7 Times We Cheered On The Duggar Daughters For Ditching Their Old Traditions

Not long after they hit the airwaves, the Duggar family became as well known to TV viewers as the Cleavers, Bradys, Huxtables, and Pearsons. First introduced through several one-off Discovery Health specials, and then continuing with "17 Kids & Counting" (which quickly became "18..." and "19..."), the Duggars were an entertaining novelty at first. Not only was their kid count more than septuple the size of the average American household, but they also followed a set of moral guidelines that seemed refreshingly old-fashioned to some, and outright bizarre to others. 

Now, we know the truth. The Amazon docuseries "Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets," alongside the eye-opening memoirs of daughters Jinger Duggar Vuolo and Jill Duggar Dillard, revealed those household rules to be part of a strict morality code established by Bill Gothard, founder of a religious organization known as the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Many of the regulations have less to do with Christianity and more to do with Gothard's desire to control his followers as much as possible. 

No longer obligated to follow the rules once they come of age, the five oldest Duggar daughters have opted to break free from certain ones, as their social media posts often prove. True, we wish they'd go a step further — like applying to college or pursuing a full-time career. But considering they were raised to follow the IBLP standards without question, even small steps like the ones below are something to celebrate. 

All the adult Duggar women have broken the dress code

Anyone even vaguely familiar with this TV mega-family knows about the famous Duggar dress code. IBLP followers believe clothing should draw attention to the face, rather than downward to parts of the body that might inspire impure thoughts. Women in the organization wear long dresses or skirts and shirts with modest necklines; even long necklaces are considered "eye-traps." Skinny jeans, sleeveless tops, and any tight-fitting clothes are forbidden for women and men alike.

As obedient daughters, the five oldest Duggar sisters kept to the dress code while living in their family's "Big House." Once they reached adulthood, however, they were allowed to make their own clothing choices, and all opted to break the no-pants rule. For Jinger Duggar Vuolo, the decision involved much thought and Bible study, and her memoir "Becoming Free Indeed" details Jinger's realization that "Modesty isn't only about what you wear. It's about the position of your heart," (via People). Now she sports jeans, short skirts, and other outfits that were formerly off-limits. 

Even eldest sister Jana Duggar, who still technically lives with her parents, has expanded her wardrobe to include tank tops and shorts. The youngest Duggar sisters — Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn, and Josie — are still teens and presumably still bound to the clothing rules. In family photos and videos, they're always seen in skirts. Whether they'll follow in their sisters' footsteps in a few years has yet to be determined.

Jessa Duggar Seewald lets her kids bust a move

Following the teachings of IBLP leader Bill Gothard, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar banned dancing in the home on the grounds that it could lead to immoral physical desires. According to Jill Duggar Dillard's bestselling memoir "Counting the Cost," she and her siblings were allowed to jump straight up and down to approved music, but at any sign of hip-wiggling, Michelle would turn it off immediately. But for Jessa Duggar Seewald, that rule went by the wayside after she married Ben Seewald and became a mom to Spurgeon, Henry, Ivy, and Fern (in September 2023, Jessa announced she was expecting baby #5). 

The Seewalds have no issue with their children expressing themselves through movement. One Instagram post even shows Ben grooving along with the kids and encouraging them by stating, "I need to see your best dance moves." The boys' dancing eventually became more like wrestling, but it was all good. Jessa explained how a little dancing helps "get the rest of their energy out" before bedtime, too. 

Even more interesting: The Seewalds were doing their thing to Kanye West's "Follow God," a track that would never have been permitted in the Duggar household. Like Ye's dad, Jim Bob would no doubt have said, "It ain't Christ-like." Fans were delighted to see the joyful scene. One even pointed out that the famous "To everything there is a season" passage from the book of Ecclesiastes includes the phrase "a time to dance."

Jana Duggar: Still single

In the world of the IBLP, women are taught that their purpose is to be obedient helpmeets to their husbands, run a cheerful home, and produce as many children as possible for the glory of God. True to form, almost all of the older Duggar daughters married at an early age — Joy-Anna was just 19 — and promptly added to the grandchild count. Officially, the total stands at 29, including Jessa's baby on the way, but glimpses of unidentified babies in family videos suggest there may be Duggar grandkids we don't know about yet.

The one exception is oldest sister Jana Duggar. She's the only unwed adult sibling and has no known romantic prospects. Now in her thirties, Jana's chances of starting a family are also diminishing; even if she were to marry tomorrow, it would be virtually impossible for her to match her mom's impressive birth record. But Jana seems unbothered by her single status, and Duggar fans have praised her for not feeling pressured to find Mr. Right. 

Even so, Jana may not be entirely independent: IBLP's "umbrella of authority" model dictates that women must obey their fathers all their lives, even after marriage. It's believed that Jana lives on a small property near the Duggar family's main house, so she can remain close to her parents and continue to help with her youngest siblings. We'd love to hear news of the "Cinderella Duggar" being totally free to find her happily ever after.

