Friday, March 24, 2006

To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl

When our children were still quite young, due to a variety of circumstances, we decided it would be best for our family if we took our oldest (a second grader) out of the local public school to homeschool him and his two younger sisters. At this time, homeschooling was still rather new and our family and friends were skeptical and concerned. We knew only one other homeschooling family in our large city, and as fate would have it, they lived just down our street. This family was different than us. We always considered ourselves conservative, but as we lived in a California beach community, we were very open to wearing bikinis, watching television, and living life in the average way, while still remaining conservative and adhering to our values. This other homeschooling family was against swimsuits of any kind, all the girls in the family wore dresses only, they did not own a television (never had), and were very careful about letting any outside influences affect them or their children. The beauty of it was that we became friends, in spite of our differences, and we encouraged one another, while not being the least bit judgmental.

It was this family which gave me my first copy of the book, To Train up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl. At the time, my son was eight-years-old, and I had two daughters, ages two and three. After lamenting to my homeschooling friend about the less-than-perfect behavior of my three children, she loaned me her copy and told me it was the best child training book she'd ever read. I was a very conscientious parent and I had read countless parenting and child rearing books, but as I love to read, I gladly took the thin, paperback book and began reading it that very night. What I found in those pages were principles and insights that I had never heard before. It was completely simple, but completely revolutionary. The introduction page of the book states that "any parent with the emotional maturity level higher than the average thirteen-year-old can, with a proper vision and knowledge of these techniques, have happy obedient children." If this was true, then I wanted to sign up.

As I soon learned, this book, written by an Amish couple in Tennessee, was indeed a special book. While most books on parenting, child rearing or child discipline are based on cause and effect, as well as addressing certain types of behavior, the theories in To Train up a Child are to teach the proper behaviors; to TRAIN a child the right way, and then he will behave accordingly. In fact, they compare child training to dog or horse training. While some parents might be insulted or put off by this concept, it makes perfect sense when put to task. If a person training a horse never teaches the horse how to behave when walking along a busy road or when being saddled or scrubbed, the horse will exhibit whatever behavior suits it at the given moment, usually based on his temperament type. Smart horse owners never use this method; rather, they train the horse from the get-go on what is the proper behavior and what is not. Proper behavior is rewarded and improper behavior is stopped and punished if it continues. The same is true in training a dog. Anyone who has owned a dog knows that the dog will run wildly and excitedly when it sees another dog - unless it has been trained to obey the commands of the owner. Many uneducated dog owners can be seen out on city streets, struggling with the dog's leash, having their arms ripped out of the sockets by a dog who is out of control. Oddly enough, many dog owners seem to think this is normal and can be expected when owning a dog. Nothing can be further from the truth.

And the same is true regarding child training. Within the pages of this precious little book, Michael and Debi Pearl give us pearls of wisdom about how to train a child, beginning at a very early age. In fact, they say that if a child is old enough to show any hint of rebellion, he is old enough to be trained. Based on Biblical principles, this book encourages gentle training which gives children the desire to please their parents. Discipline alone is never enough; in fact, according to these principles, discipline is usually unnecessary with a child who has been trained properly. The Pearls also point out that there is no such thing as not training a child. Either a child is trained to obey and honor his parents, or he is trained to disregard, disrespect, and disobey his parents.

The book makes no apologies about its Biblical principles and its stand on the importance of homeschooling. But when parents read the reasons why, they might not want that lifestyle for their family, but they will hardly be able to disagree with the clear and easy concepts that are logical, if nothing else. After getting to know the Pearls and their family through the pages of the book, we are given a delightful treat at the end. The second to last chapter, just before the conclusion, is made up of two letters: one written by Michael Pearl to his two sons, and the second is written by Debi Pearl to her three daughters. The letters are precious glimpses into the love and life of their homelife. They give encouragement, exhortation, and most of all, love. They give life lessons as well as humor. Finishing To Train up a Child is like walking away from a nice, long visit with a solid family we want to make our own.

I might add here that after reading To Train up a Child, my husband and I put the principles to work in our own family. Our children were fairly good children already, but we did have our moments of having to repeat things and of course we had whining to deal with. After just a couple of weeks using the Pearl's method, our children were respectful, obedient, and were a joy to behold. While I loved my children before, training them made me love being with them all the time. We had mutual respect and we delighted in each other. Now, ten years later, I highly recommend this book to all parents with children still living under their roof. The principles are timeless, and while they may be used in different ways, depending on the age of the child, they are still worthwhile and best of all, they work!

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