Times The Duggar Kids Broke Their Family's Strict Rules

The 2004 special "14 Kids and Counting" introduced viewers to the Duggar family, headed by Jim Bob Duggar, the infamous follower of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), real estate agent, and former Arkansas state representative. Camera crews and production teams followed Jim Bob and his wife, Michelle, as they raised their children under the rules and regulations of the IBLP, a fundamentalist Christian group started by Bill Gothard in 1961, according to the institution's website. This group focuses its teachings on a heavily literal interpretation of the Bible and calls for rigid observance of values such as modesty, chastity, marriage, and family life, as well as the rejection of secular temptations, such as modern trends in fashion, entertainment, and romantic pursuits that church leaders do not define as pure or godly.

Many fans know that as the years progressed, so did the Duggars' numbers. By the show's final season in 2015, Jim Bob and Michelle welcomed five additions to their already expansive family, bringing the final number of Duggar children to 19.

As the older Duggar children grew up and distanced themselves from their parents, they began settling into their lives outside Jim Bob and Michelle's restrictions. Many members of the famed family have departed from IBLP practices and are embracing their newfound freedom. These acts of rebellion may not seem like such a big deal to the average American, but to members of their church, they are considered serious offenses.

The Duggar women started wearing pants

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar decided that their daughters would abide by the IBLP's teachings on female modesty. They dressed their girls in long skirts and dresses, rather than pants, in an attempt to mitigate "eye traps," which are defined by IBLP survivor Sara Jones as "anything about our clothes that drew a man's eyes away from our faces. Since Jesus said that any man who lusted after a woman in his heart committed adultery with her, it was up to us women to make sure we didn't stir up that lust" (via Recovering Grace).

Michelle and her daughters can be seen throughout the series wearing a variety of flowy, ankle-length skirts, but since the end of "19 Kids and Counting" and its spinoff, "Counting On," many of the Duggar women, including Jill, Jinger, Jana, and Joy-Anna, have let go of Gothard's teachings and ditched the "skirts-only" dress code. They currently incorporate pants, shorts, and leggings into their wardrobe and express their religious beliefs in ways that are more relaxed than what was taught to them as children.

Jinger Duggar Vuolo reflected on the family's opinions regarding their dress code in an interview with People: "I thought I had to wear only skirts and dresses to please God. And if I step outside of what I think is expected of me, I would think God's going to be so displeased with me, and it could bring harm on myself."

Jinger was courted by (and later married) a former athlete

The strict expectations for conduct impressed upon the Duggar children by their parents also extended to their spouses. According to US Weekly, Jim Bob Duggar harbored severe concerns about Jinger's husband, Jeremy Vuolo, while they were dating. The family's patriarch doubted the seriousness with which the former soccer player would follow his faith, and he made Vuolo complete a 50-page questionnaire before allowing him to date his daughter. Luckily, Vuolo wasn't offended by the demand and saw it as an opportunity for the head of the family to get to know him better.

Doubts in Vuolo's faith were not the only thing keeping Jim Bob from offering his consent to the match. Back in 2008, Vuolo was arrested for harassing a police officer, but he was later released and paid a fine of $250, according to the police report shared by In Touch in 2016.

Reflecting on his past as a college partygoer who enjoyed drinking with his friends, he told In Touch, "I'm not perfect, but I sought out accountability, and I now see great victory in my life." Vuolo left that part of his life in the past when he left his career in soccer to become a pastor. 

Jill drinks alcohol

Jill Duggar Dillard has departed from the conservative IBLP teachings and her family's views on strictly forbidding alcohol consumption, and she has spoken freely about enjoying an occasional adult beverage. She expressed her limits with drinking to People: "In our faith, we believe like we're not supposed to get drunk. So, with drinking, it's not like we're just like going crazy. It's more socially here and there, or at home, for a date or something." She said that she wants her children to observe healthy boundaries regarding alcohol.

She acknowledged that she knows her parents and some of her siblings would not approve of any consumption of alcohol whatsoever, but she and her husband have dedicated much effort to growing together and letting go of her urges to continuously please her family.

She said, "I'm okay with people not being okay with it. Sometimes it's a good thing."

