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Child Training Marathon Revisited and Updated

October 15, 2009
Angry protesting little boy wearing newspaper hat

It was a busy, trying time for them, preparing meals and hauling us around from town to town, with meetings every night and sometimes all day. They urged us to be diligent in observing their every act and response, sharing any insights that might be helpful in improving their child training techniques. If an occasion arose and we didn’t speak out, they brought it to our attention and asked how and what should be done. This family meant business.

When we arrived, we assumed they must be having problems with their teenagers, since parents usually don’t panic until they have a teenager making their lives miserable, but that was not the case. By today’s Christian standards, they had a well ordered-home. Their oldest child, a boy of about seventeen, was a real joy to his parents. But as the children got younger, there was a definite deterioration in their attitude and self-control.

I am not sure why this is sometimes the case. Often parents seem to tire of the rigors of teaching and discipline and begin to slack off with their younger ones. Or perhaps when the older children are turning out well, parents ease up on their vigilance, taking their success for granted. Family values often change as economic success interrupts family unity. And of course, when a marriage slowly erodes, the younger children will not be rooted in the same loving, secure environment as were the first ones.

This family had applied the teaching of our book To Train Up a Child and seen great improvement. But their six-year-old boy occasionally went into a rage when things didn’t go his way. We observed that he was a very good psychologist. When angry, he would express his hurt feelings in a way that caused his parents to feel guilty, evoking just enough doubt and insecurity in them to blunt their decisiveness and lessen their application of discipline. Being cautious of his “touchy” emotional state, they resorted to pleading and reason, explaining how “they really did love him” and how he was “not a bad person.”

I watched the boy commit an offense, throw a fit when corrected, and then end up lecturing his parents on how mistreated he was. “You don’t love me like the others. You think I am dumb. Why am I always the one to blame?” It all settled down with the parents apologizing and the kid stomping off to brood until the parents expressed proper contrition. Amazing! Brilliant—in a wicked sort of way.

Now, I am well aware of the many things parents can do to cause children insecurity and hurt. But I will save that for another day. Here was a selfish, manipulative brat who had found his parents’ weakness and capitalized on it. Mom and Dad occasionally expressed just enough anger and resentment to cause them to doubt themselves. Sensing their lack of confidence, the boy found ways to further deepen their guilt. He knew just what to say to cause them pain. Did he have a legitimate basis for accusing his parents of being unworthy to be his head? In some cases, as is probably true with nearly all parents, yes. He capitalized on their sense of moral inadequacy. Granted, if they had maintained clear consciences his manipulations would have fallen flat. It was their humble sensitivity to their own failures that caused them to relinquish the moral authority of the family to this six-year-old tyrant. It reminds us of how the coming of the law increases sin (Rom. 7).

Now, the obvious solution is to tell parents to instantly become wise and discerning. If all parents were ideal Christians with no shortcomings, no hang-ups, nothing to cause guilt, then they would always have the moral strength to withstand manipulation. Christian maturity is normal, but the fact is that in most cases it doesn’t come until the children are grown. Should parents wait until they are sufficiently mature and worthy before assuming command? If so, it may then be too late for the children.

“So, if I am not the perfect parent am I going to abdicate the throne to my imperfect child?” If your child is smart enough to touch your weak spots and make you feel guilt, is he therefore more righteous, more wise? Remember, he is using his parents’ weaknesses to silence them and eliminate their interference so he can act in selfish and unruly ways. I will remind you that parenthood is not an appointed office; it is not by the consent of the child. Parents hold an office (parenthood) that carries with it certain obligations and authority, apart from their worthiness. For the sake of your children, you must act now. You must rise above feelings of inferiority or unworthiness. By “rise above,” I mean you must act for the child’s benefit, whether you feel up to the task or not.

In our observation of this family, we detected that the mother was a very “sensitive” person. She was the first to feel the child’s “emotional pain.” She shied away from confrontation until provoked by frustration and anger. She never spoke with authority or conviction—tired frustration, yes, but not with dignity and authority. She ASKED the children to comply. She “patiently” coaxed and compassionately pleaded with them. When they ignored her “suggestions”, she would then become exasperated and reach an impasse where she felt overwhelmed and defeated.

This mother was physically and emotionally abused as a child. Overcompensating, she was always fearful of not being sensitive and patient enough with her own children. She didn’t trust herself. She didn’t trust her husband—though she would say she did. She was fearful of him being like her father. Her six-year-old boy didn’t have any sense of being abused, and he was not broken in spirit as he often portrayed. But he was a smart little psychologist and knew just how to hurt his mother and short-circuit her interference with his indulgence. He was emotionally stronger than she was.

What of the father? As is true of most families trapped in today’s industrialized lifestyle, he was away from home most of every day. Feeling out of touch, in most cases he naturally deferred to his wife’s judgment. He did have more control over the children, but the pattern was set and habits formed during the two-thirds of the day when the kids were under her tutelage. He, too, stood back with insecurity when he saw the “deep hurt” of his son. He felt guilty for not being there more of the time, for dumping the load on his wife. The parents had good hearts. They were just blinded by their own fear and sense of helplessness.

