“Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About RELATIONSHIPS,” by Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger Duggar, Howard Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., 234 pages, $21.99.
If you’ve ever watched TLC’s series, “19 Kids and Counting,” you’re already familiar with a most unusual family, the Duggars.
The children are unique in many aspects: All the girls wear skirts all the time; they have an unusually close relationships with their parents; all have names beginning with “J,” perhaps most important for them, children are brought up to have a close, personal relationship with God and to share that special quality with others.
The book was written to answer the thousands of questions sent by viewers of the weekly TV show. The four older girls decided to write the book to answer many of the questions and to share with the community at large what it is that makes their parents’ concept of parenting work.
The key is a commitment Mr. and Mrs. Duggar made before the children were born. The concept is all about relationships with self, parents, other siblings, friends, boys and most importantly, God.
Their parents told the children at an early age, that they would be there for them. They also emphasized the fact that when there would be a time when they were not there, but God would be there for them.
This promise continues to be an important part of everyday life for the family. Each child according to his/her age, continues to develop a deepening relationship with God on a daily basis.
Mr. and Mrs. Duggar developed games having had multiple purposes. One of my favorites is the Obedience Game. The game is tailored to each child’s age and level of understanding.
Evenings before bedtimes of the younger children, one by one, each child is given specific instructions. For the youngest ones, variations such as run to the back door and touch the door knob then go to the garage and touch the garage door and so on until they are to return to the starting point.
Older siblings monitor this to ensure no short cuts are taken. It tuckers out little ones, while having them learn to follow instructions and complete all they were instructed to do.
On a deeper level, they are learning to listen carefully for a time when their parents won’t be there, when they will need to listen to what God wants of them.
The authors, ranging in age from 20 to 25, take much time answering questions from teens and parents of teens. The girls answer by giving personal examples from their lives. Readers learn that the girls have gone through similar struggles most teens experience.
The difference is they are encouraged to ask their parents, at any time, day or night, about things or relationships troubling them. That fact is radically different from most families in which parents’ bedrooms are off limits. Some nights, their parents’ bed is quite full of children.
The children are given responsibilities from an early age on. The family reaches out to the community. As a part of home schooling, they learn about those in communities who have little voice and find ways to help those in need.
It’s a book for everyone — children, teens, adults, particularly those planning a family. Whether your family has one child or more, everyone will come away from reading this book with new ideas on raising children and being more sensitive, compassionate parents and children.
Teens will especially find the girls’ insights, particularly helpful.