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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Michael Pearl, False Prophet?

Counter In a comment posted to my article on the death of Lydia Schatz, an anonymous reader stated the following, which I quote, interspersed with my response:
Regardless of a few "good" pointers and some Scripture verses, the Pearl philosophy is abusive towards women and children. Scripture is not even carefully applied and rightfully divided in many of their writings, especially Debi's writings.
Anyone can give a few pointers and quote some Scripture verses. Doing this doesn't make the Pearls any different than the hundreds of others who have written on the subject of child raising over the past 500 years.
Jesus said we will know a tree by the fruit it bears. Three dead children is enough to make any intelligent person question the Pearls' philosophy.
In that quote, Jesus was specifically warning about false teachers, and telling his listeners that false teaching inevitable reveals itself by bad results. However, three children isn't even remotely enough to qualify the Pearls as bad-fruit producers. Take any apple orchard with 100,000 apples as they come off the tree. Would you, as a fruit inspector, consign the whole harvest to the landfill because you found three bad apples in the lot? I hope not, because with you in charge, we'd all have to get our food at the dump. Only three dead children is a remarkable accomplishment; I doubt that any state social service agency can say that of the last 100,000 children that came through their system, less than three died while in state custody. [UPDATE: the latest figures I've come across indicate that over a THOUSAND American children die in foster care AFTER being taken away from their parent(s) 'for their own protection.'] And the Pearls' methods have been used on hundreds of thousands of children.
We need to pray for the Pearls, though, and hope that they stop publishing irresponsible documents that can be used by any parent who decides to pay for the book.
No doubt the Pearls need prayer, so I won't say anything to discourage that. But if Michael Pearl is a false prophet, three dead children out of half a million books sold don't serve as compelling evidence.


  1. "Only three dead children is a remarkable accomplishment"

    Are you serious?!?!?

    But as to being a false teacher, the theology and doctrine promoted by the Pearls is foundationally faulty -- and with such a faulty foundation, it's no wonder that the application has led to antagonism in the home, abuse, and even death.

  2. Yes, TulipGirl, I'm serious. I'm not saying that Michael Pearl is not a false prophet in some way or another. In fact, I've given full rein in the comments on this blog to those who have a case to make that he is. But I stand by my contention that three dead children, none of whom were being treated in the way that the Pearls recommend, do not a false prophet make. If there was something seriously wrong with Michael Pearl's child-raising philosophy, I would expect at least one of his five children to show it. All of them are quite happy with how their parents raised them. Not so with Frank Waldron Phelps.

  3. QUOTE: "I stand by my contention that three dead children, none of whom were being treated in the way that the Pearls recommend,"

    Each of the three dead children WERE treated in accordance with what Pearl taught. . . and what their parents did was the far end of "consistency" -- which is mandatory within the Pearls' teachings and parenting approach.

    For example:

    QUOTE: Michael Pearl O“If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.” (Remember Sean Paddock?)

    QUOTE: Michael Pearl advises, "Now, there are some flavors or textures that we just have an aversion for. Allow each child one or two dislikes, just don’t let their preferences be too limited. If a child doesn’t like what is on the table, let him do without until the next meal. A little fasting is good training. If you get a child who is particularly finicky and only eats a limited diet, then feed him mainly what he doesn’t like until he likes it." (Remember Hana Williams?)

    QUOTE: Michael Pearl writes, "She then administers about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water." (Remember Lydia Schatz?)

    Three dead children may not "make" a false prophet. . . but false teaching does. What Michael and Debi Pearl teach in their parenting materials neither line up with Biblical Christianity nor reflect the Gospel in family life. (See:

    QUOTE: "If there was something seriously wrong with Michael Pearl's child-raising philosophy, I would expect at least one of his five children to show it."

    That is illogical. His kids may have turned out okay (or may not... I've heard conflicting reports). He is a teacher and prides himself on his influence. He is accountable for his words. If his teachings are leading to abuse, and even death, then he needs to accept the moral responsibility for that.

  4. OK, TulipGirl, you've made your point. I don't accept your conclusions, nor you mine, so we've arrived at a bit of a stalemate. But since this is my blog, I'll have the last word. Just today in your blog you cite the example of a Michael-Pearl type family, none of whose children are turning out--and you act as if it DOES matter that the children aren't turning out. But if all of Mike and Debi's children DID turn out, then it appears that the problem is not in the teacher, but the student.

    I have seen all of the above techniques used by parents on their own children, and the children DID turn out and are on good terms with their parents as adults. Any hard feelings yet unresolved are strictly due to the parent's human frailties in being inconsistent, not in a dutiful application of Pearls' teachings.

    My final point is that all four of the dead children mentioned on your blog were being disciplined by people who were NOT their parents. I agree that there IS something wrong with Michael Pearl's teaching, and that is that it doesn't work so well in applying it to someone else's children. In fact, the results can be deadly.


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