Dec 3, 2009


I just finished reading a book written by the Duggars, a Christian couple who are expecting their 19th child in March.  I found their description of how they teach their children obedience quite interesting.  It sounds like an old-fashioned word, obedience, because it goes against the American values of independence, democracy, freedom to do and say as you please.  It was quite refreshing to read about this!

The Duggars teach why obedience is so important.  In teaching their children to obey their parents they are also teaching them to listen to G-d.  Their goal is to get their children to understand:

1) to obey instantly because if they don't listen immediately it's not obedience

2) to obey cheerfully - they say G-d wants us to obey Him joyfully and parents want the same thing from their children

3) to carry out whatever they are told thoroughly, completely

4) to listen unconditionally, without arguing

I don't think frum parents want to hear "Yes, ma'am" when they tell their children to do something, but since we are enjoined to learn from everyone, I think we can take a lesson from the Duggars about teaching obedience.  For we say that the reason we have a mitzva of Kibud Av v'Eim, honoring our parents, is that we honor Hashem.  If we disrespect our parents' authority, we will end up disrespecting Hashem's authority.


  1. I think that non-Jews sometimes succeed where we fail because they can put all of their emphasis on one or two midos that they wish to stress and they also can detach from their children and view them objectively. I feel that we as frum Jews must try to juggle several character traits all at the same time that we wish to instill in our children at the same time as getting them to adhere to a myriad of rituals that non-Jews don't do. While I think that there are many things to learn from the Duggars, their family life is not about rituals that have existed since Matan Torah. It seems that they belong to a fairly recently founded religious sect and that whatever religious rituals they wish to incorporate are theirs to choose from.

  2. B'h
    What I would really like to know is what they do if their children are not!
    Also how do they get all of them to be obediant all the time?

  3. Rosie - The Duggars focus on over a dozen traits. It's part of their homeschooling curriculum.

    Why do you think they can detach from their children and view them more objectively than frum parents?

    Row - If they're not obedient, they get what they call a "correction"!

  4. I think that frum parents view their children as a continuation of themselves. Children say kaddish for their parents eventually. The Jewish people lives on in our children. When I hold my little grandchildren I feel that I am holding my past, my present, and my future. I don't view them as separate people; to me they are an extension of myself. I am not objective about them.
    I don't see that goyim view their children as we do. The Duggars probably would not have a problem letting their children serve in the US armed forces and risk their life for America. Muslim parents have no problem with allowing their children to be suicide bombers. I see my children and grandchildren as the essence of my existence.
    Even focusing on a dozen traits is easier than all that we have to teach children. We teach them to pray in a different language than we speak to them in. Does that happen in the Duggar household?

  5. I also read the Duggar's book and found it to be a fascinating and enjoyable read. I'm glad there are still families out there that focus on obedience. As a parent that does try to emphasize obedience, I find it an uphill battle because the community as a whole seems to accept a lot of disobedience from children. Whether it be the constant negotiating with children (a trap I try not to fall into), the kids who seem to have been given the message that if you aren't their parent or Rebbe you have zero authority, or the mixed messages children receive in many yeshivas about adults and authority or lack thereof, we are fighting an uphill battle right along with the rest of American society.

    Great post. I hope to link soon as it provides excellent subject matter.

  6. Thank you, Orthonomics :)

    Rosie - I see what you mean about how we regard our children. However, as far as serving in the army, numerous Jewish parents are extremely proud to have their children serve in the IDF and in Israel, they speak and pray in the same language.

    I agree with you that what we want and need to transmit to our children is far broader and deeper than anything that Christians like the Duggars are teaching. At the same time though, their religion is really the focal point of their lives with daily prayer and Bible study and striving to live up to their ideals. We say "l'havdil" when we compare ourselves to non-Jews; at the same time, as I said in the post, we are enjoined to learn from everyone. I find the Duggars' sincere desire to serve G-d inspiring and their implementing a modest dress code and G-dly values admirable.

  7. I also find that Israelis are tougher parents and serving in the IDF is something that is done for the Jewish people. They have the ability to be tough because they need it for survival.
    In this part of the world we have the ability to indulge (in ourselves and in the children) and so obedience training is something that people pay for if they own a dog.
    I do agree with you that the Duggars are admirable. The thing that frum people could learn most from them is how to home school because tuition is becoming unbearable for most families and creates tremendous strain. When someone has that many children they need a plan in place for law and order because their home is like an institution. Many frum families have numerous children but the older ones usually leave or they are at least gone during the day.

  8. The Duggars' reason for home schooling is to be the primary influence on every aspect of their children's lives. "We kept them at home with us so we could teach them character as well as academics" and to give them religious instruction.

    If frum parents opt to home school just to save money, I doubt it will be a successful venture. As motivating as it is to save money, I don't think it's a powerful enough impetus to do what it takes to keep your kids home and teach them.

  9. You are very right that if something is done to save money it will look more like stinginess than the positive reason of teaching children character.
    It appears that one of the failings of yeshiva is character training. In numerous blogs, forums, and articles we see evidence that on some levels our chinuch has sadly failed in many areas. Schools can only do so much and much must come from the home but our children spend little time at home. We try to make good use of the time that they are home but of course we are often being pulled in different directions by our children, spouses, other family members, jobs and the frum community and its needs. Then when they finish yeshiva and sem we get to see the finished product. Sometimes we are proud of the outcome, sometimes it is mostly good but needs some work, and sometimes it appears that the more than $100,000 that has been spent on each child (total cost from pre-school through sem or bais medresh) was mostly wasted.
    When we see in the media, cases of chilul Hashem, where frum Jews behaved unscrupulously, I wonder if it is time to scrap the yeshiva system and home school the kids.