Sunday 28 February 2010

Disciplined to death

Yesterday marked three weeks since seven-year-old Lydia Schatz was killed at the hands of her adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz.

Thursday marked four years since four-year-old Sean Paddock was killed at the hands of his adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock.

What did both tragic deaths have in common?

Parenting methods that followed the writings of Michael and Debi Pearl.

Countless bloggers have written about the deaths in the past month, and their words say everything my heart is feeling right now. Outrage that these "Christian parenting experts" continue to poison well-meaning parents with their writings. Sorrow and horror over the deaths of these children, and the harm - physical, emotional, and spiritual - caused to untold numbers of other precious little ones. Disgust at the manipulative twisting of Scripture that attempts to cloak abuse in a loving, God-mandated covering.

In Heartbroken. Angry. Again., TulipGirl wrote:
"Well intentioned or not, the abusive parenting influenced by Michael and Debi Pearl led to another child’s death. How many more children are being abused behind closed doors and condoned by the Church in the name of “no greater joy” and “first time obedience”? When will the Pearls take full responsibility for the harm of their teachings? When will Christian parents see through the lies cloaked in Scripture?"

Links to many of TulipGirl's extensive articles on the Pearls are included at the end of the post. Several external links are also included in her entries Vulnerable, To Abuse and Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse?.

In Hold ‘em Down, Defeat Totally, TulipGirl responds to Michael Pearl's statement:
"If, indeed?! A child is dead, another one hospitalized for nearly two weeks, and the other seven children conveyed this so-called discipline was normal in their home. The Pearls’ teachings could no more turn someone away from “abusive habits,” as their very instructions set parents up for normalizing patterns that lead to abuse — “defeat totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. . . five to ten licks. . . continue the spanking. . . continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered.”"

The heartbreaking entry In which I discuss the unthinkable, written by close friend of the Schatz family Laurie Mathers, details the horror of coming to terms with the knowledge that the people they love could have committed such an unspeakable act:
"As the days have gone by, more and more information has been uncovered about our friends. It turns out they were following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl's "ministry" of systematic child "training". My husband and I have spent hours upon hours since this discovery poring over Pearl literature, disgusted. Horrified. I wanted understanding of what could have led to this tragedy, and I got it. The Pearl Method was the missing link. It made “sense” of what made no sense before. From what I've read, and even from some hindsight reflections of what I knew of this family, it appears they were following Pearl teachings very carefully - in doctrine and in practice. If the autopsy reports verify what preliminary findings suggest, it was the form of whipping (using the identical implement recommended in Pearl literature) taught by them which killed Lydia, and nearly killed Zariah."

As heartbreaking as it is, this is such an important entry to read.

In child abuse in the name of Jesus, thatmom writes about other incidents of abuse resulting from similar twisted "Christian" teachings:
"This is just the tip of the iceberg; an unbiblical philosophy and theology of power and control is behind their suggestions for discipline." has posted an extensive article by Lynn Harris entitled Godly discipline turned deadly:
"Attorney Mike Ramsey told Salon that the Schatzes had explicitly described to police their adherence to the Pearls' philosophy, which, as one of many horrified anti-Pearl bloggers within the conservative Christian community observes -- recalling precisely what prompted the Schatzes' call to 911 -- includes the admonition that a proper spanking leaves a child "without breath to complain.""

In This made me cry today..., Rebecca Diamond writes extensively on the discord between the theology of the Bible and that of Michael Pearl:
"They did it to her in the name of Jesus and Michael Pearl. Just in case any of my readers are confused, let me explain. You may not know who Mr. Pearl is – I’ll get to that – but I’m pretty sure you don’t know who their Jesus is either. Because that Jesus isn’t the same Jesus I serve, the one who clearly stated “Let the children come to me, and forbid them not” and “the kingdom of Heaven is of such as these” and “what you did unto the least of these my brethren, you did to me” and “unless you become as a little child, you shall in no wise enter the kingdom”."

In When Parenting Kills – What Can We Do?, Katiekind touches on the adoption aspect:
"One risk factor [the Pearls] don’t seem to consider is the effect on children of attachment and trauma issues, such as RAD (reactive attachment disorder) – something sometimes associated with older-child adoptions. It may be no coincidence that these victims were adopted three years ago from a war-torn African country. Who knows what children who are put up for adoption under such circumstances have endured. Under what circumstances did they lose their family? What did they witness personally? What did they themselves endure? What was orphanage life like? Naturally children shaped and damaged by such experiences may respond differently to Pearlesque discipline than the joyful unconditional surrender depicted by the Pearls."

