Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rebekah Pearl Part One--Her Childhood

Not only do the Pearls hold their adult children up as a living testimony to the success of their child training methods but many of their children have written articles for their parents’ magazine, No Greater Joy. The oldest daughter has even written a glowing letter describing how wonderful her childhood was. So, although I do not like causing pain to people who I feel were both physically and mentally abused as children, there are simply too many people who believe that the Pearls are the epitome of what a God fearing family should look like for me to ignore the adult children.

I am starting with Rebekah Pearl Anast, the oldest daughter. For years, I have been concerned with her. Something about her writing has always made me feel sad for her. I am using information gleaned from the Pearls’ book, To Train Up A Child, the website, No Greater Joy and the Anasts’ own site, 7xsunday to describe both her early years and present life.

In their book, To Train Up A Child, the Pearls describe their four month old daughter as being mobile at an unusually young age. Instead of putting up a gate to prevent the young Rebekah from climbing the steps, her parents switched her tiny body.(Meaning that hit her with a flexible stick) As she grew older, her father’s method of keeping his children from drowning was to allow them to fall into a pond. If his children were too well balanced to take the plunge, he gleefully pushed them into the water (again from To Train Up A Child).

His method of gun safety was similar in practice to his lesson in water safety. Michael writes in his book, To Train Up A Child. With our first toddler, I placed an old, unused and empty, single-shot shot-gun in the living room corner. After taking the toddler through the "No" saying, hand-switching sessions, they knew guns were always off limits. Every day they played around the gun without touching it. I never had to be concerned with their going into someone else's house and touching a gun. I didn't gun-proof my house, I gun-proofed my children. I am not certain why the Pearls insisted on such a dangerous practice in their own home.

Part of the Pearls’ methods includes teaching children to always show joy. Michael accomplished this outer show of mindless happiness by playing a strange game with his kids. He had his children follow a series of commands such as sit, stand, touch the door knob, don’t touch the door knob. It sounds like the game that most of us played in school, Simon Says, until you read that Michael had a switch in hand ready to spank any child that didn’t obey with a smile and cheerful demeanor.

I have taught the children to obey first and ask questions later. When they were small and I put them through paces, they learned to immediately do what I said. If they ever failed to instantly obey a command, I would "drill" them. "Sit down. Don't speak until I tell you to." Understand, I was not taking out frustrations. It was all done in the utmost pleasantness and usually even fun. "Stand up," I would say. "Now come here. Go touch the door." And, before they could get there, "Sit." Plop, down they would go. "Now, go to your rooms and clean them up." Just like little, proud soldiers, off they would go to the task.
If one of them should fail in his attitude, he would be spanked--without haste or hostility, mind you. Negligence or clumsiness was a time for patience and grace, but lazy rebellion was punished with the rod.

Some people might wonder why his children haven’t rebelled but that is where the truly insidious part of Michael’s methods come into play. The Pearls have discovered that children respond to love and attention. All children want their parents’ approval, affection and time. Not only were his children taught to deny their own emotions and only express joy but they have been taught that love is dependent on their acting in an approved manner. It doesn't matter that the book, To Train Up A Child, sounds like a manual for potential brainwashers or that the Pearls use methods from behavioral science to 'train' their children. Outsiders are willing to accept the fantasy that following the Pearls will produce perfect, happy kids.

At one point, the Pearls income was so low that they were forced to eat what might have been cat food. Rebekah describes this time period on her forum, 7xsunday under the thread called, How is Becca? When my family first moved near the Amish community in TN, I was 14 years old. The first winter we had cabbage, wheat, raw milk, and canned cat food or poor quality tuna (the cans were missing labels when we bought them and we couldn't tell for sure if it was cat food or tuna.)

It doesn't appear that either Pearl held down a paying job during this time period. Although I am uncertain, I think that this is the time period in which they were trying to start their ministry and magazine. Most responsible parents would either put their dreams on hold or one of them would find employment outside of their new business.

In 1974, Micheal Pearl announced to his wife that they would homeschool their young family. Debbi took up her husband's suggestion and began teaching her children at home. Rebekah has written that she suspects that she was dyslexic. She even jokingly claims that she would have been forced to ride the short bus if she had attended public school.

Rebekah writes, I never spent a day locked away in my own introspection (Mom was sure to intrude!). Despite the fact that I can no longer find the post, Rebekah has written on the forum, Well Tell Me, that she had trouble with daydreaming. Perhaps Debbi felt that her daughter had a real attention problem but I wonder if was it just another way to control their daughter. Even her inner thoughts were not off limits to her parents.

