There are numerous web forums, Facebook groups, and blogs dedicated to the religious beliefs of the Duggar family, and one oft-discussed topic on these websites is the Duggars' connection to controversial Christian authors Michael and Debi Pearl. The Pearls are advocates of corporal punishment, and they made headlines a few years ago when their writings about using physical means to "train" children were linked to multiple deaths.
According to Chicago Now, the Duggars promoted the Pearls' books years ago on their family blog. The former 19 Kids and Counting stars have deleted the post encouraging fans to purchase "family-friendly" books like How to Train Up a Child and Created to Be His Help Meet, but it can still be seen on the Internet Archive. Patheos has shared a few quotes from How to Train Up a Child, in which the Pearls write that children as young as 4-months-old should be whipped on their bare skin if they cry. They also encourage parents to sit on their children while they're spanking them and to whip toddlers until they are "totally broken." The Pearls warn parents who don't spank or whip their child that they are "creating a Nazi," and they say that parents should "rejoice" if their child gets bullied.
Longtime Duggar watchers have long wondered whether the famous family still supports the Pearls, who have been accused of promoting child abuse. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar haven't mentioned Michael and Debi Pearl in years, but the family of Joy-Anna Duggar's husband, Austin Forsyth, is about to host the couple at their sprawling property in the Arkansas Ozarks. The Duggar Family News: Life Is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Facebook page recently reported that the Pearls are holding an event at the Fort Rock Family Camp. The camp is a replica of an Old West town, and it's owned and operated by Joy-Anna Duggar's father-in-law, who is pictured in the photo below.
"The Duggars favorite local family camp, Fort Rock, has hired the Pearls to speak at the camp. This is the camp that Joy's hubby parents own and run. I'm sure Joy and Austin work at the camp quite a bit too. This is also the only place that will hire Jim Bob and Michelle to speak, other than IBLP family conferences, since the scandals."
Pickles and Hairspray is calling for a boycott of Fort Rock Family Camp and the Pearls' books.
The description of the Pearls' event on the Fort Rock website says nothing about the couple's controversial beliefs. Instead, it touts the many outdoor activities that families can partake in during their four-day stay, including hiking, horseback riding, and paddle boating.
According to Parenting, Debi and Michael Pearls' promotion of corporal punishment has been tied to the deaths of three children. The parents of one 7-year-old girl followed their child-rearing advice and ended up beating the little girl to death with a piece of plastic plumbing tube. As reported by the New York Times, this flexible tubing is one of the items that the Pearls recommend using as a switch to hit children with. Others include belts and large tree branches.Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar haven't spoken about spanking their children, but one child did tell police that the parents used "a rod" to punish them. According to Gawker, this revelation can be found in the police reports that In Touch Weekly obtained in 2015. The authorities were investigating the sexual molestation that four Duggar girls had suffered at the hands of the older brother Josh, and one of the children told them that Jim Bob and Michelle spanked all of their kids.
However, in a TLC blog post, Michelle Duggar writes that her secret to dealing with "strong-willed children" is to be "fun but loving" and patiently explain to them why they should obey her. She claims that she does this until the message gets through, and she says nothing about resorting to using a rod.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages spanking children or using other physical forms of punishment because it "teaches aggressive behavior." Corporal punishment has also been linked to "a range of mental health problems."