Children Are Always House Slaves in Quiverfull?

Children Are Always House Slaves in Quiverfull? September 4, 2019
Photo from the National Archives of the U.S. government. Child textile workers in 1908 at the Catawba Cotton Mill.

In the only piece in the September/October issue of No Greater Joy magazine not written as an ad for Debi’s book Shalom Pearl Brand tells us how to indoctrination your children to do it all. We’ve seen this many times in just about every Quiverfull family, from the royal family of QF the Duggar family, all the way down to the unknown unnamed QF families we all know. Children are house slaves in Quiverfull.

It’s a fact if you have enough children to qualify for your own 43-man Squamish team the workload to keep that family running is going to be significant. Plus, there is nothing wrong with having family members helping out, it’s just in the Quiverfull world ‘helping out’ takes on disturbing turns.

Let’s start with this:

For instance, this morning my 2-year-old was vacuuming while the 4-year-old dusted and the older children cleaned the table and washed the dishes. At lunchtime I took the bread and sandwich stuff to the table and laid it out so my 2-year-old could make the sandwiches. He made a mess but was happy and smiling from ear to ear that he was serving his buddies. He wanted his picture taken with his thumbs up to show his brothers and sisters what he had done.

Stuff and fiddlesticks! While a 4 year old might be able to do an incomplete and hit and miss dusting I find it rather impossible to believe that the two year old is pushing around a vacuum cleaner.  Nor should they! This horrifies me, thinking of a child with imperfect control of themselves using an appliance that has merciless moving parts.

I can just see some toddler’s long hair getting yanked out by the drive belt on the vacuum.

This type of thinking brought us 6 year olds working with dangerous equipment in the textile mills in America and England. Where many children did suffer horrible industrial accidents, were maimed or even died.

If you’re going to give your kids tasks they must be age appropriate with the right equipment. Just like you should not be handing a four year old a sharp carving knife to peel an apple.

Then Shalom starts comparing the family to a team with dad as the head coach:

Mom, are you standing with the head coach? Are you showing respect and honor? You can’t expect your children to be team players if the coaches are not united. So start there. Become united. Respect the head coach with your actions! Honor him by praising him and building him up to the kids, letting the All-Star team know how amazing the head coach is and how excited you are to work with him. If you struggle with unity, your players are going to struggle.

If a man is honorable and good you shouldn’t need to keep praising him like  toddler doing toilet training. The kids will pick up on if you respect or not your partner, and will see if you are praising but have no respect for him. Empty words do not convince anyone.

Then she moves on to praising her oldest son Parker, and giving him inappropriate tasks for a nine year old.

Parker is quick to show his little brothers how to do things, and they always respect and appreciate his input. Just yesterday my truck happened to have a dead battery and I, without even thinking about it, asked my 9-year-old son to open the hood and hook up the charger. I know he has often done such things with his dad, and I also know that Parker quickly and easily assumes responsibility. My bossy oldest daughter (15 years old), who loves to handle responsibility and leadership, was completely under her little brother’s guidance as he told us what to do and how to do it. We both showed him honor with our words and smiles. A while later I asked Janelle Grace why she so easily surrendered to Parker’s authority. She said, “Parker knew what he was doing and was confident that he would get the job done, and I was thankful for him.

Kid handling a dangerous adult task, where if he hooked the battery up wrong it could explode and possibly blind or kill him? Check. Having much older female sibling kowtow to him because he possesses a penis? Yep.

Then there’s lots of talk about training without any mention of beating. She says you must start teaching your kids to swink and tote the second they start crawling before moving on to a tale of having her four year old teaching the two year old colors, shapes and simple math. Pictures or it didn’t happen.

By the time they could crawl, I had them handing me something or taking something into the other room. It was training them to function as a team member.

You know how young children learn the best? By play, playing is serious hard work for young kids as they explore their world and where they are in it.

