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Raising Godly Tomatoes Paperback – December 7, 2007
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About the Author
Elizabeth is a Christian homeschooling mother of ten children, ages 7 to 27. She lives with her children and her husband of 30 years, in the state of Michigan. She enjoys quilting, riding horses and playing her violin. She also spends much of her spare time encouraging parents daily via her website at RaisingGodlyTomatoes.com. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I not only know Mrs. Krueger, I grew up with her and her children: for 8 years I (and my family) were a part of the same fundamentalist cult that she and her family still belong to. I'd like to provide some valuable perspective on what it is like to grow up under this kind of child "training", and the kind of damage it does to children.
Mrs. Krueger's child-training methods are not original to her, or just "common sense", as she claims: they come directly from a man named Joe LaQuiere who was the leader of our cult up until he died this past year (she mentions him and his wife in her book as a "godly older couple" who gave them advice). This cult to which Mrs. Krueger and her family still belong is an insular, legalistic group with neo-Jewish practices, such as eating no pork products, celebrating the Sabbath (Saturday), condemnation of Christmas trees for being "pagan", as well as using emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse to control its members. Having lived through it from age 6 to 14, and having family members who are still a part of this cult, gives me a unique insider's perspective, which will hopefully provide you with enough information about the damaging and evil results of this method of "child-training" that you will help in warning against it, as it has become far too popular in the ultra-conservative, homeschooling movement, which is beginning to see a whole generation of survivors speak up about the abuses they've experienced, and give warning to the dangers inherent to the homeschooling community.
I am going to quote here both from Mrs. Krueger's book, and from an article she wrote at the same time as her book.
Here is the first quote from her book. Mrs. Krueger writes:
"Let me share my experience with my third born...One day we were visiting some close friends and he decided to exert his new found power. He blatantly refused to come to Dad when Dad called him. He ignored Dad and continued playing with our friend's telephone instead, about six feet from where my husband and I were sitting. The friends we were visiting were excellent parents and offered their advice, which we readily accepted. They coached us to outlast him, instructing Dad to keep calling him. When he didn't budge, Dad was directed to go over to him, administer a little swat on the bottom (over clothes and a diaper), then return to where he'd been sitting and call him again. We were encouraged to repeat this, pausing appropriately between repeats, until he obeyed us...Finally, after approximately an hour and a half, he began to cry and take a few steps toward us, but he still refused to come all the way. He still did not want to totally give up the power he had enjoyed exerting over us. Each time he took a few steps toward us then stopped, we would replace him back by the phone and call him to come to us again. We devoted the next half hour to making sure he obeyed completely, not just partially...This one outlasting session had a considerable and exciting long-term impact on our child. He clearly learned he was under our authority and must always obey us...The initial two-hour ordeal never needed repeating."
These "friends" who were "excellent parents" that she refers to are Joe LaQuiere and his wife, her mentors, and they are the people who taught her to use the methods in her book (as well as much more abusive methods which they themselves used on children, including my own siblings). This method of teaching toddlers to obey by spanking them...and then repeating...and repeating...and repeating...for 2 straight hours....or as long as it takes (which is what she means by "outlasting them" - a concept she refers to many times in her book)...is exactly the kind of child-training my family and I experienced in the cult to which we both belonged at the time. I'd like to share one more quote, this one from her online article that she wrote at the same time as her book. This article is from "Christian Moms of Many Blessings" (http://www.cmomb.com/child-training/). I quote a portion of what Mrs. Krueger writes:
"Don't be afraid of a confrontation. It is helpful to set up a confrontational situation in the case of a toliler [my note: I think this is a typo for "toddler"] who is "out of control." For example, tell him to sit on the couch next to you. When he tries to get down, give him a firm swat on the bottom and say, "No" in an `I mean business' tone. Continue this every time he tries to get down until he stops trying. If he actually makes it off the couch, tell him to climb back up himself, if he is big enough, or replace him if needed. Don't restrain him. Don't give in. Ignore his crying. You are not done until he sits there quietly for as long as you want him to without resisting. Let him fall asleep if he likes. Even after he stops resisting, don't let him down too soon. Ten or 20 minutes or even an hour is not too long. Once you have done this, continue to expect him to obey everything you tell him to do."
