Michael Pearl: Some people just raise sissies right from the start. I didn't raise sissies. My girls were not even sissies; they are just tough as old barbed wire. But sometimes, some of these guys, especially homeschoolers, some of them are raising some sissies. Some of them are living with their mother and going off to work and come home, and the boys are more like girls than they are boys. We had a friend, well, I guess we still got him. We got a friend that is in the military and has to go overseas quite a bit or was on ship for six months at a time. And when he had his first son, he named him after me. Now, we'd led the fellow to the Lord, and taught him from his youth and saw him when he got married, and so, we'd been a part of the man's life, and so when he had that first boy, he named him after me.
And we didn't see him, because they lived in another state at that time. Eventually, the boy was about four or five years old, and they showed up at our house one day. So I, like I usually do, I took him around to show him the farm, show him the gardens, and the barns and everything.
And everything, and as we were walking along through the front yard, his son, four or five years old said, "Oh! Daddy, you've got to carry me." And I thought, "Man, what is wrong with this kid?" The grass was hurting his leg walking through it. He didn't like walking through it. There was kind of a little dew on it and it was stinging, you know.
By the time my boys were four years old, they were taking hunting knives and slicing knives and killing snakes and skinning them up. And so this kid, crying and whining over this little bit of grass just amazed me. Well, the father went over, leaned over and talked to him in real constraint and said, "Now, son, you know, your daddy really loves you, and it's OK, this grass won't hurt you."
And the whole two days they were there, it was that way, and then they went off. They came back when the kid was about seven or eight years old. Same thing, just a whining crybaby. Just sickly you know, I couldn't believe it. It would have been unjust to girls to call him a sissy.
And then when the kid was about nine or ten years old, the father called one day and said, we are going to be going down to Knoxville to a thing for a week, and we want to drop our boy off and let him just stay with you for a week. Well, I had just written the book To Train Up a Child, and I thought, "Man, this will really be a test. This will be a test all right." I said, "OK, bring him on."
So he brought the kid over and dropped him off Sunday afternoon. And so, I built the kid up, I said, "Look man, this is going to be great. You're going to make some money this week. We've got squash we are picking and selling, and you can pick squash and sell it and get the money for it. And then we are going to be swimming and fishing and all sorts of things. It's going to be a great week."
"Yeah!" he said, going to be fun. So, I said, "Tomorrow morning, the girls would get up, not long after daylight, and they would go down to the squash patch, and pick squash, and put it in a five‑gallon bucket, and we get $2.50 for every five‑gallon bucket of squash we pick, and we dump them in this big bin, a whole semi came out, and the whole community was growing squash that year.
Some of them were growing two or three acres. I just grew a patch about the size of this room here, and the girls would pick it every morning. I'd get half the money and they'd get the other half. So, the next morning about eight o'clock, Monday morning, I got up and went down the squash patch to see how they were doing. And the girls, each had, oh, a dozen five‑gallon buckets full of squash at the end of their rows.
And the little boy was standing in the middle of the field, crying and bawling, and rubbing his eyes, and then every while he would do this, "Ahhh! I don't like it, it hurts me, I don't like it." [laughter] I said, "What is wrong with you boy?" He said, "The bugs are biting me, and the squash it itches my hands." He had three squash in his bucket.
I said, "Boy, you're getting money for picking these squash." I said, "There are 50 Amish kids this morning, five years old, ten years old, picking squash, and none of them are crying." He said, "Yeah, but they are used to it." [laughter] I said, "Well, you're going to get used it, before the week is over." He said, "But I don't like it, it hurts."
I said, "Michael, nothing you can do about it, just be the man. Pick the squash." He said, "I don't want to do. I don't like. I want to go back to the house." Well, now what's the first rule of child training? Make all negative behavior counterproductive right? Never reward their negative behavior. Reward the positive behavior. What did he want to do? Go back to the house.
What did he not want to do? Pick squash. What did he want to do? Get away from the scratchy, itchy stuff. So, what am I going to do? I will do the opposite of everything he wants to do. That's the way it works. I could have spanked him right there, but that wouldn't have cured him. Because what he needed was to stay in the squash patch and be eaten by the bugs. That's what he needed, right?
What he needed was to get tough, and so what I did was, I said well Michael, of all the kids in the community, there are none of them that is crying and whining like you are. He said, "You can't talk to me this way." I said, "Look up at me Michael." He looked up. I said, "I can talk to you anyway I want to, your daddy won't be back for a week." [laughter]
He said, "You treat me like I am a dodo." I said, "Son, you've got a long way to go before you get to be a dodo. [laughter] I'd lost patience but I was staying cool. So, I turned a five‑gallon bucket upside down and sat on it. I said, "Me and you are going to stay in this squash patch till the sun goes down or until you smile for five minutes, whichever comes first."
Ahhh! He started screaming and really threw a fit then. I was supposed to break down talk to him. I didn't talk to him. I just sat there. He screamed and screamed, and when he stopped to see how I was doing, I was doing fine. And then I looked up and he was getting red in the face. You know, I was just getting that thought. Man his heart was racing, and his veins were swollen in his little neck, his four‑inch neck, I just knew he was fixing to pass out.
I thought, "That's it! Let him pass out. Then wake him up and tell him he was smiling for five minutes and then we can go back to the house." You know, win, win, win. He wouldn't pass out, he just kept throwing a fit. He stopped in the middle of his fit and said, "When can we go to the house?" I said, "When you smile for five minutes." So he said OK. [laughter] [mocking noise] I said that's not good enough, Michael. [laughter] I started laughing at him. I said you really got to smile for five minutes.
