Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are perhaps one of America's most fascinating couples. They are raising their eighteen children with conservative values in a very progressive world as the cameras roll for their TLC show, The Duggars: 17 Kids and Counting.
With twenty personalities (21 including their first daughter-in-law, Anna), visitors coming in and out, and Jim Bob's parents living with them so they can help care for his ailing father, how do they keep the peace? In the hour I talked with Jim Bob and Michelle over the phone about their new book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting ($11), I never heard more than the soft murmur of a baby in the background. How does the couple manage this? They shared their parenting secrets.
lilsugar: On your show you are always together, do the kids, particularly the older ones get any time to themselves to go out with their own friends?
Jim Bob Duggar: They go to the ice hockey rink to play broom ball usually every Friday and Saturday night. Sometimes I go with them and sometimes I don't. There's kids there from public schools, Christian schools and some who are homeschooled — it's like a meeting center. The boys and girls both play and they have a blast. Usually 30 to 40 people show up. And, they usually go out for ice cream after.
To see what Jim Bob and Michelle have to say about homeschooling and controlling their tempers,
lilsugar: As far as education, you both attended traditional schools, do you think that homeschooling your children puts them at any social or academic disadvantages?
Jim Bob Duggar: There are some down sides. You don't get picked on as much, you don't get beat up on the playground or introduced to drugs. No really, we have seen our children become so mature. Part of the maturity process is not just interacting with people your own age, but people of all ages.
Michelle Duggar: When Josh, our first, was eight months old we really decided that this was the direction we wanted to go and we thought that we would feed the fruit that we wanted to see in our children. All those goals we set out to accomplish, we've actually seen them come to fruition with our older children at this point. It's a different way of doing things, but it's been a good thing for our family.
Jim Bob Duggar: I think the children becoming best friends is a huge benefit of homeschooling and that really has to do with keeping up with their attitudes and actions and if there's some distance between siblings to make sure that they make those things right so we stay on top of that encouraging to go to each other and then if that doesn't work get mom and dad involved. For them to learn how to resolve conflict for those they are around day in and day out is a great thing that will help them through the rest of their lives in jobs and marriage.
Michelle Duggar: Learning to communicate without getting angry — sometimes you have to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. That happens day in and day out around here. We're constantly having to go back and make things right. We're not perfect, we're human you know? Those are good life lessons being learned everyday.
lilsugar: You have 18 kids, how do you stay so calm? On your show you seem to have a sense of peace within yourself and in your household?
Jim Bob Duggar: I think Michelle is a sweet person naturally, but she has chosen to stay calm when things are going wrong. She has a way of lovingly correcting, but not being angry. She chooses to keep a sweet voice even though she doesn't feel like it.
Michelle Duggar: I think it's something that is learned like patience, you don't want to pray for that. It's a hard place to be, but it's God's grace. It's not me. I know from my own experience, when I had five under five, those were the most challenging days of my life. I was trying to have extra arms and eyes and to keep up with everything. I remember that there were many moments when I would just cry — cry to the Lord, cry, "What am I thinking? I can't do this, you know?" And, then God would give me a thought or a scripture would come to mind. I had little guys fighting and fussing over toys and it was constant and I'd be trying to figure out who did what and all I did was referee and I thought this is not the way it's supposed to be. Surely, this is going to drive me nuts and I just remember Matthew 18 came to mind. So I got down on the floor on their level and explained it to them. They learned to work it out and communicate. There's so many lessons of life that are learned at a three-year-old level. We would have never imagined, but after trial and error —It is amazing that there is peace in our home. We've taught our children to respect each other and their belongings.
lilsugar: Is the same true for you, Jim Bob?
Michelle Duggar: Jim Bob jokingly said in the book that he never had an anger problem until he had children. It's so true because you realize what can really push your buttons when these guys are not catching on to what you are trying to tell them to do and then they turn around and do just the opposite. But, when we react in anger, we are undermining everything we are trying to teach them by example.
Jim Bob Duggar: That's probably the number one way to make them get out of the home as quickly as they can — to occasionally explode with anger. And, then you are like a time bomb waiting to go off and they don't know when you are going to go off next and no one likes to be around that if they are a stable person.
Michelle Duggar: And, one day we were around the table going through our homeschooling stuff and part of our study was about dealing with anger. There were four points and the children could probably recite all of them, but the one that stuck out in my mind was that a soft answer turns away wrath. My anger is not going to bring about the right behavior that I want to see in my children. There have been many times when they've done something wrong. I say, "You sit right there." and then I walk back to the kitchen and get what I need to do done and then go back in just a minute. It gives me the moment to regroup, pray, whatever I need to do and then when I go back. I say, "I was not having the right response, will you forgive me?" And, I lower my voice. When I first whispered instead of raising my voice, my children were shocked.
Jim Bob: In the book I talk about my story about accountability (a family member touches the upset person's arm to remind them to remain calm) and even if the kids do something way out there and color on the cabinets, I still struggle with that, but it's helped me so much.
Michelle Duggar: And, we've seen that happens with our kids. One child will put the hand on their sibling's arm and say, "I think you are kind of getting angry." And, for the other one, it's like ice cold water being poured over a hot head. We're all human and we're going to struggle, but we love each other.
Check out what Jim Bob and Michelle had to say about their children leaving the nest and modest dressing in tomorrow's post on lilsugar. If you missed yesterday's post, check out the first portion of the interview. For more information on the Duggars, check out their website.