Both this method and the method described earlier by her in her book were used to train young toddlers, as young as one year old, in our cult. These methods in particular were used on my little brother, Joshua, during one of the "training sessions" that Mrs. Krueger's mentor, Joe LaQuiere, conducted in order to teach his followers how to train "obedient" children. Joshua was made to sit on my mom or dad's lap, and spanked every time he tried to get down. He was a bright and happy baby, but very stubborn. He didn't want to give in, but kept on trying to get down, and getting spanked for it, over, and over, and over, and over. He'd cry and cry, but he wasn't allowed to be comforted until he "submitted" and gave in. The goal was to get him to "sit there quietly for as long as you want him to without resisting", as Mrs. Krueger wrote. This "training" session started in the afternoon, and went on...all afternoon...and evening...late into the night. It was 2 or 3 in the morning before Joe LaQuiere okay-ed stopping for the night. At this point they had been "training" him to sit still and not cry for over 6 hours. He was not allowed to nurse during this time, or to see his mother (my mom), because that would "comfort him", and they wanted him to be miserable until he gave in and obeyed. You may think "a small swat on the bottom" does not sound over-the-top for a small toddler as a way to get them to sit quietly (as if toddlers were created to "sit quietly" - their nature, and their developmental needs, as any child psychologist can tell you, require them to explore, not sit quietly for hours). What about spanking them over...and over...and over...for 6 hours straight? Does that sound abusive? Mrs. Krueger's methods (really, Joe LaQuiere's methods) say that you CANNOT GIVE UP until your child (or baby) submits to you and obeys, no matter how long that takes. If it takes all night, so be it. If it takes dozens, or a hundred spankings, so be it. This is not training, this is child abuse. My one-year-old brother Josh was subjected to this "training" day after day, until he finally, sullenly, gave in, and was now a "well-trained" baby, who would sit quietly on demand, and not try to get down and play in normal toddler fashion. In a few short months, he went from a bubbly, laughing one-year-old to a quiet, sullen, baby who rarely smiled. He was mostly silent from then on: he didn't speak until he was nearly 4. Joe LaQuiere, (who, remember, is Mrs. Krueger's mentor, and the one who taught her these methods) said Joshua was an exceptionally "rebellious" baby, and it was necessary to discipline the "rebelliousness" out of him until his will was broken.
See, Mrs. Krueger's book, and her advice, is really the somewhat-milder face of Joe LaQuiere's teaching: the public face, if you will. She watched more violent abuse occur, and was taught that it was acceptable: babies having their faces stuffed into couch cushions to teach them not to cry - children being beaten mercilessly with "The Paddle", not once, as she writes in her book, but often 20 or 30 times. Children being dragged by their hair, thrown against walls, or dangled in the air by their throats. My own siblings endured all of these abuses, and I was made to watch.
Mrs. Krueger, whether or not she treated her own children quite this severely, watched this abuse happen to other children, and agreed with it. Her book is merely the milder, public face of private child abuse, because she knows that some of the stricter methods taught by Joe LaQuiere would be too unpalatable to put in print, as well as likely to land her (and him) in trouble with law enforcement. But make no mistake that it occurs. To be fair, Mrs. Krueger and her husband I don't believe followed every child "training" (abuse) method that Joe LaQuiere taught: she and her family are best friends with him (one of her daughters is even married to one of Joe LaQuiere's sons), and while their methods differ somewhat in severity, the principle is the same: OBEDIENCE is paramount, and it is of little importance HOW you get your children to obey, or how often you must beat them, as long as the end result is IMMEDIATE, UNQUESTIONING obedience, from children of any age, even through adulthood. THIS is the goal (which is in itself a very bad goal) and the methods used to achieve it, as touted by Joe LaQuiere, through the mouthpiece of Mrs. Krueger, are cruel and damaging.