One day we were sitting in the living room discussing an event that had just occurred when their over-sized dog attempted to interrupt. The father, hardly looking at the dog, commanded him to go downstairs. He didn’t raise his voice, and there was no anger. He spoke with firm authority, expecting the dog to obey without further word or attention. The dog took off downstairs like he had just heard from God. I suddenly realized that in this quiet-spoken home, I had never heard either parent speak with confident authority.

What solution did we offer this couple? We told the mother particularly, “Get tough; you are thinking more of your own feelings than you are the needs of your children. Don’t let your past hurts come into the present to continue hurting your children. You are allowing your abusive father to abuse your children through your continuing reactions.”

Right in the middle of several emotional confrontations with Knuckle Head, we guided the parents through responses to their children. “Quit asking,” we would say, “Tell him what to do, and put a little toughness in your voice.” Then we would tell her, “Don’t tell him again; respect your own word; get your switch and apply it right where he stubbornly sits; ignore his self-pity. Don’t assure him of your love; assure him of your authority. You are in the right; put your shoulders back and act like a commanding officer whose word is final. Do not negotiate or explain. Mother, take the whine out of your voice, and put some steel in your posture. Stay calm, but unmoving.”

They tried it out like someone trying on uncomfortable clothes. The kid was amazed to discover that no one cared for his manipulating pity shows. One word from a parent was the last word—no repeat, no appeal, and no regret. It took three days, but when the child realized he had no recourse, he obeyed the first time and kept his mouth shut. By the end of the week, he was expressing more love and appreciation for his mother than ever before. He began to admire her rather than see her as a weakling he could control. It was a joy to see and share in their victory.

Their youngest boy, age two or three, had a tough hide that at times absolutely resisted all control. He would whine, and whine, and cry, and plead, and demand. He was a tough nut to break, but it was a simple procedure that didn’t hurt anyone but the parents.

Again, it was their lack of resolute authority that cultivated whining in this two-year-old. Since the parents were seldom decisive, the child had learned that begging and pleading often caused them to capitulate to his will. When they said “no,” he knew it was just the starting point in negotiations. After reading our book, on several occasions the parents had attempted to exert their authority and hold out against his demands, but this tough little campaigner had always endured.

Late one night we were riding back from a seminar when the little fellow noticed that he was on the other end of the seat from his mother—with other siblings between them. He was riding in a restraining seat and whined to sit in his mother’s lap. The father SUGGESTED that it would be best if he stayed strapped into his restraining seat. The mother began to sympathetically explain why she couldn’t hold him. Based on past experiences, he knew that this was just the opening round. Their rejection of his proposal was only tentative. He was just testing the waters to see if they would yield. If by continual insistence he should demonstrate how very important this issue was to him, they would eventually come around to seeing it his way. As he pleaded further, asking for water, I could see that the mother was feeling guilty for not being close to “HER BABY”. Didn’t his tears demonstrate how important this was to his emotional well-being? After six or eight rounds, it finally reached the brokenhearted crying stage.

Mother was reaching for her baby when the father turned to me and asked, “What should I do?” Again I explained the principle: by allowing the child to dictate terms through his whining and crying, you are confirming his habit of whining and consenting to his technique of control. So I told the daddy to tell the boy that he would not be allowed to sit in his mother’s lap, and that he was to stop crying. Of course, according to former protocol, he intensified his crying to express the sincerity of his desires. The mother was ready to come up with a compromise. “He was hungry. He was sleepy. He was cold.” Actually, he was a brat, molded and confirmed by parental responses. I told the father to stop the car and without recourse give him three to five licks with a switch. After doing so the child only screamed a louder protest. This is not the time to give in. After two or three minutes driving down the road listening to his background wails, I told the father to COMMAND the child to stop crying. He only cried more loudly. At my instruction, without further rebuke, the father again stopped the car, got out, and spanked the child. Still screaming (the child, not the rest of us), we continued for two minutes until the father again commanded the child to be quiet. Again, no response, so he again stopped the car and spanked the child. This was repeated for about twenty miles down a lonesome highway at 11:00 on a winter night.

When the situation began to look like a stalemate, the mother suggested that the little fellow didn’t understand. I told the father to command the boy to stop crying immediately or he would again be spanked. The boy ignored him until Father took his foot off the gas, preparatory to stopping. In the midst of his crying, he understood the issues well enough to understand that the slowing of the car was a response to his crying. The family was relieved to have him stop and the father started to resume his drive. I said “No; you told him he was to stop crying immediately or you would spank him; he waited until you began stopping. He has not obeyed; he is just beginning to show confidence in your resolve. Spank him again and tell him that you will continue to stop and continue to spank until you get instant compliance.” He did. The boy was smart. He may not have feared Mama. His respect for Daddy was growing, but that big hairy fellow in the front seat seemed to be more stubborn than he was, and with no guilt at all. This time, after the spanking, when Daddy gave his command, the boy dried it up like a paper towel. The parents had won, and the boy was the beneficiary.

Now you may wonder why I did not tell the father to tell the boy that he was going to spank him until he stopped crying, and not resume driving until he had stopped. Never put yourself in the place where you may lose the contest. What if the boy didn’t stop? Would you spank him forever, or would you stop when it bordered on abuse, in which case the child would win? Your word would fall to the ground; you gave in before he did. You would have actually hardened his resolve to rebel. Furthermore, when a child is being spanked and shortly thereafter, he may be too emotionally wrought to make responsible decisions. Our concern is not just to silence the child, but to gain voluntary submission of his will through respect for our command.

