Sean Paddock, 2001 – 2006

Today is the 12th anniversary of the death of Sean Paddock.


Twelve years ago, sweet little Sean Paddock died.  He was just four years old, and at that time my boys were ages five through ten. Like my boys, he had sandy hair and was full of energy and fun. Like my boys, he got into mischief and had to be told to get back in to bed a hundred times.


Sean died of asphyxiation after being wrapped so tightly in blankets that it interfered with his breathing.  His foster/adoptive mother stated that it was to keep him from wandering at night.


Lynn Paddock was convicted of first-degree murder and felony child abuse, and the court later found that Johnny Paddock “aided and abetted” the abuse in the home. The couple agreed that Lynn would “discipline” the children because Johnny had anger issues.  The Paddocks were influenced by Michael and Debi Pearl and their  book “To Train Up a Child.”


Today the Pearls still teach these harmful parenting practices.


Sean Paddock was a victim of what sadly can be too common within the Christian subculture — parents who may want to do everything “right,” but listen to harmful advice and seek to completely control their children under the guise of discipline.


Consider this teaching of the Pearls:

“If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”


The Pearls teach parents that they should use whatever force is necessary to restrain a child, to hold him there until he is surrendered. . . defeat him totally. Using blankets to do that as Lynn Paddock did definitely fits the “spirit” of what is taught, though the Pearls do not give that specific example.


Furthermore, Michael and Debi Pearl promote striking children with “a light, flexible instrument [that] will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument.” The autopsy showed that Sean’s body was covered with “layers of thin, long bruises — old and new — stretch[ing] from Sean’s bottom to his shoulder blade,” consistent with the plumbing supply line and wooden spoon found in the Paddock home.


Sean’s death was twelve years ago.  Why am I still writing about this?


Because we can not allow child abuse in the name of Jesus to continue.


Unfortunately,  Christian parents are still vulnerable to the high-control, “break the will” practices taught under a veneer of biblical-sounding phrases.  The Pearls are not the only ones, but they are still quite prominent.  While these parenting practices don’t usually result in the extreme cases of abuse and death, they commonly cause fractured relationships and  harm.


Christians, we can do better than this.


Christians, we can do better than this.  We MUST do better than this. We need to speak out about the false teachers in the church.  We need to speak out for the least of these.


Equip yourself to raise your children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Serve those in your community who are raising children.  Come alongside those who are struggling.  Seek the Lord.




Good parenting resources:

(Use discernment — You are the parents God gave your children, and no ones knows them or loves them the way you do!  Most, but not all, of these resources are explicitly Christian.)

Clay and Sally Clarkson / Whole Heart Ministries

Dr. Timothy Sisemore / Our Covenant with Kids

Dr. Ross Campbell / Relational Parenting

National Center for Biblical Parenting

L. R. Knost / Jesus, The Gentle Parent

Dr. Laura Markham / Aha! Parenting

Imperfect Families Coaching

Hand in Hand Parenting

Raising Real Men



More about the Pearls / No Greater Joy:

World Magazine, To Brainwash a Parent

Tim Challies, Review of “To Train Up a Child”

Rey Reynoso, An Examination of the Pearl Method

Christianity Today, When Child Discipline Becomes Abuse

Christian Research Institute, Christian Families on the Edge

Why Not Train a Child?: Clearinghouse of Info on the Pearls

C. L. Dyck, Parenting in the Name of God (Theological Analysis)


From the TG archives:

What’s the Fuss about Michael and Debi Pearl?

Biblical Relationships or Behaviourism

On the Pearls and Parenting

Pearls Po-Russki



Remembering Sean Paddock

Remembering Hana Williams

Remembering Lydia Schatz