The Duggar family has come under scrutiny over the past year after it was revealed that their oldest son, Josh Duggar, had molested his sisters as a teen. However, the criticism has gone beyond the issues surrounding Josh and left many wondering if Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s discipline methods could be to blame for their son’s behavior. Many have called the Duggar practice of “blanket training” a form of child abuse and say that the family’s use of “the rod” could also be detrimental to the children raised in the Duggar home.
However, are the Duggars really using the “abusive” method of blanket training outlined in the Pearl’s book “To Train Up A Child?” Or have the Duggars discipline methods been misconstrued over the years? Let’s take a look at all of the times that the Duggars have mentioned discipline techniques and “training” methods.
Like many things in the Duggar family’s lives, the exact discipline methods used by the family are somewhat cryptic. In fact, the methods described by Michelle Duggar on how to raise a child seem to fall in line with the attachment parenting and gentle parenting movement. This would be completely counter to the claims that the family uses the To Train Up a Child method of child rearing.
Gentle parenting and attachment parenting are the philosophies that children thrive when raised in a natural, gentle way, following a mother’s basic instincts. Michelle’s practices of breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping with the infant in a bassinet right beside her bed, or even having the baby in bed with her, are all attachment parenting techniques that are also popular for those adhering to gentle parenting. These aspects of the Duggar family’s “attachment parenting” practices are confirmed on the TLC series 19 Kids and Counting, as Michelle was almost always seen with her baby swaddled near her body and feeding on demand. However, as the children left infancy, some questioned whether Michelle continued her “gentle” parenting ways or moved to a widely criticized method of blanket training presented by the Pearls in To Train Up a Child.
In the video above, it seems that Michelle is using the gentle parenting approach by using a soft voice to attempt to redirect her children’s attention and to request appropriate actions to be taken. These outtakes were uploaded by the Discovery Channel and show Michelle calmly allowing the children to misbehave while she spoke with the cameraman. The children don’t seem fearful of Michelle’s reaction to their misbehavior and continue to disobey as a calm Michelle directs them to behave. The scene is completely chaotic as the children struggle to sit still. This particular video seems to indicate that gentle parenting was being utilized and that the children were not fearful of a physical repercussion for their behavior and would support Michelle’s claims that she tries to redirect children’s bad behavior and praise good behavior.
One blogger notes that Michelle Duggar is the role model on gentleness and says that Michelle helped her to become a more gentle parent.
“Michelle Duggar is a role model in the area of gentleness.”
The blogger, Courtney, says she met Michelle Duggar and wrote down some things she learned from the patient woman. She says that Michelle encouraged other mothers to defeat anger and to not let it destroy a mother-child relationship. Michelle encourages mothers to lower their voice when they are angry instead of raising it. Michelle also notes that when she is most angry, she will take her voice down to almost a whisper, as she says soft voices defuse the situation, whereas loud voices encourage anger. These methods would also be consistent with a gentle parenting approach and seem to indicate that Michelle is, at least on the surface, promoting women to use a gentle method of praise instead of criticism when dealing with children.
However, there are other things that seem to raise red flags in the Duggar home that indicate that gentle parenting may not be the only method used. Although Michelle notes herself as a gentle parent, the Duggars have also openly stated that spanking is biblical and the police report from the Josh Duggar molestation investigation reveals that at least one of the Duggar children admitted to his parents using “a rod” to spank them on occasion. However, the child says that “the rod” never left bruises. The extent of which the “rod” is used is unknown because the family does not mention it. In fact, Michelle goes out of her way to ensure she doesn’t mention spanking even when pressed.
In one interview, Michelle is asked directly if she spanks her children but she never really answers. Instead, she focuses on positive reinforcement and encouragement.
“We have people ask us that all the time. We’ve really chosen to focus on praising our kids for good character, for Godly character. And as we do that, we find that we have a lot less trouble with correction when we are constantly looking for ways to praise them. When we see them do a kind deed we praise them publicly. We always say, “You deserve praise.” You praise someone publicly, but if you’re going to have to correct someone, you correct them privately. You take them aside and talk to them privately so that you don’t humiliate them in front of people.”
Therefore, it seems that while Michelle focuses on praising her children for their positive actions, she is not ready to openly share how she handles the negative actions. She confirms that she praises 10 times more than she criticizes, but she does not disclose whether spanking is common practice in the home when criticism does take place.
She openly admits to using blanket training to teach her children to remain “quiet and still” when needed but has not disclosed if the method of blanket training the family uses falls in line with the To Train Up a Child method outlined by the Pearls. In the Pearls method, the parent is instructed to hit the child on the leg with a ruler or flexible rod if they attempt to leave a blanket that was placed on the floor. However, in the Duggar family’s blanket training overview, they simply note that blanket training teaches small children to exercise self-control in any situation with or without a blanket while providing no further details on how this is accomplished.
Now it seems that Duggar daughter Jill Dillard is also being questioned about her use of blanket training as many are questioning photos posted to the Dillard Family Blog, which show the screaming baby wrapped in blankets.
What do you think about the Duggar family’s discipline methods? Do you think the family practices attachment and gentle parenting on a regular basis, or is the family promoting those aspects of their discipline methods to fans because of the way that corporal punishment is viewed in the public? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Are the Duggars really “gentle” parents as they have portrayed themselves over the years?
[Image via Discovery Channel/YouTube]