Father tells the boy to stop crying or he will stop the vehicle and spank. Father stops, spanks; the child cries, and the father resumes the drive. He waits three to five minutes, ignores the crying and continues to talk as if all is well. Five minutes later, the father again commands the child to stop crying. By this time there is no lingering pain and he has had time to quiet his emotions and reflect on the parental mandate: “Stop crying or get a spanking.”

Again the father commands the child to stop crying or he will receive a spanking. The child continues crying only because he assumes that the status quo continues. That is, he is not at all convinced that the father means what he says. Judging from past experiences, he is sure that he will win this contest eventually. By breaking it up into several sessions, the father is reprogramming the child—Father commands with a threat; child disobeys; Father carries out threat; child loses and suffers the consequences; it is an unpleasant experience; repeat all of above five to ten times. The child concludes: There is a new order; Father is consistent; he always means what he says; I cannot win; there is no alternative to instant obedience. Get smart, be a survivor, just say no to self-will.

The beauty of this kind of contest is that, when the parents conquer, it applies across the board. The child is not just yielding to the circumstances; he is yielding to his parents. The rebel in him is dying. This submission will translate into every aspect of their relationship.

The child has learned that the parents have more resolve than he does. They are not liars. When they say stop or else, they mean it. There is no way to bend the parents; their word is final.

The next day we were sitting in the living room when the mother gave the little fellow a command. Out of habit, he commenced his whine, which turned to a cry. Mother looked discouraged and turned to me asking, “What should I do now?” I said, “Tell him to dry it up instantly and to start smiling.” When she commanded him, he immediately stopped crying and gave a faked smile that quickly turned to a sincere one in reflection to the delight on his mother’s face. I never will forget. She started laughing with absolute abandonment. She was overjoyed. “He has never obeyed me like that,” she said. For the few days that remained, he obeyed her instantly and the household was a very peaceful place. The battle was won. Whether or not the victory continues depends on how consistent the parents are, but the hard part is over. As long as the parents don’t revert to their old responses, the child won’t revert to his.

There are those of you who will think that the twenty miles of spanking was cruel. Remember, this was not a daily event; it was a war to end all wars. The spankings were not wild, violent affairs. They were not greatly painful—to the child, that is. They were done in quiet calm and dignity. It is not the severity of the spanking but the certainty of it that gives it persuasive power. Our object in spanking is not to cause the child to so fear the pain that he obeys. It is to gain the child’s attention and give him respect for the parent’s word. I know that there are abusive, angry parents out there who, through their own inconsistency, find themselves in a position where they excessively spank every day. Spanking should just be the early part of a training program. It is our consistency that trains. The rod just gives credibility to our word. If your word is not credible, no amount of the rod will ever be effective. You will become abusive. If you feel abusive, you probably are. Get counsel and advice from a close friend who has a Biblical perspective on child training.

In reflecting on our one-week stay with this fine family, I am amazed at their humility and grace. Giving us full license in the home must have been like the Judgment Seat of Christ. Well, not quite, but about as close as can be experienced down here in the flesh. One word of warning: Don’t invite us to come stay with you for a week; this old man has had all the crying and whining he can stand for the rest of his life. We just sit back and watch our children train our 16 grandkids.

“Honey, I’ll put some wood on the fire and you put the tea on. We’ll have another quiet evening writing.”


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46 comments on “Child Training Marathon Revisited and Updated”

  1. Thank you for that wonderful aricle. I am so glad for the clarity you give on the step-by-step strategy. I was looking for something to help resolve me to conquer my Whine-O.

  2. Thank you for this article. I can't wait to receive your book "to train up a child" I have ordered it and I look forward to hearing your other views on parenting.

  3. I Love this article I so look forword to all your articles and they usually all make me cry out of brokeness. This one just is perfect for the season our family is in Thank You so much for sharing your lives with us. sincerly The Felicianos

  4. I've read this article before of course but it was this comment that spoke to me most directly today "Our object in spanking is not to cause the child to so fear the pain that he obeys. It is to gain the child

  5. Reading this article was an answer to prayer. I know and have read all your books, but I continue to make excuses to my husband and myself to explain my lack of decisiveness and my habit of negotiating. I will be asking myself these words often: "So if I am not the perfect parent, am I going to abdicate the throne to my imperfect child?" No! I am not! I am going to respond with "dignity and authority." Thank you for your ministry! I know you must receive many attacks, for your work against the enemy is daunting. Do not be discouraged! You are both making a huge difference in the lives of many. Praying for God's blessing upon you both.

  6. this article was a good reminder and I can apply it with my 3 & 5 year olds by I am lost with my 11 year old boy- we do better when I am respectful of him, but sometimes he makes me so frustrated with his "I won't" in response to a request. I just want to take everything in his life away.

  7. Yeah, nice that you will only sift through the comments and post the ones from cloned idiots like yourselves. There are other forms of discipline other than spanking. People like you bring shame to the Lord. His emphasis on rearing up a child is on the discipline not on the beatings. He may refer to rods in the Bible but I still believe it the picture of discipline that is key not the pain. I don't know how you can claim to love children. Your ministry is a disgrace. It's too bad because you mix evil with good all throughout which causes well intending people looking for good counsel to doubt that they need to lower their standards and treat their children as trailer trash. You guys disgust me. Hated your article. Never want to meet you or see this trashy website again.

