The Untold Truth Of Kids By The Dozen

Before exiting television in a cloud of controversy, the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting fame were considered television's first family of excessive procreation. Yet Jim Bob and his large brood were far from the only family with more than ten children to be featured in a TLC reality show. Back in 2007, a full year before the Duggars hit the air, TLC showcased several other expansive families in Kids by the Dozen, profiling other couples who seemed to take the Bible's advice to "be fruitful and multiply" and really ran with it.

In a series of TV specials running throughout 2007, Kids by the Dozen introduced viewers to eight different families, some of whom had far more than a dozen children, showcasing what life is like when there are that many humans living under one roof.

Take a look back at the trailblazing show that paved the way for the Duggars and the family's crazy on-screen moments — and prepare to be shocked by what you didn't know about TLC's Kids by the Dozen

This is how many children the Kids by the Dozen families have in total

Over the course of the show's run, Kids by the Dozen profiled eight different families: the Arndts, the Winters, the Sentmans, the Heppners, the Jeubs, the Gonyas, the Clarkes, and the Casons. 

According to InTouch, these families were responsible for bringing 114 children into the world — an average of 14 kids per family — when the show premiered. In fact, after the show, some of those families kept on going. By 2018, the Cason family's Christi and Dave had upped their number of kids to 18 — and were hoping for a 19th. 

In a 2013 interview with Barcroft TV, Christi Cason was expecting baby No. 17 thanks to the help of fertility drugs. "I actually get asked that a lot, if I'm addicted to having children," she said. "It's kind of a hard question to answer. Do I love being pregnant? Yes. Do I love feeling the baby kick? Yes. Do I love watching the pregnancy tests turn positive? Yes, and all of it, yes. And do I want to do it again? Yes. I don't feel as if I'm addicted to having children, but I enjoy it."

Money is tight when you have over a dozen kids, as shown on Kids by the Dozen

Kids by the Dozen viewers met the Sentmans, who were raising 17 children when they appeared on the show. A 2007 profile in the Detroit News detailed the financial struggles involved with having so many mouths to feed. In fact, matriarch Beth Sentman joked that her friends called her a "shopping savant" for her ability to stretch a dollar.

"We live paycheck to paycheck. But it's something we've done for 30 years," her husband, John Sentman, added. To cut expenses, the Sentmans rarely went out to eat or to the movies, and had never taken an overnight trip. Sharing their money-saving maneuvers, the couple detailed such thrifty tips as mixing up their own homemade laundry soap, making jam from bulk fruit, and harvesting vegetables from their garden. "We may not be able to eat all the zucchini, but you can also shred it and make zucchini bread or freeze it," explained John.

Despite the monetary hardships of having that many children, Beth said she refused to focus on what her family didn't have. "I believe everyone should make gratitude their attitude," she said.

How the Duggars convinced the Jeubs to appear on Kids by the Dozen

Like other large families approached to open up their lives for Kids by the Dozen, the Jeubs were initially apprehensive about being filmed for a reality show. In a 2014 blog post, Chris Jeub revealed how none other than Jim Bob Duggar convinced him it would be a good idea.

"We were skeptical at first, weary of New York hotshot producers. All reality TV involves a strict contract. Whatever they capture on camera is fair game for producers to do what they will," Jeub wrote. "So I called Jim Bob Duggar to get the inside scoop of what it was 'really' like on a reality TV show." At the time, Jim Bob Duggar had shared his and his family's pre-fame life in TV specials.

"Jim Bob and I had an hour-plus conversation about what it would be like inviting the cameras into our home to catch a glimpse of life with so many children," Jeub said, adding, "I recall our conversation fondly. He had a lot to do with our final decision to move forward with the show, and the rest is history."

This family on Kids by the Dozen wasn't looking to be on TV

Kids by the Dozen also focused on the Winters family of Maine, who said they weren't seeking to be on a TV show when they were approached by producers about bringing a camera crew into their home. "They found us. We didn't find them," Laura Winters, who appeared in the show alongside husband Jim and their 11 children, told the Bangor Daily News.

Producers reportedly discovered the Winters through an online article and contacted them about being the focus of a Kids by the Dozen episode. They agreed, and the resulting episode focused on the family's efforts to open a new store, called Candlestick Creations, on their property. When cameras filmed the Winters, producers knew they had made the right choice. When there are that many children, ranging in age from 19 months to 21 years old, there's never a dull moment. "It's really busy," admitted Laura. "It's always busy all the time."

