent. That’s God’s work and God’s amazing and powerful grace that is not limited by anything. Not limited by our imperfections, not limited by the imperfections of our home. God can break through at any moment and bring that salvation and sanctification that we so desire for our kids”.

    This was a very encouraging discussion, liberating for every guilt-ridden parent. Listen to more here:


  5. […] Whose Heart Failure? from Now… Through a Glass Darkly –  Includes testimony […]

  6. Tammy Glaser Says:

    Karen, what we humans break, God can restore! He is the healer of all broken hearts. He can help us recover from heart failure and rebuild relationships with him and with others.

    I think behaviorism is fine for building discrete skills that are things we do not want to devote thinkspace too: tying shoes, brushing teeth, etc. Behaviorism is a very precise tool to do a very
    specific thing that you can pull from the tool bag only when it makes sense. In fact, sometimes, operant conditioning is not the only way to teach a discrete skill. This year, I taught my 20yo daughter with autism to tie her shoes in four lessons each lasting only a few minutes through the ideas found in Relationship Development Intervention.

    When behaviorism takes over your life and dominates how you interact with your child, then it is a problem. Parenting is our model for our relationship
    with God. God is a god of mercy and justice, truth and grace. However, he is lavish in his love. He is given us a chance to avoid the punishment we deserve.
    If he used a behavioristic model with us in every aspect of our life, God would bash us immediately for every little sin. We would have no idea of unconditional love because we would be getting punished nearly every second of our lives. If the Pearls believe they are living sinless lives, then they truly are deceived by the father of all lives. “‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

    Behaviorism is great for training animals. But, our children are human beings, they have souls, they are born persons. It can be a tool we can use sparingly for very specific reasons. If we use it day in and day out to guide our relationships, then our kids will have a faulty understanding of God and a
    faulty understanding of unconditional love. We practice idolatry when we think we can be the savior of our children through the perfect parenting style.

    The homeschooling books that innoculated my heart against operant condition was those written by Charlotte Mason. The Christian book that has given me new insight about how dangerous self-righteous attitudes are is The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Tammy, thanks for visiting my blog! I have just posted a comment on the Tritone Life, and I think I saw your comments there on the thread http://tritonelife.com/2010/03/18/the-behavior-modification-gospel/.

      I couldn’t agree more with your observations, and I love the quote you posted there from Keller:

      “What makes you faithful or generous is not just a redoubled effort to follow moral rules. Rather, all change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.”

      But I have some questions in my mind about consequences for sin that the Lord lets us experience that are a kind of behavior modification, as well as the blessings and cursings so clearly delineated in Scripture that shape behavior as well. Do you mind if we discuss those issues there? The author of that blog thinks very deeply on those issues, and I would very much like to have him weigh in on the discussion.

      I so appreciate your insights as well. I have a child with some autistic-like behaviors, but having worked with low functioning autistic children with behavioral issues that kept them from being mainstreamed, I know issues and tests of faith you must deal with every day–blessings to you my sister, and to your child. I long for the day when the Lord will make all things new!

      • Tammy Glaser Says:

        I will head over to the other site for theology.

        I try to see autistic behaviors as communication. Because these children lack the ability to communicate, it is so vital that we try to look for underlying cause. In many situations, what looked like disobedience had a root cause. My daughter had insomnia for two years. Experimentation with her diet revealed the culprit: apple products. She was never destructive and quietly played in her room. We let her be. But, what if I had read the materials written by the Pearls and punished her for the disobedience of getting out of her bed when there was a physical reason for waking up so early? I would have lived with that guilt.

        Later, we found a link between diet and bladder incontinence. Fortunately, I assumed her issue had something to do with autism so we never set up negative reinforcements for wetting her pants when we tried to potty train her. She failed to potty train until we took her off gluten and casein. In two weeks, she had bladder control. Again, what if I had spent four years of potty training her and punishing her for not being able to control herself? I am so glad God’s grace prevented me from seeing their writing or being aware of behavior modification.

        Operant conditioning is a tool that we ought to use with great care. It should not dominate our interactions with another human being.

  7. shadowspring Says:

    Good article. Thanks for writing from you heart.

    As a long-time home schooler, I am wondering if there was anything more I could have done to expose the idiocy in the Pearls approach to human relationships between parent-child. I rejected their book out of hand, as did all my close friends. But I never took a public stand.

    I actually had more faith in the church than I evidently should have. Honestly, many home school moms who have begun teaching since my time scare me. They simply look for a curriculum/prophet to tell them what to do and say and then just blindly follow. As long as there are some scripture references, these strange parents are happy to let someone else tell them what to think/say/do/teach.

    Where are the Bereans among them? I am happy to know that is not all there is out there.

    I have met younger home school moms enthused with the joy of embarking on a learning adventure with their family, eager to seek truth and life anew each day together. I applaud these women, and want to encourage all of you to make your presence known.

    The fallout from dogmatic Christian isolationist home schooling has just begun. Let us all be found firmly on the side of freedom, love and real learning!

