Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Pearls

I’ve decided to cover the Pearls and their child rearing methods on my website. There are many excellent resources on the web about the Pearls. Tulip Girl immediately comes to mind as a Christian blogger who has written about this subject. Her site is a good starting point for those interested in the Pearls and their ministry.

Because I wish to be fair, I am providing a free, online link to the Pearl’s book, To Train Up A Child. You can also find their website, No Greater Joy, by doing a Google search. If you doubt the validity of any of my criticisms, please check the sources yourself.

I have many beefs with the Pearls. People who are making money off giving child raising advice should be very clear. Yet, the Pearls contradict themselves and are very vague as to what they consider abuse. They also distort the common meaning of some words, making understanding their advice difficult in some instances. For example, the word training is used to replace spanking, especially when they are talking about the punishment of very young babies. This is why one of their adult daughters can honestly report that she was only spanked once despite the fact that her parents describe ‘training’ her at four months old.

There is much on their site that is good, but it is combined with some exceptionally ghastly advice. And for all their commendable talk of tying heart strings, following their recommendations exactly as written could potentially cause an adversarial relationship between parent and child. Although some parents have the ability to pick out what is good in the Pearl’s methods, not everyone is blessed with an ability to discern the good from the bad.

I have some problems with the guilt trips that the Pearls place on parents who do not follow their advice. There is no one way to raise all children. Kids, just like adults, are individuals. Its impossible to say that one methods works with every single child, yet the Pearls do seem to indicate that anyone who does not follow their methods are doomed to have horrible children.

A lot of people, even those who disagree with Michael and Debbi Pearl, have commented that it is obvious that the Pearls love their children. My response is, so what? As an adult from a highly dysfunctional household, I can attest that abusive parents and spouses often love their victims. Granted the love might be twisted and selfish but the abuser does believe that what they feel is genuine love. I, for instance, never doubted that my mother loved me. Her love did not make her less abusive, but it did make it more difficult for me to overcome the results of her abuse.

Also, my siblings and I were the ‘good children’. Due to fear of my mother, we did not argue with her or show disrespect. We were very outwardly obedient children and my mother got many compliments on how well mannered we were. I was very afraid of my mom and her temper. I decided early on as a mother that I would rather have less well behaved children, who were independent and could think for themselves, then to have children who were perfect.

So much has been written about the Pearls that I don’t think it would be effective to write an article detailing both their faults and strengths. My plan is to take a few articles from the Pearls’ website and segments from their book and discuss them in more detail. I haven’t seen anything like that done on other blogs.

Let me admit right now. I am not a perfect parent with perfect kids. I do not have a degree in child psychology or in theology. I really don’t have an opinion on spanking either. My problems with the Pearls have nothing to do with corporal punishment.

I was an abused child and I don’t want future children to be abused by well meaning but overly zealous parents. it is an emotional issue for me. Hopefully any discourse on the subject can be polite and civil. I understand that most parents who follow the Pearls are well intentioned. Hopefully, I can do a good job of covering the Pearls.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Purgatory And My Mom

Purgatory is especially comforting to me. I believe that my mother was a Christian. Granted, I could not see into her heart, but she had a strong love for God. Unfortunately, my mother had a mental disorder that kept her from seeing life clearly.

Describing my mother is a difficult task. She was an extreme. When she was good, she was nearly saintly, but when she was bad, she was a horrible, vindictive, manipulative human being.

Both homeless and stray animals were brought home by my mom. Admittedly, my mom's judgement was off. She allowed one man to live with us who drank all our liquid cold medicines, hid alcohol bottles all through the house and brought porn into our home. His relationship with our mom was platonic, she simply felt sorry for him. But despite her good intentions, this man was a horrible, frightening person to have around young children.

Once she became concerned that another single mother did not have enough money to be Santa for her children. Even though we had very little money ourselves, she decided that we could fix up old toys and leave them anonymously in a box outside the lady's house. It was a wonderful lesson for us in not expecting credit or praise for our good deeds. Mom always stressed that we treat others with kindness and empathy.

My mother entertained us with silly accents(she was actually very good at mimicry) and funny stories. She could turn the worst events of her life into humorous antidotes. I learned the skill of coping with life's problems with laughter from her.

But this same mother could turn on a dime and become, abusive, cruel and manipulative. From the time that I was 11, she started telling me that I was a slut and a whore. I was also cold and unfeeling, at least according to mom.

