so does Michael Pearl bear any responsibility for the death of Lydia Schatz?

It has taken a couple days for me to process exactly what Michael Pearl said in his response to the thousands of moms, dads, adult children, younger children, pastors, teachers, and even many nonbelievers who have spoken out against his teachings on “child training.” I was seriously speechless for a couple hours, having a very difficult time coming to grips with his lack of compassion before I could even get to the arrogance and in-your-face attitude of his letter.

My husband kept asking me if I was actually surprised. I really wasn’t, remembering Debi Pearl’s story about cleaning up the garbage bag mess Michael made because she didn’t want to damage his ego…..that and knowing that patriocentricity is all about the family’s obedience to God being evidenced as they revolve around the father’s world.

I have read through as many of the Pearl kudos I could stomach this morning and the one thing that keeps amazing me is the notion that Michael Pearl promotes “child training,” “not abuse,” and that he should never be considered responsible for what happened to Lydia Schatz at the hands of parents who embraced his “training” techniques.

Yes, I believe the Word of God teaches that each of us is responsible for our own sin. Scripture teaches that we will all stand one day before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for those sins. But what role does Michael Pearl play in this situation? Is he responsible at all?

I do not believe that those Christian parents who follow the Pearls’ teachings and employ abusive “discipline” or “child training” techniques with their children set out to do physical, emotional, or spiritual harm to their little ones. I think they honestly believe that they are doing what God commands, which is what Pearl teaches. In fact, he tells Christian parents that they MUST follow his teachings or they will raise children who are “Nazis” and no one wants that. But God tempts no one with evil. James 1:13-15 reminds us of this truth and that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire and desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

The Pearls’ philosophy demands that parents place themselves in a position of control and power over their children, luring and enticing the parent into self idolatry. It teaches that a parent is to conquer the child’s will and body, doing whatever is necessary, emotionally or physically, to achieve success. It places the parent, especially the father, in the position of sovereign over the child, giving him prophet, priest, and king status, even saying that a father can offer righteousness to a child through the use of the rod. It is the same desire for power over God and creation that Satan used for his own purposes in the Garden. And this desire for power and control over children conceives the sin of abuse, which, in the case of little Lydia Schatz, caused her death.

Much has been written about the Pearls’ theology of sinless perfection. A lie from the pit of hell, it dangles temptations that homeschooling moms can so easily fall into. We are tempted to desire the perfect children, babies who stay on blankets and who don’t explore the world around them, their little hands reaching for forbidden objects on a coffee table. We are enticed and lured by that image, not to mention the convenience, and quickly fall into the sin of abuse by ignoring the very real God-given stages of development of our children.

We are tempted to have the perfect marriages so, in the name of submission, we make excuses for our husbands’ sin of not providing for his family by saying he is “visionary” or his lack of help in the home by claiming he is a “command man” who mustn’t be expected to do woman’s work. And rather than have a truly “heavenly” marriage, one where each serves the other with grace and love, we play a role in a drama that leads to emotional and spiritual death. 

It is interesting to me that those who are the first to relieve Michael Pearl of any responsibility for his teachings are homeschoolers. Are we not the ones who carefully choose curriculum that reflects the worldview we hope to inculcate into our children? Don’t we hesitate to allow them to hear teachings or be exposed to movies, books, websites, or even friends who might influence them to do evil? Aren’t we the ones who warn our sons that pornography leads to adultery, terrible perversion, and, in some cases, murder? Don’t we admonish our daughters that imitating the worldliness of Hollywood can lead to immorality and abortion? So why should we be surprised when the false teachings of sinless perfection lead a parent into self-worship, abuse, and murder? Aren’t we the ones who believe that ideas have consequences?

Michael Pearl’s ideas have consequences. He told his readers that he recommended that children be disciplined with a piece of ¼” plumbing supply line and that the Bible says it is to be used on the back, which he defines as “anywhere from the shoulders down to the feet”, even telling parents that “the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective.” Lydia Shatz received just such a beating before her death; her sister received kidney damage as a result of the same method of “child training.”

Don’t tell me Michael Pearl bears no responsibility.