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Thanks Shadowspring for your comments. I agree wholeheartedly, “The fallout from dogmatic Christian isolationist home schooling has just begun. Let us all be found firmly on the side of freedom, love and real learning!”

      I too wish I had spoken out more forcefully as I began to get more light on the issues we discuss here. I am praying and waiting on the Lord for direction about whether to open up again my Momblog which I had to abandon for lack of time, and motivation. This issue has got me fired up, and perhaps I do need to add my voice to yours, and others calling out for grace and reliance upon the scriptures and the Spirit in parenting, not formulas from men.

  8. julie Says:

    I remember when my prodigals first began bringing their tatooed, pierced, dread-locked, and barely washed friends home. It was such a culture shock to my conservative mind set. Needless to say, I am so grateful for the adjustments the Lord made in my heart towards them. They are regulars in our home, today, and come as much for the welcoming the Lord has given, as for the breaking of bread and fellowship of the saints we are able to engage in. Thank you, thank you Jesus for the precious, discarded people along the highways and byways that You call “My children”.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      I am so thankful for castaways too! I want to minister to them more and more. Francis Schaeffer used to say that Edith’s cinnamon buns brought just as many sinners to the gospel as his teaching and preaching. She wrote a wonderful book called “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” that was so lovely and inspiring to me. That and “What is a Family?”, where she describes a real family with all its warts–like her husband who was wont to throw the philodendron against the wall in his despondency. She would quietly re-pot it, and it became this symbol for persevering, forgiving love; eventually it twined around the entirety of his office, strong and enduring. That story helped me so much when I was looking all around for help, when things started to hit the wall in my own family. That story has become my model for writing what I do, and being transparent and honest with my struggles; because in my confusion as a new mom, I had no models to understand what a Christian Family looked like. Mrs. Schaeffer gave me so much hope.

      Julie, more and more I am wishing we were next-door neighbors, and our kids would get along just fine! I make a great cup of coffee–we roast our own green beans (it’s cheaper, and the unroasted beans can stay fresh for over a year)so you are welcome to pop in anytime you get the hankering. Just tell me and I’ll put the kettle on. And I’ll defrost some cinnamon buns!

  9. Julie Says:

    I’ll be right over after I get my third-born married off this weekend! Woohoo – gonna be surrounded by precious young adults who want the love of Jesus! God bless you my friend!

  10. Karen Butler Says:

    Mazel Tov, Julie! What a joy that must be. May God’s richest blessings be on this new family, and may His face shine upon their special day!

  11. Karen Butler Says:

    I wonder if Family Life is not responding in some way to this tragedy. They broadcast this week a series of programs dealing with the special needs foster and adopted children, and biological children born under trauma and stress bring into their new families, the attachment disorders they bring into these relationships. For three days they talked with Dr. Karyn Purvis, a mom of countless foster children, who also holds a degree in developmental psychology, discusses with great wisdom and compassion some of the issues. I was moved to tears by some of the stories. Here for example,Dr Purvis tells the story of a mom who told her adopted daughter to wait for her dinner, that she could not have the snack she requested:

    “And she said, “No baby, you can’t have that, but in 10 minutes we are going to have your favorite supper. I have cooked your favorite supper while Ms Karyn is here.” BAMM! This little girl goes, “I hate you! You are mean to me! You never give me anything! I hate you! I hate you!” And she races to her room and she slams the bedroom door and I hear her throwing things.

    Her mom says looks at me and she says, “I hope she doesn’t break the vanity mirror again.” And she puts her hands on her hips and said, “Do you think that she overreacted just a little?” And I said, “No! I really don’t! You told this little girl she couldn’t eat and she smelled the delicious aromas in this kitchen. And you know she will eat in 10 minutes, but she doesn’t know it.

    I said the way that we would call, ‘Felt Safety’ is I would take that little ‘Power Bar’ and take that darling child’s hands and I would say, “Yes baby, you can have that ‘Power Bar’ and you can eat it right after dinner. Do you want to put it in your pocket to save or do you want to put it by your plate and save?” Now see, that little girl’s holding that thing’ she knows she is not going to die. You knew it before. She knows it now.

    Now, one month into this family of doing the things that we had taught them about helping her to feel safe and giving her a voice. This little girl sat with her mother and curled her little fingers up, like curling towards….

    Dennis: Or saying, “Come to me?”

    Dr Purvis: Something like saying, “Come to me.” And she said, ‘Mommy do you know what this means?” The Mama said, “No baby, what does that mean?” This precious little girls said, “Mommy, it means……’ and she began to look up like she was in the crib in the Russian orphanage and she began to look up and look back and forth and she began to tell the story….she said, “Orphanage lady, will you please stop and give me food? But mommy, nobody will stop and nobody will give me food.” This little girl has been home for 4 years and she has never told anybody that she remembers begging for food.

    Now, when I give that child a ‘Power Bar,’ and I say, “Yes! You can have this candy bar right after dinner, you can keep it in your pocket or you can keep it by your plate.” I have spoken to her the language that I know she needs to feel safe; not that I know she is safe, but that she needs to know she is safe.”