When my mother was angry, she was a very frightening person. There was a period in my preadolescence, when I slept under my bed because my mother had indicated that she wanted to kill us. When I grew older, I became more concerned with my younger siblings and would sleep sitting up so that I could wake and protect my sister and brother.

Mom was very addicted to pain medicine. In order to get prescriptions she taught me how to fake migraine headaches so she could get more medicine. One time she sent me downtown by way of city bus to buy a dime bag of marijuana for her. She had a car, she just didn't want to get caught buying drugs. As I was under 18, she explained, I wouldn't get in trouble if the police caught me. Besides, she was going to buy the drugs anyway and if she went to jail, she said, it would be my fault if my siblings went into a foster home. So at 16, I went downtown and had a prearranged meeting with a man that she knew. I gave him money that my mother had entrusted to me and brought home my mother's pot.

Sometimes my mom was very negligent and ignored us completely. I signed all my brother and sister's school paper work and wrote their absence notes. Mom just couldn't be bothered. Other times she smothered us by refusing to let us leave her side. We missed school, were told not to ignore her by doing homework and had to sit up all night with her. She was lonely and we kids had to be her confidants, pals and support system.

Because she wanted to be in love, my mom was constantly falling in and out of relationships. Men liked my mom. She never had any problem getting a date or having men fall in love with her. Unfortunately, she was addicted to the adrenaline rush of falling in love and couldn't sustain a relationship. So, we had men constantly in and out of our lives. My mom was married seven times!

It was a very unstable homelife.

My mom wanted to be a good person. She read her bible and, I sincerely believe, reached out in her own confused way to God. She expressed a strong love for Jesus. An untreated mental condition can make a person see faith and religion in a twisted manner. So many family members protected Mom from hitting bottom and assisted her in hiding her mental condition. At one point, a doctor put my mother on lithium but she stopped seeing him or taking the medication. I have no idea if she had received a diagnosis for her condition or not.

You almost have to be an abused child to understand the discordant nature of such a home life. Sometimes my mother was a nearly saintly, intensely compassionate, loving person while at other times she was cruel and selfish. I have always thought that the loving person that my mother could be was her true nature free of her mental illness.

A couple of years ago, my mother died, alone in a broken down single wide trailer. I was the last of her children who had talked to her and that had been six months previously. To protect my own kids, I had tried to set boundaries on their grandmother. Mom wasn't allowed to make them feel guilty, call them names or inform them that they weren't going to heaven as she had said to my older daughter. In other words, I had given my mother rules as to how she could interact with my kids. She chose not to comply with these very basic rules and so we had no contact for six months.

My mother had obsessively written out her prayers to God on little, yellow memo notes. These notes were stuck all along her walls. Many of them spoke of her deep faith that God would change her children's hearts and convince them that they were mistaken. One very sad note read that my mother knew, if her faith was just strong enough, her children would walk through her door and ask for her forgiveness.

I believe that my mother was sincere in both her faith in God and her love for her children. But her mind was so clouded by insanity that she was incapable of understanding her own contributions to her many problems.

Yet, if I meet my mother in heaven-I honestly believe that she is either there or in Purgatory now- she will not be burdened with insanity. She will be the sweet, loving, funny person that God meant for her to be all along. In heaven she won't suffer from the effects of mental illness. That is a great comfort to me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Spanking MANDATED By The Bible?

This is neither an anti- nor prospanking article. My oldest son was diagnosed as ADHD and yes, we did spank him. With each successive child, we have used spanking less and less as a form of discipline. All four of my kids are equally well behaved, despite the lack of spanking that two younger girls received. In fact, I've been humbled by the example of some nonspanking families who still manage to produce kind, well spoken, respectful children.

It would seem to be common sense-at least now that I am older-that because family temperaments and backgrounds differ that no single child rearing method will work for everyone. So imagine my surprise when I began to read on some Christian sites that the Bible mandates spanking. Even more startling are the claims that there is only one "Biblical" way to raise children.

Granted most of these sites are not Catholic but are fundamentalists. But people react to confidence, even if it is misplaced. I worry that the fundamentalist certainty that there is one way for Christians to raise children will spread and become "The Christian way to parent." Also, I am concerned that some of these parenting methods will produce either passive adults who will be ripe for a charismatic leader or that these kids, because of their upbringing, will grow up to hate Christianity and seek to undermine our faith.

Let me say, I am not a permissive parent and I don't have a strong opinion on spanking. My goal is only to prove that there isn't a Biblical rule that Christians have to spank. I am not arguing for or against corporal punishment.

