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Did Christian parenting book contribute to child deaths?

December 28, 2011 |  9:06 am

TotrainupachildA Christian parenting book has come under fire after the deaths of three children from abuse. The families are reported to have  been following the guidance of the book "To Train Up a Child" by Michael and Debi Pearl.

The "Today" show reports:

Hana Williams, 13, died of hypothermia after allegedly being starved, abused and locked outside by her parents. Lydia Schatz, age 7, died after being repeatedly beaten by her parents. And 4-year-old Sean Paddock suffocated after his mother wrapped him in a blanket too tightly in an effort to keep him from getting out of bed.

The children lived in three different states: Washington, California and North Carolina, respectively. But all three were adopted by parents who used the teachings of a self-proclaimed Christian parenting book, "To Train Up a Child."

The book, first published in 1994, frequently cites Proverbs 13:24, which teaches that "he that spareth his rod, hateth his son." In it, authors Michael and Debi Pearl compare training a happy, compliant child with training a dog. It advocates sitting on a rebellious child to spank him, and "hold him there until he has surrendered."

Michael Pearl told the "Today" show that his book is pro-spanking, but that discipline should not cause children harm.

In October, Slate took a look at "To Train Up a Child" and noted that its lessons could be misconstrued. The book says, "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." The parents of Williams, who died in Washington in May, were charged with starving her.

Some Christians have clearly disavowed and criticized the book; more than 9,000 people have signed a petition asking Amazon to remove "To Train Up A Child" from its site.


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