Joy-Anna Duggar Forsyth is okay with cartoons

Members of the Institute in Basic Life Principles take care to keep their entertainment wholesome, which means many mainstream movies and TV shows are off-limits. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were particularly strict on this point, forbidding TV except for occasional DVD viewings of "The Andy Griffith Show" and other inoffensive fare. Amy Duggar King, daughter of Jim Bob's sister Deanna, recalled on TikTok that she once was rebuked by Aunt Michelle for bringing over a VeggieTales video. The Bible stories were fine, but anthropomorphic vegetables were deemed too unrealistic for the Duggar kids.

Joy-Anna Duggar Forsyth is much less restrictive with her own children, thankfully. Baby Gunner is too young to watch TV, but her older children, Gideon and Evelyn, are well-versed in several popular cartoons. They're often shown wearing clothes emblazoned with characters such as Spider-Man and Disney princesses. Joy-Anna recently shared videos of Evy's third birthday celebration, in which she got "PAW Patrol" toys and a Berenstain Bears book as gifts. Apparently, the Forsyths aren't worried about their children growing up believing that bears really talk and puppies actually drive rescue vehicles.

Jinger Duggar Vuolo celebrates a forbidden holiday

Unsurprisingly, the Duggar children never dressed up as ghosts or witches to collect candy on October 31. Like many fundamentalist Christian parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were opposed to celebrating a holiday that glorifies the supernatural. "While we do go to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, we don't do the Halloween thing," Michelle once wrote in a blog for TLC (via In Touch Weekly). 

Instead, the family attended "harvest festival" events at their church where the kids played games and ate treats without the creep factor. Jinger Duggar Vuolo has changed her outlook on Halloween now that she's a mom herself. As seen in the above Instagram post, Jinger and her family enjoy dressing up — in non-spooky costumes, of course — and going trick-or-treating around their neighborhood. While Jinger and husband Jeremy Vuolo dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Brown, their daughters, Felicity and Evangeline, went as Paddington Bear and a jar of marmalade! 

Some fans frowned on their celebrating a "satanic holiday," but many more told the naysayers to chill out. "I am so glad you have decided to be your own person and celebrate Halloween!" wrote one follower in response to the sweet post. "I sincerely believe it is all about what you make it!" Another agreed, arguing, "Halloween, for kids, is all about costumes and candy, not devil worship!"

Jill Duggar Dillard preserves her kids' privacy

The Duggars quite literally spent their childhoods in front of TV cameras. Millions of viewers watched their family dinners, vacations, dentists' visits, and other events every week on "19 Kids & Counting." But for Jill Duggar Dillard, that fame eventually turned into oversharing. As she revealed in "Counting the Cost," the TLC network insisted on filming the birth of her first son for the "Counting On" spinoff, despite Jill's objections. 

The Dillards and the network eventually compromised by having family members take some footage of the labor and delivery, but Jill still resented having her wishes disregarded for the sake of entertainment. The issue of privacy likely factored into Jill's decision to stop showing her children's faces on social media around the time she was expecting her third son, Frederick, in 2022. Any pics of them she posts now are taken from the rear. 

Jill has received some pushback from fans who don't see the point in seeing the backs of the boys' heads all the time, but others appreciate her protectiveness. She's not the only Duggar sibling who's made the choice either; sister Jinger Duggar Vuolo no longer reveals her daughters' faces, and brothers Joseph and Josiah Duggar have been noticeably absent from the Instagram world for a couple of years.

Also Jill: Saying OK to birth control

Truthfully, Jill Duggar Dillard could have taken up this entire discussion. Of the nine Duggar sisters, she has established the widest divide between her childhood and her life now. She not only wears pants and short skirts but Jill also has a nose piercing. Like Jinger, she celebrates Halloween; in 2022, the former reality star told fans on Instagram, "We be-bopped around to several different parties and ate way too much candy!" Her social media posts frequently include music from the likes of Meghan Trainor, Survivor, and Carly Rae Jepson — none of whom were on the Duggars' approved playlist when she was growing up.

Jill has broken free from her family's beliefs in more significant ways, as well. While sisters Jessa Duggar Seewald and Joy-Anna Duggar Forsyth have continued the tradition of homeschooling their children, she opted for a public school education for her older sons. But Jill's most surprising choice of all was one that goes against the entire raison d'être of the Duggar brand. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar follow the IBLP teaching that there's no such thing as "enough is enough" when it comes to having children. 

In stark contrast, Jill and her husband Derick Dillard use non-hormonal birth control and are content with the three sons they have. As she reasoned to People, "Children are a blessing, but that doesn't mean that at all costs you should have as many kids as possible." This means we'll never see "Jill's 19 Kids & Counting" — and that's just fine with us.