Discipline and Murder

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were arraigned in court last Tuesday, accused of murdering their 7-year-old adopted daughter during a discipline session which occurred the Saturday morning before.

Most disturbing? Apparently the Schatz’s are homeschoolers and their discipline methods can be traced back to Michael and Debbi Pearl’s child training book.

Here are two bloggers’ thoughts on this devastating event which I found helpful: Child Discipline or Child Abuse by Virginia Knowles, and When Parenting Kills by Katiekind.

Read, be informed, and share with your friends. There are many new, well-meaning parents who are looking for instruction and help in parenting. Use your knowledge to help them keep away from this dangerous path.

Hope D.

Hope D.


  1. Thanks for linking to my blog post. I appreciate all you stand for.


  2. Goodness sakes! I just checked my blog stats, and I think I’ve gotten well over a hundred hits in the past hour linked from this Timberdoodle site!

  3. Thank you for addressing this important subject. There are many areas of “abuse” occurring within the homeschooling movement today and I am so grateful to see people speaking out against it.

  4. Thank you for being willing to shine the light on this problem. I’ve been in the homeschooling community for two decades now (student and teacher), and have known amazing, loving, dynamic parents. And I’ve also known loving but vulnerable parents — parents vulnerable to these types of teachings.

    Timberdoodle has a long-standing, respected voice in the Christian community. I pray that your caution will be heard by homeschooling parents who may be vulnerable to these teachings which will harm them and their children.

    Grace and hope,

  5. Wow. Surprised and pleased to see a homeschool company expose abuse for what it is.

  6. Thank you so much for speaking up! You just got my business! 🙂

  7. BTW, I found you because you posted this, very impressed with what you have to offer the homeschooling community. Integrity + good products = loyal new customer.

  8. Thank you for posting this. As a homeschool alumni, I grieve on behalf of Lydia, her family, and parents.

    God bless you.

  9. Thank you for speaking out about this case. I love shopping your site but have rarely purchased because of shipping costs (I’m not in the 48)…I will change that now because I’m willing to pay extra to support a company that values what I value.

  10. Thank you so much for bringing this to the attention of so many. You show courage and integrity.

  11. Wow. I’m stunned to see so many jump on the “Pearls are evil” bandwagon. I think I’ve read almost everything the Pearls have written. Of course, I don’t agree with everything, (I don’t agree with all Timberdoodle or Spunky Homeschooler write, either, but I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater), but I have been incredibly blessed and helped by their writings. What most critics seem to miss is that 90 percent of their writings have to do with “tying strings”…understanding the needs of your children and LOVING THEM! They speak out strongly AGAINST abuse.

    To assign responsibility for these tragedies to the Pearls is not only stupid, it’s dangerous. Anyone can take anything out of context and make it appear wrong or stupid. The world does it to Christians all the time. The parents in these two cases abused their children by mis-using the Pearls’ ideas. They had that in common. They were also homeschoolers. Shall we all now vilify homeschooling? The world will!

  12. I strongly disagree, Joan. The Pearls talk about how they used a whip on their 4-month-old daughter. There is NO context where whipping a 4-month-old is OK. Their books are FULL of examples of obvious abuse. Their books are how-to-abuse manuals–I recognized that years ago when I first had the misfortune to read their first book (which is available on-line for free, for people who want to read for themselves the context of what they say.) As Jesus himself said, there are many who will come presenting themselves as angels of light–their works and fruits show the truth that they are not from Jesus.

  13. The Schatz’s put the Pearls’ teachings into practice most assiduously. Not only did they use the exact whipping implement lauded by Michael Pearl as the “ideal chastising instrument.” They also followed his advice about what to do when your child doesn’t show adequate repentence during a spanking:

    “If you ever have a child who stands his ground of defiance and you let him win, you have lost his heart forever—unless you are able to go back and win a confrontation and keep on winning. If you ever let his rebellion triumph just one time, it makes it much harder to conquer in the future. After he gains the upper hand, one victory on your part will not be sufficient. You will have to persevere in several contests of wills until he is convinced that he can never stand against your authority.”
    [source: http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/articles/general-view/archive/2001/october/01/in-defense-of-biblical-chastisement-part-2/%5D

    They kept on whipping Lydia for hours on end, perhaps sincerely believing Michael Pearl’s words, they would lose their stepdaughter’s heart forever if they let her “win.” Now she is dead.

    When does Michael Pearl advise parents to stop laying on lashes with 1/4″ plumbers supply if their child still doesn’t appear repentent? He doesn’t. Instead, he counsels parents to keep lashing and lashing and lashing without end, never giving up until their child’s will is broken.

