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.


Luke said...

Look forward to hearing your thoughts. I was first really introduced to the Pearls in Michael's "Sin No More" series.

... Yeah.


Lola said...

I am amazed how much I have learned from your discussion on abuse.

BTW, I now feel a lot better at having slightly uncontrolled, happy, talkative exasperating (as in the Ramona style) children. I tend to go to bed tired most of the time. Also, I am looking always for a better way of interacting and guiding my children, but know that I won't always get it right. I guess this comes with experience. (We're about the same age, but you've been a mother longer.)

deb said...

Luke, I have to admit that The Pearl's theology confuses me. I don't know any other Christian group that teaches some of what they believe as far as sin goes.

Lola, I am glad that I helped you feel better. My kids sound a lot like yours. If it makes you feel any better, I still feel like I am winging it as a parent. LOL