There are about six verses in the Bible that deal with striking a child. These are mainly found in Proverbs. In most of these instances the Hebrew word for child used is na'ar. Na'ar is a masculine word for a male child of any age. Although there are a few instances of na'ar being used for a infant, in the Old Testament, na'ar is mainly used for older adolescent males.

Proverbs is a book of wise sayings. There is an entire section of Proverbs in which unrelated sayings follow one another. There is no way to tell if na'ar means a young boy, a male infant or an adult man still living at home. Certainly if you strike your college age son with a rod you run the risk of serving jail time for assault. So, I would not advise anyone to decide that corporal punishment can be used on their adult sons.

The word na'ar does not mean a female child. So, technically to follow these verses literally a parent can strike their male children but not their daughters. I do not read that certain extreme fundamentalist sites differentiate between male and female children.

The Old Testament has many laws that Christians no longer follow. For example, modern Orthodox Jews use salting or broiling to ensure that meat is free of blood. Some Orthodox Jews consider rare meat unkosher. Lev 19:19 seems to indicate that we should not have the different varieties of cattle that farmers have available today(no interbreeding of cattle), use two kinds of seed in our fields or wear a garment that is a mix to two different materials. Who decided that the book of Proverbs is more applicable to modern Christians then any other book in the Bible? I didn't get the notice that I could ignore Leviticus but had to uphold Proverbs. On what grounds has this been decided?

If we are going to use the Old Testament as a guide shouldn't we read it as the ancient Jewish people did? I came across an interesting article on The Jewish Virtual LIbrary. It states that:

The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life.


Strangely enough, the Oral Law today is a written law, codified in the Mishna and Talmud. Orthodox Judaism believes that most of the oral traditions recorded in these books dates back to God's revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. When God gave Moses the Torah, Orthodoxy teaches, He simultaneously provided him all the details found in the Oral Law

Apparently ancient Jews were not Bible Alone believers. They translated the meaning of scriptures through their oral traditions. In order to know what God meant by certain Old Testament scriptures shouldn't Christians study both the Mishna and Talmud or at least ask a Orthodox Rabbi for his opinion?

Please understand that I am not putting down any one who spanks. My concern is not with corporal punishment. I am worried at the fact that some fundamentalists sites are using scare tactics and a distorted view of the Bible to push parents into following their methods. It bothers me that some parents claim to be following the "Biblical " method for child raising, which means that anyone who chooses to parent differently is ignoring the Bible. I don't want parents to be guilted into following a method that might be bad for their families.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Purgatory...Yes, One More Time

Jeaux has left a new comment on your post "Scripture Dealing With Purgatory.": Deb:While I respect your use of scripture in your argument, I ask that you go and read the latter part of Hebrews 9 again. Christ suffered once for all of our sins and man will face judgment following his death. It is Christ's blood that makes us holy, not any works that we do lest any man should boast.

It is quite possible that my writing lacked some clarity. So, I apologize for any confusion I have caused. Catholics agree with Jeaux. Christ did suffer once for all our sins and works alone do not save a person.

Purgatory is not a means to work one's way into heaven. It is not a giant second chance to get into heaven. My younger son once jokingly referred to Purgatory as a spiritual washing machine and, humor aside, that is a good description. Most Protestants also believe in Purgatory, although they don't realize that they do. Very few Protestants-if any- believe that they will enter heaven with even small faults like envy or anger.

When I became a Christian, I had the uncomfortable feeling that God was shining spotlights on certain aspects of myself that needed changing. Let me say, that it is painful to change. But our Lord wants us our best. He doesn't half cleanse us and then say, "Ah, not perfect, but good enough." He wants us to be worthy of paradise, to be completely clean. Even those little, minuscule sins are supposed to be cleansed off of us before we enter heaven.

Christians believe that in heaven, the blind will see and the lame walk. God will heal all matter of physical infirmities before we enter heaven. Yet, some Christians apparently don't understand that a being powerful enough to make a wheel chair bound man walk is also powerful enough to cleanse you of small sins, for example feeling that pang of envy when your neighbor gets a raise after you've lost your job. In heaven none of us will want to pout when we don't get our way, nag anyone, feel envy or jealousy, listen to gossip, have doubt or get annoyed at our parents.

Let me use an invented example. Imagine that there is a man who was severely abused as a child. He never knew anyone that he could trust. As a young man, he robbed a bank and killed the bank teller. In prison he meets someone who manages to explain Christ's love in a manner that the young man can understand. The prisoner makes a sincere commitment to Jesus and becomes a Christian.