    As long as thousands of parents follow this the Pearl’s advice, another No Greater Joy child will die every year or three. And thousands of parents will continue to follow this sort of advice as long as the broader Christian community continues to tolerate and excuse the No Greater Joy child abusive cult in its midst.

  14. Thank you for helping to shed a light on these abuse manuals! Kudos to Timberdoodle for standing up for children.

    Joan, it’s great that you are strong enough and discerning enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and resist the messages to battle against your children for total dominance in God’s name, but for those that may be new Christians or dealing with a highly spirited child or one with RAD (very common in adoption cases from what I understand) may be swayed by the words that promise paradise for the small price of beating your child into submission.

    One death is too many! There is no Godly reason for these materials to exist. There are plenty of other valuable sources of information on parenting that don’t include any advice or suggestions that can be misconstrued by anybody as a pathway to murder!

  15. WOW! I know where my business will be! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  16. What a wonderful, refreshing thing to see a homeschooling company speak out about this! God bless you- your company will now be seeing my business.

    It’s always amazing to me that people are so willing to wade through garbage to pick out a few flowers here and there, when there are so many other, more helpful Christian resources out there that speak to parents hearts about truly connecting to their children, that also do not rely on heavily punitive measures… or rely on strange, anti-Scriptural heresy. How “stupid” or “dangerous” can it possibly be to share discernment, insight, and possibly the experience of more seasoned mothers who have seen the drastic results of this type of parenting dynamic? Shame on the people who continue to support the Pearls through this second *known* round of death via taking their parenting advice literally. If they don’t intend for parents to actually do what they write, why write it at all?

    Please use your logical brains, and if you choose to “try out” the Pearls, grab a highlighter and a Bible so that you can investigate their claims as you read. You will find that their work is literally very anti-Christian, anti-Scripture, and offers a “no-fail formula” to parents that can destroy lives forever.

  17. You have got to be kidding me! You at Timberdoodle, which I respected til now, believe that the “most disturbing thing” about this case is that the Schatzes read the Pearls’ materials? How about the fact that they were disciplining her for a matter which did not constitute defiant disobedience? Misspelling a word? How about assigning blame solely where it belongs, on the parents who took a biblical teaching and forgot to use common sense in its application.

    Also, “To Train Up a Child” was published in 1994. Are you seriously going to take the deaths which have occurred since then at the hands of only two irresponsible and abusive sets of parents as being typical of the thousands of parents who subscribe to the Pearls’ parental teachings? These deaths, as sad and unfortunate as they are, are not the fault and responsibility of Mike and Debi Pearl.

    Let’s use some common sense and logical reasoning here instead of jumping on the liberal anti-spanking bandwagon.

  18. I’m so happy you spoke out about this. A few years ago when I voiced the same thing when a little boy died I was lambasted by some in the homeschool blogosphere. This spanking and physical pain infliction for “discipline” which I call punishment is one bad label Christian homeschoolers carry. I cannot understand it at all. I don’t feel pain infliction measures are necessary for teaching our children how to behave.

  19. I have been a homeschooler and Timberdoodle customer for over 10 years. I also have 7 children, including the oldest who is a very difficult nut to crack. I was so desperate to find ways to care for him when he was such a “willfully disobedient” toddler and preschooler… I tried Growing Kids God’s Way, I read To Train Up A Child but found its reliance on Pavlovian dog-style training unpalatable. A few years later when my child was still a daily nightmare, I finally gave in and tried TTUAC “method.” Pretty quickly I realized that there was no way I could continue- my child would let me beat him to death before he’d ever “submit.” I discontinued the “method” and threw away the book.

    However, I lived under condemnation for years because all the Bible teachers say that if you do not spank, you don’t love your children.

    I’ve found so much peace, reading Clay Clarkson’s books- he explains why I’m not a bad parent for not spanking.

    I also found help in Scott Turansky’s books, because he gives me enough Bible-based tools to reach my children without ever needing to spank them! Even the difficult child!

    I wish you didn’t sell Shepherding a Child’s Heart, because that book also teaches that spanking is an absolutely necessary part of Christian parenting, and that failure to spank is disobedience to God on the part of the parent. And that if you don’t spank you don’t love your child. Better books are Parenting is Heart Work, by Scott Turansky, which teaches almost identically about reaching the heart without ever mentioning spanking, or Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson, who wisely exegetes the verses that mention “the rod” and explain why this does not = hitting a small child with anything.

    I have blogged on this matter several times, as well as other issues. Thanks for your work!