So he tried that two or three times, throwing fits in between. Finally after about 20, 30 minutes, I mean it was getting sun come up now and it was getting hot in that squash patch. Humidity steaming up off of it, you know. I mean, it's hot. So he starts trying to smile. As soon as he started trying to smile, I went along with it and started talking about going inner-tubing down the whitewater creek there a little later. He forgot about his bugs and started laughing with me. I said, been five minutes, you did it, let's go to the house and eat.
So we went to the house and ate, came a little time later to go down to the creek and jump on the inner tube. Girls went down there and threw theirs off the bank and dove in and got on the inner tube and floated away with the current. I got on mine and started floating. Said, come on Michael. He said, no, it's cold, the water's cold. So he got on his inner tube like this. [laughter] Can you imagine trying to ride an inner tube that way? I said, Michael, you can't ride an inner tube that way. He said, but the water's cold. He just fell and just happened to turn just right side up, upside down.
You know, the way you're supposed to be in an inner tube. Started floating along and came to the first bend about the length of this building and the creek curved like that and you kind of washed up against the bank, against some tree roots. He reached out and grabbed a root when he passed. I said, turn loose of the root. He hung on to it so it washed the inner tube out from under him. So here he is with one arm around the inner tube, one arm around the root and the current acting like this. [laughter]
He starts screaming again. [laughter] I was ahead of him. I said, turn loose of the root. "I'm scared, come help me." I said, turn loose of the root. Now he was scared to death. After all, it was nearly two feet deep there, [laughter] and that current was swift. So I said, Michael, I'm not going to help you. I walked back upstream like this in the water, and I got to him. I said, do you know why I'm doing this to you? He stopped crying and said, "Yeah, you want me to grow up." [mock crying] [laughter] He wasn't stupid. [laughter] But he didn't want to grow up, he liked being a Mama's boy. He liked being sweet.
That's the last thing he was. So I went on and floated around the curve and then got out and watched him through the trees to make sure he didn't drown. For all I know, he might have wanted to. [laughter] I watched him. He finally turned loose of the root and grabbed the inner tube and floated on down. For the next mile and a half of river, we had four, five, eight, ten, I don't know, several crisis experiences where he each time he would panic and I wouldn't help him out of it. I'd tell him what he had to do and I'd go on and make him do his thing. Each one got a little easier for him.
So it finally got to where he was relaxed. The training session had sort of come to an end. We came up to where this tree had fallen across the river and creek, and it was just laying there. The current was hitting it and some of it was washing over it, and some of it was going under the tree. It was a tree about 10, 12 inches in diameter. So I said, "Michael. Oh, this is a dangerous spot coming up here". "Ooh", I said. "This is terrible." I said, "You could get swept under that tree, and then no way we could get you out. It would have done drowned you."
I said, "When you get to it, you've got to get out of the inner tube, get on the log and walk across it to the bank". So I hurried up and got ahead. And I let my inner tube bump up against the log, and I climbed up on the log, and I pretended just like I barely could make it, you know? And I was carrying my inner tube, and I made it to the bank, you know? It's about 10 inches deep under that thing. And I got to the bank like that. And I saw him get swept up to it. He got on the log, and he carried his inner tube, and he got to the bank. He said, "That's fun. Let's do it again."
We got home and I took him out in the shop and we cut out a little something on the saws, and made some items and stuff. And during the week, I did different things with him. And every time he'd break down and try to do the sissy thing, I'd just talk to him like he was stupid, you know. Without much emotion. Just, "Boy, I can't believe that. Really, you can't pick that up? I could go get a three-year-old kid that could pick that up. I mean, you're plenty big enough to pick it up. You'll have to pick it up. You won't get any dinner if you don't. You'll have to carry it. I'll carry two, you can carry one. And we'll come back and get another load. So make up your mind. Do you want to eat or not?"
I didn't give an inch all week long. And, listen, by the end of the week, he was a different fellow. He was acting like a man instead of a little boy, instead of a little sissy. And when his daddy got there, I sat his daddy down. I said, "Look, you've messed this kid up. I can't believe that you'd do this to a young man. It's your fault you made him what he is". And I just raked the daddy up one side and down the other. He sat there and took it, and took his kid and went home.
A couple of weeks later, he called back and said, "I don't know what you did". But, he said, you changed my boy. He said, we got home and had to do some yard work. He said, I've never been able to get him to help me cut grass. He said he went out and worked four hours, just sweating and red, blistered. He said he never complained once. He said we came in from cutting the grass, and they called from the church and said the custodian didn't show up. We had to clean the church Saturday afternoon. He said he went down and worked another four hours and he didn't complain any then. He said he's a different man.
And I was at a seminar about a year ago up in Pennsylvania or Virginia or somewhere. And I was unloading my vehicle and all of a sudden I heard somebody say, "Hey, Mike". I looked around and there's a tall young man there. And I said, yeah. And he said, my name's Mike. I said, yeah, my name's Mike. Went back to work, and he said, don't you remember me? My name's...and I said, yeah, your name's Mike. Right. I'm Mike, too. And I went back to work. Then a couple of girls walked up, and then a woman. And I recognized the mother. I looked around and it was that same kid, the one that was 10 years old. He was about 16 then, and he was nearly as tall as I was.
And I heard from them just a few weeks ago. The mother said that the father was overseas, there, fighting. And that the boy was six foot four or five, or something like that, now. And that he was a hard worker. And that he supported the family, kept them up. And took care of the girls, (had a big family full of girls), while the daddy was gone. And that he was a hard working little man. And just turned out to be tops. And I'm sure it wasn't just our week that did that. The daddy knuckled down and contributed to it. But we squashed that little sissy's sissiness.