  8. I'm sick after reading that article. If you choose to abuse your children, do NOT say it is from the Lord. NO WHERE in scripture is any of this commanded. You bring shame to God, you twist His holy commands to fit your abusive agenda, and you give all Christians a bad rap. Mr. Pearl, I will be in continued prayer for will certainly need grace and mercy for all the lies you spew in the name of God.

  9. This article makes me SICK to my stomach. WHY even have children if you just plan to beat them? There are other ways to discipline WITHOUT resorting to abuse and shame. As christians we are called to be Christ-like. I just can't imagine Jesus ever raising a hand to harm a child. Yet you advise parents to do so in the name of "biblical parenting". I wonder how many children are and will be abused and even killed by parents who turn to you for advise.

  10. Mr. Pearl, thank you for such a clear and much-needed example of dealing with the whining and crying to get one's way, it is so timely. I have your book To Train Up A Child and I found it very helpful and encouraging-I read it often. My husband and I are raising a teenager, a pre-teen, a four and two year old-so, needless to say every ounce of wisdom that you share is appreciated and acknowledged as an answer to my prayers. I love your website! It is exactly what is needed to help train up our children in this very dark, over-indulgent world. I receive "flack" from a lot of my co-workers and even family for wanting to follow the Lord's leading in training up His children, but it doesn't bother me anymore and it doesn't deter me. I am more committed than ever and I encourage other mothers as well. In fact, I plan on giving some of your books to them as Christmas presents as God leads me. Thank you for your committment to serving the Lord and being a "light" to so many of us who need it. I am praying for God to bless me with being able to stay home and more effectively train our children, but until that day comes I thank Him for working through you and your family..May God continue to bless and keep you Mr. Pearl and family!

  11. In response to Natalia, Charity A., and Emy Tisland: You claim that the Pearls and their ministry are poor examples of Christians, yet your own responses are poor examples of how a Christians should respond to something they disagree with. Furthermore you accuse their method of child rearing to be abusive, saying that there are other methods out there that work, yet fail to actually name these other methods. What would you have done if put in the same situation as these parents? I do, as I'm sure others also, want to know. In addition, I've to say that your definition of abuse seems to be a little dramatic and you must have missed the part where Michael Pearl says, "The spankings were not wild, violent affairs. They were not greatly painful

  12. Jesus loved children .He would never beat them! You guys have got issues. i think you are just taking your issues out on a child. Why do you think we have school shootings? Would you like someone to beat you? What about do unto others? Stop the violence.

  13. Wow. I'm not against the proper use of the rod/spanking, but this was a bit much. I never had much reason to spank any of my children before the age of three. I've been around too many young children who are spanked constantly for every little misbehavior and those children are completely numb to what is taking place. It is sad. Our former pastor spanked his two year old son several times in an hour on a regular basis and it was ridiculous. Our children know that a spanking is serious business and they seldom do anything that requires one. I'm not sure what good can come out of whipping a two year old baby to get compliance. I really appreciate most of your articles and our family has found them to be very useful, but this was a bit overboard, not to mention disturbing. Young children do get cold, hungry, and tired. It is a mother's job to meet those needs until they are old enough to take of care of themselves. An older child will obviously be expected to exhibit some control but a baby is not capable and my heart simply would be broken to see my husband whip our two year old baby. That's crazy. Most babies would cry if they were crowded into a cold, dark vehicle late at night. The better solution would have been for mom to move next to the baby to offer some comfort until the ride was over. Why on earth would you choose to whip the youngster instead? That seems absurd to me...and by the sounds of it, I'm not alone.

  14. Am I allowed to comment on the posted comments?
    I simply fail to see the rationale behind some of these absurdly rude comments directed towards the Pearls {not that they care I imagine}. Does not the word of our Lord say so? If you have issue, please take it up with the One you are really ranting towards and please do not say that we as christians should oppose His Word.
    Furthermore, those who spend their childhood whining and throwing fits seem to be the miserable ones, not those who are bibically disciplined and set free from the misery of selfishness and greed.
    My husband handles this kind of rare discipline in our house and the kids come out smiling and looking RELIEVED that someone loved them enough to care about how they are really doing!

  15. I understand those who read this article and think it's extreme, as I did -- at first. The thing is, you have to read several articles and get the WHOLE picture. As Micheal said, this is not "beating," this is a correction, done with LOVE. It is a huge distinction, and one that many of us cannot grasp (including myself) because of our own emotional issues and sins.
    I appreciate your work, Michael, and pray that Jesus will change my heart to be able to discipline so lovingly. I surely wish you would come stay with us for a week!!

  16. Praise God that the Pearls have the strength and wisdom to share what they have learned from raising five children. This article really struck a chord with me since we are having a "training" week while Daddy is away on business.