In her heartwrenching entry, Perfectionism, Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience writes about her family’s personal experiences applying the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl:
"Do you not train me well enough, Lord? I don’t obey You without fail, Father. And You are an infinitely better Father to me than I am a Mother to these children. Then why did I think I could have “always” obedience from these precious ones? You discipline me, Lord--- but always in the context of mercy and love---and a Cross."

If you read anything, read that one.

How many more? How many more children need to die before the teachings of the Pearls are seen for what they really are? How much longer will this needless abuse happen behind closed doors, not at the hands of monsters, but those of well-meaning, loving parents who have been taken in by the Pearls' promises of godly children? This is not a case of taking away nuggets of gold and leaving behind the small part that tends to the extreme - no, this is a case of digging through a garbage dump in hopes of finding one small fleck of gold. Perhaps the Pearls are all the more insidious for that very reason: for all their advice of "tying heartstrings", the practicality of carrying out what they put forth achieves anything but attachment.

Continue to speak out. This abuse cannot be permitted to continue under the guise of "godly parenting". It cannot be permitted to continue, period. My fervent hope in this tragedy is that the truth of what the Pearls teach will, at long last, be exposed for the evil it is.

Friday 12 February 2010

Perfect moments

I love these beautiful boys, and the perfect moments they so often bring into my life.

Like waking up in the morning to find a baby snuggled up on one side of me and a boy curled up on the other...

...reading some beautiful new books to the boys in front of the warm fireplace...

...watching the boy and his Opa crawl around the floor playing with trucks and blocks...

...looking down at the nursing baby to find him watching me...

...or hugging the boy goodnight and having him tell me, "God loves you, Mommy."

These kids are such a joy to raise.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Life learning

Although we haven't "officially" begun homeschooling yet, I find myself increasingly convinced that unschooling is the path we will follow. I'm still reading about all the various options - the boy hasn't even turned three yet - but unschooling already feels like such a natural extension of our life that it's hard to imagine taking a more formal approach to his education.

One of the things I most love about the idea of homeschooling is the opportunity for learning to be a joy rather than a chore. Learning should be organic, living, one question leading to the next, not the formulaic teaching I remember from my days in public school. Unschooling lends itself so well to instilling both a hunger to learn and an ability to seek answers to one's questions.

There is so much to learn and life itself provides endless opportunities to discover new things. I am amazed at the sheer number of things the boy and I discuss from even the most basic of experiences. Going outside to throw a ball yesterday resulted in a chain of questions and answers that explored terrain, gravity, force, and how cars work. Simply baking a batch of cookies covers, at increasingly complex intervals, counting, sorting, comparing, measuring, sensing (touch, feel, smell), fractions, reactions, experimentation, and more. This week's trip to the library has us reading about apples, pigs, horses, maps, counting, and the alphabet. Placing some bulk purchases into glass jars had us identifying various nuts and seeds, and closing the jars provided a natural exercise in physical manipulation. Opening and closing the domino set requires learning to use a latch, while playing with the dominoes themselves is an amazingly rich natural learning experience.

And then there's reading! There is so much to be gained from good children's fiction. Even at this young age, the difference I've found when reading him quality literature versus “twaddle” has led me to agree with C.S. Lewis: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally worth reading at the age of fifty.”

I won't entirely rule out a more classical approach at this time, and most likely we will end up being rather eclectic, taking bits and pieces from various homeschooling methods and philosophies. But I think that our early years, at least, will simply allow life to be the teacher.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Three years

Today has been three years since I said I will.

Not "I do." Far more than just that present moment. I will. As long as we both shall live, I will.

Though at times I stumble...I will love him.

Though I am only a frail human myself...I will comfort him.

Though I may falter...I will honor him.

Though difficult times come...I will keep him.

Though my flesh is weak...I will be faithful to him.

In sickness and in health.

Forsaking all others.

Beyond the fleeting feelings of now.

I will.

And for three years, we have. We have loved, comforted, honoured, kept, and been faithful. There has been sickness and health, good times and bad, richer and poorer.

We have grown together over the past three years, and our changes have only brought us closer. So much has happened in those short years. Two births - there is something indescribable about watching your husband become a father. Three moves, with all of their accompanying stress and good-byes. Unemployment and a return to school, bringing a time of maturation and refocus for us both.

This man has seen me at my worst and still loves me. He has survived pregnancy hormones with his usual enduring patience. He makes me feel beautiful despite my post-birth insecurities. He reminds me of God's provision when I start to wonder how we'll make it. He comforts me during times of frustration and sadness. He encourages me to try new things when I hesitate. He eats my experimental recipes, brave man that he is, and never complains - about anything, really.

I am blessed to know him, grateful to have married him, and content to rest secure in the knowledge that we will.