Nearly four years ago, I wrote about out the death of Sean Paddock at the hand of his mother, Lynn Paddock. Paddock was eventually convicted of her son's murder.
A week ago another couple, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, were charged with the death of their seven year old daughter, Lydia. Her eleven year old sister, Zariah, was recently released from the hospital. The parents are scheduled to appear in court in just a few days.
These two tragic events have at least one common thread - the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. Those that have been reading my blog for a while know that I have written multiple posts critical of the Pearls and their child training and marriage materials.
In one very lengthy and detailed post, A Switch or A Cross, I wrote about the lack of clarity in the Pearl's teachings, including methods which I feared could lead loving well-intentioned parents, especially mothers, to extreme disciplinary actions toward their own children. I wrote,
After listening to Mr. Pearl at a seminar a few years ago, I came away with a very different interpretation than what I had when I only read the book To Train Up a Child and some newsletters. As everyone does, I took my background and applied it to the material. After the seminar, I realized my idea of training was very different than Mr. Pearls. His method of training and answers to specific questions were not exactly what I thought appropriate in many areas. I began to realize that if I could misinterpret it so could others. While my misinterpretation may not be harmful some else's very well could be. I don't know what is going on in other homes.Now consider what Laura Mather, a friend of the Schatz family, wrote about Lydia's mother,
"Elizabeth, the mother, is possibly the warmest person I’ve ever known. One of the hardest things for me, has been squaring the soft, meek woman I know with the hard cold fact of a dead child (and another who was at that time critically injured and fighting for her life).Her feelings capture exactly why I stopped reading and recommending the Pearl's material. As parents, most of us could never imagine the possibility that within a mother we know lies the potential to harm. But the deceptively alluring promise of complete obedience and sinless perfection does indeed lead parents astray and, in the worst cases, do the unthinkable. Especially when you have an author like Michael Pearl admonishing parents in very emphatic terms not to reject his teaching,
"If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do."And just what is this wise counsel that will make us fit to parent and will liberate our children's soul and conscience? Never show mercy, not even one time.
Consistency on your part will break that habit in just a few days. Never threaten, and never show mercy. One squeak of a scream gets a switching. (NGJ, Vol 1, pg 26)The idea that a parent is never to show mercy is absurd and leaves only the choice of a rod as the solution to childish infractions. To Schatz that allegedly meant showing no mercy to her daughter for "mispronouncing a word during a homeschool reading lesson."
However, contrary to Pearl's self-proclaimed wisdom, God's Word says clearly that mercy has a definite place and judgment is reserved for those who never show any,
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:13Laura's husband, Paul Mather, on his blog and in Salon pleads for the Christian church to speak up and speak out.
"I would love to see the people rise up and say no to the Pearls, that this will not stand. I would love to see the Pearl system become anathema, disgusting, and shunned by the world. I would love to see the Pearls out of a job. Before another child dies."I said no to the Pearls years ago and will once again add my voice to the Mathers, TulipGirl, Timberdoodle, Karen Campbell, Virginia Knowles and a growing chorus that pleads, enough!
Homeschooling father, author, and conference speaker, Rob Shearer commented on the recent tragedy and summed it all up very nicely,
Every child is a precious gift from God and dear to His heart. Even when they stomp their feet and disobey – it is a misguided sense of pride to think that this in anyway impugns our position, dignity, or competence as parents.
Focus on love – not on creating an image of obedience and perfection.