Like I said earlier, there is nothing wrong with learning to help out in a family. It’s an important skill, but must be done in a way that is safe and age appropriate. When my son was three he started wanting to help me cook. It was a challenge to find tasks he could do that held little risk, but we did it. Sometimes that was as simple as having him measure out ingredients, or stirring before eventually graduating to using a dull knife to cut a few things and so on. Gradual skill building in the things he was interested in. Now he’s 31, loves to cook and is very good at it. He is a much better cook than I.

The sad thing about QF is that kids aren’t allowed to develop interests because their labor is needed just to simply run the family, even if the tasks aren’t suitable.

But I think this all boils down to motive too. My motive for having my kids help out was helping them to develop the skills they would need to navigate the world as adults. They all left the house knowing how to cook a simple meal, how to do laundry, how to balance a checkbook, shop, clean and all the routine mundane things one must do as a fully functioning adult.

Quiverfull? Not so much! Remember when one of the Pearl girls could not even make a simple decision which restaurant she wanted to eat at? And another incapable of picking out clothing she wanted? When the motive is simply to reduce the mother’s workload there are some lessons or developments that get skipped. I am betting none of the Pearl daughters can balance a checkbook or write a budget.

Have your kids set the table and serve the food. Don’t hand off your newborn to a nine year old to raise.


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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

I Fired God by Jocelyn Zichtermann

13:24 A Dark Thriller by M Dolon Hickmon

About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 33 years. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tawreos

    This has to be the most idiotic house of horrors I have ever heard of. The 2 year old is going to get hurt trying to wrangle a vacuum cleaner around and the 4 year old is going to break stuff while dusting. How much money do these people have to let the 2 year old make sandwiches for the family which is going to make for a lot of wasted food. Someone better call CPS about letting a 9 year old do anything with a live car battery. And what, exactly, was mom doing while the kids were doing the cooking and the cleaning?

  • Cynthia

    Keep in mind that Shalom was the child who was taught about the dangers of the family’s pond by having her parents push her in so that she could briefly experience the feeling of drowning.

    Not sure that “keep it safe and age-appropriate” was a lesson that she was ever taught.

  • argyranthemum

    Horrifying. Not surprising, but horrifying.

  • argyranthemum

    I play with my niece’s kids (3 and 5) and we cook together — but that means I’m doing most of the work. They recently made chocolate milk by stirring chocolate syrup into their milk, but that meant I had to hold the cup or it would go all over the place. Never mind the child abuse aspect — their hand-eye coordination is not developed well enough, and their hands are way too small to hold a peanut butter jar still while they’re scooping the PB out with the knife.

    And a vacuum cleaner at 2? I don’t believe it.

  • Saraquill

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the two year old was beaten after vacuuming for not doing a thorough job.

  • Saraquill

    Maybe if it was a hand vacuum. Which brings up the question of why the kid isn’t scared of the noise. My guess is they’re more scared of beatings than the racket.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Insert ‘Dobby’ comment here… 🙁

  • SAO

    My observation is that kids want to do things when they are not all that competent at them. Once they’ve mastered a chore, it’s a bore. A 9 year old might know how to hook up a charger, but would he always get it right? Would he know danger signs? Fundamentally, kids that age don’t have the judgement to handle dangerous substances because they might not know what needs to be done.

    It’s worth noting the monumental sexism that has a 9 yo boy knowing more than a 15 yo girl. In my state, you can get a learner’s permit at 15, so the girl might be driving soon and knowing how to handle car problems is important.

  • argyranthemum

    I’d think a hand vac would be too heavy for a 2-year-old, unless she pushed it along the floor instead of using it as it’s intended to be used.

  • EbbyBee

    I have twins who are almost 3. I have them help with chores around the house in an age appropriate way. The love the vacuum but there is no way they are strong enough to move it around. So they get to take turns carrying the cord behind my husband while he vacuums. But that’s not actually cleaning anything. They also love wiping things down so I give them lightly dampened microfiber cloths and they go around cleaning the coffee table, end table, dining room table and chairs, etc. But again, I have to follow them with paper towels and cleaning solution. They are also expected to put their toys and books away at night. That is sort of hit or miss depending on their moods but we’re working on it. The idea of them ACTUALLY performing household chores is absurd.