Jana and Josiah went out without chaperones

Chaperones play a substantial role in the Duggars' practices of decency in their courtships and other outings, as they are seen as means to maintain accountability in multiple public scenarios, which might quickly get out of hand according to the Duggars' standards. However, Jana and Josiah have occasionally foregone the watchful eyes of chaperones on their respective outings.

US Weekly describes a date wherein Josiah and Lauren Swanson (whom he later married) spent the day at Missouri's Silver Dollar City without the watchful supervision of a chaperone. OK Magazine also reports that Josiah and Lauren also partook in unchaperoned FaceTime calls before marriage, which also violates the family's courtship rules.

In 2020, Jana also surprised fans by traveling by herself. Though it may seem strange to many Americans that a 30-year-old woman would always be expected to be accompanied by an older relative while traveling, the event still shocked longtime viewers of "19 Kids and Counting."

Jessa was too affectionate with her husband while dating

Like Josiah, Jessa admits to enjoying unchaperoned phone calls with her now-husband while they were courting. In Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger's book, "Growing Up Duggar," Jessa described these forbidden phone calls as she wrote, "The day Ben and I started courting, we began our tradition of calling each other on the phone every night! These were such special times ... These calls were not 'chaperoned.' They were private — just between the two of us" (via Duggar Family Fan Blog).

International Business Times also recounts the episode of "19 Kids and Counting" when Jessa and her soon-to-be-fiancé, Ben Seewald, held hands in prayer at the dinner table in front of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Seeing as the two were not yet engaged, this event was seen as scandalous and overly affectionate, according to the family's rules. However, Jim Bob made an exception on this occasion, as he knew the couple would soon be engaged.

Jinger celebrates Halloween

In the IBLP, Halloween is considered inappropriate and is not something to be celebrated by the heads of the Duggar family. According to In Touch, Michelle Duggar broached the topic of Halloween in the past in a now-deleted blog post, stating, "While we do go to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, we don't do the Halloween thing ... We just kind of felt like we didn't want to celebrate that holiday. But we enjoy the harvest celebration. Our church fellowship has had different celebrations through the years that we've been a part of."

In their book, "Growing Up Duggar," the eldest of the Duggar girls explained that another aspect of Halloween that prompted their parents to forgo any celebrations of the holiday was the affiliation with trickery, mischief, and proximity to the "demonic realm," which they defined as "not a joke in God's eyes."

Jinger Duggar, however, has decided to embrace the holiday in her adult life. Despite her parent's disapproval, she and her family dress up in costumes and participate in the festivities. In a 2021 Instagram post, fans can see Jinger and her husband dressed up in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger onesies as they enjoy a night of trick-or-treating with their friends.

Jana chooses to be single

According to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, marriage is an essential aspect of womanhood. Still, Jana is in no rush to be tied down. An episode of "Counting On," which aired in October 2019, dove into Jana's life as the last unmarried, adult Duggar. She admitted in the episode that she does feel pressure from her family to settle down. And though she has received plenty of offers from men to court her, for one reason or another, those situations did not result in courtship.

Jana has chosen not to force anything that doesn't feel right to her. "Different ones of us have been in relationships, courtships, whatever you want to label it as," she said (via The Daily Mail). "Of course, it doesn't always end in marriage, and that's okay. You have to sometimes talk to someone, get to know someone and just realize, you know what, it doesn't have to end in marriage."

She has been embracing her singleness by accepting the freedom and mobility that comes with not being tied down to a husband and family — as much as one can while still residing under the Duggar roof. She has traveled to different locations, taken on various projects such as renovating and gardening, and has been a supportive figure to her younger siblings.

Joy-Anna went in for a full-frontal hug after getting engaged

Full-frontal hugs are not acceptable forms of physical affection between unmarried couples in the Duggar clan, as such an embrace can stir up sensual feelings before the vows are ever said. In fact, few acts of public affection can be shared between two people of the opposite sex who haven't officially tied the knot. As mentioned previously, Jessa and her husband hardly escaped a hand-holding incident unscathed, and they only got away with it because they were getting engaged the next day.

