Dugger Trouble-What Christian Parents Should Really Be Focusing On


Every day it is the same thing—more Duggar articles, updates, and tidbits coming through my FaceBook feed. Everybody has an opinion—from one extreme to another.


While I met the Duggars fifteen years ago when Mrs. Duggar and I both spoke at the same conference (me on how to teach writing and language arts and her on how to manage a family of eight or ten kids! 🙂 ), I do not know them personally nor have I ever watched their show or heard them speak (outside of that conference).

The truth is that none of us know the truth about the Dugger situation. People write blog posts and articles as though they know first-hand the exact time line and the decisions and moves that were made. I have a policy of never writing about something that I know nothing about, so this post will not delve into the Duggars’ problems.


So why am I writing a post about them if I know nothing and have nothing to contribute to their situation? Because I am afraid that we are missing the greatest thing that Christian parents should be focusing on in this scandal—how we can protect our own children from sexual misconduct and abuse both in the home and outside the home.

No, I am not an expert on this—but my husband and I have raised seven children (ages seventeen to thirty-two now) who have seldom harmed one another in any way (including striking angrily) and who I feel have a healthy outlook on marital intimacy.


Many of the protection and teaching tips that I will be sharing in this post and the next one (protecting outside the home) are from our blog (Character Ink Publishing and Family Ministries) and from various sessions of our Christian parenting seminar (“Raising Kids With Character” {RKWC}).

So here are just a few things that I feel we as Christian parents should really take to heart and implement in order to be sure that we are protecting our children as much as possible.

Note: These pieces of advice are not directed at or have anything to do with the Duggars.



Protecting Our Children From Sexual Misconduct Within the Home


(1) Protect our children from seeing SEX everywhere!

This first tip is an old fashioned one—but one that I feel many of us have gotten away from.

Our last three children were boys born within five years of each other. By that time, we knew the incredible benefits of keeping them from seeing things that exacerbate teen boys’ raging hormones.

We tell boys to stay pure, to not think about sex, to abstain from masturbation—then we turn on the television every night in which all types of sexual sin seem completely normal and acceptable and are there in front of them in full color. We allow them to view (often on a super large screen) commercials and programs in which women are scantily-clad with come hither expressions and body movements. Then we wonder why teen boys are obsessed with sex!

Additionally, we often do not give a second thought to our sons seeing girls in lewd bathing suits or seeing the pictures of  Victoria’s Secret models in the front of the store. While we can’t lock our sons up in our homes never to see anything bad, we should consider our swimming and shopping situations a little more carefully than we sometimes do. And definitely control our television situations.



(2)  Limit access to the internet by instilling boundaries and installing blocks on all devices.

In speaking to parents over the past several years, I have been alarmed at the  complacency  that many Christian parents have developed concerning the internet. We give ten year olds the internet at their fingertips—and just invite them (while warning them and begging them not to) to see sexual acts by every combination of persons imaginable. I can hardly bear to think about what kids are seeing every day on the internet.

We can’t give our children the internet and just hope for the best. We have been able to raise our kids without such a huge internet influence—and were able to continue our “no internet in the bedrooms for kids under eighteen (including no smart phones for kids under eighteen); internet on main computer in common living area for kids to use; one child very seldom home alone” approach.

However, I am not so naïve to think that people can do that today—so I leave you on this point with the best article that I have read about protecting our children from internet pornography and placing blocks on various devices–and I beg you to read it and follow its advice step-by-step—“The Porn-Free Family”



(3)  Place other boundaries in your home.

In addition to internet safety, we should also provide “common sense” boundaries in our home. These will be different for each family based on the number, ages, and sexes of their children, but here are a few to consider:

a. Open door policies of bedrooms—or at the very least that parents may come in at any time

b.  Shared rooms for two or three kids of the same sex (and ongoing spiritual teaching that helps the kids develop a  conscience that says I need to help my roommates stay pure—and they will help me as well as the responsibility to tell parents about anything that goes on that is against family rules)

c.  No televisions or internet in bedrooms

d. Have more “community rooms” for hanging out and playing and use bedrooms for sleep and/or study (as opposed to children staying in their rooms alone too much)

e. Consider the ratings of movies for the REASON of their ratings. Don’t automatically assume that a PG movie is fine and an R movie is totally out of the question. Look for the words “Rated ___ for…” and check the reasons that the movie got the rating that it did. We personally didn’t mind if our boys saw “action” movies, but if a movie listed “partial nudity” or “sexual situations,” we knew to steer clear.

f.  Think through the decision to leave one child (especially a son) home alone too often. I know it is a hassle to be sure that two or more people are home at one time, but it gave me peace of mind when our “little boys” were twelve, fourteen, and sixteen and up.