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  1. Amanda says

    I so appreciate your writings. You speak with much grace on a very difficult topic. I was horrified at Michael Pearl’s response. Thank you for continuing to share with us.


  2. says

    my eyes have been open even more. I always read the Pearl’s stuff throwing out what I didn’t agree with. In my mind any person would be able to see the harshness and lack of grace right?
    But I am seeing more and more that the sinless perfection and control he strives for hooks people…that person could’ve been me given the right circumstances.

  3. Karen Dre says

    Nope. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that homeschoolers are the main people defending Michael Pearl. This fundie Christian homeschooling movement is setting the United States back one-hundred years or more. Isolating their children from society, it is so much easier to abuse them without anyone finding out. Isn’t it? And refusing to vaccinate them, so that they catch all kinds of crippling diseases that haven’t been seen since the early part of the 20th century. That’s taking us backwards, folks.

  4. Dawn Bates says

    I am writing to inform you and your members that Michael Pearl is scheduled to be on the CBS Early Show on Friday (he was originally scheduled for Thursday and has been postponed.) We are are asking that all concerned individuals contact CBS and share their concerns about Michael Pearl and his “teachings” and to encourage them to practice aggressive, hard-hitting journalism. If CBS fails prepare for Michael Pearl adequately he will “whitewash” his abusive ways and may actually succeed in recruiting more vulnerable parents to his abusive practices.


    PHONE: (212) 975-2824…_news_form.shtml?tag=ftr

  5. says

    I am pretty positive this is a false representation of “created to be his helpmate” and that your words are not reflective of what Debbie was saying.

  6. says

    Hi Joy,

    I am not sure where you believe I have falsely represented Debi Pearl or Created to Be His Helpmeet. Did you listen to the podcast review of the book I did with Karen Braun (Spunky Homeschool Mom)?

    If you could point out what I said that was false I would really appreciate it. I am trying to be as accurate as possible!

  7. says

    i have not listened to the podcast. I will try to listen to it, and get back with you.
    My main point of disagreement (with this post) is this paragraph:
    You state, “We are tempted to have the perfect marriages so, in the name of submission, we make excuses for our husbands’ sin of not providing for his family by saying he is “visionary” or his lack of help in the home by claiming he is a “command man” who mustn’t be expected to do woman’s work. And rather than have a truly “heavenly” marriage, one where each serves the other with grace and love, we play a role in a drama that leads to emotional and spiritual death.”
    In Created to be His Help Meet, Pearl is trying to encourage and exhort women (specifically younger women) in their marital relationship through the wisdom of her years and Scripture. Pearl affirms this by reflecting of her current state. (on page 15) “I am a happy, creative wife, homeschool mom, and grandmother, who many years ago by the grace of God, found God’s will through His written Word, my husband’s instruction, and a mother’s example.” From what I have gleaned from the whole of this book is Pearl’s attempt to help women! She wants the grace of God, God’s word, her husband’s help, and older women to demonstrate how to have a heavenly marriage. She demonstrates how to overcome emotional problems in a marriage. On page 157, Pearl states a specific example of overcoming emotional problems: “They (women) get emotionally upset if the carpet gets messed up or if the kids accidentally spill milk on the couch…Do you think God could have used Mary, the mother of Jesus if she had allowed herself to be an emotional wreck when her environment was not clean and orferly?” This use of scripture allows women to realize the subtle sins that creep into our marriage to destroy what God meant for good.
    The three types of men are simply her opinion of how to have wisdom in understanding men’s different personalities from women’s personalities. She comments on her purpose of identifying these distinctions, (page 75) “As we review these types, you will probably readily identify your husband and be able to see where you have been a curse or a blessing to him.” The object of her teaching is not to address a man’s sinful problems. Rather, it is to show women how to be a blessing (how to have grace and love)! This distinction is given because so often our selfish mentality is to accuse our husband’s of sin, instead of looking at our own sin. Pearl wants to show this tendency by saying, (page 76) “When a girl suddenly finds herself married to a man who is not like she thinks he ought to be, rather than adapt to him, she usually spends the rest of her marriage- which may not be very long- trying to change him into what she thinks her man ought to be.” In other words, Pearl wants to help women thrive in a marriage to a sinner! She realizes that men are not perfect, and she wants to exhort you (in what she has discovered through the scripture and her own years of experience) to enjoy marriage to the fullest! I do not agree that Debi is saying that you can have a perfect marriage. More so, why would striving for a perfect marriage be a temptation? On page 254- Pearl state a whole page of scriptural references of instruction for women. If Pearl’s main emphasis was solely on obtaining a perfect marriage through submission, then why would she include this list?
    Though you may not approve of the Pearl’s teachings, I think you can be fair to her and affirm that her intentions are good. She is not trying to create spiritual death, but quite the opposite. Rather than choosing small portions of her book to criticise her, I think it would be more accurate to evaluate her book as a whole(which you may have already accomplished in the podcast I am not sure). As you are a daughter of God, you are held accountable for how you respond to Debi Pearl. I think Christ would call you to love Debi and give a fair representation (in your blogposts) of her good intentions, even though it is fine if you do not agree with her conclusions.
    I hope this is helpful.

