Mommie Dearest: Whatever You Do, Don’t Parent Like The Duggars

I’ve written about parenting here for The Frisky for three years now, and when it comes to parenting and various parenting philosophies I usually come down on the side of “do whatever works best for your family and keep an open mind.” However, as the Mommie Dearest column comes to an end*, I’d like to add just one more thing: Don’t parent like the Duggars.

This has nothing to do with their religion, or number of children, or the fact that they exploit both of those things with a long-running reality TV show. This has to do with child sexual abuse and how it’s handled. There are many things different parents can’t agree one: breastfeeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. cry-it-out, homeschooling vs. public vs. private school. But I’d like to imagine that the majority of parents — regardless of parenting philosophy — would address sexual abuse as the serious crime it is.

A quick recap: Josh Duggar sexually abused a handful of young girls, including some of his younger sisters, when he was 14. After he told his parents, they waited about a year before telling the authorities. The Duggars claim they had an officer talk with Josh about the severity of what he did, but it’s now come to light that this officer of the law is currently in jail on child pornography charges. So, yeah. They also said they sent him away for counseling, which was revealed to actually be three months working for a friend’s construction company.

Once all of this came to light, the Duggars released a statement via their Facebook page where they passed off Josh’s multiple sexual assaults on young girls as “very bad mistakes” that they were “shocked” by. Supporters like Mike Huckabee, presidential hopeful, and Michael Seewald, the father-in-law of Duggar daughter Jessa, have attempted to argue that Josh and his parents are the victims here, really. It’s everyone else who just doesn’t get it. In a blog post from his website Seewald writes that, “Yes, we should constantly be learning and growing as parents and change when we see a better way, yet no parenting method is without flaw.”

But, excuse me while I shout for all that is holy that some parenting methods are way more flawed than others and the Duggars are a prime example. When you learn that one of your children has molested a handful of your other children, some while they were sleeping, you don’t just call it a “bad mistake” and move on. A bad mistake is when your child crashes their bike into your newly planted flower bed or spills an entire bottle of nail polish on the carpet. Repeated sexual abuse is not simply a “mistake” and shouldn’t be treated as such.

If I was ever a parent in this situation, I can only imagine the conflicting emotions I would feel, but I would hope that I would do the right thing: get everyone involved proper counseling and follow proper legal procedures, as much as it might hurt to do so. One can be permissive when it comes to bedtimes or food intake, but when we’re dealing with sexual assault — especially in a community that already suppresses any real talk when it comes to sex and consent — there is no grey line, no wiggle room, no space to pray to God and hope that solves everything.

My heart goes out to the young girls who were abused. I do hope they actually got the counseling they needed, but considering their family thought working construction was appropriate rehabilitation for sexually abusing kids, I have my doubts.

When it comes to parenting we all come from different places and use different techniques, but for the most part we’re all motivated by the desire to see our kids happy and healthy. And while, yes, kids make mistakes that we hope they can learn and grow from, sweeping “mistakes” like sexual abuse under the rug is wrong, regardless of your parenting philosophy. Keep kids healthy and safe (and for the love of God, keep them off reality TV).

*Do not despair! Avital will continue to blog for us on occasion.