Mother calls for publication to be banned

An outraged mum has launched a campaign to ban from public libraries a book that instructs parents to withhold food and whip their children with branches and belts.

Auckland Libraries stocks one copy of To Train Up a Child, the controversial book penned by American ministers Michael and Debi Pearl in 1994.

The book, which also tells parents to use a garden hose on children who have soiled their pants, has previously caused international outrage and has been linked to three deaths and numerous cases of child abuse in the United States.

West Auckland mother Eileen Joy learned this week the book was in Auckland Libraries' system and launched an online petition on Friday to have it withdrawn. Last night, more than 1,000 people had put their names to the campaign.

To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.
To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.

Joy, who previously managed Borders Books in the UK, was dismayed the book had been paid for with rate-payer money.

"I have done enough research about this book over the years to know how terrible it is, but I never thought it would be brought here," Joy said. "One of the recommendations is to pull the hair of a 3-month-old if they bite during breastfeeding. It is assault."

Other recommendations in To Train Up a Child tell parents of misbehaving children to "use whatever force is necessary".

Implements for training a 6-year-old include a light wooden spoon, rubber spatula, flexible tubing less than a quarter inch in diameter, or any instrument that will cause an unpleasant sting without leaving any marks. It suggested using belts and branches on older children.

The book has been in the library system since 2012, after a customer request. It has been borrowed 10 times and two people are on a waiting list.

In 2011, Whitcoulls removed To Train Up a Child from its online store after complaints from family groups.

Louise LaHatte of Auckland Libraries acknowledged the book was "divisive", but said the libraries were committed to the principle of "freedom of access to information".

She said the service would not "suppress or remove material on the grounds that it gives offence".


Neither Wellington nor Hamilton libraries had the book.

Anthea Simcock of Child Matters was also outraged a public library would buy the book.

"This is not about causing offence. It is about using ratepayers' money to buy a book that tells parents to break New Zealand laws," she said.

"It is rationalising sadistic and inappropriate behaviour of poor and uncaring parenting."

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said he "wouldn't read it".

"Hitting children in New Zealand is illegal because it is wrong, it does harm and it doesn't work."

Wills said children who were "raised with love and praise" were more likely to excel as opposed to those who grew up around threats and physical discipline.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification said it had had a complaint about the book and would look at classifying it if someone asked.