To Train Up a Child

Over the course of the last two weeks, I’ve been reading To Train up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. My wife Krista has been reading Debi’s latest book, Created to be his Help Meet, and asked me to take the time to re-read their parenting book. We had read TTUAC early in our marriage and early in our parenting career (can it be a career?), and had seen some value in the book, but ultimately dismissed it due to some of the authors’ strong opinions. Of course, in retrospect (and I say this with 4 wonderful kids), I wish we’d have put more of this book into practice back then.

BE WARNED: If you are one opposed to spanking your children, this book will offend you… a lot. “Use of the rod is not optional with a Bible believer. It is God’s design for proper training.” (p. 54) The Pearl’s are very strong advocates of disciplining children, but only as a supplemental means to children’s training. “A child needs more than ‘obedience training,’ but without first training him, discipline is insufficient.” (p. 4) Children are trained – either by the loving hand or the negligence of their parents – but they are trained nonetheless. The Pearl’s advocate a style of parenting that seems harsh to some (perhaps many), but has certainly born fruit in their family and in those that heed their advice.

As stated earlier, the Pearl’s have some strong opinions that come through this book. They didn’t stand out any less this reading than they did years ago. They believe that homeschooling is not only the best option, but encourage their readers, “Never even consider sending your children to private Christian schools, much less the public, automation factories.” (p. 101) They form the entire basis of the second chapter on a well-intentioned, however unBiblical understanding of the age of accountability. “We know that God will not condemn a child whose moral faculties are not completely operative, but how do parents determine the degree to which the child should be held responsible?” (p. 18) After further exploration (reading their newsletter that releases with their catalog), I feel safe saying his understanding of original sin is very unique and not congruent with orthodox Christianity.

You may be surprised then to discover that I would recommend this book in a heartbeat to parents (with a few theological critiques) – especially parents of an unruly, disobedient child. I know that’s not you, so if you buy it, be sure to tell the clerk that it’s for your neighbor. Their kid’s a complete brat. But I would recommend reading this book alongside something more theologically grounded, such as Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp.

One more thought:

It may or may not be distracting to you that this book only quotes Scripture from the King James Version. The author has a very strong opinion on why that is the best translation. I may disagree, but I’ve also been accused of harboring some fairly strong opinions myself.

UPDATE: If you’d like to post a comment, please don’t try to hide behind anonymity. Your 2 cents isn’t worth anyone’s time if we can’t enter into a dialogue.


  1. Shepherding a Child’s Heart changed they way we parent. I can’t say enough good stuff about that book. I haven’t read To Train Up a Child but I’ve heard people talking about it lately.

  2. Considering the link between good theology and good practice… Considering the implications of our theological beliefs on how we view our children… I am really surprised at how you have recommended TTUAC, your warning about some of their teachings as “not congruent with Orthodox Christianity.”

    I come from a Reformed and Covenantal theological understanding. That has PROFOUNDLY impacted how I mother my children, very dependent upon Christ, very much pointing my children to the Gospel.

    Much of what I see in the Pearl’s writings is not just incongruent, but also antithetical to that.

    I would like to encourage you to consider the implications of various theological presuppositions as it relates to how parents may approach their responsibilities before God for their very small brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    Grace and hope,

    1. Really good thoughts.

      But, do we limit how much we can learn by limiting those we can learn from?

      As I wrote in the post, I LOVED Tripp’s book. I would list Shepherding a Child’s Heart as the parenting textbook (apart from Scripture), and TTUAC as a supplemental reading – helpful, but not of equal value.

  3. This is a tough one for me. I was spanked as a child, but I do not believe it was in the Godly way (even though I was raised in a Christian home), let alone any way that benefited me. In fact, I am still dealing with issues stemming from that twenty years later.

    Even though I am not 100% against spanking (and would never tell anyone else what to do with their kids), I have a really tough time justifying the value compared to the potential damage I could do to my children.

    Thanks for making me think more about it and for your perspective.

    1. With that in kind, I would suggest Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tripp first. That deals with the issue biblically, rather than just assuming agreement.

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