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Are Duggars That Different from Scientologists in Parenting?




I’ve always liked the Duggar family–I liked that they were a Christian family who were dedicated to homeschooling all those kids. I liked their values and how they treated each other (at least how they appeared to treat each other on television). However, I must admit, I’ve often marveled at the fact that the mom is always happy and soft spoken–even with 19 kids. Additionally, why don’t you ever see the kids crying or bickering or throwing fits? (I’ve always just chalked it up to good editing on the show’s part.)

Gothard and the ATI Homeschooling Program

Apparently, the Duggars follow Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschooling program. Admittedly, I know little about this program, so I had to do a little research. What I came across most was that a little anger is acceptable, but mainly that happiness is the only “acceptable” emotion.

“One key idea teaches the importance of a joyful countenance and a light in your eyes. This is a measure of how mighty you are in spirit. Not only that, it is also an indicator of your respect for authority. Bill Gothard explains in the Basic Seminar session on How To Relate to Four Authorities that if you look unhappy, you are publicly shaming your authority. In parenting, that means that if the kid looks unhappy, it is a personal offense against the parents. He also teaches that unhappiness is the result of ungratefulness, and that anger comes from not yielding our rights to God. This boils down to the idea that if you are not cheerful, you are not pleasing God,” reports the Home Educating Family blog.

This is where it starts to sound a little like Scientology parenting to me.

Scientology and Parenting

Again, as a Christian, I know little about Scientology–probably the same amount that most of you see and read about in the media. However, the push to homeschool, the “silent birth” and suppression of some emotions and pretending to be happy reminds me a little of what the Duggars are practicing.

Astra W., who was raised in the Scientology principles as a child, says, “If I was ill, my mother gave me a ‘touch assist’ where I would lie down and close my eyes and she would touch me with her finger and ask, ‘feel my finger.’ This was also done until I felt better. I never felt better from theses [sic] processes but would have to pretend I did because she wouldn’t stop until I said I felt good. Throughout my years in scientology, in all the auditing I received I never felt good at the end. I made up wins to get it over with and generally felt relief that it was over and dread that I would have to have another session. I kept this secret always because it is scientology policy that if a person does not get gain from auditing, it means they are a suppressive person.”

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Scientology ensures that people are following their principles through extreme techniques.

“Children as young as 6 … can undergo ‘security checking,’ aka ‘sec checking in Scientology. The Village Voice reports this act uses an interrogation device, called an e-meter — along with a host of questions that come from an ‘ethics officer’ — to see if members of the church (kids included) are hiding anything,” reports iVillage.

“In theory, parents help construct a self-contained world for children, so all their teachers — including dance instructors and soccer coaches — ideally practice Scientology.”

Kids and Healthy Emotions

The issue that I have with these religions is the suppression of healthy emotions for kids. If kids aren’t allowed to show anger or hurt or have to pretend that they are ok when they’re really not, how will they develop regular life coping skills? Life is messy and happy and painful and exciting and upsetting and … all of those emotions wrapped up together. What’s wrong with kids expressing that?



Image: David Castillo

Along with being a contributor to, Jacqueline Wilson is: Appalachia Advocate~Supporter of Women~Writer~Accidental Pit Bull Advocate.


  1. Lessons Of A Dad

    July 13, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Many insttances in the Bible, God’s great men expressed their sadness, hurt, reservations, and anger towards God (David, Moses, and Jeremiah, come to mind, and Jesus didn’t sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemene for nothin’) and God didn’t smite them or anything like that. God was cool with it…or at least put up with their expressions of these emotions.

    Parents should be the same. We should welcome these, as a willingness to express themselves unabashedly is a sign of a good and trusting relationship (esp. if it’s done respectfully).

    A great parenting speaker I know even regularly asks his children, “How am I as a parent?” “Where could I improve as a dad?”

    That’s awesome.

  2. A.Roddy

    July 12, 2012 at 2:57 am

    There are many things the Duggars don’t mention on TV. They are Christian Fundamentalists/Quiverfull. has plenty of stories about those who grew up \with similar beliefs. No Longer is another source for those who grew up Quiverfull. It does not mean no one is happy in ATI or Quiverfull but it is prone to abuse. The bad thing is parents think they are doing what is best for their. Formulas never work. I am not saying this out of hatred. I think the Duggars are genuinely well-meaning people who got sucked into legalism. That seems to be the case with those who get sucked into cults or legalistic beliefs. The Duggars are luckier than most in Quiverfull since they have show.

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