Thursday, October 27, 2011

heartbreaking, disgusting, unbelievable - "to train up a child"

i should start this blog post by asking for your patience.  i recently heard this news and haven't had a lot of time to process it.  my feelings are raw and strong, so please forgive me if this post is a bit all over the place.

i have been making an effort to keep myself more informed in the goings-on of the world.  i have started dvr-ing "anderson cooper 360" on cnn.  two episodes this week have had segments about a 13-year-old girl named hana williams.  hana was adopted from ethiopia by a washington state family.  she was one of their eight children (two adopted).  in may, she was found dead in the backyard of her home, naked, bruised, underweight and covered in blood.  it was 40 degrees outside and apparently she had been outside for hours and was often made to stay outside as punishment).  the remaining seven children are now in protective custody and the parents are on trial for homicide and abuse.  here is an excerpt from a local seattle news channel with the mother's 911 call:

911 operator: "what's your emergency?"
carri williams: "yes, i think my daughter killed herself,"
911 operator: "why do you say that?
carri williams: "she's really rebellious and she's been outside, refusing to come in. and she's been throwing herself all around, and then she collapsed."
911 operator: "is she breathing?"
carri williams: “i don’t think so, no.”
911 operator: “how old is your daughter?”
carri williams: “i don’t know. we adopted her almost three years ago.”
911 operator: “you don’t know how old she is?”
carri williams: “she’s somewhere between the ages of 14 and 16.” (she was actually 13)

the mother is not hysterical, but quite calm.  it is really quite disturbing.  the official cause of death was hypothermia, but she also had a lump on her head and had marks on her body that indicated "repeated whippings".

the williams family apparently followed parenting/training guidelines set out in a book called "to train up a child" by michael and debi pearl who claim that according to the bible, you must spank (they say spank, but as you'll see, it sounds a whole lot more like beating to me) your child to show them love.

here is the first paragraph of the introduction of this book as found on their website:

"this book is not about discipline, nor problem children. the emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. it is apparent that most parents never attempt to train a child to obey. they wait until the child becomes unbearable and then explode. with proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice. as you come to understand the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family--no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total obedience from your children."

maybe that sounds interesting...i personally am a little thrown off by the whole "training" and "total obedience" bit, but it still sounds like it may have some merit, right? continues...chapter one: "switch your kids" - and they don't mean swapping them for alternative children.  they call it "spanking," "switching," "giving licks," or "swatting".  in an interview on anderson cooper 360's, mr. pearl argues whole-heartedly that this is not "hitting" or "beating".  read below and watch the clip and see what you think.  i vehemently disagree with his semantics.  in the ac360 interview he also makes some outrageous claims about the positive outcomes of spanking households. 

mr. pearl claims that his instruction is based on biblical teachings. the quote from proverbs 13:24 "one who spares the rod, hates his child" could be used as an example.  in regards to how to "switch" one's child, pearl explains on page 47 of "to train up a child" (as quoted by

"any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain, but the most pain is on the surface of bare skin where the nerves are located. a surface sting will cause sufficient pain, with no injury or bruising. select your instrument according to the child’s size. for the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. sometimes alternatives have to be sought. a one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. for the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective."

here is a snip-it from a separate interview with cnn correspondent, gary tuchman (transcript from ac360) as seen on "anderson cooper 360" on 10.26.11, during which michael pearl gives a detailed explanation of his "spanking":

tuchman: let's say a 7-year-old slugs his sister.
pearl: he would get -- a 7-year-old would get 10 or 15 licks, and it would be a formal thing. in other words, you maintain your patient air. you explain to him that what he's done is violent and that that's not acceptable in society, and it's not acceptable at home. and then i would take him somewhere, like into his bedroom, and i would tell him i'm going to give him 15 licks.
tuchman: with what?
pearl: probably a belt on a kid that big, a boy. i'd probably use a belt. it would be handy. i might use a wooden spoon or a piece of, like, plumbing supply line a quarter-inch in diameter, flexible enough to roll up.

hmmm...i'm a little confused.  yes, i understand how slugging a sibling is violent and unacceptable, but how is "licking" the child not violent?

he also recommends keeping these plumbing supply lines all around the house, in the car and even around your neck to be sure they are handy and in sight...and that simply wearing one around your neck can keep your kids in line. jee...i wonder why?  fear maybe?  yeah, that's a healthy parenting technique.  this man must be mad.

here is an entire page of quotes (thank you from the pearls' book that made my stomach ache.

the story of hana williams is not the first of its kind to be linked to this book.  in 2006, a north carolina mother suffocated her 4-year-old son by wrapping him too tightly in blankets after punishing him by beating him with plastic tubing didn't work.  she was found guilty of murder. (

in early 2010, a california family who had been touted and praised for adopting three children from liberia tortured and beat their 7-year-old adopted daughter to death with a quarter-inch plastic tubing and sent their 11-year-old adopted son to the hospital.  earlier this year, they both plead guilty to the charges.

here are a few links for more information regarding these two other cases.


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