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A Wise, Older Couple is Troubled at What They Saw

April 15, 2002

Dear Pearls,

We recently visited a family who follow your teachings to a “T.” The children are very well behaved. But I wondered if you’ve ever had anyone overdo it?

The children didn’t have the spark of life as much as we remember our children having. We pass out your books and have been around other families with wonderful kids that are more relaxed and happy. We were troubled. Should we be?

Debi Pearl Responds

Yes, we all need to be troubled, and young couples need encouragement and help from the older couples. We have seen families who take what we and others have written and use it like the law. When older, wiser people try to help bring balance, the younger couples do not take their counsel. It grieves us. If children are not bubbling with joy and eager to be a part of life, then something is very wrong. Good training begins and ends with tying strings of fellowship and bonds of good times.

The Letter Continues...

We also noted that the mother was swatting their very young children for not meeting possibly unfair expectations. One as young as 13 weeks old was being swatted to stop crying. The mother was trying to teach her one year old to put toys away, but the kid just didn’t understand and it was an intense confrontation. We tried to let them see a balance but what they understood you meant and what we understood you meant were two very different things.

Debi Responds

It is true that we occasionally hear that young mothers and more seldom, fathers, take what we teach out of context and misuse their children. First, love your child. Care that the child is well, happy, and relaxed. Training should not be tense, upsetting, hurtful, or pushed. It should be a simple exercise in showing the child what you want him to do. A tiny stimulus to direct the child when they are small is enough. For example, if a 3 month-old nursing baby bites, don’t spank. She does not know she did bad. Just gently pull a hair on her head. She will startle back in momentary discomfort and immediately start nursing again. The tiny bit of discomfort makes the baby relate the biting down with the gentle pulling of the hair. You have not made her obey, you have only conditioned her to respond differently. That is training. If you take a 13 week-old baby who is fussing, and squirming and pop her leg, it will only bring more fussing and crying. The child cannot relate those 2 events. She most likely has a tummy ache that needs some relief, not added pain. Ask God for wisdom. He promises to give to those who simply ask.

Leave a Reply

18 comments on “A Wise, Older Couple is Troubled at What They Saw”

  1. Why didn't you say, "Turn this lady in for child abuse. She is hitting a 13 week old who has no idea what it means or ability to be trained by it"? I don't understand why you're not more disturbed by this report??

  2. i agree with the previous poster. why are you not disturbed by the abuse going on? and pulling a 3 month old's hair? when my child bites, i just remove her from the breast for a while. far more effective than abusing her.

  3. We need to be very careful about reporting child abuse. Why bring the state into every act of misjudgment, soon the state will believe we can not discipline ourselves or our children and do it for us. We don't have the whole story. I believe it would be best for a fellow Christian to come along side this woman, possibly let the lady take a nap! She is more likely overwhelmed and is acting out sinfully. I remember being a young mom, with no mentorship, and home alone almost all the time. I was scared, overwhelmed, and did not know what to do. I needed help. I was completely blessed when a friend gave me "To Train up a child." It brought me some of the clearest information on child rearing I ever have received, even to this day.

  4. I have to say that while I don't agree with turning someone in for child abuse I am disturbed that someone coming here to the Pearls for "advice" and in return being told to pull their newborns hair is just as absurd as getting the state involved for every little thing. I think wisdom is lacking on both counts. I have amazing children and I never had to pull their hair as nursing newborns to "teach" them.

  5. I agree with the pulling of the hair. like they said it is conditioning them not abusing them. People take things out of propotion and that is what gets dfs involved. I have bought 3 of the Pearls books and I am using them on my 4 kids. for people who know me, my kids were way out of controll and little by little they are becoming children that i like. Thank you so much for making the books!!

  6. Everyone who is appalled at the pulling of the hair is not getting the point, or did not clearly read the article. Mrs. Pearl clearly stated "GENTLY pull a hair on her head" this action would not even cause much pain, but would train the child to associate the action of biting with a slight sting on their head. This tip is not only very wise, but will prevent future habits of biting. Thank you Mrs. Pearl!

  7. Thankyou Mrs. Pearl, I am 8 months pregnant and expecting my first child. I was recently introduced to the books and am very happy, I have never read a book so clear on parenting, it is very good. And to the hair pulling thing, that is an amazingly good idea who would of thought of that! Thanks!

