This news story has me just shaking my head in sadness.... A 7 year old girl was beaten to death by her adoptive, homeschooling, professing-to-be-Christian parents. Their form of correction was a horrible miscarriage of the discipline method taught by Michael and Debi Pearl, a couple who market themselves as Christian parenting and homeschooling experts and have books, articles, and magazines devoted to their teachings. They have a million dollar business selling their products and speaking all around the country.
Arguably, the Pearls don't teach parents to beat their children to death. These parents are ultimately responsible for the death of their child and they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
But, here's my problem with those who preach corporal punishment as Biblical. It is taught as THE way to reach your child's soul and point them to heaven. It is so powerful to say to a parent that if you follow our method of child-rearing, you are doing everything you can to get them into heaven. For parents who are Christians, this is the ultimate goal, the thing you strive to above all else..... to have your children become Christians. The Pearls have this one-size fits all model of parenting that involves correction with flexible plumbing tubing, a ruler, and/or many other similar types of "rods". Spend any time at all reading their books or articles and you will see that correction is designed for breaking the spirit of the child and moving them into submission to the parents and to God. This is dangerous.
Now, I make a confession.... I should never spank my children. I am a level-headed decent person who loves Jesus and mostly I am an all around nice individual. But, I have a bad temper and I lose it too easily. I get angry when my kids misbehave. I tend to take it personally and I get mad at them. I should NOT spank and I decided early in my parenting that I wouldn't. If I was not real with myself about this, my children would suffer for it. Thanks to be God for showing me this earlier rather than later. It is a rare thing now for me to spat a little leg and when it does happen, it always serves to remind me that I cannot allow myself to spank.
So can you see that people are really vulnerable to teachings like this? People whose desire is to raise Godly and Christian children are shown a method that professes to do just that and they buy it. Hook, line, and sinker, they buy it; they see it as THE way to insure their beloved children achieve that ultimate goal. But what if they are people who also shouldn't spank? What if these are people who truly believe that they need to hit their children to keep them on that straight and narrow path? There are well-meaning parents out there who can too easily move past punishment and into abuse. And if those parents feel they are doing this in the name of God, how much easier is it for them to carry the punishment too far?
I certainly don't know the answer to this, but I do know that Michael Pearl's response is by far not an answer. It is a sad and kind of creepy response to the tragic death of a child.