Times Jill Duggar Dillard's Parenting Caused A Stir

Once a seemingly happy member of a popular — and large — reality TV family, Jill Duggar Dillard is now revealing what went on behind the smiles and long skirts. She has already spoken out against her parents' faith group on the Amazon docuseries "Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets," but she's not done yet.

Her upcoming book, "Counting the Cost," is being touted as a closer look at the price Jill paid for being raised in a restrictive environment. For example, as she related in the docuseries, the fourth Duggar sibling was pressured not to reveal the painful family secret about her brother Josh Duggar's alleged molestation of his sisters, including Jill. Her parents also pressured her to give up the personal life plans she'd made with her husband, Derick Dillard — all because she was brought up to obey her father's authority without question.

Jill is now busy raising three young children of her own: Israel, 8, Samuel, 6, and Freddy, 1. By the looks of her social media posts, the Dillards are a happy and well-adjusted bunch. Still, being a public figure means having your decisions scrutinized by thousands, and celebrity mothers are especially vulnerable to mom-shaming and criticism. Jill's followers are generally supportive of her parenting choices, but there have still been moments when they disagreed with her methods.  

She stopped showing her sons' faces

Like many moms, Jill keeps an active Instagram account where she posts everything from news of big events (a new house, husband Derick's new job) to small moments (harvesting veggies from the garden, drinking coffee by the fire pit). Photos of her three sons figure prominently as well. But in the last couple of years, posts featuring her children have shown them only from the rear. Even Jill's 2022 Christmas message for would-be parents was illustrated with a shot of the boys from the back as they looked at the decorated tree. The "Counting On" star has never explained the reason behind her decision, but it's likely she's being cautious because of her fame. The fact that her older brother Josh is in jail on child pornography charges must also be weighing heavily on her mind.

The choice has left lots of fans disappointed they can't see the boys' cute grins anymore. One post from July 2023 sparked an entire debate on the subject. "[Y]'all act like you're the Kardashians," went one comment. Another said, "Just don't show them at all. You know no one wants to see the back of their heads after already seeing their little faces for years." The pro-privacy followers pointed out Jill has the right to use her judgment when it comes to her own children. "It is so bizarre to me how people think they have access to other people's kids," one sighed.

She used a risky stroller hack

Back in 2018, Jill posted a video to her family YouTube channel showing a hack she learned from her mother, Michelle Duggar. Attaching an infant car seat over the handles of an umbrella stroller creates a makeshift baby carriage convenient for getting through narrow spaces. "This is super nice when you don't have a lot of space and you can't fit the big, bulky stroller in the car," she explained.

More like super dangerous. Umbrella strollers aren't designed to hold a lot of weight, and the combination of a heavy car seat and a baby creates a tipping hazard. Michelle may have managed to use the technique with her 19 children, but commenters on Jill's now-deleted Instagram post (per Good Housekeeping) were quick to warn other moms not to try it. One follower listed a slew of possible hazards, including the risk of suffocation from improper positioning, and possible damage to the car seat that could make it unsafe to use in a vehicle. "The ONLY safe place for that car seat is on the floor, clicked into the appropriate stroller or use in a vehicle," they said. "This is irresponsible and disturbing."

Responses to the post on the Dillard family website were considerably kinder. "In my generation ... kids were kids and parenting hacks like Jill's were the norm," said a fan. "It's sad how restricted children are these days." Another echoed, "This seems perfectly safe as long as the parent is [erring] on the side of caution."

Jill's education choices caused confusion

One of the most troubling Duggar parenting techniques exposed in "Shiny Happy People" is their education method. All 19 Duggar children are or were homeschooled, and part of their curriculum is the Advanced Training Institute course offered by the Institute in Basic Life Principles fundamentalist organization. The ATI has come under fire for stressing morality over facts — all of its lessons are based on portions of scripture — and for leaving students unprepared for the outside world.

Because of this, fans cheered when Jill and Derick Dillard opted to put their oldest son, Israel, into a traditional school for kindergarten and first grade. "Congratulating you on making family decisions regarding school!" said one.