To this day, I suffer panic attacks and horrible flashbacks to watching my brothers and sisters abused through this method of child-rearing. I grew up emotionally-stunted, being taught that 'a cheerful face' was the only acceptable expression, and that any negative emotions I felt, like anger, or sadness, or frustration, were sin, and needed to be corrected. Thus I learned to disassociate myself from my emotions, effectively divorcing them from my conscious mind, which is a process I am still trying, with the help of therapy, to undo. The children, including those in my family, who grew up under these methods, are emotionally unstable; are fearful of and often unable to make their own decisions; are unable to move into independent adulthood without the constant guidance of parents telling them what to do; and worst of all, have a false and damaging picture of who God is, and who they are meant to be.
After leaving the cult that Mrs. Krueger belongs to, I was confused, depressed, and suicidal. I believed that God was an angry God who despised me for not reaching His standards of perfection. I learned nothing about grace through this experience. Thank God, I discovered it after I left, and realized that God does not treat us like Joe LaQuiere and Mrs. Krueger do their children: punishing every crime and dealing out justice until we are perfect. Instead, He already provided the perfect righteousness that we can never achieve through Jesus, and gave us in one fell swoop, a perfect record and status with him, and complete forgiveness of all sins, past and future! He doesn't demand perfect performance from us to gain His acceptance. We are not "spanked" until we learn to obey Him instantly, with no questions, and with a false smile. Instead, He loves on us, extravagantly, and at great personal cost to Himself, in order to draw us to Himself...by LOVE. LOVE is what calls us to CHOOSE to obey Him - not repeated punishment, or the fear that He will only "enjoy us" as long as we fulfill the letter of His law. THIS is how we need to treat our children: with the same mercy and grace that God showers on us. To follow Mrs. Krueger's method instead will give our children an outward layer of "goodness", on which they think their acceptance by God depends, while inwardly they remain full of sin and darkness, needing God's redeeming love and GRACE to flood in and wash them clean! Mrs. Krueger's book and methods create little Pharisees: looking pretty good on the outside, but with aching hearts inside, knowing the misery of never being "good enough". Thank God we don't HAVE to be "good enough" for Him: we already are, thanks to the sacrifice He made for us!
Please PLEASE do not buy this book, or use these methods on your children!! Try instead something like "Families where Grace is in Place", or "Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Children with the Love of Jesus" both EXCELLENT books! Leave Mrs. Krueger's book where it belongs...forgotten, gathering dust in her basement somewhere, while your children flourish in the LOVE and GRACE of God!
If you have any questions, or would like to ask me specifics about why Mrs. Krueger's methods are so damaging, please feel free to email me at email@example.com! I'd love to talk with you :)
Here is a disturbing extract (her daughter is 4 years old at the time of this incident):
"One night I took her up to her room to prepare for bed. I wanted her help in tidying up her room first, so I handed her a book and told her to put it away on the bookshelf downstairs. She scurried off and came right back. Then I asked her to put her shoes in the mudroom closet; again she quickly ran off to do what I said. So when she came back, I tucked her into bed and kissed her good night with a little hug and a "job well done."
Returning downstairs, I noticed the book, not on the shelf, but on the fireplace hearth next to the shelf. I thought perhaps she just misunderstood or forgot exactly what I'd told her. Then I noticed the shoes, setting neatly outside the closet door, not inside. That's when it struck me that she had not been obeying me with her whole heart. She had tried to get away with something -- to only partially comply with my requests. She had intentionally misplaced those items in a way that she thought would not get her into trouble. Well 'almost' obeying is not obeying at all. I hated to do it, but I woke her up, spanked her, told her flatly that she had disobeyed, and I made her "fix" each one of her little "mistakes.""
This is not good parenting. This is harmful and abusive. Kids deserve better than this and we as parents can do better than this.