  17. Abuse is anything that causes physical, emotional/mental harm. Spanking vs. beating is when physical harm is done. In all honesty, I can see Jesus spanking an unruly and disobedient child. We see him sit down and braid a whip to BEAT the people who misused the temple. He was angry yet SINNED NOT and those people probably got the beating of their lifes. The author did not give any description of abuse. If there were whelps and bleeding strips then yes, this would be way out of line. If there had been screaming and belittling then yes, it would be way out of line. Calm, quite and point made. Thank you! I've gone out and gotten my switch and have explained to my little ones that if they disobey, mommy will spank with this. They got the message without me having to use it (yet). My prayer first thing this morning was for God to help me be a graceful and gracious woman and mother. Because God loves us, He disciplines us. Because I love my children I discipline them. To discipline means to disciple and to disciple means to teach. Sometimes God has to let us go through painful times to teach us and sometimes we have to spank to teach our children. Spank not beat; teach not abuse.

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

    Pro 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Pro 23:14 Thou shalt beat (lit. means to strike) him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

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

    What more needs to be said??

  19. First of all, I would like to say that 2 year olds are not babies. They are old enough to exhibit some self control. They just have to be taught how to do so. My 2 year old exhibited a remarkable amount of self control because we taught him how to. He is 3 now and still needs to be taught. My son would try to throw a tantrum, but I would tell him to stop immediately. If he did not, I would spank him and tell him again. It worked. He wasn't abused and we taught him better ways to express his feelings. Such as telling us how he feels and we taught him how to do that to. We explained what the feelings were and we played games to help him learn how each feeling felt. We are dealing with him fussing and whining right now. And we are working through it with consistency and love just like we did with the tantrums. Children need to be taught how to have self control and you begin by teaching them early. You people are silly and foolish to believe that it's wrong to spank a child for throwing a fit like the child in the story. There's another article in this magazine about foolishness. You should read that one since it deals with you and how you are acting. You are acting like children who are angry at having consequences, instead of Christian adults doing what is best for your kids.
    That being said, i want to say that this is a wonderful article and really encouraged me to keep it up and keep consistent with my son. It helped me learn how to train him in regards to tantrums and fussing. Thank you for your ministry.

  20. First I must say much thanks to the Pearls and "To Train Up a Child". It totally changed my relationship with my children. I have taken them to places like weddings, that require quiteness. Not one peep out of them. Before, I was doing those "alternative methods" with very little success. Also, it brought a new light on home schooling. I would not have home schooled before reading these books. I do have say something to those leaving rude comments. You need to read the books before you judge. The books teach more on spending more time TRAINING them, and spanking when they are showing rebelion by not obeying. He accually talks against using spanking to obey if the parent has first not trained. He sums it up in one comment "Train the actions, dicipline the attitude".I know moms who 100% refuse to spank. Their children, even older than mine (which are 2 and 5), are less than half obedient than mine. (And yes, I do spank, not beat, my 2 year old. But I can take her any where with me knowing she will not act up. Unlike the 3,4,5,6,7 year olds I have seen throwing fits.) The other parents comment on how well behaved they are and want their kids to be, but in the same sentence, that they don't want to spank. You she see their responce when they ask how I get my kids to behave so well. I know some that may think spanking is abusive, but will yell at them about 75% of the time because they don't obey. Spanking, when done in the wright way, is not abusive. Yelling and screaming at your kids the whole time they are in the "Time Out" corner is. I was abused when I was young, I know the difference. And to who made the comment about relating school shootings to kids who parents spank, you are WAY far off. Visit Almost all of the school shootings have been done by children who are taking antidepresent medication. Those parents chose to drug their children, not spank them, as a form of controling them. Again, to the Pearls, Thank you so, so very much.

  21. As a spoiled, only child myself, I can tell you that the Pearls' method of child training is wonderful advice! If my parents had used their methods, then maybe my parents and I would have a better relationship today! My parents used "the rod" but without the grounded biblical knowledge and love that the Pearls direct us to. I grew up fearing pain but as Mr. Pearl says, I did not respect my parents. After each spanking I still had a rebellious spirit because there were no heart strings tied to them. For everyone who left a rude comment, might it be that you are really remembering your childhood and the self centered hatred towards your own parents that you were left with after your own discipline? Such angry responses can only point towards a guilty conscience of failure towards your own children! Children are given to us by God! It is our responsibility to "train" them up for Him! This is not a license to beat children! Mr. and Mrs. Pearl repeatedly warn against anger when attempting to discipline your children!! Satan WILL use your fear and pride against you in this matter! Stay strong in the Word and please take the Pearls' advice!

  22. I can only imagine that violence teaches violence. All you are succeeding in doing is showing children that the way to fix things is to be violent.
    One day your kids will assert their opinion or position by resorting to the methods you taught them - lash out! It will turn ugly.

  23. Bethany and several others I read have the right idea. The rod, properly used, with the correct spirit is really an essential tool. I was something of a rebel growing up. I remember my thinking at those times. I was usually angry at injustice. Being punished more because of someone's bad mood rather than because it was just and deserved for a particular offence seemed intolerable. Children aren't stupid. While bringing up nine children,I have to say I am very grateful for your books and newsletters. You are very sensible in your methods and psychology. This catholic mom thinks of you with warmth and affection. You and your family have been wonderful companions on the homeschool journey. How many times I have carefully studied your thought and solutions to discipline concerns with my children. Even when I have had difficulty carrying out your advice, I have seen the wisdom of it. As you have said, Joy is the most important component, without which, true discipline can not be achieved. At this point, I have children who have graduated college, gotten Master's degrees, gone into the service, married and produced four beautiful grandchildren so far. They have many and varied talents. They have gone into technical fields, music, banking, horseshoeing. They have lived internationally and learned other languages. Most of what I have done is simply encourage them with a vision that is heartfelt and passionate. God loves you and He has a plan for your life. It's an amazing ride. I never know what will be next. I'm far from perfect. I made loads of mistakes I have regretted, but God is good! He is on our side helping and even making some really bad mess-ups turn to glory. I didn't have the benefit of the education my children have recieved. I am not very well disciplined myself. All I could do is try and pray. I sought good advice. Thank you, very dear Pearls!

