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Published: Sunday, April 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

No child deserves parenting by the rod

Today I’d like to inscribe a name on your heart so that it can live forever: Hana Williams.

Hana was the teenage girl from the Sedro-Woolley area who in 2011 died facedown in mud, of malnutrition, hypothermia and stomach ailments.

Hana spent her last days on Earth beaten, deprived of food, and forced to urinate and shower outside.

Her parents, Larry and Carri Williams, were found guilty in Hana’s death. They also owned a book called “To Train Up a Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. Williams liked this book so much that she gave it to an acquaintance.

Many people consider “To Train Up a Child” a how-to guide for abusing children. Yet, according to the Pearls, they have sold more than 660,000 copies of their book.

I wanted to see first-hand if what I’ve heard about “To Train Up a Child” is true, so I bought a used copy from Amazon. (I didn’t want the Pearls to make money off me.)

What I read was sobering.

There are small sections of the book that I liked. The Pearls talk extensively about cultivating positive relationships with your children. They want fathers to take major roles in their kids’ lives. They also recommend not offering superfluous praise to children.

But the vast majority of the book is devoted to totally breaking a child’s will. Children are to be trained into submission by spanking them with “the rod” — a 12-inch piece of willow, a ruler, a paddle, a belt or a 3-foot piece of shrub.

Spanking is to cause pain, and the Pearls’ general rule is that you spank a child until the child has surrendered.

The Pearls call this “corporal chastisement” and claim inspiration from the Bible.

I am a Christian and I know a lot of faithful people, but nobody I know beats their children with a quarter-inch flexible plumbing supply tube. That’s something the Pearls advise doing on their website.

Nobody I know tempts infants with forbidden objects, and then hits them to teach the word “No.”

Nobody I know whips toddlers for trying to crawl up stairs.

In the case of Hana Williams, the Pearls claim that what happened to her is “diametrically opposed” to what is taught in their book.

It is true that the Pearls do not recommend locking teenagers in a closet or withholding food until they’ve lost 30 pounds.

However, Hana was beaten regularly with a plumbing supply tube. It’s hard not to connect the dots.

There are also the terrible deaths of Sean Paddock, from North Carolina, and Lydia Schatz, from California, to consider. Their parents were also followers of the Pearls’ methods.

For us in Washington, the tragedy is close to home. Yet there are still copies of “To Train Up a Child” available at Sno-Isle Libraries and for sale on Amazon.

To me, this is inexcusable. Our children deserve better.

Jennifer Bardsley blogs at

Story tags » BooksParenting

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