  • Tawreos

    It seems like everything we hear about this family leads me to believe that their neighbors should have CPS on speed dial.

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    I could almost see it if it was a canister vac that someone older positioned, and then let the child just manipulate the end of the vacuum hose to pick up a little dirt…but even that requires a lot of coordination.

    Which makes me wonder about all the other stories.

  • Polytropos

    Good point. With families like these there must be people around them who notice something is wrong. And yet, apparently they choose not to say anything.

  • Cynthia

    If they have neighbors within a reasonable distance. Mike and Debi moved the family to Bumblefuck, Tennessee, on a ton of wild acreage.

  • B.E. Miller

    Not sure about where Shalom lives, but Mikey had wanted to ‘learn from the Amish” and so he had dragged the family off to Amish country. Where the kids lived off cabbage, raw milk and feed corn. The corn and the old cow came from some Amish.

    “At one point, the Pearls income was so low that they were forced to eat what might have been cat food. Rebekah describes this time period on her forum, 7xsunday under the thread called, How is Becca? When my family first moved near the Amish community in TN, I was 14 years old. The first winter we had cabbage, wheat, raw milk, and canned cat food or poor quality tuna (the cans were missing labels when we bought them and we couldn’t tell for sure if it was cat food or tuna.) ”

    http://debrasrandomthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/03/rebekah-pearl-part-one-her-childhood.html

    I’m guessing Amish don’t really call CPS if they see something….

    Now I’m wondering where Shalom lives..

  • paganheart

    I call BS on the vacuum thing as well. I don’t think any of my nieces or nephews could have even pushed a vacuum at two years old; most of them were terrified of the vacuum at that age! It is true at that age that most kids want to emulate the adults in their lives and want to “help,” but that help has to be very carefully supervised.

    When my youngest niece was three, my husband and I watched her two or three nights a week while her mom was taking grad school classes. She always wanted to help us do chores, and we encouraged her. But she could only handle very simple things, like setting the table (minus sharp utensils; we only let her handle the spoons) and folding laundry (mostly towels and washcloths.) She liked to “help” cook dinner as well, but her “helping” was mostly watching us cook and occasionally stirring the pot2 or adding pre-measured ingredients to a bowl, and we never let her do anything without very close supervision. No way would we have allowed her (much less expected her!) to run a vacuum at that age, it’s far too dangerous. As usual, the Pearls are either exaggerating/lying, or they are engaging in parenting behavior that should draw the attention of child welfare authorities. *shudder*

  • Christian Girl

    I grew up in a family like this with much worse things going on than described here. The reason CPS doesn’t get called is because these families are so cagey and terrified of such a thing happening that they stay as isolated as possible. We almost had CPS called on us once but my dad managed to talk them out of it. Looking back I’m amazed it didn’t happen and I know if a rational person knew half the stuff going on in our family they would have been dialing so fast!

  • paganheart

    If memory serves, the Pearls actually fled to middle-of-nowhere Tennessee to escape a child welfare investigation.

  • Cynthia

    While these sort of families tend to sow paranoia about CPS, they are not the ones who are most likely to be investigated or have their kids taken away.

    Families that are marginalized – who are poor and/or minorities – are more likely to be involved with CPS. They have more contact with mandated reporters, fewer resources to deal with any challenges and can have biases work against them. The system is not well designed to deal with parents who isolate the family and don’t show an obvious need for help (or willingness to receive it). It puts the kids at far more risk in those families, because not much short of an actual death would ever be on the radar.

  • frostysnowman

    The Amish don’t have phones.

  • frostysnowman

    Uhhh…showing them honor with words and smiles? Or else holding the plumbing pipe at the ready in case they made a mistake.

  • B.E. Miller

    But don’t they usually have a ‘communal phone’? Because otherwise how do they call doctors to come out?

    Plus what about Amish who have a business? You’d think some of them would have a phone just for the business.