  24. While I do believe in spanking I do think that hitting a child until they stop crying is abuse. Toddlers have tantrums, because they don't know how else to communicate. Spank yes, but only with the open hand.

  25. No Greater Joy has recently received several negative comments trying to link NGJ with the Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz case in California.

    The following is quoted from a recent news article:

    "...[Butte County District Attorney Mike] Ramsey is quick to point out that followers of No Greater Joy do not advocate spanking to the point of serious injury. 'Even the Tennessee pastor that espouse[s] hitting children right from infancy says that you must watch that you don't cross the line. Clearly this is a situation where the line was crossed from discipline... to beating... to murder,' said Ramsey."

    -- quoted from "DA: Deadly Child Abuse Case Linked To 'Biblical Chastisement'" published on 2/12/2010 at

  26. My three children are very well behaved, happy and intelligent. None are spanked or treated in the way NGJ deems necessary to ensure well behaved children. Our children are often complimented for their good behavior and are a joy to be around. Do they ever misbehave? Certainly! It is possible to correct children without the use of physical force, shame and abuse. Time outs, consequences and revoking privileges are all alternatives to whipping children with plumbing lines. Our family has practiced attachment parenting and feel that this has contributed to the trust and closeness our children exhibit. Respect and obedience come naturally when children feel respected and loved.
    I do wonder if any of you have considered the end result of your "training methods". What type of relationship will you have with your child as the years go by? Can you imagine your child growing up to be an adult who has a close relationship with his parents? Or will it be a child who grows up to be a resentful adult who desires no relationship with his parents? Does the end result matter or are perfectly behaved children (who have broken spirits) the only measure of success in parenting?

  27. You know, sure I made some mistakes, and yea I deserved a punishment. And I was hit. But it didn't stop there. The one time I said no, was to the wrong person. This one evening, my mom got angry because I got sent home from school for fighting. Instead of asking me what happened, she assumed I was the person who started it. What really happened was I was attacked by a bully and was defending myself, however the staff only saw me defending myself, not his hit to my stomach. Or the bench he threw at me. My mom rarely punished me herself. She let the psychiatric hospital do the dirty work. She would call and tell them I was suicidal which got me a manditory 72 hour hold. No questions asked. I called her on the phone when I got there, after being stripped nakid to check for weapons, and after being rushed by 4 staff, bent over a bed and had my right arm pulled behind my back. When I was let go, I was let to fall to the floor. I didn't have use of my arm for 2 days. So I tried to tell her the truth, she hung up on me. So I was walking to my room. The staff wanted me to go to the restraint/time out room to cool down. I said no, that I wanted to calm down in my room. Instead, he grabbed me from behind, slammed me face down to the floor and put his knee on my spine, then applied his full body weight. He caused a spinal injury. I was already bed wetting, he made it much worse. I was just peeing without any notice, nerves were damaged and a fractured spine. I will be in diapers 24 hours a day for the rest of my life. If that wasn't enough, it had me in severe pain. I take 2 500mg vicodin, a 10mg methadone (it's in the same family as morphine), and a 10mg muscle relaxer, and I still feel the pain. Because the injury happened in the course of abuse, when I get the stabs of pain, it directly triggers the flashbacks. Another night when I again refused to be put in that awful padded room I was held down, injected with thorazine, pushed me into the room and locked the door. It was 7:30pm. They turned out the lights. It was pitch black except for a faint light that was coming through the 4inch by 4inch wire mesh window. I wasn't let out till 8:30am the next morning, despite my crying and pleading to atleast turn the light on. Today, it still effects me. I am terrified of dark rooms even today. My room has a lamp on 24 hours a day, and nightlights scattered throughout the house. With flashlights in every room and one near me in case the power goes out. I was diagnosed in 2005 of PTSD from my child abuse. What was done to me, was also seen as "correcting me". The spinal injury is a constant reminder of the day I said no to not wanting to be locked in the solitary room. In there, your not allowed to cry, to be angry. If your angry or upset, your sent to solitary. I was 10 years old when this started happening. It was my first time away from home. What I described was a VERY VERY small amount of the things I have had done to me, not just by the hospital, but by school children and teachers aid, but both my parents and family as well. My parents had a similar feeling on not sparing the rod. I have been hit more times than I can count. Had punishments I will NEVER forget. In my childhood, just the first 18 years of my life, I have attempted to end my life 8 different times. Because I couldn't handle the hits. Yea I broke some rules, but hitting me didn't help. I was in constant fear of those who hit me. I rarely slept, I was out of the home as much as possible with the thought of if I wasn't home, I couldn't do anything to get hit for. My first suicide attempt was when I was about 7 years old. I don't remember it, but I was told I ran to the street and tried to get a car to hit me. When asked why, I apparently said I wanted to die. I have sworn to NEVER hit a child. That I will find other ways that doesn't hurt the body. Some extra chores, time out, take away toys, go to bed early (and yes, with dinner), Can't go out with friends or have friends come over. There are many things that can be done, some I listed, that doesn't harm the childs body. No hitting with any objects, no tieing kids up, no locking them in a room, no refusing food. And yes, I have known parents who used this method. In fact, one is sitting next to me right now, she raised 3 children. None were ever struck with an object or hand. All turned out respectful, honest, helpful to others and are self supportive having good jobs and now have children of their own. And yea, my friend kids have also never hit with a pipe or any other object, and even her grandchildren are doing great as well. So it goes to prove, you have still have well behaved children without hitting them, or them fearing being hit. I mean, anyone wonder why the suicide rate is so high? Funny how child abuse seems to match the level almost perfectly. Something to think about.