The Pearls certainly had a problem with boundaries.In the article Safeguarding Your Children, Rebekah remembers, Dad built our house so that all the bedroom doors facing the main living room/family room. None of our doors had locks on them until we were older, and then only the girls. We were never allowed to spend time in our rooms behind closed doors. The door could only be closed for five minutes of clothes changing. If a door was closed for a longer period of time, Dad was likely to walk in unannounced to see what we were up to. One has to wonder what their father thought his children were going to do if they were left alone for a few minutes. To me, this lack of any privacy shows an extreme need to control not only their children's life but their private thoughts as well.

By the way, the same article describes how Michael Pearl presented prostitution to his children. During a trip to Memphis, Rebekah observed a woman being slapped by a man. Despite the fact that No Greater Joy brags about the manliness of the Pearl men, Michael did not step forward to help the woman nor did he search for a pay phone to call the police. Instead he uses the opportunity to teach his kids about prostitution. She’s a prostitute,” Dad told us. “He’s a pimp. She works for him, selling her body to lascivious men who will burn in hell, so that she can continue to buy drugs to satisfy her addiction. God hates prostitution and pornography, kids. It destroys lives and families.” I think that he taught his children to stand idly by while people are being hurt.

Instead of being the wonderful fantasy life that the Pearls try to present to their followers, Rebekah's childhood sounds nightmarish. I have no idea why anyone would want this for their children.

In the next installment, I will continue the Rebekah Pearl story.


The Greek Chorus said...

Hi Deb,
I would like to invite you to post this as a guest post on Sweeping the Cobwebs. Email me if you're interested!

princessjo1988 said...

Brilliant wrap up of a troubling illusion....

Hermana Linda said...

I'm glad you didn't close your blog. You have some great stuff here! I'm looking forward to the development of this series. I'm linking at Why Not Train a Child

Angie said...

I'd like to invite you to comment/post at the blog I've recently created. I appreciate your perspective.

Lyn said...

I do not get this. I don't think POWs are treated like this. It doesn't make sense.
Why do people treat children like that?

Lyn said...

These folks disturb me on every level. It's like a thick book on how not to raise children. I don't understand what these folks have against privacy, introspection, children having an emotion besides pretending to be happy, patience instead of hitting people.
Plus it's not a logical way to deal with children and guns. There's several different kinds of guys! Just because you show a child ONE gun doesn't mean they won't see a magnum and waggle that around or a machine gun and play around with that! ARG! These folks make no sense. There's plenty of flowers in the world. You don't have to use oleander to make honey ><

Anonymous said...

My name is Rebekah Anast, I am the firstborn daughter of Michael and Debi Pearl,
I would know (I am their daughter) whether their techniques are violent and unjust, or loving and temperate. I would know if the result is an emotionally damaged and fearful child, or a creative, successful, happy adult. I would know, yes, better than any one of these angry people, whether Michael and Debi Pearl are barbaric child abusers, or loving, successful parents.

Every type of abuse leaves evidence to prove its occurrence, whether it be a mark on the spirit or the body. Let me give you the evidence that is me:

I am 32 years old, married and the mother of three children. I am the happiest person I know, and my life is full of fruit; my own three very happy, balanced children who are completely sound in body and mind.

I have written articles, books, screenplays, and traveled the world for 4 years, meeting new people, eating new food, ministering to those in need, and loving life. I always returned to my favorite place and my favorite people... my family.

I married a wonderful man who is worth every moment of reverence and honor I give him; he is my best friend and only lover.

I have very few bad memories of childhood, all of which I can recall clearly; my dog dying, my hand getting cut on a fresh pine board, my brother being stung by bees, and my father’s grief over a friend’s suffering. That’s all that I can recall.

I remember only one spanking. I remember it because I laughed all the way through it, and so did my Dad. I had played a prank that was dangerous, but funny, and fully deserved a spanking for it, but my parents were unable to spank me without laughing. That is the only spanking I clearly remember. The others were so well-deserved my conscience was able to write off the memory once the deed was paid for.

I was never injured in body or spirit by the training I received. I was never “struck” in anger. I did receive non-injurous spankings on my fully clothed backside with a willow switch when I had clearly transgressed a known “law” of the house. These spankings did not leave bruises or abrasions, or emotional distress.

I learned by the gentlest way possible that foolishness has consequences and wise choices make life comfortable. This training has literally saved my life and I am eternally grateful to both my parents for using a literal rod to train my flesh to make wise choices.