When Joy-Anna couldn't contain her excitement after Austin's romantic proposal, she came under fire for not remaining perfectly composed despite the excitement of the occasion. The hug in question was only a couple of seconds long, but it was front-facing.

According to OK Magazine, her now-husband, Austin Forsyth, admitted on the Duggar's spinoff series, "Counting On," "We're humans and sometimes we don't always abide perfectly by our rules," in reference to their post-proposal hug.

John-David and Abbie Grace Burnett had PDA moments while dating

PDA seems to be a reoccurring theme with the Duggar kids, as John-David was seen getting a bit touchy with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Abbie Burnett, while on a date together.

In an Instagram post from July 2018, Abbie accompanied John-David as he flew a plane over the Arkansas landscape. In the first image of the carousel, Abbie's hand is touching John-David's neck as they look at each other. Keep in mind this happened before the couple got engaged later that same month, so this form of physical affection definitely violates Duggar courtship rules. In the second image, Abbie is leaning on John-David's shoulder as she smiles back at the photographer (who was probably also serving as the couple's chaperone for the excursion).

Though the two were not in perfect compliance with the courtship guidelines, the expected proposal soon followed the indiscretion.

They have piercings

In the Duggars' religion, the Bible is read and interpreted in a very literal sense, so when the Duggars, and other members of the IBLP, read in the book of Leviticus that permanently marking your body is seen as defacing God's handiwork, they took that sentiment very seriously. As a result, piercings were traditionally seen as unacceptable. The Duggar women, however, have relaxed on this point of view, and most of them have ear piercings at this point. Jill even got a nose ring.

Fans might also be surprised to know that Michelle Duggar, the family's matriarch, has also pierced her ears. According to an article published by The Daily Mail, she wears modest studs, and she even brought her daughter, Jordyn, to get her ears pierced when she was 6 years old.

Photos of the Duggar women sporting jewelry can be seen across their Instagram profiles.

They dyed their hair

Like piercings, dying one's hair is seen as an act of unacceptability altering the body, and it can also be construed as taking an unnecessary interest in one's vanity, which is a needless distraction from God, in the Duggars' opinion.

Some of the Duggar women's views on hair have correlated with the religious beliefs of their parents in the past. They defended their stance on maintaining long hair in their memoir, "Growing Up Duggar," by citing 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, which states that a woman's hair is a representation of her glory. In recent years, Jill has cut her hair to chest length, but for a while, there was some overlap in their opinions on the subject.

However, the girls entirely departed from these strict teachings regarding hair coloring. Jill, Jinger, and Joy-Anna have all changed their hair in some way, whether lighter or darker than their natural color.

They listen to secular music

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did not allow their children to listen to secular music because they feared it would encourage dancing, and dancing would inevitably bring about ungodly and sensual feelings. Instead of what most people heard on the radio, the Duggar children listened to gospel and classical music.

Their opinions on music were so strong and left such an impression that, according to an interview with Fox News, Jinger confessed that she thought she would die if she heard rock music with a particular drum beat that IBLP founder Bill Gothard had warned was "dangerous." She said, "I remember one time we were on our way to one of the seminars, and somebody turned on music with drums in the car. I was freaking out. I just thought, 'Goodness, this is it. We're going to have a car accident because somebody turned this on.' I was so fearful. It just consumed my life."

These days, many of the Duggar kids have overcome this aversion to secular music and even attend concerts. Jason Duggar even posted on Instagram when they saw Cody Johnson live in June 2022.

Jill uses birth control

Jill is taking control of her body and practicing family planning by using non-hormonal birth control to limit the number of children she and her husband have and to more deliberately decide when the time is right to have another. 

Duggar fans are aware of how this choice goes against her parents' religious beliefs, but Jill explained in an interview with People, "Growing up, it was ingrained in me that if you don't have as many kids as you're able to, that there's something wrong with that. But there was a shift in me where I felt like it wasn't wrong if you decide as a couple that it's best for you to wait." She went on to say, "Children are a blessing, but that doesn't mean that at all costs you should have as many kids as possible."

She advised in the same interview that couples should do what is "healthiest and best" for their families individually.