    The whole series was deeply, profoundly moving to me, and helpful to me as well as I navigate parenting some at-risk children of my own. It was so powerfully confirming to me of the things the Lord had already led me to do with one child in particular–massaging that one when they are in deep distress, just praying quietly. Dr. Purvis talks about the power of this kind of touch to heal children who cannot connect in healthy ways.

    Here’s the link to the first program in the series, “Children From Hard Places.” http://www.familylife.com/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=dnJHKLNnFoG&b=3781041&ct=8035699

  12. ian vincent Says:

    Wow, Karen, i can’t believe that Michael Pearl would laugh at the death of that child. Was he laughing at the death of the child, OR laughing at being blamed for the death of that child? (not that there is any humor in either) I never saw in his writings any recommendation that a child be beaten for a spelling mistake?? Let alone be beaten continuously?? Never saw any hint of that.

    So just bcos the woman had read the Pearl’s materials doesn’t mean that she was actually doing what they said.

  13. Karen Butler Says:

    Ian, I understand your points, and I have edited my post to reflect your concerns. That was clumsy writing, and I don’t want it to distract from the basic truths of what I am seeking to communicate, and I don’t want to be unnecessarily inflammatory. It is a fact that Michael Pearl posted that notorious post after Lydia died, and that is really very insensitive to all us caustic critics who truly do grieve at this terrible situation. Please read this link at http://tritonelife.com/2010/03/10/pearl-of-too-great-a-price/. He is an articulate and well-reasoning pastor near the Schatz’ home, and his church has been greatly impacted. He writes of that anguish here. http://tritonelife.com/2010/03/24/a-communitys-agony-over-the-schatzes/

    I have changed the opening as well, to more accurately reflect the parents dilemma, I think. They saw her repeated mispronouncing of the word as disobedience, but I think she was sad–and a child with attachment issues will express this with anger. Dr. Purvis, quoted above says this about adoptive children, that they start off life scared and sad. She says, “I ask parents up-front to remember this, scared kids look crazy and sad kids look angry. Stand before your child with an open heart because this child has come from incredibly hard places.”

    If the Schatz’ could have stood with an open heart instead of the brainwashing they had recieved, they might have been able to see the sadness. I know those Frog and Toad storybooks very well. We just finished reading them together, my youngest daughters and I. That time together has become one of my most precious memories. The books talk about cosy homes filled with laughter and loyal friendships. They would drive a deprived child into feeling her losses most keenly. I do not think her grief was properly understood, nor would she be given a voice to express it in that kind of household. Purvis says, “As I go to bring a child home, because I believe God’s called me to do this, because I have a peace in my spirit to do this, but that child may have left a culture and friends and the only life they knew. It may be their darkest hour in their own little minds.”

    I think it is interesting Ian, that although I accurately reported that the parents BOTH took turns beating her until she went into cardiac failure, you said, “So just bcos the woman had read the Pearl’s materials doesn’t mean that she was actually doing what they said.” Why do you assume that it was the woman spearheading this particular discipline session? I know as a woman I could never have persisted with that kind of steely resolve, not with the drama that must also have been going on with this kind of standoff, for hours.
    That’s a man-thing, Ian, the drive to conquer. And this may be reading too much into a picture, but I still think my instincts are correct. In the news reports, the picture shows her at the arraignment with shoulders slumped in grief and remorse and shame. He sits looking straight at the judge with his chin tilted, to me with a steely glint of defiance. So, why did you say “she” was doing what they said?

    And this is what they say: Until the child submits.. And this is a man writing here, with man language. No sissy attachment stuff. That’s stuff promoted by “demonic damsels”, in Debi Pearls words in response to her critics. Here’s Michael’s manly handling of a standoff with your child:

    “…then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

    From To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl
    Chapter 6: Applying the Rod

    I don’t think it was the woman doing what Michael Pearl said. I don’t think it was a woman who could have persisted with the 1/4 inch plastic plumbing supply line until she had a heart attack; and according to the coroners report released on what would have been her 8th birthday, Lydia died of

    “Rhabdomyolysis which occurs when there is damage to the skeletal muscle.

    The injured muscle cell leaks myoglobin (a protein) into the blood stream. Myoglobin can be directly toxic to kidney cells, and it can impair and clog the filtration system of the kidney. Both mechanisms can lead to kidney failure, which is the major complication of rhabdomyolysis.

    Significant muscle injury can cause fluid and electrolyte shifts from the bloodstream into the damaged muscle cells, and in the other direction (from the damaged muscle cells into the bloodstream). As a result, dehydration may occur. Elevated levels of potassium in the bloodstream (hyperkalemia) may be associated with heart rhythm disturbances and sudden cardiac death due to ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation.

    My heart continues to break. This is a very great tragedy.

  14. […] Butler has updated Whose Heart Failure and added some very interesting comments. If you have already read that blog entry, it is worth […]

  15. ian vincent Says:

    Hi Karen,

    Sorry for taking a long time to reply. A few points:

    Regards me saying it was the woman. That was just a slip, nothing sinister.

    I did a little research on this and i found out that the Pearl’s theology on beating is off. They believe that beating cleanses the child’s soul, which is wrong. Scripture says that beating ( it’s assumed, in love) causes the child to respect their parents. It impresses on them that disobedience is to dishonor your parents.