Of course, he hasn't become a perfect person. God's grace will help the young man to have the power and the desire to change his life. But the process of sanctification can take time. In order to become the Christian man that he was meant to be, this man has a whole history of pain and turmoil that he must overcome. God does work miracles and it is possible for even the worst criminal to change their lives with the power of Christ.

But what if, at the very moment that he has committed his life to Christ, another prisoner attacks and kills him? Remember the bible says in Revelation 21:27 that nothing unclean will enter heaven. Does that mean that our young prisoner is doomed to spend eternity in Hell because he is a very new Christian? After all, he probably has some residual anger to work through. Will this man be in the presence of God still furious at his mom for abandoning him and a foster care giver for abusing him? Catholics and most Protestants will say that no, this man will not be angry in heaven. He will no longer resent anyone and he will not be burdened with the mental scars from past abuse.

Catholics call the entire change that occurs after death, before Christians have entered heaven, Purgatory. Protestants simply haven't named it but most Protestants that I talk to do believe that some sort of change does occur.

I don't know if this article clears up any misconception about Purgatory. If any of you are still confused, please don't hesitate to ask questions. If I don't know the answer to your questions then I will either research and find the answer or direct you onto better sites. I don't mind questions, so please don't be afraid to ask. I just hope that I can provide good answers that don't confuse anyone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Photos From The Devil's Tramping Grounds.

We decided to invite the kids' friends, Anthony-age 19 and Jarod-age 10, on our field trip. We are very blessed to have fellow homeschoolers who live next door to us. My younger kids enjoy the trips more when their friend, Jarod, tags along. My oldest son, Josh, is in college and would not normally take trips with us, if it wasn't for his friend, Anthony. Before we left, I took a group photo of the six kids together.

Because I am a masochist, I let the kids each get their choice as to what CD's that would play. They took turns picking the music. So, we had a variety of heavy metal, religious and country music blaring from our minivan. My ears are still ringing.

Surprisingly, a minivan with eight people in it is very loud. Anthony and Joshua entertained us by clowning around, although I think Josh. was a little perturbed when his friend jokingly threatened to kiss him.

Unlike other historical sites, there are no road signs or markers for The Devil's Tramping Grounds. A portion of the trip went through the proverbial "boonies". There was really nothing on either side of the road except forest. It made pretty scenery, so I snapped a photo.

On a funny note-at least to everyone else in the car- my son, Chris. complained that he really had to go to the bathroom. So we pulled over and he ran into the woods. We females all needed to use the bathroom also but we decided to wait. Poor Chris, just a mile further down the road we found a gas station. LOL

The attendant at the BP very kindly directed us to the road that the tramping ground is on. Just past a tire store is a road fittingly called The Devil Tramping Ground Road.
As I wrote previously, there is no sign announcing that you have found the actual Devil's Tramping Ground. There is just two gravel pullouts, located on the side of the road. The second pullout is the correct one.

We knew that we were in the correct spot because teenagers had painted several upside down crosses and pentagrams into the surrounding pines. I am a big nature lover and really wish someone had just posted a sign instead.

The area is no longer forty feet and isn't even really circular. My husband said that it doesn't look that drastically different then other bare places that he's come across while camping in the woods.

Judging from the trash left in ring, the devil likes Krispy Kreme doughnuts, lots of beer and smokes heavily. I overheard Josh comment to Anthony, "Man, since God threw Satan out of heaven, the devil has really went to hell." What can I say, the boy has his father's sense of humor.

We had a very nice picnic in the middle of the not quite circle. Actually, I found the area very peaceful, but I like being in the middle of the woods. By the way, we carried our trash back to the car with us and didn't leave any litter behind.
I will try to post direction to the Devil's Tramping Grounds later.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On Silliness And Pearl

My husband and I have always been a bit goofy with our kids. We both are just naturally silly people. One of our sons once described us as a ‘jokative family.” Bad English aside, I believe that he was correct. We are sometimes a pretty goofy family. I used to get my sons to eat noodles by helping them pretend the pasta was really worms. Yes, very sick but my boys loved the whole grossness of pretending to eat something wiggly.

Imagine my surprise when-while looking for herbal information-I came across these words:

A silly boy is disgusting and repulsive, because he is the antithesis of all that is attractive in a male. There is no age at which silliness is normal. It is in all circumstances inappropriate. How many times have you heard people say it, “Don’t be silly”? All of my readers could mimic the tone at which it is always uttered—a hurried, dismissive, embarrassment, carrying a presumption that it is out of place and most unbecoming.

At first I thought that I had wandered into one of those brilliant satires like The Onion. No.....Michael Pearl is serious.

