Child Abuse Cloaked in “Christian Discipline”… Another Death at the Hands of Pearl Followers

I am writing this as my children sleep.

My four children, who, while they’ve surely never had perfect parents, have never had parents that they’ve feared.   I wish, I so badly wish, that that was the case in all homes.  I wish that all well-meaning parents who loved their children would just – at a minimum – let their children know that they are safe.   That their home is their sanctuary.  That their parents will protect them from harm, that they will never have to go to bed or wake up or spend a single day of their lives in FEAR.

That is, heartbreakingly, not the case.

Last week,  Larry and Carri Williams of Washington State were found guilty of the murder of their little daughter, Hana.   They are the third couple to be found guilty of murder after employing the child-abuse techniques in the “Christian” parenting book, To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi and Pearl.

The first was four year old Sean Paddock, in 2006.  His death was followed by seven year old Lydia Schatz in 2010.

Remember those names, please.

Sean Paddock.  Lydia  Schatz.  And now Hana Williams.  These are innocent children who were killed at the hands of their parents, the ones who were supposed to be protecting them.   Even worse – can murdering your child even GET worse?  It can. – they were killed at the hands of their parents who were following “discipline” techniques they believed to be “biblical.”

Don’t like to think about something awful?  Want to look away?  Find yourself thinking, “Yes, it’s sad, and terrible, and heartbreaking, but no good could come from constantly talking about it.”?

To that I say BULLSHIT.

We owe it to Sean Paddock to think about it.  We owe it to Lydia Schatz to look at it.  We owe it to Hana Williams to talk about it.   We owe it to all the children who are subjected to this kind of treatment day in and day out.

Michael Pearl, and his 1.7 million dollar “ministry”, No Greater Joy, take money from unsuspecting Christians, instruct them how to abuse their children, and somehow brainwash them into thinking that this is behavior is not only condoned but commanded and blessed by God.

God does not want you to hit your children.  Jesus does not want you to inflict pain on your children.  


And I won’t keep quiet about this.  I won’t.  Michael Pearl is out there laughing, laughing, as children die.  Taken from his Facebook page in response to criticism after Lydia Schatz died:


It has come to may attention that a vocal few are decrying our sensible application of the Biblical rod in training up our children. I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love…

Numbered in the millions, these kids become the models of self-control and discipline, highly educated and creative—entrepreneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements…

My five grown children are laughing at your foolish, uninformed criticism of God’s method of child training, for their kids—my 17 grandkids—are laughing . . . because that is what they do most of the time. They laugh when Daddy is coming home. The laugh when it is time to do more homeschooling. They laugh when it is time to practice the violin and piano. They laugh when they see their Big Papa coming (that’s me) because Big Papa is laughing and they don’t care why just as long as he laughs with them.

My granddaughters laugh with joy after giving their baby dolls a spanking for “being naughty” because they know their dolls will grow up to be the best mamas and daddies in the world—just like them….

Even my chickens are laughing . . . well, actually it more like cackling, because they just laid another organic egg for my breakfast and they know that it was that same piece of ¼ inch plastic supply line that trained the dogs not to eat chicken….

And before you can say it, this is not about “free speech.”  I’ve heard it from too many people. “He has the right to say whatever he wants.  If you don’t like his books, don’t buy them”.  No.  NO!  This is about a man using and twisting and manipulating the Bible for his own sick gain.  A man who has created an entire empire around teaching people how to intimidate, manipulate, bully, abuse, and in the case of Paddock, Schatz, and Williams, kill their children.

A selection of direct quotes from the first edition of To Train Up a Child:


But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of “No” with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.


He may not be able to sleep, but he can be trained to lie there quietly. He will very quickly come to know that any time he is laid down there is no alternative but to stay put. To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down.


If a father is attempting to make a child eat his oats, and the child cries for his mother, then the mother should respond by spanking him for whining for her and for not eating his oats. He will then be glad to be dealing only with the father.