    This link from Lancaster County mentions a phone shanty or phone outhouse….
    https://www.discoverlancaster.com/towns-and-heritage/amish-country/amishandtechnology.asp

  • French Pandora

    This summer I babysat my niece, I asked her brother to help with the diapers, not because he must but because I can’t (strong sense of smell and weak stomach). His place is to go play with his friends.

  • Allison the Great

    I am having a hard time believing this story myself. I cannot picture a toddler handling a vacuum cleaner. I think that Shalom is making shit2 up to sound like she’s got her kids doing something that is very advanced, when really she just sounds like an idiot2 who doesn’t understand what “age appropriate” means.

  • Saraquill

    I finished watching “The Act” a few days ago. It’s a dramatization of a true crime, and the mother made very sure her daughter was isolated from mandatory reporters.

  • AFo

    What vacuum is even small enough for a two-year-old to push around? I liked to help my mom out with certain chores too, but she never asked me to push around a machine that was twice my height. It doesn’t sound like Shalom is bonding with or teaching her kids anything either, it’s all just “do this because I said so.”

  • Friend

    Mike Pearl reinvented some aspects of Amish life. In a we1rd little way, Shalom seems to be reinventing things already taught far more effectively in Montessori. Children in Montessori environments do indeed learn a few practical skills at an early age. Major differences: Montessori is developmentally appropriate; equipment and furniture are the right size for small hands and bodies; no strik1ng; no performance; no need to plug anything in. The teacher does not 1nterfere. To be clear, Montessori is education, not housework.

    If Montessori is not Christian enough, there are Christian programs patterned after Montessori that can be adapted for home education, such as Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Those would be too Romish for anyone in the Pearl clan, but they are in fact Christian.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I can see teaching the 15 year old girl that, encouraging her to do it with supervision from a parent for the reasons you stated. She’s old enough to learn how to drive and do basic car stuff. When they start driving they have to know how to change a tire and other basic things.

  • persephone

    The Campbell clan has it worked out that the cops don’t even bother them. They play the good Christians, and are prime examples of the getting away with murder because everybody views them as having invisible halos.

  • persephone

    The Amish have phones. Many of them have a phone in their business, or keep a mobile phone if they travel for business. They avoid having them in their homes. They will also go to Mennonite homes and use their phones when necessary.

  • persephone

    My oldest nephew was fixated on vacuum cleaners as a toddler. My parents had multiple vacuums when he was small because they owned a janitorial business. They would let him play with the canister vacuum, but only if they were watching him and within quick reach. He was sweet and very careful, but there’s no way he really got anything clean.

  • Sassafras

    I wasn’t allowed to use the vacuum until I was 7 or 8.

  • Jennny

    Yup, Suzanne, you’re right…..’You know how young children learn the best? By play, playing is serious
    hard work for young kids as they explore their world and where they are in it.’ That was a pillar of my teacher training many years ago…almost the same words…”Play is the serious business of childhood”….I’m guessing Pearl offspring don’t have a Play House, with toy cooker, vacuum cleaner…dishwasher and all the rest. I never met a child in all the hundreds of 3-6yos I taught who didn’t love the classroom Wendy House. (I’m now thinking Pearls wouldn’t allow one…just think what naughty things could go on in the house’s bedroom area, shock horror…between 2 dolls!)

  • Dhalgren

    You know, it’s sad all these things could be taught to the children within a better context. Teaching the family to work as a team? Great idea. There’s plenty of age-appropriate things can do about the house, t’s good for their self-esteem (so long as you aren’t telling them they have to do it because they don’t pay rent— yes, people do that, i know first-hand.) It made me legit sad to see a 15 year old girl deferring to her much-younger brother with car maintenance. Breaking down a girl’s spirit, restricting their education even beyond school, upholding helplessness and dependency as a ‘feminine ideal’ is so backward.

  • Nea

    I’ve missed the story of the Pearl daughter who couldn’t dress herself – anyone got a link or some good search keywords?

  • Nea

    And they did it because CPS kept getting called on them.

  • Nea

    Wouldn’t be the first time a Pearl exaggerated things to make it all look wonderful in their house of horrors.