  8. Marisol says

    Advocating a vicious act, which subsequently results in the death of an individual by third parties is a felony and is punishable under “criminally negligent homicide”. He should be prosecuted. Give him a good 20 years to send a message that evil and abusive actions are not tolerated in this society and country.

    For those people who claim to know the bible. I study ancient languages, biblical archaeology, and theology. Whenever you have the word “rod” mentioned in the bible, it is referring to a measuring rod. Remember that in the ancient languages, such as ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, there were in many tinmes more than one word to describe an item. Ex: you have several different words for different types of love in Greek, which only translates to the one word “love” in English.

    I see the “rod” in this verse as a measuring rod of behavior, for BOTH parents and children. A parent is the “measuring” rod, when they behave and act with integrity, so that their children have a measuring rod that they strive to measure up to. Basically, if you don’t want your children to lie, cheat and steal, then be the “measuring” rod, and don’t lie, cheat or steal yourself. Secondly, It was also a “measuring” rod for children, in which children have prescribed behaviors that they have to live up. Of course, they need to be reasonable. The same way that we are not going to expect for an infant to read at a college level, then why should we expect an infant, while still doesn’t have full muscle control and coordination to reach out to touch anything that is purposely, and maliciously placed in front of them, just as an excuse to beat an infant.

    One of the misconceptions about criminal law in NYC is that we have a lot of criminals because of the amount of people in prison. The fact is that NYC laws are very strict, and people to beat infants are placed in prison and their chiildren placed into foster care. In some cases, their children are placed for immediate adoption. Child abuse is seen as a sign of mental illness, and all people who either, advocate, know about, heard about it and never called their authorities, and witness it are indicted.

    In many times, whenver you have someone who uses Christianity as an excuse to beat they are they are either, already having sexual submissions fantasies involving their children, or will develope them soon after. Psychology has shown us that beating another person, especially a child is a way to feed a persons “S/M Or Sexual Deviant” self, while also being quasi-approved by society.

    Basically if you take away a belt from a parent who beats their children into “submission”, that parent will find another more creative form of abuse to feed their S&M tendencies. In other words, even in a perfect world, with perfect children these people will develop new ways to beat the weak and the defenseless.

    Some of that that these retards are advocating is putting a tempting object in front of an infant and beating the infant for reaching for the object. It is an established scientific fact that children reach out to what is in front of them. It has nothing to do with the “tree” in the garden of eden. It is the way the brain is wired. I personally believe that the people who wrote this book and into sm and use their children’s screams to achieve satisfaction, similar to sexual satisfaction.

    I have a proposition for the Christian reading this, just pray and ask God to give you his wisdom to understand the truth behind the Pearl’s motivation, and to see past the veil of evil. The answer that you will receive will astonish you. Remember that wisdom is the one thing that God will give to you just for asking.

  9. says

    Marisol, your comment has lots of interesting aspects to it.