…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.


On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. 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.

(All quotes from this post on the website, Why Not Train a Child.)

Have you read enough yet?  It’s beyond time to do something.  Don’t stop talking about it.  Don’t stop sharing posts about it.

Sign the petition to remove their book from Amazon.

Grab this button from Muse Mama and display it on your own site:

Muse Mama

If you are a fellow Christian (and it’s for you especially that I write), let your voice be louder than the Pearl’s followers. Let people know that to raise a child in a Christ-like way, to truly “train up a child in the way he should go”, is to parent with kindness, gentleness, and compassion… the complete and utter opposite of what’s promoted by Michael and Debi Pearl.

(I also wrote about the Pearls here.)


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Filed under bible, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, headlines, mindful parenting, parenting, Pearls

28 Responses to Child Abuse Cloaked in “Christian Discipline”… Another Death at the Hands of Pearl Followers

  1. Andreia

    And people wonder why Christianity is dying?

  2. Leigh Quievryn

    This is disgusting. Thank you for posting–I signed the petition immediately.

  3. Shannon Wasie

    Gahhhhhhhhh… This is exactly what’s been burning in my heart since I first read this story about Hana. It made me so sick to my stomach. A friend at church saw a FB post I shared about the petition to ban this book, and challenged me to research more because she really loves the Pearl’s books. I spent the next day (and more) so DISTURBED inside, as I did research more, read more, and ask more questions. I literally could not get my head on straight that day, reading their book excerpts messed me up so bad. I still don’t quite now how to respond to my friend, because she is a sweet momma who I think is just not taking the Pearl’s books totally literally. But I came away feeling like it was just pure EVIL. Thank you for writing this, and drawing more attention to it. It needs attention and voices that are even louder in declaring what God’s compassionate love really looks like.

  4. Sabrina M Bowen

    Let me preface this by saying, I am not Christian, nor do I understand why anyone would choose to be. However, I do not believe that this book is, of and in itself, all that much a big deal. We grew up being beat with shoes, wooden spoons and belts. Do I agree with that type of “rearing”? No. Would I do it to my kids? No. But it was done. This book is not encouraging anything that wasn’t (and hasn’t forever) already being done. If anything, it’s encouraging less abusive behavior. The plumbing supply line they advocate using does much less damage than any paddle or belt that I was ever beat with. Fact is, abuse is abuse. And people are always going to find a reason to excuse their behavior… This book is not the best example of discipline. And in the hands of the wrong person it can lead to abuse. But this book is not what leads these parents to abuse their children, these parents would have abused their children with, or without it. I don’t agree with the message of the book, but I don’t agree with the message of the Bible either. Fact is, people have a right to write, and read, whatever they choose. Even if the point of the book was to encourage abuse – which I don’t believe – it’s up to the parents of the children to actually carry out that abuse. And it should be those parents we blame, not some book! Books don’t kill children, abuse does! Don’t give these parents the credit of believing they wouldn’t do this without the book!

    • T Serenity McCloskey

      So, if there were a book called “Training up a wife” which advocated hitting a spouse with a rubber hose, that would be cool with you b/c men hitting women has happened for most of history? How about “Training up a dog” and encouraging people to hit their animals? I mean, those who participate in dog fighting seem to do that an awful lot, so it’d probably be okay to write a how-to book on it, right? No, of course not.

      • Sabrina M Bowen

        There are in fact quite a few books which encourage spousal “training” – ever heard of Christian Domestic Discipline (a.k.a. CDD)? And there are thousands of couples which engage in it’s practice, and many books/websites/etc on the subject out there. I do not agree with CDD. I am my husbands partner, his equal, he does not control or punish me, and visa verse. Do I believe CDD can lead to abuse? Yes. And there are plenty of books out there that advocate smacking your dog, using a choke chain or rubbing his nose in shit. Can that lead to abuse? Yep.

