What the Duggars Can Teach Us About Raising Children

I’ll admit it, I laughed for a bit after read the lastest Duggar scandal. Josh, the known child molester, has a porn addiction, and has been cheating on his wife. It’s no big surprise, really. This guy has been taught all of his life that he can do whatever he wants to. His parents just keep on pretending to be shocked over his behavior. Give me a break, they raised this kid. They know what he is all about. And frankly, the apple could not fall too far from the tree. Who molested Josh, when he was a little boy, and got away with it? I believe that someone did. It is a learned behavior. Who taught him that “sins” can be forgiven, so sin away! Okay, so maybe he was not taught that in so many words, but it is exactly who he has become. “Oh, I shouldn’t have touched those little girls? Sorry God, my bad! Wait, I should not be having sex with women who are not my wife? Whoops, that’s on me too. Sorry God!” See? All’s well that ends well.

Anna, his wife, made a public statement that she partially blames herself for his affairs and addiction to porn. While that statement made me want to ram my head against a wall, I do understand it. I was raised in a religion that requires the wife to police the behavior of her husband. It was up to me to make sure that my husband attended church, read the scriptures, paid tithes to the church, etc. If he didn’t, that did not reflect well on me. I watched my grandma live this nightmare of being responsible for her husband for way too many years. My grandpa was a child molester. It was a horrid epidemic in the family that had been raging for generations. After a very brave cousin finally went to the police, he went to prison for a little while. My dad and uncles urged my grandma to divorce him while he was gone. They offered all kinds of help, if she would just get away from him. But she didn’t. She waited for him, punishing herself all the while, that this was her fault. Somehow, his evil deeds were on her. She was raised that way. She watched her sisters, neighbors, and friends do the same thing. It was what you did. And if you failed, if your “charge” got out of line, that was your fault. When he got out of prison, she hated him. She clearly loathed him, but was determined to know what he was up to, and policed him with a vengeance. Most of her children gave up on her too, and the family quit coming around. They were hurt. They believed that she chose him, over them. She did. She hated him for it, and grieved her relationships with her children and grandchildren, but she knew that she had a job to do. She suffered from major anxiety, and who could blame her? Her whole life changed, in a terrible way, and yet she had to stay married. That was the way. One did not simply get divorced, just because their husband was a child molester! This went on for many years, with limited contact with her family. Her grandchildren, who loved her so much, were largely shut out of her life. The only option to spend time with her, was to spend time with him too. Towards the end of his life, when Alzheimer’s set in, his perversions returned. He ended up a ward of the state, in a high security nursing home for sex offenders until he died. She cried bitterly to me about it one day, wondering where she went wrong. How could she have failed so miserably as a wife that her husband chose to molest children? What did she do wrong? Of course I declared emphatically, as I had many times before, that none of that was her fault. She could not control him, and his choices were his alone. She did not hear me though. She heard the voices of long ago, teachings from her family and church, that she was responsible for holding together a perfect family who could die and then be reunited because of their righteousness, and she failed. That is all she could believe. She failed, and now she would have to face the consequences of that failure when she died. She truly believed that God was terribly disappointed in her.

I hoped that those archaic beliefs would die with that generation, but Anna Duggar is proof that they have not. Anna, who was raised to believe that divorce is not an option. That her husband’s sins are her sins. And that she must endure this misery because God said so. Instead, she is now keeping a closer eye on Josh. Do you suppose that she lurks around the doorway when Josh tucks her kids into bed, keeping an eye on him? Do you think that it makes her uncomfortable when little girls sit on his lap? Do you suppose that she is suspicious of any closed door phone call or internet session? She should be. Josh is not a changed man, and he is not sorry. He is caught. There is a big difference between the two. Josh Duggar is still a sexual pervert, and should not be trusted. He has proved that. Anna has no tools but to pray. That is what she must do, pray harder. Maybe that’s where she fell down. She did not pray hard enough. Maybe she said no to sex a few times too many. Maybe she is not keeping herself up enough. (Please note the sarcasm; I do not actually believe that any of this is Anna’s fault) I can only imagine how many scenarios she is running in her head, trying to figure out where she went wrong. I wonder if it has occurred to her yet that she should get tested. This innocent woman who has only ever had sex with one person, must subject herself to STD testing, because who knows what Josh had drug home to her bed. I wonder how bitter that must taste. The bigger, and most frightening question is this: What will she do when she discovers Josh molesting her children? Will she freak out, beat him within an inch of his life, and call the police? Or will she brush it under the rug, pray a little harder, and hate herself a little more? It is chilling to think about what those kids are up against.

Wouldn’t it be cool if her family and church told her that she does not have to live like this? It would be so great if they actually worried about her safety, and that of her children. If she had a community of resources, maybe she could get out. Maybe if she had been taught that she was not born to be miserable, she could take her power back and get away from this terrible situation. I am tremendously sad for Anna, because I see my grandma in her. She is young, and her kids are young, and there is still time to seek out a happier life. In fact, there is always time to seek out a happier life. Change is always possible.

We must do better by our daughters and our sons. We must teach them to be accountable for their own actions. We must teach them how to be good people, not because God said so, but because as human beings, it is their responsibility to be decent. We must teach our sons to respect women, and our daughters to respect themselves. We must assure them that we will always be there to love them, but we expect them to enter the world and make something of themselves. We must educate them, all of them. Above all, we must raise our children to believe that they have choices, no matter what.