(4)  Provide hard physical labor and/or physical distractions for preteen and especially teen boys.

Our early mentors told us thirty years ago that when our oldest (Joshua, thirty-two year old son) turned twelve, we should do two things (1) Make Mom “milk and cookies” (i.e. not the controlling, nagging mom of a teen boy!) and (2) Provide physical labor or hard physical activity for him. They gave us a couple of books that further explained how sexual energy in teen boys can be expended somewhat through physical activity.

When Joshua was twelve or so, we began taking our mentors’ advice to heart—working towards Joshua’s reporting to Ray for his daily behavior and homeschooling and having Ray be the primary disciplinarian (and yes, we did this in spite of Ray’s working a minimum of sixty hours per week fifty weeks a year—where there is a will, there is a way).

Shortly thereafter, we approached a Christian business owner about the possibility of Joshua working with him/for him in his residential and commercial painting business. Joshua began working one day a week at age thirteen as a gopher and then gradually increased until during high school he would work three full hard days a week and do his high school on the weekends and evenings and days off.

Others I know use sports as an outlet for teens’ physical needs. Our kids play a lot of intra mural types of sports as well as family sports, but we felt the hard work for our boys also built a great deal of other character in them.



(5)   Lay a foundation of honesty/not sneakiness in your family.

Honesty is a trait that we can instill in our children when they are very young. And while it might seem unrelated to the topic at hand, it actually has a lot to do with sneaking negative (and sometimes very negative) behaviors. While we want to do things to help our children control sexual urges until marriage (see other points), there is an element of dishonesty in harming another secretly that cannot be overlooked.

We must teach our children that “our family is a family of honesty, integrity, and forthrightness.” (For more information, see our post-RKWC seminar session, “How to Teach Honesty.”) We can thwart secret actions (sexual or other) somewhat by taking deceit in our children at young ages very seriously.

We personally did this by biblical teaching on honesty periodically, continual character teaching that emphasized honesty/no deceit, never calling an untruth anything but a lie/deceit (no white lies or fibs), and not allowing “small deceits” to slide by (i.e. sneaking to stay up later and watch something was a real deceit/dishonesty and was not treated the same as leaving their towels on the bathroom floor).

I knew a faithful mother who would pray daily that if her children were watching or seeing anything of a sexual nature, she would find it out. That those things that needed to be known by her and her husband would come  to light. This ongoing prayer not only helped things come to light to her (i.e. looking at nudity in Usborne history books), but it also kept the “watching out for things” in the forefront of her mind so that things that others might overlook were more obvious to her.

Additionally, with honesty teaching, my husband and I were careful to not create environments/situations in which sneakiness was easy. Sneakiness becomes easy to a child when he is led to believe that “he is an island” (without accountability or boundaries)—has his own room, shuts the door, does what he wants in his own room, nobody else allowed in, etc.

Sneakiness of any kind in children becomes habitual, and, more importantly, it gradually weakens the conscience. I’m not saying that if we teach our kids not to sneak, they will not be tempted with sexual misconduct. I am saying that sexual misconduct is an ultimate form of sneakiness—and when sneakiness becomes a way of life for our children, the next level of sneakiness/deceit is easier to succumb to.



(6)  Teach the omnipresence of God early and often.

This is somewhat of a continuation of the previous point, but children who sneak around to do things (anything—not just harming a sibling) do so at the risk of getting caught by parents or older siblings or other authority. For many kids, the urge to do what they want to do is so strong that it is worth it to them to take that chance. It is in these scenarios that we have to hope and pray that we have instilled within our kids the understanding that without a shadow of a doubt, honestly, totally, and for sure/for sure—God sees and knows everything.

Yes, we can provide boundaries that help our preteen and teen children stay away from sexual sins and/or harming siblings, but the one thing that we want to drive them to righteousness is the understanding that God is all-seeing and all-knowing—and he hates sin.