        But do I think that every man who spanks his wife is abusive? Nope. Do I believe that every person with a choke chain on their dog is abusing them? Nope. Nor do I believe that those who advocate it are encouraging abuse.

        ANY form of discipline or training CAN be abusive IF it’s done by the wrong people or for the wrong reasons. Blaming a book is only giving these people an excuse, giving them a reason NOT to take responsibility. If you wanted to write a guide to (and there are these out there too) kidnap, rape and murder someone, it STILL wouldn’t be your fault if someone read it and then went out and kidnapped, raped and murdered someone! A book is a book, it doesn’t abuse anyone. It’s just an excuse. It’s a way for child abusers to excuse their behavior. And by blaming the book, instead of the people who actually killed their kids, you’re only feeding in to that. Books Don’t Kill People – People Kill People!

        • Just to be clear – I am in NO WAY excusing the parents for what they did. They chose to do it, and they’re at fault. There’s a reason why they’re getting punished by a court of law, and rightfully so.

    • momzilla76

      I do have to disagree with one of your points. “But this book is not what leads these parents to abuse their children, these parents would have abused their children with, or without it.”
      No I wouldn’t have. Plain and simple. I would have at most continued in the pattern of my parents saving spankings for serious offenses and most likely would have employed time outs or other less aggressive/hyper controlling methods.

  5. Susie

    Sabrina, it sounds like you may not be entirely familiar with this book. If you were to read this book in it’s entirety you would truly grasp how awful this book is. Furthermore, I’m guessing you may not know that this book advocates hitting BABIES. There is a page in this book that says to switch a 7 month old baby! If that isn’t abuse, I don’t know what is. Hearing him talk so proudly about his granddaughters laughing with joy after giving their baby dolls a spanking is so disturbing. Those people get their jollies off of controlling and harming children and mask their jollies under the disguise of religion. I hope these books get pulled for good!

  6. This must be spread far and wide, this must be made known as the evil, unChristian child abuse that it is. The Pearl’s should be held accountable as accomplices to murder.

  7. Sarah k

    Their teaching on marriage is almost worse. The most famous book, or should I say infamous, “Created to be His Helpmeet” has stories that not only condone physical assault of women but then blames the victim. They teach that men can “discipline” their wives the same way they teach parents to discipline their children. Personally, I’d like to see this couple arrested snd made complicit in the cases of abuse their teaching promotes.

  8. Lisa

    Thank you for sharing and promoting positive parenting.

  9. Mari

    I am getting sick as I read. This is just awful.

  10. Ann Sibley Herma

    This is awful. Besides the parents I hope they can get the man who’s teaching this. I don’t remember anyplace in the Bible where God tells us to kill our children. It’s sad how these people can get so brainwashed. At least the parents will get to spend plenty of time thinking about what they did to there children after they are abandoned by the same person who told them to do it. Rest in peace little ones.

  11. jennifer hyndman


  12. Some states blocked the pedophile guide (via Amazon) from being sold in their states, therefore we know the Pearl’s book can be blocked too.

  13. Colleen G

    I haven’t been to the NGJ Facebook page since God opened my eyes about all this mess. I was one of those moms who read with a filter in place and only half-heartedly applied when I read. That was bad enough but I digress. Their Facebook age was/is being inundated by those crying abuse. As most of the voices I read seemed to hate Christianity just as much as the TTUAC book I decided to post a Christian viewpoint. I was actually quiet mild and my main point was that this book’s teachings created all kinds of wrath and distress in my household when I tried to use it. The end result was that I was banned from the page. I just wish I could go onto their website and delete all my comments of defense back when I though only abusers would misuse the material. Abusers do not misuse the material it creates abusers and if it does not then the family is not really taking the method to heart.
    What they teach is not the kind of spanking I grew up with. I received the few and far between for serious offenses kind and all of it had ceased by the time I was school age.