Of course, parents should teach their children that there are times to be funny and moments to be serious. Learning how to behave in various sitiuation is part of growing up. I am not certain why being occasionally goofy is the "antithesis of all that is attractive in a male." Many of the men that I admire most, including my wonderful husband, can be real goofballs sometimes.

I was in grade school in the fifties and started high school in 1959. I don’t remember any really silly boys, not like today’s crowd of them.

Although No Greater Joy is located in Tennessee, I can't help but wonder if Michael Pearl isn't a transplant. Most southerners that I know enjoy a good belly laugh. The older people, especially those who have undergone hardships, are sometimes the funniest. Humor in the face of tribulation seems to be a southern trait.

One of the toughest women that I have ever known was my Grandmother. We called her Nanny. She had survived the depression, a very abusive, alcoholic husband, poverty and my mother’s mental disorder. Yet through it all she maintained a sense of humor that helped her cope with her life. Her ability to be silly and funny made her strong. It helped her to view life, not as a victim, but as a survivor.

Once, after my three year old son, Joshua, had asked her to draw a dog, Nan decided to tease her younger sister, Avo. Drawing an ugly picture of a horrible creature she labeled it with her sister’s name. She instructed Joshua to give it to his great aunt but to make certain that she knew it was from Annie (my grandmother). Poor 70 year old, Avo, was innocently crocheting on the couch when her little nephew brought her the crude drawing. Looking across the room at my grandmother, she yelled, “Annie, what is wrong with you?” Both women burst into loud laughter. My great aunt wasn’t offended at her big sister.

Silliness can only exist in a responsibility vacuum. A man (or boy) who is given responsibilities and is committed to performing his duty will never be silly. Where there is self-respect, there will be sobriety and dignity.

My husband actually got angry at this statement. One of the duties of my husband and his coworkers is the protection of certain weapons systems and personal, although their main job is meterology. Yet,according to my husband, the men and women that he works with can get pretty silly at times. It is because these soldiers have a lot of responsibility that they have a need to blow off steam by joking around.

Daddy and his friends will respond to foolishness like they would a cat licking its XXX.

Could someone explain what the above statement means? Is Michael Pearl being silly? I didn't know that most men had a problem with cats cleaning their privates beyond amazment.(think Puss in Boots on Shrek) I have to admit, when our male siamese would throw his leg up, bend his head over and begin to purr, I would leave the room so he could have privacy. I always felt that I was watching cat porn when our he cleaned himself. Yuck. But what any of that has to do with little boys being silly and the reaction of their fathers is beyond me.

In fact there is a lot in the article that doesn't connect to the main subject of the article-boys silliness. Most of us worry about the effect of Hollywood on our children. Although we still have tv, we no longer have cable in our house. Until we can get cable channels a la cart, and don't have to pay for the junk channels, my hubby and I have decided to have it disconnected. Michael Pearl though connects the junk on tv with, what he seems to consider, a new problem of boys being silly.

It is not the kids sitting zombie like in front of the television who are creative and energetic enough to figure out exactly which joke will gross out their siblings. Its the kids digging in the dirt, enteracting with their friends and being outdoors who come up with new ways to make one another laugh.

I would also like to point out that Pearl, by his own admission, is a child of the fifties and was a young man in the sixties. Considering that his generation brought us hippies and public unrest, maybe we could have avoided all that if young kids during the 1950's had been allowed to make a few fart jokes. LOL (Sorry, I am being silly LOL)

I began by saying that silly boys are public proof of a father’s neglect and of a mother’s indulgence. I have addressed the father’s responsibility. Now, please sit down, mothers. When a son is over-indulged by his mother, and criticized by his sisters, he will be silly

This didn't offend me so much as amuse me. I think that I am a bit more strict then my hubby and Russ is very involved with our children. He's always been a hands on dad. Plus my daughters adore their big brothers.

I am guessing also that Pearl wouldn't approve of our watching The Holy Grail with our kids. Mmmmm.....Our family-even little Sarah-quotes the movie. On second thought lets NOT go to Camelot,(Russ and Deb's house) tis a silly place.-King Arthur

Admittedly, Pearl does give good advice about parents being involved with their kids, giving them chores, helping them learn skills that appeal to them, teaching them to be independent etc...But the fact that he mixes sound counsel and common sense with some very bad parenting advice, fear mongering and psychobable as to why children, boys, are silly, actually makes the article worse.

Here is a link to the article-in case you missed my first link-

Check it out for yourselves.