(7)  Provide constant, on-going, predictable accountability in your home.

Accountability meetings, family meetings, devotionals times all together, prayer sessions, living room chats, and more should be such a part of our family life that children have trouble hiding things—their struggles, their bad behaviors, and even their doubts. We must keep a pulse on our children’s hearts at all time—and this happens through an astronomical amount of time spent with them and planned, predictable times together.

While spontaneous family times are great, our kids should know Tonight we are going to read together or talk about our day or Dad is going to tuck me in and talk to me about my life….(See our workshops about reaching our children’s hearts and our blog category “Reaching the Hearts of Your Tweens and Teens.”)

They should know this is coming for two reason: (1) Because it shows them how much we care—that we will take whatever time is needed to get to their hearts, to help them, to encourage them, to give them an opportunity to talk about what is bothering them; and (2) Because it helps our children keep short accounts with God and with their siblings.

In our nighttime talks as a family, we would often ask our kids if anybody in the family had offended them that day—and did one parent and those kids need to go talk. AND what did someone in the family do that day that was good—that stood out to you as godly character, selflessness, and kindness.

Our kids always knew that some kind of connection time was coming—in a good way. They knew we would be available, but they also knew that it was super hard to hide things from parents who care this deeply and are willing to forgo their nightly television or hobbies in order to keep the family close.

This might seem unrelated to potential sexual abuse in the home—but it really is not. Our children often confessed things to us, saying that they knew we would find out anyway when we talked or when a sibling spoke up about something (i.e. texting while driving or getting angry when babysitting for siblings, etc.).

Additionally, we need to provide unconditional love and encouragement for our children. They will be more apt to come to us, more likely to not develop addictions, and less likely to harm others or take advantage of others if they feel secure and loved by their parents in their own home.



(8) Teach children to tell you everything—and emphasize that nobody is off limits to be “told on.”

Along with our frequent meetings, gatherings, and heart-sharing times, we also must teach our children that if there is the SLIGHTEST thing that bothers them, they should tell us. We should teach them that it doesn’t matter if that person is in authority over them (and tells them not to tell because he or she is boss over them). They should “tell on” anybody who ever hurts them or does anything that they even sense might be wrong. (Of course, this assumes that we have taught them about what should never be touched, etc.)

With this, we should also avoid such terms as “tattle tale” and the like. (I know there is a fine line here that we need to discern—not let littles fuss about every little thing, tell on siblings for looking at them cross eyed or putting their foot over the line in the van, etc., but we have always felt it was better to err on the side of over-protection and caution.)

We even began taking this a step further several years into our parenting and asked the children periodically if anybody did anything they were uncomfortable with or hurt them in any way. We even brought up siblings in these questions (and were relieved to hear such innocuous accusations as, “Yeah…Joshua made me unload the dishwasher alone while you were gone!”).

Finally, talk about wrong touching and behaviors (dressing in front of siblings, wearing a sheer nightgown without a robe around the house, putting hands on each other inappropriately, etc.) as a group while not going into more detail than is necessary. Talking about it all together provides another level of accountability (“Remember when Dad said we needed to wear our undergarments under our pajamas when we are not in our bedroom?”) and the potential for red flags to come up for our children if anything that was discussed in the group is ever an issue.



(9)   Observe and set boundaries for physical contact between children.

This can be a tough thing to carry out, but it is important. Kids will be kids—they will wrestle, tickle, roll on the trampoline together, tackle a sibling at home plate, and more. And healthy interaction between siblings can be a good thing.

However, these behaviors can also give a teen the feeling that “handling” a younger sibling (and perhaps accidentally touching a sister’s behind on the tramp) is okay. And then there develops a familiarity or casualness that can become, well, too familiar and too casual and can feed a child’s sexual curiosity.

So do we say no more knee football in the living room? No more wrestling on the tramp? No more human pyramid building? I don’t think so,

However, we do need to be alert and discerning. And we need to be sure that everybody involved in the tramp romp or pyramid building is comfortable with that much closeness.



(10)  Watch for signs that might pop up that show something is amiss—especially with our tween and teen sons.

We need to watch pre-pubescent and pubescent sons for signs of too much/unacceptable sexual curiosity with siblings. And stop it immediately.