  20. Joan–you wrote:
    What most critics seem to miss is that 90 percent of their writings have to do with “tying strings”…understanding the needs of your children and LOVING THEM! They speak out strongly AGAINST abuse.

    I completely disagree! The methods they advocate ARE abuse. Spanking infants? Spanking kids for crying too much? Spanking kids for being angry because you spanked them? They talk of breaking children’s spirits, of physically overpowering them until they are completely broken etc. etc. Just look at their Q and A’s on their website. It is repulsive. How can the bar for abuse be set so low that only with death or wounds that last over two hours is considered abuse? I grew up in a house where my father prayed with us before he spanked, and spanked when we cried too much. It was much like what the Pearls advocate. Guess what? My siblings and I are resentful of our parents, hurt, lonely, devoid of self-esteem. Three of us needed counseling. Three of us left the church. Please reconsider. Your kids may be obedient, but they probably don’t’ trust you, and they are probably hurting inside.

  21. The Pearls do not advocate spanking babies. Their is a difference between the light swithcing for the purpose of training and spanking for the purpose of punishment.

    The bottom line is, we will all be accountable to God (if you have received Christ as Savior) for our individual families and how we rear our children. If you do not wish to follow the same teaching as the Pearls or anyone else does, that’s your choice. But don’t bash me or anyone else because we do agree with the Pearls.

    My homeschooled children are well socialized, fairly well-disciplined in their behavior(having been repeatedly comlimented by strangers in public), and their mother and I have their hearts- not their friends, and not anyone else. The only reason we want and have their hearts is to re-direct them toward a knowledge of and service to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Just because I believe the Bible teaches that “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil”(Proverbs 20:30), and “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15), doesn’t mean that I abuse my children. I purposely avoid leaving marks and injuring my children, and I also discipline with love and the goal is repentance on the part of the child, not retribution or getting even with them for disobeying me.

    You may not agree with me, or the Pearls for that matter, but it is my God-given right to discipline and train as I see fit so long as my actions do not injure my child. I may shake my head with sympathy when I hear the children in public whose parents do not spank them, nor properly train them, but it is their right to not spank them. It is not my place to tell them they are wrong for not spanking their children even if I think so, nor is it their place to tell me I am wrong for spanking my child.

  22. I apologize for the spelling errors above. I really do know how to spell “switching” and “complimented.”

  23. Thank you, Timberdoodle for speaking out on this controversial subject. When my husband and I were young parents we were introduced to the Pearl’s books. How I wish we’d never seen them! As others have stated I think we have alienated our children and made them angry. We had a few “stubborn” ones who required lengthy “sessions”. Thinking back to those times still makes me sad. If we are to be pictures of our Saviour to our children shouldn’t that image include mercy. I shudder to think what my life would be like if God treated me with the equivalent of the Pearl’s “method”!

  24. We have used the Pearl’s books and been extremely blessed by them. We have 4 very happy children who are a joy to be around (just as Doug, we’re often complimented in stores or by friends – but God gets the glory, not us and not the Pearls). These are genuinely happy children – not broken-spirited or demoralized. If you follow through with the Pearl’s techniques (as discovered in God’s true word) you will be surely spanking your children LESS. If you let them get away with disobedience just every once in a while, you will be spanking them constantly. You must be consistent and as Joan mentioned, keep on tying those strings of love and respect. Keep up the good work, No Greater Joy!

  25. “The devil mixes his lies with the truth, for he must use a truth to carry his lies. The believer must therefore discriminate, and judge all things. He must be able to see so much to be impure, and so much that he can accept. Satan is a “mixer”. If in anything he finds 99% pure, he tries to insert 1% of his poisonous stream, and this grows, if undetected, until the proportions are reversed.” (from ’War on the Saints’ by Jessie Penn-Lewis)

    The Pearls have become a cult, and one with particularly dangerous teachings. It is not okay to say that they are okay anymore, and that there is good in what they do. They are straying more and more from the truth once delivered to the saints, and are well on their way to preaching anther gospel. Children do not need to be relieved of the guilt of their sin by atoning stripes of the rod–they must be shown the Cross. The Pearls are false teachers who must be shunned, and publicly.

    I used to believe this stuff. I thought it was child abuse not to spank. Twenty years later, with two prodigals, a Harvard-sized debt from a therapeutic boarding school, and a heart that has been broken as many times the rod was sung on the backsides of my precious children, I have repented.

    Parenting is best done by desperately clinging to the Cross. It is a fearful heart that will want a formula, that wants a three day fix for that tantruming child, who is humiliating you in public. Yet God doesn’t give a onesizefitsall solution, He gives us only the Holy Spirit, who is our Wonderful Counselor.