  28. It is telling to me that the children in this article are spoken of in a demeaning fashion: "Knuckle Head, Selfish, Manipulative Brat..." God our Father never demeans His children. Did not Jesus say in regards to children that "such is the Kingdom of Heaven?" He has been harshly, wildly misrepresented here. Mercy.

  29. "would you spank forever, or would you stop when it bordered on abuse, in which case the child would win?"

    I'm sorry but I don't see how a child "wins" when he is being abused.

  30. The negative comments reinforce to me that this method is the best. What people are forgetting is that this 2 year old had to be retrained because he was not taught properly in the first place. I have never had to give my children repeated spankings down 20 miles of road because they have been taught to obey without it! Everyone thinks this 2 year old's fit is normal. It is - but it shouldn't be. A 2 year old is definitely capable of not pitching a fit in a car. I'm sorry that you accept less from your children, but perhaps it's because you don't bother to teach them until you are reteaching. Train them up correctly, and you won't have to worry about where they're going. All you have to do is look at the Pearls grown children to see the results. People forget they have adult children who are well adjusted with children of their own.

  31. These switching methods are simply association with negative stimuli, such as in the works of Pavlov or BF Skinner, they have nothing to do with Religion. The actual highest method of affecting a behavioral outcome of compliance is BF Skinner's "inconsistent positive reinforcement" (please note that I didn't say "negative") If you truly wish to "train" your child, which I think is a bit over the top, then a much better way would be to start when they are really young (baby), give commands as to what you want them to do and "randomly", inconsistently, (not every time, unpredictable.) This is the most difficult type of learning to extinguish. (Not consistent negative reinforcement.) Reward them with a positive outcome (perfect for a baby would be a tickle.) In adult terms, if you knew you would receive $10,000 just for showing up to work one day this year, but if you missed that day (you don't know what day it will be) you don't get it, what would your attendance be like? Then once you got the first $10,000, there is a chance that you may get another if you keep showing up everyday.

  32. I disagree with the method of discipline in this article. Beatings every 2-3 minutes, down 20 or so miles of road? That's really inhumane. And certainly not Christ-like. It's child abuse. But, most people will not be willing to see it this way, since this is how they "discipline" their children as well.

    My son is disciplined, just not in the extreme manner involving beatings with a switch. He is to the point where I tell him to do something, and he does it, WITHOUT the fear of abuse. I will be praying for you all...

  33. My parents spanked, but not consistently, or before much screaming and yelling (my husband also shares a similar story). As a result, I never obeyed before much screaming and yelling, and they would sometimes lose control of themselves and become abusive. It was not at all pleasant, and I was not a pleasant child to be around, and I knew it even then. I have one specific memory of whining and crying for candy at the grocery store. I knew I was being a brat. But I couldn't control myself. I remember very distinctly wishing that someone would reign me in and stop me from embarrassing myself. It wasn't until I had left home that God blessed me with some very Godly mentors who showed me tough love and helped me to learn to control my emotions. I have been a much happier person ever since. Coincidentally (or not) they also have used the Pearl's books in training their own six children, who are the perfect example of what I would like my own children to be: happy, healthy, kind, and confident. We are now attempting to train our two boys in the same way (which is revealing just how far I myself have to go character- wise). Thank you so much for your ministry!

  34. I just have a question for those of you that disagree with spanking. Do you have suggestions for how to make disobedient, willful, whiny, disrespectful children better? I just would like some advice!! Thanks in advance.

  35. I respect your work and your advice in this story. However, like another reader remarked I find the epithets you apply to children here arrogant and demeaning. It is possible to walk in humility and assert authority at the same time.

  36. I think this is a wonderful article, and JUST what I needed in dealing with my 4 year old, who we have tried in vain to train! I can now see where we have not been consistent with her, and we will try our very best to do so from now on! Thank you for your sweet ministry. Please do not become discouraged from all the negative commentators on here =)

  37. I have two of the Pearls' books--yet I practice what is commonly referred to as "Gentle Discipline." The key to the Pearl's methods is not the actual discipline, it's the consistency. So, for those of you who are not comfortable with spanking or a switch, I recommend listing the 10 or so common issues you face, and then what the discipline will be. So, for us, talking rudely to a parent, means copy work for the first offense for older children. For the second offense (same day), it might mean a lost of privilege, etc. You can even work with your kids to select consequences. Then there's no emotion involved when somebody disobeys--you just look at the chart. We say, "You choose the action, you choose the consequence." It works well. And I did find great inspiration from the Pearls' books.