    Heb 12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

    The critics of the Pearls seem to be against any beating.

    Michael Pearl seriously failed to show any compassion.

    gotta go

    • Tammy Glaser Says:

      Hi, Ian, I am a big believer in looking at context because politicians and the media prove every single day how taking a comment out of context alters the meaning.

      In Chapter 10:32-39 the writer of Hebrews is calling the readers to persevere in the face of persecution. “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.” He goes onto liken all the hardship they faced because of their faith. He goes onto list the heroes faith one by one in Chapter 11, who like them endured hardship.

      In Chapter 11:32-40, the writer of Hebrews is spotlighting people of the Old Testament who did their great deeds out of faith (even a prostitute made the cut). He talks about the hardships they endured (including torture, flogging, stoning, etc.) It is not all physical torture either for he included jeering on the list. I believe his point is that, when you walk by faith, you may endure hardship, especially when the world condemns you for it. In the next four verses (Hebrews 12:1-4), he clinches it with the shining example of Jesus who shed His blood in His struggle against the sin of all.

      Hebrews 12:1-12 presents a metaphor of running a race witnessed by a crowd. He do runners train? They endure hardship, even to the point of shedding blood. I am married to a runner and can attest to the bloody blisters resulting from a strict training program. Runners undergo hardship to prepare for a race to build endurance for the race, another form of discipline in itself. The writer ends with talking about strengthening feeble arms and weak knees. This is a strengthening program to win a race, not a punishment for loosing a race. Sin is the obstacle in our way that might cause us to lose the race if we are not properly trained. The sin of others also proves to be obstacles because of persecution.

      Another piece of context we are missing is that the Gentile society of his day. Men often had illegitimate children, who could be made legitimate if the Fathers ensured they had a proper education, made sure they were trained, and gave them his name. Fathers who ignored these children left them in a state of illegitimacy. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” (Hebrews 12:7-8) So, when we endure hardships in life that result from walking by faith, it is a sign that our Father accepts us as His own.

      The author might have had in mind the Stoics (philosophers like Seneca). They believed in suffering hardship because it produced patience and endurance. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

      When I read this passage, I do not see it as the reasoning for spanking a child. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” The point of the passage is the hardship they are facing because of persecution. It is LIKE a father disciplining a child. And, while persecution is often physical, I do not believe that it implies that discipline must also be physical.

      There are many ways to discipline and train a child that do not involved spanking: grounding, time-out, withdrawing privileges, additional chores, etc. In fact, the military manages to train soldiers without resorting to corporal punishment. In my first year at the Naval Academy, the only blood I shed was from blisters caused by all the running. The pain I felt was from sore muscles due to push-ups, sit-ups, calesthenics, marching, learning the manual of arms, etc. We also endured mental hardship of having to memorize a ton of information and being rebuked (yelled at and screamed at) for not knowing what we were expected to know.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Ian, it seems to me you gave a cursory read to the article, because I make those points as well–“they believe that beating cleanses the child’s soul, which is wrong.” Hmm…to not read my painstaking article, well, that is sinister enough for me!

      Seriously, please note that while context is extremely important, as Tammy demonstrates, so is the actual Greek word for “disciplined” which is used several times here in Hebrews 12. All forms of the word, including the word “chasten” in several translations, are derived from the root word ‘paidea’, meaning instruct, learn teach–we get the English word ‘pedagogue’, or teacher from it, and it only by implication describes physical punishment–perhaps because of the bad habits of certain teachers. For Proverbs 16:21 says that “Pleasant words promote instruction.”

  16. ian vincent Says:

    Just briefly. We used the stick on our 7 children when they were very young, never abused them. By God’s grace, and His love thru us, as well as fair discipline, they all came to respect and love us very quickly, so we no longer needed to discipline, after about 5 – 7 years old. The instances got rarer and rarer, and then didn’t occur. Our bond also got stronger and stronger. People who visit us comment about how happy our kids are.

    In contrast, families we know who don’t beat have children who have almost zero respect for their parents. We know a Christian family here whose young daughter was in charge of the household. She refused to eat vegetables and demanded sweets all the time, and her parents thought that the loving thing to do was to make her happy by giving in to her demands. She died suddenly, only about 4 yrs old.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Here you equate a stance against corporeal punishment as advocating no consequences at all. No one is arguing for permissive parenting. I have eight children, and my home would be havoc if I did that. We use logical consequences, and thoughtful, grace-based disciplines. Restitution in work for property destroyed or taken was a biblical consequence, and no-one would imply from that God is implying work is bad. It is simply a logical consequence for sinful behavior.

      A very good article http://joanneaz_2.tripod.com/positivedisciplineresourcecenter/id4.html that expands on the points I mentioned in mine regarding the word used in the five Proverbs, ’shebet’ versus the conditioning tool of the “stick”. Pragmatically corporeal punishment works for parents who want a peaceful home, and instantly obedient kids. It works for Pearls chickens too–they lay their eggs in peace free from harassing dogs.