  • Nea

    I’m pretty sure that the plumbing line would be directed at the teenaged girl if she didn’t kowtow to a brother half her age.

  • Nea

    The Pearls have been pretty clear that they expect children to go to work as soon as they can stand. Mikey tells what he thinks is a charming story about a todder with a full diaper helping on a construction site.

  • SAO

    My observation is that parents forget ages, this is a big problem with babies and toddlers when there’s so much change. If you say, my kid did that at 2, when it was really 3, but nearly 4, that can be twice as old as the child (2) you are giving advice about. None of us would say “oh, my kid went to college at age 9” because you forgot it was really 18, but they will say, “my kid was sleeping through the night at 3 months” when it was really 6 months.

  • This. Even worse? The parents lie about how awful CPS is and how the kids are safer at home. So no, none of these kids would even think about calling and busting their parents.

  • Sassafras

    The Pearls would be horrified by how my sister and I would play with our Barbie and Bratz dolls unsupervised. They’d have a hissy fits about our dolls being women with high levels of power, whether heroes, villains, or average Janes!

    Mikey would also have a rage 6stroke9 about my brother possesing8 me and my sister’s old doll furniture to give Spider-Man a fabulous lair!

  • Cynthia

    Isolation is a huge concern.

    I work with an organization overseas that is able to keep many of the children they serve with their families by running “Second homes” where they go after school for hot meals, hot showers, homework help, therapy, etc. They are under the watch of trained counselors and if something happens, the staff can respond.

  • Saraquill

    Where is OSHA when you need it…

  • lady_black

    Putting away his/her own toys is about the limit of what I would expect from a three year old. I remember when I was babysitting my young nephew about that age. There was a huge mess of children’s puzzles and puzzle pieces lying on the floor in front of the shelves on which they were kept. I wasn’t feeling especially well that day, and called my nephew over and pointed at them and said “Clean up that mess.”
    Later, when I went to check, every piece was put back in the puzzles (where they belonged!) and the puzzles were neatly stacked back on the shelves. I did praise him for doing a nice job, and then got him a snack as a reward. Evidently, he was already familiar with the concept of putting things away, so “Good Job, Mom.”
    He’s 17 now, and a tremendous help to his mother at home. He likes to cook, too, and he’s very good at it.

  • lady_black

    YES! It’s my opinion that no one should be driving a car, period, without at least being able to change a flat tire, and other routine emergencies that can come up (such as knowing how to attach jumper cables). Therefore, she should have been the one practicing those skills. It will be years before nine year old will need them.

  • zizania

    I had to check out that “Squamish team” was actually a thing (or at least a fictional thing). Squamish is a touristy town not too far from where I live and I was picturing some sort of triathlon event involving slaloming down a mountain carrying a tray of beer2 while dodging hungry black bears.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    It’s a goofy Mad Magazine thing

  • Jennifer

    Oh my gosh! I’d never heard that.

  • Morgan Lefaye

    Ummm….can we please not with the sportsball/corporate metaphors for family relations and parenting?

  • Morgan Lefaye

    I’m guessing the blogger was engaged in the art of lying. A vacuum is too big for a two-year-old to use.

  • Morgan Lefaye

    Not to mention this crap2 actually causes dependent personality disorder. Go on, ask me how I know.

  • Cynthia

    I believe it was in To Train Up a Child. Found a reference to it here: http://debrasrandomthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/03/rebekah-pearl-part-one-her-childhood.html

  • B.A.

    This is one of many reasons I was so impressed with the teen-aged Turpin daughter who left the house and called for help,rescuing herself and her siblings.

  • B.A.

    Same here.

  • B.A.

    He would also have a rage over my dad teaching me how to use tools and change light bulbs,and how to hit and throw a ball.

  • Quinsha

    Probably the same way that I know. 🙁

  • Jennifer

    Thanks. I’d heard about the tuna and gun thing, but not that Shalom was shoved into water.