  14. Abi

    I don’t think this post should be directed primarily to Christians (because it puts their belief system in a bad light) – I think this should be put out with the children at the forefront of our minds. I don’t want this to turn into a debate about religion. That’s not fair. It’s about the children.

  15. borntotravel

    Beating children in the name of God is very disturbing to me. Yes, I am a Christian and I do not believe that God wants us to beat our children. I find this book disturbing and even more, the fact that churches have distributed it to new mothers who defend it as truth and the ones who believe this to be a valuable parenting tool are just as sick.
    I was in an abusive marriage and watched my children being terrorized from watching me being hit. So I got out of the abusive marriage when they were very young. From the start, I decided to NEVER hit my children. I used the philosophy of” How to Talk so children will Listen and Listen so children will talk”, “Magic of Encouragement” and other advocates of attachment parenting. This takes a lot of time and effort but it is worth it in the long run. My children are now 24 and 26. People argue that children who are not spanked will grow up to be behavior problems. Not so. The school loved my children because they were kind and respectful because they were respected and loved and knew how to respect others. My son was DARE student of the year because he defended children who were being bullied at school and befriended those with disabilities. His employer told me that he is one of the best employees that they have. My daughter graduated in the top 2% of her class and told me that she learned out to love from me. They worked their way through college and both were on the Dean’s List. I got married a couple years and numerous people at the wedding remarked about what a good job I had done raising them.I wish that I could see a world where children did not have to live in fear of their parents. I think it would solve so many problems of domestic violence, bullying, etc. People cannot take the phrase from the Bible,”he who spareth the rod, hateth the child” as literal truth which is from the Old Testament prior to Jesus arrival who taught us about loving our neighbor and spoke of loving children. There are other passages about slaves and shunning menstrating women, etc. We all know that slavery is immoral. Let’s make this immoral as well. I read one passage about a boy being whipped by a belt across his naked penis. I can’t imagine that a God that I respect would advocate that treatment. To me, it is no different than Nazi Germany where people had to be afraid to speak up and the weakest were slaughtered in the name of racial purity.

  16. borntotravel

    And yes, I also signed the petition to ban this book.

  17. Pingback: 2013 Top Ten » The Path Less Taken

  18. Christie

    I read the book and website when my first was two years old. I was young and inexperienced, I implemented it for exactly one half day. Far far far too brutal. My mothers heart knew it was off by a long shot. No grace no mercy for children. Jesus was tender and patient with children. As I have grown in the faith I have come to realize that the rod proverbs speaks of is a tool use to guide the sheep and defend against predators.

    Unfortunately to young moms and those told their whole life that spanking is the way to discipline. Please please if you are considering this book think again. This is not the way.

    I do not say all spanking is abuse, my children have experienced the rare pat on the thigh with my hand, but what the pearls recommend is unacceptable and way way over the line.

  19. Angela

    This is so sad. This is my first time reading your blog. I did not know what Pearl taught. I know friends that like their stuff, though. It is disturbing and sad. Thanks for sharing exactly what their books say. Child abuse is not okay and this is what they are advocating! Switching eight or ten licks??!! CRAZY! Poor children.

  20. Dennis Shain

    Not Biblical?
    Leviticus 20:9 : For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.:

    1st. Commandment, Exodus 20:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”.
    Deuteronomy 13:6-10, “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is of thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. Thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God.”

    4th. Commandment, Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”.
    Exodus 31:15 “Whosoever shall work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death”.

    5th. Commandment, Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother”.
    Exodus 21:15-17 “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death”. More punishment – Exodus 21:17 “And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death”.

  21. Ian Cooper

    “God does not want you to hit your children. Jesus does not want you to inflict pain on your children.

    Then how do you explain the following:

    Proverbs 13:24: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

    Proverbs 23:13-14: Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

    Joel 2:12: Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.

    Isaiah 58:6: Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

    The biggest problem with Christians is that they do not know the horrors that are in their holy book.