Signs of this include trying to watch sisters change clothes; habitually walking into rooms where the girls might be indecent without knocking; putting sisters that are too old to be on laps on their laps; unusual face caressing, hair stroking, or arm or leg rubbing; always trying to sit close to a certain sibling; withdrawn behaviors/wanting to be alone too much; over-taking of brother/sister selfies that look as though the siblings are a “couple”; looking at “soft porn” (like ads in the newspaper for bra and underpants sales or movie stars “red carpet” pictures in which women are not wearing enough clothing); over-volunteering to change toddlers’ diapers or clothes; and others that might be specific to your family dynamics.

(I recommend boys not change diapers on a regular basis—just another safeguard we can put in place, inconvenient though it might seem.)

Along with this point, we must watch for self-satisfying sexual behaviors. Children are naturally curious, and it becomes apparent to them early on that touching certain areas with a wash cloth in the bathtub or over-wiping after toileting can feel good. It is a difficult thing to instill in children that touching their private parts is a bad thing—while still letting them know that someday your spouse touching this area will be a good thing. We need to teach them that others should not touch them—and that they should not touch themselves. That these areas are for married life only.

There are signs that can tell us that a daughter or son is self-stimulating. Too much time spent alone in the bedroom or bathroom can be a red flag for both sexes. Boys who scratch or rub themselves too much in the living room might be doing more behind closed doors.  For girls, sitting in certain positions or rubbing against a piece of playground equipment, chair, etc., can all point to these behaviors.  Also for girls, strong smells and/or recurring yeast infections can also be signs.

This is a super sensitive and difficult area. We shouldn’t say that they should not touch themselves because it is a “bad area.” We shouldn’t tell them that they shouldn’t do it because those are for pottying only. (That isn’t true.) Again, telling them that those areas are for pottying, married relationships (at the appropriate ages—no reason to tell them this before they need to know; we used the “tell only what they ask approach”), and having children are straight forward answers that are also truths.



(11)  Provide your children with a healthy outlook on marital sex.

My husband and I are avid ballroom dancers and have been for over ten years now. One of the studios in which we sometimes visit for practice dances consistently plays this horrible song with lyrics that say, “I wanna do bad things to you…wanna do bad things to you…” referring to going home with the girl and having sex.

Obviously, the illicit sex described in this song is sin, but something that has stood out to me and Ray from this song is that kids are often taught that “sex is bad.” Yes, what this couple in the song was going to do was “bad,” but sexual acts and intercourse are not “bad” in and of themselves. “I want to do bad things to you” indicates that sex is bad.

We are doing our kids no favor by classifying sex as bad. We should clearly teach two aspects of sexuality: (1) Outside of marriage…bad/wrong; (2) Inside marriage….amazing!

With these classifications, they don’t always associate everything sexual with sin—they develop a healthy attitude towards sex. Sex in the right context (one-man/one-woman in marriage) is not bad. It is something to look forward to. Something to save yourself for. Something enjoyable.

How can we teach this to our kids when they are bombarded with “bad” sex messages all the time? We followed a protocol of telling our children exactly what they were asking at any given time—but no more. That is, we answered their question. Let them ask another. Answered that one. And so on. Don’t bombard them with sexual information that they are not asking for/ready for. Likewise, do not create an environment in which they will not ask because they think it is “bad.”

And just like honesty and kindness, we teach a healthy sexual outlook constantly, always watching for “teachable moments,” always ready for the next lesson. Not overdoing it, but not keeping them in the dark so that they wonder too much and have to seek out the information elsewhere.

We also model it. Parents should not shy away from “public displays of affection” in front of our children. Our kids should see us dancing, hugging, kissing, flirting, and desiring to be with each other. They should want what we have someday in the future—and know that it is going to be very good when it happens.



I know that is a lot to process, but in light of the recent news reports, we have to admit that even good families with consistent spiritual teaching can have children involved in sexual misconduct and even abuse or molestation. It is our job as Christian parents to teach and protect our children—and these tips can help us teach and protect well.

Watch the blog for the sequel to this article—“Protecting Our Children From Sexual Abuse Away From Home.”  This article will deal with sleepovers, authority figures, other people’s homes, childcare situations, and more.





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