  38. When my first child was born, my mother gave me three questions to ask when seeking to manage small children: "Tired? Hungry? Has to go to the bathroom?" The misbehavior and subsequent spanking described in this story occurred "late at night" on a "cold winter's evening." In my view parents should plan ahead to get kids in bed on time. Consistent bedtimes avoid a world of trouble.

  39. A few people have asked about making children mind without spanking. I do not spank and I regularly receive compliments on my children's behavior. They are a joy to be around. I think that in the first place parents need to enjoy their children more, play with them, value them, make the home a happy secure place. Then when a discipline issue arises what I do is very simple. I stop what I am doing (pull the car over, turn the stove off, whatever) go and give my full attention to the child and tell them in a low, quiet, but serious voice that they were to stop that behavior and replace it with a positive behavior. Everything about my demeanor goes from joyful to serious very quickly and this is in stark contrast to the normal happy, joyful running of the home. This is the most common way that I correct my children but other times I simply give an appropriate but calm response to their action. If my child throws his food the meal is over since he clearly does not want it. He is fed healthy food at regular intervals and will not starve. If he does not get himself dressed then I wordlessly dress him. Because we have cultivated an atmosphere where independence and self sufficiency are desirable anytime I dress my child or strap him into the car seat he feels the sting of having a privilege removed. I also monitor their sleep and eating habits and make sure that they are not hungry or tired through any fault of mine. It is unfair to keep children up at all hours and feed them at random intervals and then expect them to have the kind of trust in you that is necessary for voluntary submission to your authority. I feel the spanking described in this article is excessive and disagree with using terms like "brat" or "manipulative" to describe a person you are trying to cultivate a good relationship with. I don't have a problem with spanking as a discipline method but I have found these methods to be far more effective. But as with anything it must be consistent. Too often parents use spanking or other punishments to try and fix their own lack of consistency. This not only damages the child's trust but is completely irresponsible. You don't get to eat pizza, and cake every day and then get skinny after a one day diet and you don't get to sit on your butts for years and then expect obedience after a spanking marathon. You have to put effort into parenting all the time, not just when you get tired or inspired.

  40. In response to the question asking for advice, might I suggest simply not keeping a 2 year old child up til 11pm might be a good place to start. Raising kids well has nothing to do with discipline and everything to do with routine, nurturing and love.

  41. Oh, my goodness! 3-5 "licks" every two minutes for twenty minutes? Am I wrong in my calculations that that amounted to 30-50 "licks" altogether?! For a small child?!

    And what small child would NOT be falling apart at eleven at night? That is like us adults being awake at four in the morning. Soothing him to sleep would have been the most loving option - not demanding that he not cry when he was exhausted.

  42. This article was encouraging and empowering to those who are honestly trying to raise hard working, truly respectful, children who are willing and have a want to learn. As a woman, my instincts run on a emotional cord. That's how we are wired by divine design. We are called upon to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. When dealing with our children, we as mothers need to grasp the concept of denying ourselves of our tendencies to fall victim to our emotions. Our first sin as a gender started with listening to lies and allowing them to feed our emotions which negatively impacted our actions.

    This article was meant to call out the child's behavior for what it was in a blunt honest manner. The word choice is colorful for describing the toddler, but its honest, and true. The Pearl's are showing how this mother was allowing her children to emotional manipulate her to the point of insecurity as a mother. The teachings and insights that were given to this family created a backbone and sense of control to this woman that she could do it! She could be a productive authority in the home by making commands with strength in voice and presence. A run down, sad, insecure mother is not a healthy functioning example to her children. In no way does this article suggest hurting anyone. In fact, the article clearly states the "licks" or "switches" were for getting the child's attention and pain was not inflicted to the point where concern should be placed. I think it is a selfless act to put ones emotions aside for the sake of their children's disciplinary future. It takes God given fruit, such as, self control, and patience to stop everything your doing for the sake of training.

    Its easy to twist words, get caught up, or read to far into what this article is "really" trying to say. Like I said in the beginning, this article was meant to encourage and empower parental units to be on the same team and work together with consistency in a loving, biblical manner.

  43. Paying attention to a child's physical condition actually DOES prevent meltdowns. Having become a first-time mother at age 45, I had YEARS to observe idiotic, abusive parenting techniques like the ones the Pearls espouse and learn how not to parent Guess what? When I paid close attention to my child's physical state, she was very well behaved. I've never spanked my daughter at all, and she's kindhearted, moral, and responsible teen now.

    1. You must not have been paying very close attention, because the Pearls' child training techniques are not abusive and have resulted in hundreds of thousands healthy, emotionally stable, kindhearted, and responsible productive adults (and teens). Having worked with troubled youth for several years I can say the the result with your daughter is the exception.

  44. Thank you for this article. It was so helpful. I have read your book many times and it has worked but like these parents I have gotten tired out the more children I have. This gives me courage and hope. So many people have told me your book is harsh and unfeeling but it has helped me tremendously. It gives you confidence and security because it starts making even you believe your own word. God bless your ministry and the truth you bring, thank you!!!!