Dead child's mom sought discipline tips
Lynn Paddock ordered books by a minister and his wife that recommended using pipe to spank kids

Mandy Locke, Staff Writer

A few years ago, Lynn Paddock sought Christian advice on how to discipline her growing brood of adopted children.

March 16, 2006 I  North Carolina I  A Johnston County mother accused of murdering Sean, her 4-year-old adopted son, and beating two other
adopted children -- surfed the Internet, said her attorney, Michael Reece. She found literature by an evangelical minister and his wife who recommended using plumbing supply lines to spank misbehaving children.

Paddock ordered Michael and Debi Pearl's books and started spanking her adopted children as suggested. After Sean, the youngest of Paddock's six adopted children, died last month, his older sister and brother told investigators about Paddock's spankings.

Sean's 9-year-old brother was beaten so badly he limped, a prosecutor said. Bruises marred Sean's backside, too, doctors found.

Sean died after being wrapped so tightly in blankets he suffocated. That, too, was a form of punishment, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

The Pearls' advice from their Web site: A swift whack with the plastic tubing would sting but not bruise. Give 10 licks at a time, more if the child resists. Be careful about using it in front of others -- even at church; nosy neighbors might call social workers. Save hands for nurturing, not disciplining. Heed the warning, taken from Proverbs in the Old Testament, that sparing the rod will spoil the child.

Paddock and other moms in her rural Baptist church chatted about the Pearls' strategies for rearing obedient children, Reece said.

"I think she was trying to do the right thing by her children," he said.

Paddock, 45, faces a possible lifetime behind bars or execution if convicted of causing Sean's death.

Paddock seems to have carefully followed the Pearls' teachings. Investigators found 2-foot lengths of plumbing supply line in several rooms of her remote farmhouse.

The Pearls offer shopping advice on their Web site, "You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility will keep the kids in line."

The Pearls' first book, "To Train Up a Child," has sold more than 400,000 copies since it was published in 1994, according to Mel Cohen, general manager of the Pearls' business, No Greater Joy Ministries. After the book came out, so many readers wrote in with questions that the Pearls started a newsletter. Every two months, Cohen said, the Pleasantville, Tenn.-based ministry mails more than 60,000 newsletters to parents around the world.

The Pearls declined to be interviewed. "They feel the material speaks for itself," Cohen said.

Christian evangelicals who, like the Pearls, teach the importance of corporal punishment have loyal followers. The results are tangible, said Dot Ehlers, executive director of a Smithfield nonprofit who teaches parenting skills to mothers and fathers referred to them by the Johnston County Department of Social Services. She said about a quarter of the 60 parents she instructs each week say their faith defends and encourages corporal punishment.

The Pearls' techniques helped Sandy Hicks, a mother in Texas who said she was desperate to restore peace in her home.

"Some people would rather spend an hour reasoning with a defiant 5-year-old instead of requiring the kid to behave and giving him a swat if he doesn't," said Hicks, who said she has used a peach-tree switch to spank her four children. "Some people are just queasy about swatting their kids."

The Pearls' teachings helped mobilize another group of Christian parents to speak out against such corporal punishment. The Web site rails against the Pearls' first book; the Web site's founders, Susan and Steve Lawrence of Virginia, say the book "reads like a child abuse manual." The Web site encourages parents to post critical reviews of the book on

Some of the Pearls' defenders say you can't blame them for parents who take their advice to an unhealthy extreme.

Gena Suarez, publisher of a magazine for home-schooling parents that publishes advertisements for the Pearls' books, said their teachings are often inappropriately used to defend child abuse.

"[The Pearls] are talking about something that would fit in a purse," Suarez said. "The only way you can kill a child with that is by shoving it down his throat."

The Pearls acknowledge that discipline turns to abuse when the "child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued ..."

The minister advises one mother on his Web site: "I always give myself one swat before I swat the child to remind myself how much force to exert. It stings the skin without bruising or damaging tissue. It's a real attention-getter."

Return to Hell Camps For Jesus?


