Parents Demand Abusive Childrearing Book Be Pulled From Amazon

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To Train Up A Child by Michael PearlTo Train Up A Child, a self-published parenting book by pastor Michael Pearl and his wife Debi Pearl, advocates the physical abuse of children as effective discipline.

The book has appeared in the homes of several children who have been abused to death, including 13-year-old Hana Williams who was found dead in the backyard, 30 pounds underweight, from hypothermia. Further investigations revealed that Williams’ parents starved her, beat her regularly, put her in a locked closet, and made her sleep outside in the barn in the cold. She also wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in the house. To Train Up A Child was found in their home, as well as that of many other abusive parents, and now thousands of parents are asking that Amazon remove the book as soon as possible through a petition.

The Times notes that the book has become a hit particularly with Christian home-schoolers since its 1994 publication, with advice like:

“… using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describ[ing] how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.”

Pearl and his wife maintain that their book is not abusive on the grounds that they advise against acting out of anger or leaving bruises. They point out that the families who have killed their children have taken their methods too far:

“If you find a 12-step book in an alcoholic’s house, you wouldn’t blame the book,” Mr. Pearl said in an interview.

That may very well be true, but anyone who denies their child food as a form of punishment, even if it is deemed a “little fasting,” is abusing said child. And proposing devices with which to beat kids, even if it is to inflict minimal damage, is also abusive, no matter how much the practice in couched in niceties. Michael Pearl even admits “the same principles” in his book used for childrearing “[the] Amish use to train their stubborn mules.” Dr. Frances Chalmers, a pediatrician who examined Hana’s body  for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, told the Times:

“My fear is that this book, while perhaps well intended, could easily be misinterpreted and could lead to what I consider significant abuse.”

Mr. and Mrs. Pearl do have children of their own who defend their parents’ teachings, as their 28-year-old daughter says that she uses the same methods with her own kids. This is coming from a woman who describes her childhood as “wonderful,” despite being spanked about 50 times as a toddler, her father admitted.

Amazon has a very clear opportunity to convey to parents and the childless that they do not wish to carry books that advocate the abuse of children. Given the multitude of titles that they currently carry that do encourage such abusive practices, their shelves are clearly due for an overhaul.

(photo: DoubleX)


  1. Kay

    November 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    I grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive home, im sorry but telling parent to use object to hit a child is abuse. maybe the abuse suggested in the book is not to the extreme that I grew up with (as I was left with permanent chronically painful thoracic disc injuries as a result, of my upbringing) but abuse non the less.

    I always thought before I became a parent I might understand what drives parents to abuse (and subsequently blame the very children they abuse) , never condone but at last understand. Now that im blessed to be the wife of an even tempered man and the mother of two amazing boys I know I never will understand. I actually understand less. Before I was a parent I thought maybe the frustration, the lack of sleep, the stress. . . But no its just not there. No matter how bad I feel, how angry I get I could never understand actually taking the step of striking, depriving or throwing hateful words at my children.

    If you abuse your child its your job to get help. Dont wait til a permanent injury or worse death forces your hand. Even if they end up with no permanent bodily harm the mental and emotional harm to child and parent is bad enough. Be the adult, prove you love them and get help for them and you.

  2. The Mule

    November 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for this.
    I started the petition to Amazon, so it’s been a great day, with thousands more signatures following the many articles…
    Please keep signing it and sharing the link.

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  7. SusieLockey

    December 28, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I am a mother of three daughters and a grandmother of five grandsons four and under. I have been reading the Pearl’s books and mag. for probably ten yrs. There is not a hint of child abuse in their teaching. Their emphasis on truly loving and enjoying your children encourage me. I love how their children love and honor their parents. I wished all parents would benefit from their example as I have.

  8. Genevieve Rutherford

    August 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I picked up this book for the library the other day, didn’t read the blurb or anything I just finished it – some of it was wonderful, but a chapter devoted to smacking is horrific and hearing how she hit her 14 year old was terrible

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