    First, it will be interesting to see if there is anything that can be done about the Pearl teachings. I think there will be first amendment rights that will play a part in this if it is pursued.

    The sexual aspect in the history of spanking is an interesting read. Creepy but interesting. It reminded me of all the accounts of spanking that I have read is part of required discipline in private fundamentalist schools and the number of incidents of pastors/school administrators who sexually assault teenage girls. It also brought to mind the young adult women who have shared that they were always spanked bare-bottomed even into their teen years. This is wrong.

  10. Marie says

    I find this thread on the Pearls and their training disturbing. First of all, I spank my children and have never had a sexual thought in my life when doing so. To equate discipline administered in love and control to being sexual and controlling is disgusting. Two things I think have been overlooked in this whole discussion on this site regarding the Pearls is, one, the training for infants and little ones is primarily for things that are dangerous, not the world in general. This is done to teach not only the danger of the item, but also in the future when mama says, “No”, there is belief and trust that what is being said is the truth and will be obeyed (ie: touching the hot stove when they can reach). Second, this training is done to help prevent the use of spanking as much as possible and when that spanking is done that it IS done with love and control. Discipline done without that love and control can quickly turn to abuse…but that is true about anything in our lives…abuse comes in many forms. Michael Pearl in his books says not to touch your child if you cannot do so with love and control…that if you are angry, YOU take the timeout until you can handle it calmly. If these people were such advocates of the Pearls they would not have beaten (slowly or otherwise) their child to death. I find the idea that simply example should be enough to teach our children right from wrong and that “Spare the rod and spoil the child” could even come close to meaning, “Oh if you set a good example, then your child will be good and wonderful” (my paraphrase). If example were simply enough, then I as well should be perfect and never need chastening and discipline from my Heavenly Father, because HE is the ultimate and perfect example, funny how that doesn’t seem to work very well. The bible and therefore God deals very strictly and in modern terms harshly with disobedient and rebellious children. Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him quickly.” Proverbs 23:12-15 – “Apply thine heart unto instruction and thine ears to the words of knowledge. Withhold no correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell. My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.”

    I also find it interesting that most of the opponents to the Pearls are women. Are we so soft and believers of what the world would have us to be that we no longer truly submit to neither our husbands or God? I do NOT want my children to worship me…that is for God alone, however, I do want my children to recognize the authority given to me by both my husband and God, that they learn to trust, believe and obey the authority that God has placed above them…including God himself. If they cannot recognize nor obey their earthly authority, then how will they every submit and obey God’s authority as they grow older and must do it for themselves. How do THEY withstand the lies the world tells…the lies that grow large and more convoluted every day? We as women are the heart of the home, we must support our husbands and teach our children both spoken and corporeally. There is no sin nor psychological imbalance with thoughtful, loving and respectful discipline.

    In closing, by condemning Michael and Debi Pearl, we condemn ourselves. The world tells us that the bible is a fantasy and just a good story. We all pay when we undermine and distort the Godly biblical teachings of others. It is a time to come together when one of us, especially one who has done so much good, is under attack. When you condemn him of being responsible for the death of this little girl because the parents took his teachings out of context and used their poor judgment and obvious dysfunctions to distort what he teaches…then be careful of what you say and teach lest you be next.

    As for me and my family, we support the Pearls. My older children have read his books, understand and agree with the biblical principles he teaches. Checking in with them recently to see what they felt about this situation, they were horrified that anyone could take the loving training he teaches and turn it so abusive. Anything can and many times is twisted, please pray for the wisdom to tell the difference and for the blinders to be removed. God Bless.

  11. says

    I also find it interesting that most of the opponents to the Pearls are women. Are we so soft and believers of what the world would have us to be that we no longer truly submit to neither our husbands or God?

    My husband supports my vocal opposition to the false teachings perpetuated by the Pearls. He no longer blogs, but when he did, he was also quick to point out the flaws in those teachings which devise a set of rules and “principles” which were labeled “Biblical” but were absent the Gospel.

