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The Duggar family are no strangers to parenting controversy, and that includes the controversial parenting method called blanket training which is used to break a child’s “rebellious spirit.”
“You put the kid on a blanket, probably six months old. And you put something they want, just outside of reach, off the blanket. And when they go to reach for it, you hit them,” a former IBLP member said during the Amazon Prime documentary, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets. “And if they continue to reach for it, you hit them again. The idea is that you’re breaking the rebellious spirit they are born with.”
According to Amy King, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s niece, who appeared in the four-part docuseries, the mother of 19 “called it encouragement.”
“They literally said, ‘You need to come into the room, and we need to give you some encouragement,’” she said, referring to the form of parenting. “But it was in the sweetest tone ever, like, ‘Do you need encouragement? I think you need encouragement.’”
The documentary, which was released in June 2023, wasn’t the first time the family has been connected to this form of training. Michelle wrote about blanket training in her 2008 book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting! Raising One of America’s Largest Families.
“I would focus on blanket training, calling out ‘Okay, boys! It’s blanket time! Oh, isn’t this fun? Come pick a toy so we can have blanket time,’” she wrote. “Some days we might practice blanket time three or four times; Other days we only got it in once. But gradually, it became a common practice. The boys learned to spread out their own blankets, then they eagerly chose a special toy to play with.”
Michelle continued, “We’re gonna practice. Obey mama. Sit really still and look at me with big ol’ smiles. I wanna see that smile now. No wiggles, be still.”
The method of parenting comes from a book called To Train Up a Child — Child Training for the 21st Century, written by Michael and Debi Pearl, which is used as a parenting guide by evangelical Christians to teach obedience. The book suggests that parents use corporal punishment in order to “train” children to obey their parents.
“The rules [and] techniques for training an animal and a human are the same,” Michael said during an appearance on Anderson Cooper’s former talk show, Anderson, in December 2011.
According to Tia Levings, another former member of IBLP, “[Michael Pearl’s] goal is to help you spank your child with extreme measures and not get in trouble with the police.
“So how you spank is just as important as what you spank with. It can be a switch from a tree, it can be a length of craft glue, the long glue stick. It can be PVC pipe,” she said during the Amazon docuseries.