My brothers and sisters were my best friends growing up. We did everything together; swimming, playing, working. We usually got in trouble together too, and when spankings were due, they were due all around. However, trouble was hard to find, as either Mom or Dad was almost always with us, joining in the fun, the projects, and the learning. From dancing in the rain, to building forts, to learning to ride a bike; they were there, so much a part of my life.

A person is innocent until proven guilty. I have proof that Michael and Debi Pearl are wise and loving parents: I am the proof, and every one of my siblings would agree with me.

Almost everything we (my parents) have ever written is available online for FREE on; and everything else is as inexpensive as possible while still allowing No Greater Joy to operate as a non-profit organization, geared toward helping thousands of parents and children.

A lot of information about the Pearl’s on the internet is simply taken out of context or completely misquoted. Look up the quotes on for yourself and make sure your source isn’t lying or misconstruing the truth. It’s important to the homeschool movement that we be accountable for our views, instead of blindly following the loudest sensationalist, or giving them credibility of any kind.

Rebekah (Pearl) Anast

I give full permission to reprint or repost this article in it’s entirety in any format.

deb said...

Annonymous, I am writing my comments on the letter. I wonder why you didn't include your name with your post?

Mrs. Darling said...

I've written my own thoughts on the Pearls book Jumping Ship if you are interested in another look at the Pearls.

GraceAnn Love said...

So if the childhood was so good and spankings are not remembered, does that mean the Pearls are preaching something for others that they did not even practice themselves?

GraceAnn Love said...

I wonder then if the Pearls did not practice what they preach for others do to in their books?

Angie said...

GraceAnn, May I repost your comments on my blog that addresses this subject? I have recently received a comment from someone who I think would benefit from your words here.

Angie said...

Even better, GraceAnn, would you be willing to input your own words in a comment?

Anonymous said...

You were obviously not spanked enough as a child and now as an adult with an abusive spirit, you judge others as yourself. This is the most sad, idiotic reading... I don't think Rebecca wants your sadness and your pity.. I think while you are stuck down there in the sad little manure pit that is your mind, she is out happy and carefree. :)

Anonymous said...

You won't post my comments as you are obviously careful only to post comments that agree with your theory, I can seriously not tell you strongly enough how big an idiot you are...

Angie said...

....So says Dear Anonymous, who can somehow speak for another person, yet condemn this author for speaking her thoughts about another person's experiences. Sad isn't it. Makes my brain hurt.

Dear Anonymous, go see my entry on this same person and topic... and freak out there for a while. You'll be able to thoroughly prove to yourself that we're all idiots.

technomom said...

It is well known that abused children will cling to the abusive parent or parents, continuing to try to "earn" the parent(s) love. Children desperately need their parents' love and approval. That is one of the developmental reasons that many children will block out some memories of abuse until they are developmentally capable of dealing with them. Some people are not ever ready, so you find different people from the same family with very different accounts of the same time periods. Even presented with evidence of abuse, some people will continue to deny that it ever occurred.

I have no qualms about identifying myself, so I'll post under my own identity, as I always do. I have questions as to whether or not the first "anonymous" is truly Rebekah Pearl Anast because whoever posted that comment did not do so. Anybody could have written that comment. Honestly, I could post another "anonymous" comment right now, pretending to be her, retracting the earlier statement. Who would know? "Anonymous" never has any credibility, "Rebekah" - or whoever you are.

If you actually want to engage in a conversation, you'll do so honestly, using your true identity and email address/identity. Blogger provides multiple ways to do so, as I'm sure you noticed.

Debra, the training methods described are brainwashing - and they are absolutely atrocious. They are essentially the opposite of what is needed to raise healthy, competent adult humans, which is the goal of a good, loving parent. Obvious, "good" and "loving" do not describe the Pearls.

Hermana Linda said...

The poster did not claim to be Rebekah Pearl. She was posting a statement written by Rebekah Pearl in 2006 after the death of Sean Paddock which has been circulated widely since that time. Rebekah wrote it for that purpose so it was posted with permission. As far as I know, the statement is legitimate.

Hermana Linda said...

The poster did not claim to be Rebekah Pearl. She was posting a statement written by Rebekah Pearl in 2006 after the death of Sean Paddock which has been circulated widely since that time. Rebekah wrote it for that purpose so it was posted with permission. As far as I know, the statement is legitimate.

Joshs_Rebekah said...

Your facts and conjecture are all a big mash-up. Therefore nothing you have said is credible...not would it be in a court of law.

Joshs_Rebekah said...

Your facts and conjecture are all smashed together. Nothing you have posted is credible until you have all your facts straight.