  • Jennny

    That’s terrible. I’ve never bothered to research it, but do Lori/Debi/Nancy etc believe in kids having toys at all? I know they don’t believe in fun of any kind. I did some play therapy once, so the subject interests me. DH has travelled a lot to poor african villages and seen lots of small children playing in the dirt, using stones, sticks, corn husks, balls made from rags etc etc and been amazed at the imaginative play they came up with…for hours on end with such things. One home had a lovely doll, a gift from some well-meaning westerner…but it was on a high shelf, an ornament for that drab house.

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    Jana Duggar will still be living at home when the youngest of her sisters are being married off, stuck taking care of her selfish parents until they finally just die already. Every so often there’s a commercial for the next Counting On episode where she’s again helping to plan a sibling’s wedding from the decor to sewing the dresses to setting up the reception stuff…She tries to look cheerful (Undoubtedly because she knows she’ll be sent for another ‘reeducation camp’ session or otherwise be chastised endlessly if she doesn’t) but the poor woman looks utterly miserable and exhausted. I can only imagine how she feels when being excluded by her married sisters outside of running errands/making things for them, and being stuck looking after her younger siblings because her parents are doing…something? Something that isn’t raising their own dang kids, I mean.

    Growing up in such families who seem to make a point of restricting the ‘friends’ that their kids are allowed to have to their siblings and other ‘approved’ children, having the daughters assume the mother role for their younger siblings as soon as possible, making chores and household duties take precedence over having them receive an actual education that would truly give them a shot at learning skills they’ll need to be successful adults (from a *gasp* TRAINED EDUCATIONAL PROFESSIONAL EVEN! If the parent doesn’t bother after getting a kid to where they’re able to read – barely – and somewhat add/subtract for math, and then wants that kid to then teach their younger siblings?! Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?! Homeschooling done right can work for many kids, but it takes a lot of conscious effort and a realistic, effective program to be done right!)…The children deserve better – in the form of parents that have the bandwidth to actually do the job of raising them to be independent and healthy adults without a single childhood tale involving things such as having to subsist on possibly cat food, or indoor lap running around the house to keep warm. Or programming them to see men as requiring constant female assistance in preventing them from ‘stumbling’ and constant fawning praise (and women as needing to do all the labor; household, stumble-prevention and emotional).

    Makes me want to go and start my own ranch for girls and women to roam free, independent, and able to explore their talents and abilities. No hunting allowed – it’s supposed to be a sanctuary for women and girls, not a place for men to come in and take what/whom they want. We have enough men out there dedicating their lives to controlling women from cradle to grave, and a system men put in place centuries ago to make that happen, to keep happening. The kind of men who think “women have a magic shut off that prevents them from getting pregnant during rape”. Ridiculous, they are.

  • Nea

    I don’t do that much reading of their stuff directly, but if I recall correctly, they believe in toys that reinforce gender-essential roles – toy hammers, toy ovens, etc. But the way Mikey talks, it’s easy to predict that once a kid wants a toy version, they’re set to work at the real version.

  • Jennny

    That occurred to me when I commented about Play Houses…little boys might go in there and, shock horror, play at cooking food…or changing the baby doll’s nappy…or other such stuff that only girls should do…and that dressing up box might mean a boy puts on a dress or a tutu and gets turned gay!

  • Brian Shanahan

    “Where many children did suffer horrible industrial accidents, were maimed or even died.”

    Earlier today I was at the Michael Davitt museum, who when ten lost his right arm in an industrial accident at a cotton mill in Manchester. Luckily enough he received the patronage of a rich conscientious man John Dean and gilot an education. Otherwise we would have lost probably the most important voice in constitutional Irish republicanism.

  • Mimc

    I’d probably have to look that stuff up in manual. I’ve been lucky and haven’t needed to do any roadside repair in years. I agree though the dead battery would be an excellent chance to teach a 15 year old how to use jumper cables but a completely inappropriate time to put a 9 year old in charge of dangerous equipment.

  • Mimc

    Yeah the four year old might be able to handle it but not a to year old. My big-for-his-age 1.5 year old has at least another year or two before he could handle that. I have no problem with letting a 4 year old dust but obviously they aren’t even going to be able to reach a lot of things.

  • Astrin Ymris