    The pastor of our church has, for years, continued to point people to the gracious truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has specifically pointed out patterns of principles which lead people to rely upon themselves, instead of the finished work of Jesus Christ. In recent months, he has specifically written online and in the newspaper about the Lydia Schatz tragedy and the harm in being swept up by teachings which lead people away from the Gospel.

    It is not only women speaking up. It is not “soft” believers. It is not “unsubmissive” people. Those who are willing to speak up against harmful teachings within our own conservative, Christian culture are doing so motivated by the truth of the Bible and the grace of the Gospel.

  12. says

    Marie, it is interesting to consider who is writing and blogging about raising children and who disagrees with the teachings of Michael Pearl. I would encourage you to read all the blog entries on this site in the past month regarding the Pearl teachings and Lydia Schatz. Please read all the comments and the links. I think you will discover that almost all the books written about raising children are authored by men, both those that promote an adversarial pro-punishment perspective and those that are grace-based. There are also many concerns about the Pearls being expressed by men on their blogs! I would also suggest that you see how many of these people are Bible-believing Christians fully committed to the Word of God and to their children. To make the assumption that because someone disagrees with the Pearls means they cannot be so is truly error.

    I would also like to point out that absolute truth is not something that is imparted only to men. I would encourage you to read 2 John and look at it through the eyes of a homeschooling mom. John wrote the book to a Christian mother who had at least some of her children walking in the faith and he warned her that she needed to be discerning and committed to the Truth of the Word of God, knowing how it would affect her entire family.

    Finally, I don’t really understand this paragraph:

    “In closing, by condemning Michael and Debi Pearl, we condemn ourselves. The world tells us that the bible is a fantasy and just a good story. We all pay when we undermine and distort the Godly biblical teachings of others. It is a time to come together when one of us, especially one who has done so much good, is under attack. When you condemn him of being responsible for the death of this little girl because the parents took his teachings out of context and used their poor judgment and obvious dysfunctions to distort what he teaches…then be careful of what you say and teach lest you be next. ”

    Could you elaborate?

    You see, I think if the Christian homeschooling isn’t willing to hold accountable those who distort Biblical truth, claiming that their man-made paradigms represent the Gospel when, in fact, they distort it and produce idolatry, there will be a huge price to pay as the government steps in and limits the freedoms we do have as parents and as homeschoolers, not to mention what it is already doing to precious children.

  13. momofcollegekids says

    It is clear that those who disagree with spanking as a training tool will quickly use anything they can to discredit those who advocate it. Michael Pearl just happens to be well-known. Our pastor, as well as many more, advocate sensible use of spanking to train children. None of Michael Pearl’s children or grandchildren have been injured nor have the thousands of children whose parents read and used his publications. My son, an engineering student at college, whom I spanked says he would have grown up and been a criminal if I had not spanked him. He was very strong-willed and loved to break things even when just a toddler. Michael Pearl does not advocate killing or injuring your children. This precious little girl’s parents would have harmed her no matter what teachings they had. No one who has the love and fellowship with their children that the Pearls insist you must have could ever harm their children.

  14. says

    My daughter, who is an engineering student, didn’t need to be spanked in order to become the wonderful woman she is today.

    I don’t train my children.

    And Michael Pearl should be responsible for his words.

  15. says

    quoted “I also find it interesting that most of the opponents to the Pearls are women. Are we so soft and believers of what the world would have us to be that we no longer truly submit to neither our husbands or God?”

    It’s your choice and which one are you happy with.

    Greg of Brisbane

  16. says

    I am not sure of your point, Greg. Are you saying that if most of the opponents of something are women it show a lack of submission to God? Could you explain how you came to that conclusion? Where do you get your information?

  17. Brandy says

    I realize this is an old post, but I’m surprised more has not been made of the Pearls’ use of the phrase “totally broken”. I have read TTUAC and throughout the book REPEATEDLY the author advises parents to spank their child until he/she is “totally broken”. I believe the use of this exact phrase is what can lead to situations like Lydia Schatz. Why is more not being said about that?


  1. […] were connected to any legitimate IFB church, the child ‘training’ book they used by Michael and Debbie Pearl is sold in the ‘church bookstore’ of many IFB churches, including the one I came out […]

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