All of the recent news about the Duggar’s newest baby spawned a number of online arguments. One of the most frequent comments was about how cheerful their family is, especially the children. How Michelle is a great mom who doesn’t yell. It must be working for them, because the kids are well behaved and look happy. Sounds reasonable, right?
I might believe it, if I didn’t know what I know of Gothard/ATI and the Pearls. The Duggars are deeply enmeshed in ATI, and ATI takes allegiance very seriously. It isn’t a vague Statement of Beliefs that you sign so your kids can take the courses. It is several pages of in depth info that covers what kind of music you can listen to (no Christian rock), the kind of TV you watch (mainly Christian DVDs), the way you dress (those jumpers are about modesty), the kind of punishments the parents use (spankings), and more. It isn’t just a curriculum–it is a lifestyle that delves into family finances, child planning and every other detail.
There has long been a lot of speculation about whether the Duggars use the controversial punishment methods taught by Michael and Debi Pearl in To Train Up a Child. Things like the blanket training, certain phrases that are used, and the general popularity within that subculture have fueled that, as well as many people who claim that it was recommended previously on the website. I can’t prove that they follow TTUAC, but as of yesterday, the Duggar’s website included it in their Amazon links along with a glowing recommendation. Considering that some of the other recommendations list personal details about how the materials were used by the family, I cannot believe that it was randomly included on their site without their approval.
One of the creepiest things about Gothard and the Pearls is that they teach that happy is the only acceptable emotion. If you do not have a joyful countenance, you are publicly shaming your authorities. In other words, if the kid looks unhappy, it is a personal offense against the parents. Pearl also has nauseating quotes and anecdotes about how any time his kids expressed unhappiness or anger they were hit even harder and longer until they were cheerful. How twisted is that? These children are taught from babyhood to always be cheerful, or else they deserve a spanking. As they grow older, it is not just the fear of a spanking that causes them to keep smiling. It is the sincere belief that they are sinning with ingratitude, rebellion and more if they don’t present a happy face.