To Train Up a Child: spanking book blamed over murders

Dec 11, 2013

Evangelical Christian parenting book recommends 'defeating' babies and children with branches


A PARENTING book that advocates spanking has come under fire after the deaths of three children whose parents appeared to be influenced by its teachings.

To Train Up a Child, by evangelical Christians Michael and Debi Pearl from Tennessee, was first published in 1994 and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

It recommends spanking babies and children with a willowy branch or ruler 'or with a larger branch or belt for older children' in order to "break them" and make them surrender completely to their parents' will.

"If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered," says the book. "Defeat him totally."

A series of petitions to remove it from have garnered nearly 200,000 signatures since the book was linked to three child deaths.

In 2010, seven-year-old Lydia Schatz died in California after being beaten by her parents during a "discipline session". The following year, 13-year-old Hana Williams died from hypothermia and malnutrition in Washington after being left in her back garden. In another case, four-year-old Sean Paddock died from suffocation in North Carolina after being wrapped tightly in a blanket.

All three sets of parents were said to have followed advice from To Train Up a Child. In each case, the parents adopted the child, home-schooled them and lashed them with quarter-inch-diameter plastic tubes ' an implement also recommended by the Pearls.

The authors deny the book can trigger abuse, pointing out that it cautions against "brutality" and using spanking as a vent for anger. "No court, judge, police or child protection service has ever accused us of doing anything that was an endangerment to children," said Michael Pearl. "There's no way that a person who reads the book could be led to violence."

But the book's critics, who include Christian groups, atheists, parenting activists and academics, disagree.
George Holden, a professor of psychology at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, tells the BBC that it "preaches a number of very dangerous views that could very easily result in physical child abuse if one follows what they advocate".

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