Jumping Ship (Part Three)

by Michael Pearl
September 2005


   I was one of those children who jumped ship, and I did so for all the reasons you listed. My parents were hypocrites and expected the same from my sister and me.


Dear Mr. Pearl,

   I was one of those children who jumped ship, and I did so for all the reasons you listed. My parents were hypocrites and expected the same from my sister and me. Our family was the perfect Pharisee household, though we “prodigal daughters” tainted that appearance. We never missed a church service; we always helped in church ministry, always witnessed to our neighbors, and kept the Sabbath day holy (if you didn’t count the fighting or abuse that went on behind our closed doors). Believe me, we had everyone fooled. When my sister jumped ship, I went back and told one of my mother’s friends the truth of what our family was really like. She didn’t believe me—I’m telling you we hid the hypocrisy very well. We did not tell, mostly out of fear of more anger and abuse that would come if we let it be known. Pride kept us strong, not God.

   I jumped ship for 2 reasons. The first was to escape home, and I figured I might as well give them something to condemn me for since they were going to condemn me regardless of what I did. Also, part of me longed to know the good Shepherd and to lie down in green pastures. I had to jump ship because I was DETERMINED NEVER to become a Pharisee like my parents—I had to flee. My sister had no choice but to do as I did. Our parents still say it was our choice and they had nothing to do with it!

   They are so blinded by religion and are confident that they trained us right, but that, due to some fault in us, it did not work. Just this past week they were proclaiming that we will one day come around to their way of thinking.

   I love living in the grace I have found in Christ! I love that my kids love me, that my husband and I love each other; I love that I am free to choose joy and hope every day.

   I can attest to the fact that when children are not engaged as vital crew members on a glorious voyage, they do acquire a greater sin than “rebellion.” They become angry, bitter, resentful human beings who are beaten down, broken, and will lash out at all attempts to be loved. Like a runaway dog that was abused all the time, when you try to feed him, he will bite you because he was trained to expect evil.

   Beka was right—it is all about love. You were right—it is all about joy. And where does that come from? It comes from knowing Jesus. I wish my parents could really know Him. God has used you to reach so many, for which I am grateful, and I look forward one day to know that my kids know Him also. –AB


   There it is! Children jump ship because parents make the voyage miserable. Facing that fact is the first step to recovery. When they are trained right, they walk right. And, you should know by now that training is much more than words and warnings, more than principles and precepts. When the example is wrong, the words can never be right, for our own attitude screams louder to them than do our carefully crafted religious words.

   Parenting is the most accurate test of one’s true character. It reveals all the secrets and uncovers all that is hidden. Children reflect the soul of their parents; they manifest the heart that may have been formally concealed behind sophisticated screens and carefully crafted public perceptions. We parents can manipulate the public perceptions, leading others to believe we are something quite different from reality. But, it is our children who become windows to our true selves, often opening the windows wider than we want them to go. They find and expose the real you and tap into and follow that reality as their guide. They bypass our words and emulate our vital centers. If the mother has a “bad” day, all the children will have a bad day, and Dad will have a bad evening. Bad days make bad weeks and bad years, which eventually turn into bad lives.

   It is impossible to become a good parent without experiencing a revival within. There can be no duplicity. Parenting is not like a job where you meticulously follow the procedures and then clock out, knowing that you have played your part well. You can’t do the right thing as a parent without becoming the right person. Your children are just too perceptive to be fooled by outward displays. When parents have a transformation within, good parenting comes naturally, without all the struggle and deliberation. Pure souls living pure lives don’t need a great deal of knowledge about child training to raise good kids. Good children grow out of good soil.

   America needs revival. The Christian church needs revival. The Homeschool family needs revival. Most of all, parents need revival, because the children won’t survive the Sodom in which we live without a revival that changes us from the inside out.

   So, what can I do?

   Many people have written, some of them just a little bit irritated, saying, “OK, there is a problem; my own children are near to jumping ship, so tell us what to do. Give us some practical examples.” They are missing the point. It is not about doing; it is about being. Get real. Love God until the joy of the Lord fills your cup to overflowing. Fall back in love with your spouse (that’s revival!), and enjoy each otherin front of the kids! Let the Holy Spirit create discipline in you so that you use your time wisely and have more time to be with your children. It is a matter of perspective—of where your heart is actually fixed.

   Your children are your legacy, the only one that will endure in future generations.

   Parenting is the most demanding job in the universe. The CEO of a mega company needs to excel in a limited number of areas only, but to be an effective parent requires expertise in many areas. And, more than any other job—more than being a pastor or missionary—it requires purity of soul.

   Nearly everyone comes to parenting with a lot of counterproductive concepts. If God gave us a parenting test before allowing us to have babies, few homes would have a swing set or a box of toys. It seems that you have to be a parent to learn to be a parent, and by then it may be too late to improve your proficiency to do your children any good. Most obstacles that limit children’s potential are set in motion by the parents, and are rooted in their own fears, ego needs, inattentiveness, and unproductive habits. But parents are most often blinded by their ego and careless habits.

   Thankfully, we don’t have to be perfect people, or even especially wise. We don’t have to be thoroughly informed as to all the ins and outs of parenting. We don’t need schooling. We need to be real—consistently realand caring. We need to be there. Everything else will somehow fall into place when our hearts are right. A right heart can make up for a lot of wrong headedness, but great knowledge and understanding can never make up for indifference.


Good will

   You will get a much better response from your children when they perceive that you care more about them than you do about public perception. They are more perceptive than you give them credit for, and they always know your true heart—even when you don’t want them to.