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Statement by the director of Wake County Child Welfare Services on the death of Sean Paddock
Autopsy reveals child was tied
Tot is laid to rest amid questions
Dead boy's mother accused before
Mother charged in death of boy

Social Workers Couldn't Confirm Allegations That Mother Abused Adopted Son
Lynn Paddock
Grand Jury Indicts Adoptive Mother On First-Degree Murder Charges
Child Calls 911 From Home Where Boy Died
4-Year-Old's Relatives Want Answers On How Adoption Happened
Author Says Johnston Mother "Disobedient" In Child's Death


Log of Fatal and Severe Abuses to Adopted Children


Michael and Debi Pearl: No Greater Joy Ministries
Rick Ross: Evangelistic Cults

Wake County Child Fatality Prevention Team/County Child Protection Team Report on Sean Paddock
Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child

Saying no to "timeouts," some fundamentalist Christians "train up" their children by carefully hitting them with switches, PVC pipes and other "chastening instruments."


SALON.COM  I  MAY 26, 2006 I   As a young, new, Christian parent, Meggan Judge, 26, of Anchorage, Alaska, was looking for guidance in raising "Godly children." She found advice that clicked for her when a friend loaned her a popular -- and controversial -- Christian parenting book called "To Train Up a Child," written in 1994 by Tennessee pastor Michael Pearl with his wife, Debi, who claim to have raised five "whineless" children. At the book's core is the notion that when parents "train" a child to obey early on -- even before he or she is able to make conscious, or conscience-based, decisions -- home will be a place of peace and harmony. Here, the term "train" is a reference to Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Neither Pearl has advanced training in child development or a related field. "These truths," the tall, white-beaded Michael Pearl, 60, writes in his book, "are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, [but] rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children."

As you may have guessed, the Amish do not train their mules by giving them "timeouts." Judge and her husband followed the Pearls' advice when trying to train their infant son Noah not to grab forbidden objects: "Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, 'No.' Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough," reads the book. "They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence."

Problem was, Noah didn't learn so fast. By the time he was almost 2, neither the word "no" nor a swat on the hand were getting through to him. "I remember thinking how stubborn he was, and that he was a smart baby and should understand what we were doing. He was obviously being defiant. Obviously, I wasn't switching him enough," Judge says sarcastically. "So I did it more." Contrary to the Pearls' advice to use an object and never, ever to strike in anger, Judge used her hand, so as to better gauge the strength of the blows. When her hand got sore, she used a wooden spoon.

By this point, Judge had another baby -- and, though she didn't realize it at the time, a case of postpartum depression. One summer day it became clear to her that the Pearls' advice and her own rages were a toxic combination: Judge had to lock Noah in a separate room for fear she would "beat him senseless," she says. "I just wanted to know when that damn 'peace' the Pearls talk about was going to come."

While the Pearls are well known in fundamentalist Christian circles, they were largely unknown to the secular world until March, when their discipline methods were tied to the death of a North Carolina boy and the alleged abuse of two of his siblings. As reported by Mandy Locke of the Raleigh News & Observer, the children's adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, 45, a devotee of the Pearls' teachings, is currently behind bars. She is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Sean, who suffocated when wrapped tightly in blankets, reportedly to keep him from hopping out of bed. She is also charged with felony child abuse in connection with welts found on two of Sean's other five siblings. Nowhere in the Pearls' book do they advocate restraining with blankets; however, Sean's siblings had apparently been struck with a particular type of "rod" recommended by the Pearls: a length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line.

Paddock's attorney, Michael Reece, confirmed to Salon that Paddock owned "To Train Up a Child" and was a devotee of the Pearls' teachings. He maintains that Sean's death was accidental and that there's a difference between corporal punishment -- which he acknowledges may be "unpopular" -- and abuse. And actually, Paddock's connection to the Pearls may serve as part of Reece's defense of his client. "She's following a recognized philosophy even if it's not a mainstream one. The only one who advocates the PVC pipe is Pearl, " he says. "You can pull a switch off a tree all day long. There's no other reason to buy a PVC pipe -- that's clearly from him."

For the Pearls and advocates of Christian child "training," obedience is next to godliness. For their detractors, fellow Christians and home-schoolers among them, corporal punishment is akin to child abuse -- and to them, the Paddock case proves it. ("Christian," here and throughout, indicates fundamentalist or evangelical Protestants.) Outrage sparked by the case has fired up the blogosphere, bringing impassioned new attention to what is actually not an entirely new debate. Parents, religious and otherwise, have argued the merits and dangers of spanking since the invention of children. When it comes to physical "training" as essential to "biblical" child-raising, the Pearls are neither pioneers nor renegades; for fundamentalist Christians, corporal punishment -- or, as the Pearls prefer, "chastisement" -- is neither a fresh nor a fringe concept. But what's clear is that today, the controversy over biblical child-rearing is more than a family matter. Especially to its supporters, child "training" is yet another battleground in the culture wars.

