Discipline has become quite the hot topic lately. The tragic story of Hana Williams shocked many people with the horrific details that emerged from the affidavit and various media coverage.
It was easy for some people to point out that some things about that recent case were extreme, like the way the parents withheld food and forced her to stand out in the cold as punishment. But what was also present were details such as the permanent scarring and marks from being switched or beaten with a belt.
On the heels of the release of that story came a couple of interviews with Michael Pearl. In the video Punishing Kids in the Name of Religion, Michael Pearl talks with Gary Tuchman. (Emphasis mine)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Let’s say a 7-year-old slugs his sister.
M. PEARL: He would get — a 7-year-old would get 10 or 15 licks, and it would be a formal thing. In other words, you maintain your patient air. You explain to him that what he’s done is violent and that that’s not acceptable in society, and it’s not acceptable at home. And then I would take him somewhere, like into his bedroom, and I would tell him I’m going to give him 15 licks.
TUCHMAN: With what?
M. PEARL: Probably a belt on a kid that big, a boy. I’d probably use a belt. It would be handy. I might use a wooden spoon or a piece of, like, plumbing supply line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Here’s another excerpt from the same video:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL PEARL, AUTHOR, “TO TRAIN UP A CHILD”: I don’t use the term “hitting.”
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What’s the word?
M. PEARL: Spanking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
In one particular interview with Anderson Cooper called Faith and Discipline, Michael Pearl gets into a debate with Anderson in regard to semantics over terms used in refering to discipline. (Emphasis mine) Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
COOPER: After Lydia Schatz died, the Pearls denied their book played any role in her death. They say what happened to her is not what their book teaches. They’ve released a similar statement about Hana Williams.
Tonight, Michael Pearl agreed to come on the program to answer some of our questions. I spoke to him just a short time ago.
COOPER: Mr. Pearl, you’re explicit that you’re not in any way advocating child abuse or the extremes that cause these girls’ deaths in the two cases, but if people who think they’re following your book end up killing kids, does that concern you? Does that worry you?
M. PEARL: Yes. What that does is causes us to renew our efforts to reach these people before they do do something terrible. There’s a — there’s an awful lot of people out there, probably in the millions, that are abusive to their children. There are men abusive to their wives. There’s wives abusive to their husbands and their children, and these things have been going on, and they will go on. And it’s — where we can, we need to do something about it.
COOPER: But you don’t feel it has anything to do with what you’re — what you’re advocating?
M. PEARL: Of course not, no more than Alcoholics Anonymous would feel like they were responsible for an alcoholic that they failed to reform who went out and had a drunk-driving accident and killed someone.
COOPER: But your analogy doesn’t really hold up with the Alcoholics Anonymous, because Alcoholics Anonymous is telling people not — alcoholics not to drink. You are advocating people hitting kids, or what — you call it spanking — beating, what have you. You are advocating a severe form of corporal punishment for — for parents.
M. PEARL: That’s absolutely incorrect. We do not advocate hitting children, and we do not advocate any severe corporal punishment.
In fact, in my literature, if you read it, I speak against corporal punishment. What we teach is — our book is called “To Train Up a Child.” And we talk to parents about how they can train their children up to be happy, creative, cheerful, emotional — emotionally stable. And so we teach that, in the process of training small children, we use corporal chastisement.
Corporal chastisement is not retributive justice designed to punish the child for the misdeeds. Corporal chastisement is getting the child’s attention so that you can admonish him, teach him, instruct him, and guide him in the way he should go.
COOPER: I want to read something that you write about — about what parents should use to spank their child. You said, “Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain. Select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under 1-year-old child, a small, 10- to 12-inch-long willowy branch stripped of any knots that might break the skin, about one-eighth inch in diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a suitable substitute. For the larger child, a belt or a three-foot cutting off a shrub is effective.”
You say you — you don’t advocate hitting or hurting or beating kids or leaving any marks on them, which under the law is considered child abuse, but in fact, in your book, you are saying spankings have to cause pain, and you’re talking about spanking a baby under one- year-old with a ruler. How does a baby not end up bruised and hurting when it’s hit with a ruler?
M. PEARL: Well, your changing the word “spank” to “beat” or “hit” is inflammatory rhetoric that obscures what I’m saying.
COOPER: Well, spanking is hitting. You can — you can argue about semantics, but using a ruler — to use the specific example of using a ruler on a baby under 1-year-old, how does that not, you know, cause pain and leave a — leave a mark?
M. PEARL: If it were insignificant — insignificant semantics, you wouldn’t be so bent on changing the word “spank” to “beat” or “hit.”
Spanking is well understood, traditionally. I represent 230 million parents who practice corporal chastisement on their children. And they call it “spanking” or “swatting.” They do not call it “beating” or “hitting.” Because there’s a clear distinction.
The distinction is spanking is administered for the child’s good, and it’s done with an instrument. It’s done, not in order to create pain. It’s not done in order to create significant pain. It’s not done in order to create suffering. It’s done to gain the child’s attention so you can admonish them.
Note: The next paragraph is sarcastic to illustrate the unbalanced teaching by Michael Pearl. I am not advocating his methods or child abuse.
So, parents are encouraged to use corporal chastisement, not to be confused with corporal punishment, from a book that is about training, not corporal punishment. According to Michael Pearl, an instrument is used, not to create pain, but to get the child’s attention. Talking to the child is not enough. No, you must “spank” or “swat” them 10 or 15 times using various instruments according to the child’s age. If your child is under one, even as young as seven or eight months, a parent can use a ruler, because that would never leave a mark. But if you have a seven-year old, you can “spank” him with a belt, not to be confused with “hitting”or “beating,” because those terms are just inflammatory, according to Michael Pearl. And remember, the point of the spanking is not to “punish the child for the misdeeds,” it’s to “gain the child’s attention so you can admonish them.”
If you can spank a seven-year old child with a belt for seven-year old “misdeeds,” what then do parents do with a sixteen-year old child who’s being “unsubmissive” and “disobedient”? Judge Adams gives a clear example of where teaching like this leads.
** Warning: This video contains physical and emotional violence.
I wonder then, what does it look like to punish a child?
May this serve as a warning to IFB parents everywhere, for they too might one day find themselves on Youtube.