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No Greater Shame

November 20, 2013

There have always been tales of evil masquerading as good.  The wolf in sheep’s clothing.  The kindly old lady bearing the poison apple.  The witch disguised as a beautiful young woman.

History has also shown us numerous examples of horrific acts predicated on perverted interpretations of morality and religion, of inhuman acts done in the name of God or the greater good.   Somehow these insidious, veiled acts of evil seem that much more heinous than their straightforward counterparts.

Sadly, today’s news presents an example of how this kind of twisted philosophy can result in tragedy.  A beautiful young girl name Hana was beaten and starved to death by her adoptive parents, the people charged with caring for and protecting her.  They have since received the maximum prison sentences allowable under the law after being found guilty in her death, but no time spent in a cell will bring back this child.

Her parents were the latest proponents of abusive parenting techniques to be charged with killing their child while following the parenting advice doled out by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book “To Train Up a Child”, part of their No Greater Joy ministry.  The Pearls have no background in child development and encourage parents to physically and emotionally abuse and torture their children in order to make them obedient.  They claim their way is God’s way and that their methods are Christian.  And children continue to die.

Devout followers praise the Pearls as good Christian parents who tout sound Biblical child rearing principles.  Detractors such as Theologica blogger Rey Reynoso express equally passionate views on the Pearl’s doctrine:
“The method that the Pearl’s prescribe is not only excessive, it is done without emotion, without a conscience, and sheer cerebral resolve. This allows for people to be abusive because they consider themselves not being abusive because they’re not doing it in anger. This is not only wrong, it’s evil. The parent calmly and consistently continues to strike the child, who doesn’t seem to capitulate, until the child’s will breaks: that’s the rule. And then the news reports parents who have beaten their child nearly to death and everyone is surprised because they’re so calm, nice and respectful. The Pearl’s weapon is fully loaded and pointed at the children of those parents.”

Disturbingly, the Pearls profit handsomely from their book sales, suggesting a significant following.  Hana is the just the latest victim of this movement, at least the third adopted child to be murdered by parents adhering to the Pearl’s philosophy.

Edicts of their child rearing approach include:

  • Using plastic tubing to beat children, since it causes significant pain but leaves fewer marks to alert authorities
  • “Swatting” babies as young as six months old with instruments such as “a 12-inch willowy branch,” thinner plastic tubing or a wooden spoon
  • “Blanket training” babies by hitting them with an instrument if they try to crawl off a blanket on the floor
  • “Training” children with pain before they even disobey, in order to teach total obedience
  • Giving cold water baths, putting children outside in cold weather and withholding meals as discipline
  • Hosing off children who have potty training accidents
  • Inflicting punishment until a child is “without breath to complain.”

And yet they use semantics to remove themselves from the results of their preaching, denying that hitting a six-month old baby with a switch for “acting out” is “punishment” but is, rather, “training.”  By removing emotion from the equation and by not only giving parents permission to use corporal punishment but calling it by a softer, holier name, they essentially empower parents to abuse in the name of God.

This philosophy creates a climate of control in which parents become convinced that it is their Christian duty to physically and emotionally abuse their children in order to be good parents.  The Pearls may denounce parents such as Hana’s on their website, removing themselves from these horrific situations through word choice and Bible verses, but they are complicit in her death and the deaths of other children whose parents follow their teachings.

Of course these parents are ultimately responsible.  They somehow convinced an adoption agency that they were fit parents who could care for Hana (and her brother) but instead enfolded them in their dark, twisted world of pseudo-religion and abuse.  They are ultimately the ones who doled out this sick brand of child rearing that resulted in Hana’s death.

Parents who treat their children like sub-human beings, who use fear and pain to maintain control, and who physically and emotionally harm their children under the guise of good parenting…I have no words.  As a mom, as an early childhood educator, as a child development expert, I am sick.  Sick that these people exist.  Even more sick that books like “To Train Up a Child” remain in publication and available for purchase on Amazon.

We as a society have to raise our voices and let it be known that we will not stand by as these people wage war against children.  For Hana, and for all children, please sign this petition and give these silent victims a voice:

Now excuse me but I need to go hug my children.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2013 5:40 pm

    Reblogged this on .

  2. December 3, 2013 4:26 am

    The Pearls’ methods as described in To Train Up A Child are not Biblical, but pure behaviorism. If you’re interested, I’ve just posted a long article on the subject:

    To Train Up A Child, or: Spare the Rod? What Rod?

    Larry and Carri Williams’s treatment of Hana Williams may have gone beyond what is advocated in the book, as the authors claim. However, Hana’s death is a grim example of what happens when parents attempt to apply the behavior modification techniques described by the Pearls, and they just don’t work as advertised.

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