      If you use it with your kids, know it is Skinnerlike conditioning, and cannot, and should not be referred to as GROWING KIDS GODS WAY, or the ONLY BIBLICAL WAY. There are alternatives in Grace Based Parenting, found on the link above or in the forum,http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/community/showthread.php?t=347847. Please note the extremely orthodox faith statement on the site.

      Pro 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with a rod, he shall not die.

      If you imply that letting this child run amok and not making her eat her vegetables caused her to suddenly be taken from this life; well, we can more clearly state that you CAN kill a child with a beating, with Lydia’s death. It is called rhabdomyolysis, from tissue damage.

      So we cannot take this proverb as the literal truth, and neither should we the others– as someone said, “Proverbs are proverbial.”

  17. ian vincent Says:

    Pro 13:24 He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him early.

    Pro 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.

    Pro 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with a rod, he shall not die.

    Pro 23:14 You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from sheol.

    Pro 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

    • Tammy Glaser Says:

      Sometimes, the first few verses of a book in the Bible explains its purpose:

      “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young–let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance–for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

      The book of proverbs is a book of wisdom, not a book of law. The introduction (Proverbs 1:1-6) alerts readers to expect parables and riddles, which implies there may be figurative language in addition to guidelines for living a disciplined and prudent life. Thus, some parts of the proverbs are not to be taken in the extreme literal sense. If so, what does this mean if taken literally (Proverbs 1:20-21), “Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech.”

      While a master used a rod to beat his servant, the rod of a shepherd served many purposes. The shepherd defended his sheep by clubbing predators or throwing the rod with amazing speed and accuracy. The shepherd also used it as an extension of his arm guiding sheep out of harm (away from poisonous water). Of course, an angry shepherd probably also used it to strike the stubborn ones.

      Sheep are very stupid animals who would die if left alone in the wild. Without a shepherd, they are helpless and cannot avoid hurting themselves. They are not as easy to train as dolphins, dogs, horses, birds, etc. through methods of behaviorism.

      Ian, you choose to limit the use of a rod to corporal punishment only. But, there are many uses of a rod, so in the cases of Proverbs 13:24, 29:15, and 22:15, I choose to use it to protect, direct, correct, and guide, which can be done without striking a child.

      That leaves Proverbs 23:13-14 for us to quibble over. 🙂

      Clearly, Proverbs 23:13 implies that the beating is moderate because the child survives the punishment. In the case we are discussing (Lydia), the parents overstepped their bounds. I choose not to spank my eldest child because of her autism. She was intolerant to pain until we took her off the foods that were causing her body to produce morphine (gluten and casein). We figured that out when she was six. Up until that point, her brain did not register pain very well: whenever she fell or hurt herself, she rarely cried. For her to feel pain, the spanking would have had to have been severe. Because of her autism, she did not process cause and effect very well either. So, the purpose of the punishment, to prevent more disobedient, would have been useless.

      Ephesians 6:1-4 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

      Paul added an important “but” here: do not exasperate your children and to train and instruct them. I have a theory that children who have a compliant, meek nature learn from mild spankings. The instinctively want to please their parents. I was like that as a child. All my parents needed to do was to give me a warning look and I cleaned up my behavior. I did not like their disapproval.

      My son turned out to be a hard-headed strong-willed child, the kind you expect to be rebellious teens. I remember spanking him once. He became angry, outraged, and defiant. I quickly realized he would be willing to take as hard a spanking as I could dish out and fight me every step of the way. I backed off because it concerned me how far he was willing to go in the battle of wills. It took me a long time to fight helpful Christian resources for strong-willed children, but I am so glad they are out there.

      What is he like today? He is seventeen years old. He is an honor roll student and has no absences or tardies on his record. We never wake him up for school or church, nor do we tell him to study. We have never given him a curfew because he has never shown us a reason to need one. He goes out from time to time, calls us to let us know where he is and when to expect him. Unless it’s an organized event (marching band or youth group), he has never been out later than seven. He has never come home drunk or had any hint of mind-altering substances. He attends youth group, takes a Bible class in school (public school), and just gave his first devotional at FCA on not judging others.

      Last month, we went on a cruise. He stayed home alone and cared for the house and pets. My parents live across the street, so we asked him to call or visit once a day. He did. He was not out all hours of the night (our neighbors kept an eye on that). In fact, when dusting the house two days after our return, I noticed it was much cleaner than it ought have been. I asked him about it when he got home from school and he told me he cleaned the house while we were gone. We had never asked him to do that.

      Being the sibling of an autistic child is very hard. He is a great brother to his sister. When I need a third person because my husband travels a lot, he helps with her therapies (only necessary occasionally). He is patient and kind to his sister, and, when he is frustrated, he comes to me, often with a strategy for solving the problem! We have a couple of kids in our neighborhood with neurological issues and he does not mind spending time with them because he knows how society treats them.

      And, yes, like your children, he is upbeat and has a positive outlook on life.

      I am not questioning your assertion that spanking was an effective tool in your family. It did not work in ours, and I do not think it is the only tool that Christian parents have to discipline children.