But the cheers turned to confusion in the winter of 2023, when Jill's posts included photos of Israel doing activities at home during weekday school hours. "I thought he was thriving in public school," mused one. "Why take him out?" Another hoped the Dillards had indeed removed him from "that indoctrination hell." 

Other fans thought too much was being read into the photos: "Ok people give the girl some slack. Just bc a child is doing school work at home doesn't mean homeschooling necessarily."

As with most other personal-choice issues, Jill has opted not to share the education option she and Derick have chosen for Israel and Samuel. It's possible she'll address it in "Counting the Cost" — and if she does, we can expect yet another round of online debate.

Jill uses treats as a motivator

In February 2022, Samuel made such great strides in his reading that Jill took him out for a special treat. The photo she shared shows the preschooler holding up an ice cream sundae, complete with whipped cream and cookie toppings. "It took him a while, but he managed to finish the whole thing minus a couple of bites he shared!" Jill wrote. 

Some followers thought the gesture was sweet — literally! — and said they, too, offer ice cream and pizza runs as a reward for good report cards. Others were soured on the idea. A fan explained she had been "continuously rewarded with treats" as a child, which led to weight gain and sugar cravings. "I would suggest maybe sticker rewards," she said. Another echoed, "I love any motivators other than food! Bowling, trip to a museum, special park ..."

Another mom praised Jill for emphasizing Samuel's accomplishment: "While extrinsic motivators are great, it's the intrinsic motivators inside kids that helps to make them lifelong learners."

Kids helping cook is great, but kids on the counter? Not so much

As busy moms, the married Duggar daughters don't always have the time or energy to keep their homes spotless. (Plus, they don't have 18 siblings on hand to help them, as they did growing up.) As a result, some of the photos and videos they share on social media reveal cluttered floors, clogged toilets, and even piles of used diapers. The sisters shrug it off as being a more realistic part of life than their TV show offered or as an example of how they prioritize quality time with the kids over housework.

Still, it doesn't keep followers from being skeeved on occasion, as happened when Jill posted this shot of her young "breakfast helper." One commenter wailed, "Buttocks and feet on the kitchen counter? Why?" Another agreed, saying, "Nope, get him down now, too dangerous!"

Those in Jill's corner rolled their eyes at the critics, saying the counter could easily be disinfected afterward. An experienced mother added that it's important for children to take small risks. "It's okay to let your kids learn to trust themselves, and even fall from a distance that isn't going to result in death or broken bones," she explained. "You want them to learn how to balance, stop a fall, and fall safely."

Does Jill still play the 'obedience game'?

Perhaps most concerning of all was a video Jill Duggar Dillard shared in 2021 of the "obedience game" she played with Israel and Samuel. The object: Respond to her simple "assignments" by saying "Yes, ma'am" and doing the task immediately. Jill explained it was a game her mother used to play with her and her 18 siblings. 

A repost of her Insta Story drew mixed reactions. Some commenters said it was no different from playing backyard games like Mother May I, and some pointed out that calling a mother "ma'am" is considered respectful in the South. Others, however, were horrified. "This 'obedience' training is outrageous!!" wrote one. "You are not raising dogs, these are children." They also pointed out the similarities between Jill's game and the teachings of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, the ministry she grew up in but now calls cult-like. 

Children in the Institute in Basic Life Principles are expected to obey their parents' orders without argument, or risk being physically punished. The documentary exposé "Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets" pointed out the dangers of this blind obedience. When children — especially girls — are afraid to say no to authorities or speak up for their needs, they're more vulnerable to toxic relationships and sexual assault. 

Jill hasn't offered any updates on whether she still expects her boys to obey her with a "yes, ma'am" and a smile. Perhaps now that she's renounced the IBLP, she's kicked their discipline techniques to the curb as well.

If you or anyone you know may be the victim of child abuse, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, or domestic violence, help is available:

  • The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453); live chat services.
  • The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website, RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1−800−799−7233, and website.