News about the Duggars’ newest baby has 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. Life 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, the Pearls, and S. M Davis. One of the creepiest things about their teachings is that happy is the only acceptable emotion. Not only must children be perfectly compliant at all times, they must also look cheerful at all times.
The Duggars are deeply enmeshed in ATI, (Gothard’s homeschooling program) 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 may watch (mainly Christian DVDs), the way you must dress (those jumpers are about modesty), the kind of punishments the parents must use (spankings), and more. It isn’t just a curriculum–it is a lifestyle which delves into family finances, child planning and every other detail.
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.
The Duggars also strongly recommend S. M. Davis in their Family Favorites link under Solving Family Problems. Although he is perhaps not as well known as Gothard or the Pearls, his teachings are similar. Along with the strong insistence on father rule and corporal punishment, he is adamant that not only must the child immediately obey without question, but that it must also be done with a smile.
In advising parents of young children, he says, “They need to learn to obey what you say, do it right away and do it with a smile. Maybe that is a statement that you should have your children memorize and even hang in your home. ‘Do what I say, when I say and with a smile.’” A few lines later, he repeats it, “After all, isn’t the goal immediate obedience with a smile? If it isn’t that, it isn’t obedience, and the child has won.” (Quite a contrast to Jesus’ parable of the two sons in Matthew 28!).
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 (TTUAC). The Duggar’s website includes it 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..."