    But I do highly recommend Turansky and Clarkson’s books, for those still confused and coming out of this “spank until they submit” cult. And Lou Priolo’s “The Heart of Anger”, is so healing if you have exasperated your child, and he won’t look you in the face anymore. They will help you detox from this

    God has been very gracious to me. My youngest have read the Frog and Toad books aloud to me and so these precious memories are now mixed with an anguish for a girl who dreamed of safety in this country and was instead beaten to a pulp for mispronouncing some words in those charming little fables of friendship. I will seek to turn those tears into intercession for the remmnant of this broken family. I will also cry out for justice against their false teachers, the Pearls–or at least a great reduction in the two million yearly sales they earn.

    God has been good, and I have been given a second chance to mother my wayward ones, and we have won our children’s hearts back. But we have paid a terrible price. I urge you Pearlites to reconsider your reliance on plastic plumbing lines for order in your homes, and seek the face of God instead.

    I think, until the homeschooling community in general repents of its pride and idolatry of family, we are not going to be the ones who are going to change the culture–especially not while we defend spokespeople like the Pearls, who recommend training children in modesty by taking them to airports, to point out all the immodestly dressed sinners. What a terrific focus to give your children– look at tight pants, who cares about the broken hearts? I wonder how many of those women in low cut blouses could hear the Gospel coming from those same trained minds? They are not likely to find those families very winsome. Warped viewpoints like this was one of the reasons I quit reading and subscribing to the homeschool literature, and going to the conventions. They have nothing to say to me anymore.

    I appreciate, as others have said, your brave stand. We have done business with you in our more prosperous past, particularly at Christmas. Those days, with my husband’s downsizing, are no more. But I will send my curriculum orders your way in the future! Bless you.

  26. I should have said “His Word and His Holy Spirit.” This was fitfully, mournfully written in the course of a homeschool day. I pray it makes sense.

  27. Joan, Doug and Sonja:

    The Pearls instruct their followers to use exactly the same piece of tubing the Schatzes used to murder Lydia and torture Zariah, they instruct them to whip them methodically, ritually, continuously, even suggest having a parent sit on them while the other beats them — which the Schatzes did — until the children completely submit, and Michael Pearl actually says a proper whipping should leave them without breath to complain.

    Exactly how, again, did the Schatzes take the Pearls’ instruction too far…?? Sounds like they did EXACTLY what the Pearls tell parents to do to their kids. They systematically, methodically took turns beating Lydia until she didn’t have breath to complain…

    The Pearls are complicit in Lydia’s death. People like you, Joan, Doug and Sonja, are complicit in Lydia’s death.

    How many thousands and thousands of children remain battered, inside and out, emotionally and spiritually dead, damaged beyond repair because of the sadistic and sick teachings of the Pearls and of people like you.

    Shame on you.

    A dead child’s blood is on your hands. God will deal with you for that.

    Lydia may have no breath to complain, but I do, and others do, and we will see to it that the Pearls are brought to justice and that those who promote the systematic torture of children — people like you, Joan, Doug and Sonja — are investigated.

    Lydia will not have died in vain. Her death will be the beginning of the end for the Pearls and for people like you.

  28. Doug wrote: ‘“To Train Up a Child” was published in 1994. Are you seriously going to take the deaths which have occurred since then at the hands of only two irresponsible and abusive sets of parents as being typical of the thousands of parents who subscribe to the Pearls’ parental teachings?’

    I agree with Doug that the Schatzes were not “typical” followers of the Pearls. Unlike most followers of Pearlianity, the Schatzes followed the Pearls’ advice, literally and to the letter, leading to the death of one of their children and the near death of another. I think most followers of the Pearls, in the Schatz’s position, would have sensed in their hearts that something was terribly wrong; they would have disregarded Michael Pearl’s reckless and dangerous admonitions to never stop lashing with the plumber’s supply line unless their child submits. And because a typical Pearl follower disobeys the Pearl’s rule and stops whipping before their child needs the hospital or the coroner, we never hear about them or their children.

    The Schatzes were atypical because they behaved as true believers. They listened to Michael and Debi Pearl instead of listening to their hearts. And as a result, we have now all heard of their family and their late daughter Lydia and their nearly slain daughter Zariah. And as long as the Pearls’ toxic teachings are permitted to flourish within the Christian homeschooling community, there will be some sets of parents who will atypically obey those teachings assiduously enough to seriously injure or occasionally even kill their children in the name of “godly discipline.” The fact that “only two” (Doug’s words, not mine) children have turned up dead from “discipline” at the hands of Pearl-following homeschoolers is because so many other such parents stop short of obeying the Pearls’ advice as faithfully as the Schatzes did.