  18. ian vincent Says:

    Just on the point of the Pearl’s teaching that the rod cleanses the soul.

    Whilst that’s not Biblical, the truth is not far off that, for the rod used in a loving Godly manner teaches a child a lot about God.

    It reinforces that He hates sin and there is a penalty for sin.

    It reinforces that God does discipline and punish people for sin.

    It reinforces that people do indeed reap what they sow.

    It reinforces that God’s discipline is bcos He is righteous. It teaches them about judgment.

    If they can’t obey their parents, how could they ever obey God? or love God?

    It teaches them that God uses discipline on His children to restore them to Him, not to destroy them.

    It teaches that there is no contradiction between God’s love and His judgment.

    It causes children to face the reality of their sin, and the reality that they are sinners in need of a Savior.

    Just as how adults often feel indignant when we get a parking or speeding ticket, then have to realize that it is sin working in us that makes us to be indignant and causes us to protest our innocence when we are guilty, so does the rod cause a child to come to terms with the same issues.

    God bless

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Why do these beneficial teachings happen only in the context of corporeal punishment? They can just as well be attained through the use of grace based disciplines.

      Matthew Raley has this to say about the conditioning methods of the “Rod” in this article, and I think this is the most important thing that can be said about it:


      But what if Pearl’s fruit did not appear so vile? What if Pearl’s adherents all stayed perfectly within his stated limits for spanking? What if their fruit consisted solely of compliant, pleasant children who were helpful and never got in anyone’s way? What would we say then?

      I would say this.

      Those most resistant to the gospel of forgiveness by faith alone in Christ alone are the compliant people whose childhood guilt was purged by many spankings, and who never depart in adulthood from the way in which they were trained up. As Pearl himself says (in the same section cited above), a child relates “to his parents in the same manner that he will later relate to God.” Just try convincing a man trained this way that he needs, or could ever have, a Savior.

      I urge my fellow critics of Pearl’s teaching to talk about the Gospel. This is the moment to contrast Pharisaical legalism with the power of Jesus Christ.

  19. ian vincent Says:

    Let me guess, that the people who are against using the rod also don’t believe that Jesus throws the unrepentant into the lake of fire to be tormented for eternity?

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Oh Ian. Did I just hear the words, “straw man”?

      Why do you equate not using the “rod” with no consequences at all? Grace based discipline is not permissive parenting!

  20. Tammy Glaser Says:

    Ian, I believe in Hell. I interpret the Bible in a conservative manner, but not a legalistic manner. I do believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, every word of it inspired and authored by Him. I believe that, in the end, Christ will separate the sheep from the goats, who will end up in Hell.

  21. ian vincent Says:

    Hi Tammy,

    What is the difference between a legalistic and a conservative hell?


    Some will say that there are other punishments that can be used, like doing chores etc.. I think the reason why God instituted corporal punishment is that He wants the punishment to be a BAD thing. Doing chores, homework etc. is a GOOD thing. Therefore it’s wrong to use a good thing to instill the value of what is bad (even though the child may not consider chores as good, he/she needs to learn that it is good). It instills a double-standard in children.


    On the issue of “context”: any given passage of scriptures is loaded with many distinct truths. Rarely does the context alter the way we would view those truths. E.g. Heb. 12:9. The context doesn’t alter the fact that corporal punishment was considered normal with the Jewish people, as something commanded by God.

    • Tammy Glaser Says:

      Ian, I love hearty discussions about God and His word and this will be my last post on Palm Sunday eve! My eyelids are drooping and I need rest! 🙂

      I think the goal is to change outward behavior. Whether one spanks or disciplines in another manner, the mission is accomplished if the behavior changes. Is it not?

      I tended to use time in the room as a punishment and, when my son had a change of heart, he could come out. Then, we talked about what happened and often consulted Scripture for guidance. I did not use chores as punishment for the same reason as you probably: God instituted work for humans in Eden before the fall. It just became hard and unpleasant after the fall.

      The other issue I have in mind is that a person can outwardly obey, while disobeying in their heart. Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees time and time again, calling them white-washed tombs and a cup that is clean on the outside and dirty on the inside. He could see into their hearts, and he saw the evil there. That is why we talked about what happened and what could be done the next time around and how to repair the situation.

      To my son, staying in his room (which had no television, no telephone, no computer) was a bad thing because it was a separation from the family. One of the last things Jesus said on the cross was, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He did not complain about the pain or the torture. He felt left alone and abandoned by God. What broke His heart was separation from His Father. So, when parents have a strong relationship with their children, I think separation is a Biblical way to discipline.

      I also do not want to give my children the impression that they have to earn God’s favor. Christ did all of the work on the cross with His death. If we try to earn and keep God’s love by strict obedience, then it implies that what Christ did was not enough. We give our children a backwards message by implying that we obey to be accepted by God. It’s the other way around we obey because we are accepted, out of gratitude and joy to serve a God who has the perfect balance of grace and truth, that we have a hard time comprehending.

