Helicopter Parenting and the Duggars

Late last week news broke that Josh Duggar, the oldest son in the Duggar clan of 19 children repeatedly sexually molested 5 girls when he was age 12.  The story was first printed by InTouch.  The redacted police report protects the names of the victims, but there are enough horrific details to allow for an understanding of not only how terribly Josh himself acted, but how hard his parents worked to cover things up.

The police report states that Jim Bob waited until the statue of limitations for prosecution had run out and then agreed to be interviewed by police because the Oprah show had gotten ahold of the story and had reported the incident to the sexual abuse hotline.  Before the 2006 police interview, Jim Bob had chosen in 2002 to first simply discipline Josh without reporting the incident to authorities. In 2003 when another incident occurred Josh was then sent away.

Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead, they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003, until July 17, 2003.”

He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”

The third action taken was: Jim Bob told police in 2006 that when Josh returned home in 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a “very stern talk.” As In Touch magazine reports exclusively in this week’s issue, Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case.

Apparently, this is all is ok because the Duggar parents made sure Josh apologized and was forgiven for his actions.

I’ve taken the time to read several blogger’s posts on the subject and did read the redacted police report.  My first thoughts have of course been for the victims.  My heart aches for the humiliation and dark memories this must be bringing back to them.  Mostly my heart breaks for the 5 victims because it seems that the adults in their lives let them down when they needed those adults in their lives to fight fiercely for them.

The term Helicopter Parent is one that certainly has surrounded the Duggar’s extreme parenting style for years. The media certainly has done their part to help make a circus side show of the Duggars over the years.  From the large size of the family to the views on courting, to recent news that it was practically a scandal Janna was moving away unmarried.  That being said, there doesn’t seem to be an area of the Duggar children’s lives their parents haven’t gotten them to think alike on.  The girls all dress the same, wear their hair similarly, and have gone about the courting processes the same way. Of course, everyone is quick to state that the children have come to these conclusions on their own, but at the same time, the children themselves when interviewed can only report that they have listened to what their parents have taught them, and agree.

It’s hard for me to separate this incident with Josh as anything other than extremely bad helicopter parenting in a long list of hoovering choices by the Duggars.  The steps taken by the Duggar’s seem to show they felt that they were more capable of handling this situation than the police.  Multiple actions are taken all acknowledged that Josh was in the wrong, and yet it seems they didn’t feel that Josh deserved to be punished like any other sexual abuser would.  The rules didn’t apply to him.

As a parent myself, I understand the desire to protect my children from failure.  It hurts to see my boys have to learn lessons the hard way.  At the same time, I know that I cannot protect them from every poor choice.  When it comes down to it, I would much rather my children make mistakes when they are younger and hopefully less extreme than having to learn the heartache of failure for the first time later in life.  In fact, helicopter parenting has become to detrimental to children in the last decade multiple studies have been published about how much it harms out children.

The Duggars have been on TLC since 2008 with a regular TV show. In addition to this, they travel the country speaking about parenting.  They also make money from the books they have written.  They have earned all this money while covering up that their son sexually abused 5 girls.   I’m sure their commentary will run something along the lines of they felt that Josh needed to be protected since his actions were in the past.  Here is the thing.  While protecting one child, they told 5 girls who according to the police reports were repeatedly abused that Josh apologizing was enough.  While protecting one child, they modeled for the rest of their children that they are above the law.  For the daughters who are close in age to Josh, I find it impossible to believe that they were not aware of their brother’s actions.  How terrifying it must have been for them to learn that if they were molested their violator would need only to apologize for things to be rectified.  The Duggars choice to cover up Josh’s inexcusable actions made room for Josh himself to stand on a platform and preach purity and following his example while he courted, married and began a life with Anna.

It has been over a decade since Josh’s actions first occurred.  This week he was forced to resign from a job that he seemed to really be successful in.  The first actual punishment for his actions has come, and it has come in a very public and humiliating way.  When Josh was 12 Jim Bob made a decision to handle a situation with his son himself., positioning his son as above the law and not in need of punishment mandated for all Americans.  Now at 27 Josh has learned a sad lesson.  He is not above the law. The statue of limitations may have run out on criminal prosecution, but there seems to be the opportunity for civil litigation to still occur.  Regardless, Josh’s actions had now been announced to the world instead of a small town in Arkansas all those years ago.

Time will tell how things will play out.  It’s possible more victims will come forward.  It’s possible some of those victims will turn out to be family members.  What is for certain is that now when the name Josh Duggar is googled articles about him being a sexual abuser will most certainly pop up.

I’m not saying that if Jim Bob had made the decision to put the victims above Josh all those years ago and had reported the crime to the police things would have turned out perfectly.  What I am saying, is that it seems to me that Jim Bob thought that being a helicopter parent, controlling a situation and deciding to hide illegal activity for the “benefit” of his son backfired tremendously.  What I’m saying is that we certainly can learn about parenting from the Duggars….we can learn what not to do.

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