As the Pearls, their advocates, and supporters of similar Christian parenting approaches appear to see it, child "training" serves, in part, as a bulwark against "modern," liberal, secular, permissive, "child-centered" parenting -- the touchy-feely stuff of timeouts that, they suggest, spoils children into believing in a boundary-free world that revolves around them. "Pearl and others in their camp associate permissive parenting and the assumed moral laxity that it produces with non-biblical, humanist or naive understandings of human nature. It's 'us,' the true believers, against 'them,' the secularists and anyone else who has fallen under their influence," says Mark Justad, senior lecturer in religion and society and executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt University. "It's all part of the larger picture of returning our whole culture to godliness." Or at least preserving godliness in one's own family, safe from the "crusade" launched by "spanking abolitionists," safe from the influence of the corrupt, and corrupting, secular world.

"If you want a child who will integrate into the New World Order and wait his turn in line for condoms, a government funded abortion, sexually transmitted disease treatment, psychological evaluation and a mark on the forehead," writes Pearl in "To Train Up a Child," "then follow the popular guidelines in education, entertainment and discipline, but if you want a son or daughter of God, you will have to do it God's way."
Illustration by Mignon Khargie /
Next Page:  According to the Pearls, the rod is "Magic"

Teen Advocates USA will be following and reporting on the trial of N.C. v. Lynn Paddock along with several other trials that focus on
CHILD ABUSE, NEGLECT and EXPLOITATION IN AMERICA.  Please check back soon for further details.  - Barbe Stamps

No Greater Joy Ministries

This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. It is apparent that most parents never attempt to train a child to obey. They wait until the child becomes unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice. As you come to understand the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family--no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total obedience from your children.  Any parent with an emotional maturity level higher than the average thirteen-year-old can, with a proper vision and knowledge of the technique, have happy obedient children. This is not a theory; it is a practical reality which has been successfully applied many times over.


Timeline: How Sean and his siblings ended up living with Johnny and Lynn Paddock.

SEPTEMBER 2001: Sean is born; Wake County Human Services is involved with the infant's family after investigating reports that Sean's father, Dwayne Ford, was abusively disciplining his stepson.

DECEMBER 2002: Sean's day care teacher called social workers when the infant arrived shivering, his lips blue from the cold. Social workers found no heat in the home; Sean's uncle Ron Ford Jr. takes in the children but has to give them up six months later when finances become too strained.

MARCH 2003: Sean's father is charged with abusing the boy's siblings. (Dwayne Ford later pleads guilty. He is put on probation and ordered to stay away from the children.)

JUNE 2003: Sean and his siblings move into a Wake County foster home.

SEPTEMBER 2004: After several attempts to reunite the children with their birth mother, social workers give up, and they are legally severed from her care. The children are available for adoption.

OCTOBER 2004: Children's Home Society lines up Johnny and Lynn Paddock, a Johnston County couple who have adopted three other foster children through the private agency, to adopt the Ford children.

JANUARY 2005: Sean and his siblings first visit the Paddocks' farm outside Smithfield. Sean returns from the weekend visit with a bruise on his backside. Lynn Paddock said he fell off a bunk bed. He and his siblings said Paddock whipped him for playing with the family dog.

FEBRUARY 2005: Social workers conclude that Sean tumbled from the bunk bed and the Ford children resume their visits to the Paddock farm.

JULY 2005: The adoption is completed.

FEBRUARY 2006: Sean suffocates after being tightly bundled in blankets. Investigators determine Lynn Paddock has been spanking the children with plastic plumbing supply line. Lynn Paddock is charged with first-degree murder and child abuse. She remains jailed in Johnston County.

This book (To Train Up A Child) reads like a child abuse manual.   Throughout the book, the Pearls recommend whipping *infants* and young children on their bare skin.  They do this for "obedience training," and compare it to training a dog or mule to obtain "instant, unquestioning obedience." They say ALL children need to be whipped with a "rod." They clearly dislike babies calling them "tyrants" "terrorists" ,  "whining, spoiled brats" and "devious", with "criminal minds".  According to the Pearls' sick thinking, babies are determined to make parents' lives "as miserable as possible."

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Sean Ford (Paddock)