      If we obey to be accepted by God, then we miss out the joy of Christian life here on earth. We can never be good enough because we are sinners, so we have a hard time seeing the lavish grace and mercy exemplified by the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The father welcomed the disobedient younger son home and begged the hard-hearted elder son to join the banquet so they could celebrate together as a family.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      “The context doesn’t alter the fact that corporal punishment was considered normal with the Jewish people, as something commanded by God”.

      I would take serious issue with this statement, and say that we don’t know if the ancient Hebrews really trained their babies and toddlers with a “stick”, or if they interpreted the passage properly and reserved the stick for extreme situations involving their older boys, the “naar” described in all these Proverbs.

      And even so, we cannot rely on Jewish traditions for our example. Jesus clearly decried the Teachers of the Law for substituting their traditions for the commandments of God. For example He had to re-emphasize the marriage of one man to one woman, as they divorced their wives for any pre-text.

  22. ian vincent Says:

    Re: “I think the goal is to change outward behavior. Whether one spanks or disciplines in another manner, the mission is accomplished if the behavior changes. Is it not?”

    Definitely not. You could outwardly change or condition a child’s behavior simply by bribing them. (Same with some adults)Which would not be right, bcos it fails to teach them the nature and character of God.

    Scripture admonitions have to do with revealing the heart and nature of God, not pragmatic results.

    Sure, there’s no set-in-concrete guarantee that even if you do everything right and love them with all your heart that they are going to grow up to follow Jesus.

    We should do what is right, bcos it is right. Not for the perceived benefits.

    In this thread several distinct issues have been raised, which shouldn’t be blurred together:

    a) raising a family right, from the start

    b) how to help children who come from dysfunctional families and histories of abuse

    c) the difference between your own children and others

    d) the difference between the authority of a parent and that of a guardian or teacher etc.


    • Tammy Glaser Says:

      I agree with you that, if we do not teach them the nature and character of God, then we have failed as parents. I also agree that there are no guarantees in how we parent our children because, in the end, they must decide to accept or reject the Gospel.If they reject the Gospel and become prodigal, what aspect of God’s nature draws them back? Many prodigals do come back. Why?

      God is a god of truth. That is why we instruct our children with the Word, discipline them when they have disobeyed, and teach them to think for themselves so that they can questions those trying to deceive them. I have one question on spanking, what do you do if the child becomes defiant or does not change their behavior? What if you have a child that understands that God hates sin but does not care?

      I guess you and I will disagree with whether or not to interpret a few passages as reason to spank and we will find out the truth on the other side of Glory!

      I am concerned about dysfunctional families, adopted children with abuse in the backgrounds, etc. But, I am also concerned about children born with neurological, biological differences in the brain that cannot be seen and are not detected until they are older. Or children who have language processing issues that are not noticed until the child isn’t talking on time. At what age, do you begin to spank?

      I saw the post below and I hope you are not taking my questions as mocking. I truly am trying to understand your interpretation of the Word. God showers rain on both the righteous and unrighteous, which is another truth about His nature. He is a god of mercy and grace. When the prodigal came home, he ran to him before knowing whether or not his son was sorry. And, it was the elder brother who did not understand grace and resented his brother’s return.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Tammy, thank you so much for holding the fort here while I was absorbed in the lengthy article, linked below. You did a great job, you were so respectful of my dear friend Ian, and were a model to us all about how to engage with those who do not share our views on the Biblical use of “shebet.”

        I would agree with Ian here, in part, and say that I am far more interested than in just outward behavior. Of course I want a peaceful and happy home, but I long for them to be at peace with God as well. I will always be God’s ambassador to them, entreating them to be reconciled to God, putting away wrath, malice, anger lying whatever is between them and their Father in Heaven or their brothers here on earth.

        And as far as Ian’s other statement here, “You could change or condition a child’s behavior simply by bribing them. (Same with some adults),Which would not be right, bcos it fails to teach them the nature and character of God.”

        I would say that I have made the case that by spanking a very young child, you are effectively conditioning them.
        There is no other fair way to describe it. Which way reveals the heart and nature of God, this crude conditioning, or entreating a child to rely on the love and resurrection life of Christ themselves for obedience, as we do?
        Lou Priolo, whose book “The Heart of Anger” was pivotal in enabling me to change my punitive paradigms, tells a beautiful story of his two year old daughter Sophia, who was beginning a temper tantrum, but was scooped up and sent to the “Think Room.”

        “Only a couple of minutes later, our little daughter who has always been very verbal for her age, came to my wife and said, “Mommy, I feel better now, I prayed to Jesus.” Kim was quite pleasantly surprised, she had not thought to ask her to pray, but Sophia had taken the initiative to do so. Kim asked her what she had prayed to Jesus about. Sophia replied, “I ask Jesus to help me lie down and not be selfish.” Children are sometimes capable of understanding and doing more than we give them credit for.”

        Yes, Amen.

        Tammy, you asked “At what age, do you begin to spank?”
        The Bible never, never, describes applying the rod to the tender young flesh of a toddler, or infant. To be completely Biblical, in line with the teachings of these Proverbs, you could not spank until Bar Mitzvah age.