   Your children must be conscious that you really want them to have great experiences. When they see you putting emotional energy into them, they will respond with cooperation and openness. They will be moved by your willingness to invest yourself in their lives. Think of yourself as raising up a manager for your own company—someone to take your place when you are absent, and to assume your position when you are gone and no longer part of the equation. Working together toward common goals eliminates that adversarial relationship that poisons most families and sabotages every effort.

   Sudden changes of heart with big efforts will not impress them. A lot of small gestures add up to big trust. You will create a climate of trust by never hurting—but always caring.


Respect and dignity

   Teens will want to get out of a home that does not treat them with respect and dignity.

   They will want to flee a home where they are not allowed to make a positive impact on the home and their younger siblings. You are not respecting your teenagers when you don’t confide in them, don’t listen to their ideas and treat them with the same seriousness you treat this article you are now reading. The last thing many parents hear as their kids are going over the railing is, “You didn’t listen to me.” Don’t get haughty and tell me how hard you tried and how much you care. Look at your family through the eyes of your children. That’s reality.


Rule by belittling

   Never belittle their efforts or debase their person. Some parents’ leadership style is to demean, to cast their children in a role of unworthiness with the mistaken belief that it was their responsibility to prove by their works that they are indeed worthy. Your role must change from warden to friend. Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15).


Command and Control

   Successful parenting is not found in “ordering” your children to be good and do the right thing; it is achieved in example and attentive organization of their lives. Children cannot be brought to a healthy maturity raised in an atmosphere of fear and punishment. Helping children develop their own persons will produce a family atmosphere and spirit of cooperation that is not possible under command-and-control alone. Children will not mature and develop independent decision-making when raised in an atmosphere where they know nothing more than being ordered to perform, even if doing so produces discipline and order when they are young.



   The secret to teaching children to work is to give them jobs that they will enjoy carrying out. If there is no such job for a particular child, then structure a job with other incentives—like fellowship, or shorter duration—that will make the work pleasant. In the military or a sports team, the first concern of the leaders is the morale of the men and women. When optimism and hope runs high, you have potential winners. Think about the difference it would make if you had eight initiative-takers instead of eight foot-draggers. Give attention to their morale. Never keep pushing if the family has lost its morale.



   The family’s morale will skyrocket when they clearly understand the purpose for their existence. Only then will they cooperate and accept the sacrifices of labor without bickering.

   Don’t allow the family to stagnate in boredom and fear of failure.

   The family should be constantly full of energy. Lack of energy is a ship-jumping waiting to happen. They need to share a compelling vision for their work, a good reason to believe it is important. An enthusiastic parent makes an enthusiastic work force.



   Children are not happy if they are not given increasing responsibility. We humans are by nature always in need of reaching higher, stretching just beyond our reach. And we are not happy unless we’re regularly doing so. Give your teens all the responsibility they can handle, and then step back and let them try. Define the parameters in which they are allowed to operate, and then set them free to experiment, including failing (without fear of punishment).

   Trust is a powerful incentive. Create an atmosphere that allows a child who makes a mistake to admit to it and take responsibility without recrimination. He can then use his energies to improve his performance rather than falling into the self-defeating trap of excuse-making. Kids make excuses when the consequences don’t allow any way out. They can start fresh with experiences that will enable them not to make the same mistake again.


Respecting authority

   Achieving goals is important, but how you arrive at them is more important. It is imperative that you do not undermine others whom your children should be respecting as authorities. And if your children see you acting contrary to the authority you are under, they will feel more free to not support you when they disagree with your policies.


Elevating your children

   You know when you are in the presence of someone dedicated to elevating you. And, you also know when someone with a hidden agenda proceeds to tear you down, to humble you, to see you admit that you are wrong, and to make you try harder to win their approval. You don’t want to be around them. No doubt they think they are on a mission of righteousness, that they have a calling from God to hold up a higher standard, and you are their mission field. It stinks, doesn’t it?

   Instead of tearing your children down to make them submissive to your commands, build them up so you don’t have to give them commands. Your job as a parent and the principal educator is to create a climate that enables them to unleash their potential. Given the right environment, you will be surprised at what they are capable of achieving.

   Our constant drive should be to make them grow taller, to elevate them, not with flattering words but with space to grow, the opportunity to fail and to try again without shame or embarrassment. When your children see you taking pleasure in helping them develop and grow, they will take pleasure in doing the same with their siblings and with others. When they feel you have been patient with their failures, they will be patient with yours. When your children are hard on you, know for a certainty that you have been hard on them.


Starting over

   Raise your kids as if your getting to heaven was based on their good works and good attitudes. You want to get down to the bitter root? Ask them, “What do you like most…least about the home; what would you change if you could?” The answer will give you a chance to reexamine your own policies and attitudes as well as to provide an opportunity to instruct your children in ways that will give them fresh perspectives on your goals and your reasons. When you listen to your children, you will come to respect them as people, and they will go along with your policies without grumbling, knowing that they have been heard and their views considered. They will greatly appreciate it when you find out what their goals are and then help them to get there. There is creativity and growth in providing and clarifying information. Those who have it, prosper. Those who don’t, stagnate. They have hopes and dreams and need to understand why what they are doing is important—how it relates to the big picture. Optimism and pessimism are twins, and are equally infectious in the home. Parents set the tone and spirit of the family according to one twin or the other.


Repent, or watch your children perish

   This writer understands that there is more preacher and prophet in him than therapist. I do not seek to make you feel good about yourself. My goal is not to encourage you, but to inform you of your failures and to call you to repentance before God. It would be nice if, in reading my remarks, you would learn one more helpful principle or technique and successfully apply it to your children’s training. But, if you would simply repent and become a disciple of the man from Nazareth, if you were filled with the Holy Spirit of God, you would always have One to teach you, and there would be a sudden and radical shift in your entire life—including your relationship to your children. There it is, nothing held back. I cannot do otherwise.

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