    The Christian homeschooling movement is at a crossroads now with regard to the Pearls. Either the main body of the movement decisively jettisons the Pearls and their pseudo-Biblical teachings, or the Pearls will continue to drag the whole movement further down into public disrepute due to their association with it.

  29. Spanking of any kind is unchristian. I think, more than that, it is antichrist and antichristian actually, given Jesus’ statements in Matthew 18 and other places, but certainly, spanking has never had any New Testament teaching or example, and hence, is, at best, unchristian.
    It is very sad that the lies of the ages, from the Inquisition and protestent tortures of people to “cleanse them of sin,” through US slavery where paddling was invented, have “christianized” spanking and paddling, even though Jesus did not.
    Only one evil Old Testament secular king recommended children be beaten, and he never once claimed to be inspired, nor did any other biblical writer make that claim for him. In fact, the Old Testament says he was so wicked he was the direct cause of Israel being divided and conquered (I Kings 11.) Even if he were a prophet, however, he would be Old Testament.
    There is no New Testament teaching or example for anyone to hit any child. The fact that the centuries of hearing the same lies to the contrary over and over have fooled so many of the supposed elect is very sad. Rather than a few wolves in sheep’s clothing, the wolves seem to outnumber the sheep on this issue, at least.

  30. Also, spanking is completely ineffective in raising truly autonomous, reasoning, thinking chldren, but I suspect those who hit their children (and the “spanking” euphamism is just that — a pretty little bow tied over the fact that a grown adult is raising his or her hand — or whip, or paddle, or pipe, or rubber tubing — doesn’t make any difference at all — to a little, helpless, powerless, voiceless child) don’t want autonomous, thinking, reasoning children. They want obedient, submissive robots, which is what the Schatz children, according to what few accounts we have, were.

    I really hope this situation shines a light the myriad problems that led to Lydia’s death. It wouldn’t matter if a nutjob like Pearl wrote that book, which is so very obviously, to any decent human being, regardless of religion, a hideously disturbing body of work if there weren’t so very many ignorant, isolated, brainwshed people out there willing to follow along.

    I suspect the Schatzes were typical followers. How many other families, hidden from general public view by their isolationist, closed-community, home-schooling practices, have robotically obedient and seemingly happy children (on cue — be happy and smiling in public or Mommy and Daddy will beat you for hours with rubber hosing!) ? How does anyone really know what’s going on in these homes? To me, even a willingness to consider the Pearls’ material shows a serious, serious psychological and behavioral flaw. How many thousands of Pearl followers beat just short of organ damage or death and get away with it for years because, on the outside, they’re a happy, shiny family, but at home, the children are being subject to systematic torture?

    Also, the fact these girls were adopted so very easily and all at once really makes me wonder what kind of oversight is going on with these Christian adoption agencies which set themselves up in the poorest, most disorganized and chaotic countries and then funnel dozens of children into these isolated communities and families with pretty much zero vetting process. This story makes me look at the Haiti incident even more suspiciously.

    There are some serious, serious issues here about closed communities, unsupervised homeschooling, international adoptions, easy availability of the hideous, pyschopathic material the Pearls are selling, etc.

    Let’s just hope someone with a public forum somewhere — a major news outlet, a celebrity, anyone, someone — please — asks these questions and puts a stop to the series of events that led to Lydia’s death.

  31. JOAN! I hope you read this, just like I hope every person who EVER supports the Pearls. As parent who raised two sons in a loving, Christian environment, if you are that far out in left field to think the Pearls are ANYTHING BUT EVIL? Hitting is spanking, spanking is hitting. You can use any term, paddling, whipping, caning, any way you look, at it, Joan, if you hit you are NOT doing God’s plan at all! Nothing in the new testament EVER says anything about hitting children. The old testament was about Kings such as David and Soloment, and laws MEN created for the times. Did you also know that “spare the rod, spoil the child” was written by a man, by a Poet? And HE was referring to the rod of a sheppard, not children! It is amazing how the Pearls, and anyone else that believes the garbage coming out of their mouth, can so misinterpret, and hence miscommunicate the bible to justify their OWN meaning, their OWN interpretation. Joan, what on earth makes them right, and all the wonderful Christian ministers, men of the cloth, and people wrong? Sorry, but I would urge you that if you strike your own children, get some serious counseling. In the end, those of you that think hitting a helpless innocent child, or a teenager trying to deal with enough growing up issues, you are heading down the path of error. I can see you then trying to explain yourself come judgement day to God while he looks down at you and asks why? WHY did you hit My children?

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