        Here is a quote from the Study of the Rod Scriptures from http://joanneaz_2.tripod.com/positivedisciplineresourcecenter/id4.html that expands on these points, and makes some trenchant observations at the end:

        “Meaning of “na’ar”: a boy, lad, servant, youth, retainer a. boy, lad, youth b. servant, retainer

        Concretely a boy (as active), from the age of infancy to adolescence; by implication a servant; also (by interchange of sex) a girl (of similar latitude in age).

        The KJV translates it as follows: young man 76, servant 54, child 44, lad 33, young 15, children 7, youth 6, babe 1, boys 1

        This word “na’ar” is referring to boys most of the time (since a lad would be a male) and usually young men.

        Therefore, *if* one took these Scriptures to mean literal physical punishment, than it would possibly only apply to fathers spanking their sons who are older (since adolescence can go through the early 20’s). Most Christian discipline “experts” do not mention this. Yet, if one is to interpret this verse literally, this would have to be the explanation. Law-based Christian parenting authors say a parent should be able to STOP spanking by the time their children reach 12 or 13, yet according to this Scripture, this parent would not even START using physical punishment until then. These verses, if taken literally, would be referring to this form of punishment as an absolute last resort to save the child (which was possibly a boy only) from hell.

        Many Christians have taken FIVE verses and hung a whole child rearing philosophy on them! Parents are told to use this as a primary form of punishment (what these experts refer to as discipline). Some use the word “punishment” and the term “discipline” interchangeably when they mean two entirely different things. These people are basing their theology on nothing more than the traditions of men!”

        I had been given that to study as a new mother rather than “God, The Rod, and Your Child’s Bod.”

      • Tammy Glaser Says:

        Karen, thanks for the additional Biblica insight on the meaning of “na’ar”! That clarifies it even more.

  23. ian vincent Says:

    I’ve heard some people mocking the Biblical approach to child-rearing, saying that such parents just want to “play God” – be God to their children.

    In their mocking they don’t know how near (but how far) they are from the truth.

    Children first learn about God from their Godly parents, who are like God to them : their all in all, really. Mum and Dad are the first “Bible” we read.

    Either we give them an accurate image of the true God, or a perverted one.

    If God the Father disciplines then so should we. As He showers His love, so should we.

    If we are mature saints in Christ then we know about the security we have with our Father, and His faithfulness to correct us. We are not neurotic or paranoid over the fact that our Father can and will correct us in love if necessary. We are secure with our Father in heaven.

    Our children should grow up in such a secure environment. Where Mum and Dad’s word is respected and their discipline is not resented. Then a child can progress and come to respect the Words of God.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      “Our children should grow up in such a secure environment. Where Mum and Dad’s word is respected and their discipline is not resented. Then a child can progress and come to respect the Words of God.”

      I agree wholeheartedly, and would argue that an environment created by Grace Based Discipline would create those optimal conditions. It is not equivalent to permissive parenting. Here is an intro to it:http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/articles/crystal/gbd.php

      My children did not respect the Words of God when I unthinkingly chose the rod as the de facto response to any transgression. I distinctly remember the day when my twelve year old daughter turned her back to me at the table during Bible Time. Then she started wearing all black. She was in mourning over not having a voice, and being continually controlled and manipulated with behavior modification that never reached her heart. Matthew Raley says this in the “Behavior Modification Gospel”,http://tritonelife.com/2010/03/18/the-behavior-modification-gospel/

      “But our culture as a whole is fixated on behavior modification. From marketing to management to relationships, we are profoundly manipulative. And evangelical Christians are little different.

      I believe Christian parenting can demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ. Christ does not condition children for performance; he raises them up in new life. A parent’s job is to guide a unique little person, made in the image of God, to his or her Savior.

      This starts with recognizing that the child’s soul and conscience are able to relate to God directly, apart from our control (Luke 1.39-45; Matthew 18.1-4; Mark 10.13-16). Further, a wise parent does not frame behavioral issues in terms of giving a satisfactory performance, but in terms of the new life Christ gives (Colossians 3.1-17).

      Our parenting should be about Christ, not about us.

      It’s time to reject the degrading puppetry of behavior modification, regardless of whether the puppeteer is a fundamentalist or a psychologist. We need to engage firmly, humbly, and humanely with children’s souls.”

      Preach it, Matthew!

  24. […] Karen at Then Face 2 Face has more, including the passage with the word which Lydia had problems with, which came from Frog and Toad Together, a book about true friendship. Karen tells us that the Schatzes adopted Lydia and her sister Zahria from Liberia (an unstable country where children are treated as cannon fodder).  Lydia and Zahria were in an orphanage at the time. You don’t make friends in an orphanage. You know you will never see your parents. Your relationships are nil. So it’s no wonder that Lydia stumbled over the same word again and again in a story about companionship and loyalty which she never knew.  This must have caused her great pain, a distress which she could not — or would not have been allowed to — articulate. (Having moved around because of my father’s transfers with his employer, I know to a lesser extent what Lydia and her sister endured. In that situation, there are no friendships, no Frog and Toad. It is not surprising that certain anomalies manifest themselves, triggers which would not feature in children who had grown up in the same town all their lives.) […]

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