  8. Yes, "gently". As I research a little more on the controversial Pearls to know whether or not our church library should carry and/or promote the book To Train Up a Child, I am being reminded to consider all sides and read what they (Debi and Michael) are actually writing and to not read into it. And of course everything must be carefully weighed against the Word of God. It seems as though we can easily be caught up into a controversy and begin to see things through distorted lenses.

  9. I have followed the wisdom of this form of child training with my now nine year old and my 16 month old. Both of these girls have polar opposite personalities, and require different varieties of training, that is a learning curve and keeps me on my toes as a mother. The difference between effectively "loving" your children by training them and child abuse is glaringly obvious! To those who cannot see this difference I suggest you do your own homework, google childabuse images... misjudgement in discipline is no where near the anger and destructive power of true "abuse".

    God bless!

  10. I can't believe people are taking pulling the baby's hair so far out of context. Is it abusing our bodies to brush our hair because it sometimes pulls? Of course not, we simply learn to brush more gently and move on with our day. They are NOT talking about yanking your poor child's hair to the point they even cry over it, so it can't hurt that much! They realize that your baby doesn't know that biting hurts momma, but how are they going to learn if we just foolishly let them continue? This isn't to say that other methods can work too, do what you want to do to teach your baby to stop biting, but please stop discriminating against people who are merely trying to give parents PRACTICAL ways to train children up to realize when they're hurting someone else, and to be considerate!!

  11. My baby is 11 months now, but in the beginning he would bite. I read about a technique that when a baby bites, the mother should pull him in closer so that the breast covers his nose. His immediate reaction is to open his mouth so he can breath. He then lets go of the breast. I tried this with my son and only had to do it twice before he realized what was happening. Hope this makes sense and others could try it if your baby is bald.

  12. I love the advice here. If I had needed to use the hair pulling I would have. My unexpected scream when the baby first bit proved to be enough when it scared the baby who started crying. I think it sad that so many people become defensive when they hear advice/opinions contrary to what they did/are doing. The theme behind what the Pearls say is always joy and love. You teach the baby not to bite because you love them enough to want to continue to have a healthy nursing relationship with them. It is NOT a joyful experience to be bit. Life is full of consequences for our actions. It is best to teach our children this as early as possible so they will act in ways that produce positive results. It is to their benefit as well as ours.

  13. I can attest to the effectiveness of the hair pulling technique. My son was never a biter but my daughter, who I nursed a lot longer then my son, was a biter. The first time she bit me I screamed literally in her face because I was so shocked and MAN it hurt! The second time I was prepared and I lightly and gently tugged a small piece of hair. Seriously not hard at all...try it on yourself if you're concerned with how hard to pull. She felt the slight sensation of pain and the next time she tried to bite me I went to reach for her head and she stopped IMMEDIATELY! It works people!! Conditioning our children against uncomfortable behavior is the SMART thing to do...rather then not nursing or stopping nursing (as many of my friends have done) because of the biting. Formula is expensive and far less nutritionally beneficial and if several of my friends had followed this advice they would've kept nursing their babies!!

  14. "Training should not be tense, upsetting, hurtful, or pushed."
    You're HITTING a CHILD! Of course it's going to be tense, upsetting, and hurtful! I don't see how hitting an infant or toddler could EVER be considered "parenting". It's abuse. The kids may learn to obey, but they'll never trust their parents again. I was raised in a loving home and never hit once. When I disobeyed, my parents would explain to me why they wanted me to do whatever it was, and would patiently wait until I did it. It was never confrontational, and I haven't disobeyed them since I was in 7-8 at the most. If they'd hit me, I wouldn't be able to trust them, and I wouldn't be able to trust their decisions.
    I'm 19, and have never drank alcohol, done drugs, or done anything illegal. I'm the only teenager I know like this. My parents raised me right, and it didn't require abuse. I just don't understand how you can call this "parenting".

    1. Your experience is limited, and your perspective is quite narrow-minded. The experiences and successful outcomes of hundreds of thousands of children (now adults) raised by this child training philosophy has proven to be considerably different from your own. If your parents' parenting style worked for you (and from my experience in working with youth from troubled homes, is an exception), that is well and good, but you should not judge the success of others because of your own self admitted lack of understanding.