When it came time to watch their episode, there was one problem that needed to be addressed. "We don't have TV," revealed Laura, "but just for the show, we got one."

This is how much it cost to produce one episode of Kids By the Dozen

When the Winters family agreed to appear in Kids by the Dozen, they received a crash course in reality TV, including the costs involved with the production. "I've learned a lot about TV through it all," Laura Winters told the Bangor Daily News of her experience on the show, informing the outlet that their episode cost approximately $160,000 to make.

Winters also learned that not everything viewers see on a reality show is actually, well, real. In the Winters' case, the family had painted a building on their property which housed their store bright purple just before filming was set to begin. When the crew arrived on the scene, however, the show's producers realized that watching the entire family working together to paint the building would make for entertaining television. As a result, the night before filming was to begin, the whole family assembled and pitched in to hastily paint the newly purple building back to its original white — just so they could repaint it purple again the following morning, this time with the cameras rolling. 

There were allegations that one family's Kids by the Dozen episode was "staged"

Cynthia Jeub, a member of the Jeub family who was filmed for Kids by the Dozen, claimed that the wholesome family environment presented to viewers was far from reality. In an essay she wrote for HuffPost, Jeub alleged a key moment of her family's episode was actually completely bogus and had been "staged" for the show. As Jeub wrote, her sister, Alicia, nine years her senior, was estranged from the family until dramatically reconciling in front the camera for Kids by the Dozen.

"Kids by the Dozen led to a staged 'reconciliation' between my parents and Alicia," wrote Jeub of her sister, who was allegedly on the outs with her parents because she "committed the unforgivable sin of wanting to date boys." 

Looking back, Jeub came to see her experience on Kids by the Dozen as nothing but exploitative, writing, "My family's lifestyle was made into a spectacle for entertainment." She continued, "I have not spoken to my parents in three years," noting, "I miss [my siblings], and I hope someday I can build a relationship with them that isn't based on adhering to my parents' beliefs."

This Kids by the Dozen family launched their own show

Rick and Cathy Arndt of Millstadt, Ill. were featured on Kids by the Dozen along with their 14 children. In their episode, the Arndts got ready for a softball tournament, according to IMDb.

The family's patriarch, Chris Arndt, is a pastor, and, since Kids by the Dozen, he and his family have branched out into TV production. The Arndts' Fam Team website hosts the family's own self-produced reality series, one called FamTeam and another titled Safe at Home. As was the case in their Kids by the Dozen episode, softball is a big part of it all.

"The Arndts have an all-family, competitive softball team and run multiple businesses, including Arndt Photo and Cinema," the Arndts' about section on Facebook reads. "The family is now filming an inspirational movie written and directed by Dad (Rick)." While it's unclear whether that movie — apparently titled Vine Valley — was completed, a dialogue-free trailer can be viewed on YouTube.

The Arndt family of Kids by the Dozen fame never intended to have so many kids

Even though they're parents to 14 children, the Arndts said there was never any grand plan to produce quite so many offspring. As Rick Arndt told ABC News in a 2011 interview, having that many kids wasn't necessarily by design, but something that just happened. "It wasn't really any sort of conscious plan to set a record or anything," he explained.

The Arndts are self-aware enough to realize how bizarre their lifestyle might seem to those looking in from the outside, and Rick insisted that he understood why people think they're strange. "It's hard to get over the stereotypes until people get to know us better," he said. According to the Kids by the Dozen star, the experience of parenting each of their children was singularly unique. "Everyone is an individual," he explained. "We've had an only child 14 times."

In fact, Rick admitted he couldn't imagine what his life would be like without 14 children. "We love the life," he said. Still, he admitted, "It's a challenge," noting, "You get the same 24 hours as everyone else."

How this apprehensive family was convinced to appear on Kids by the Dozen

For DuWayne and Miriam Heppner, TLC's interest in their family wasn't the first time they'd been approached about being featured in a reality show focusing on the couple's life with their 16 children. In fact, they told the Grand Forks Herald they turned down several offers before agreeing to be featured on the Kids by the Dozen

"When you sign a contract, you sign your life away," Miriam Heppner said in 2006, ahead of their episode's 2007 air date. "And you have no rights. You can say something in one context, and they can move it to a different context and make it say something totally different than you have intended." 

However, Kids by the Dozen producers convinced the couple they had no intention of producing anything trashy or exploitative, and ensured there wouldn't be any negative spin. "The motivation behind the story is the idea that if we can do it, other families with fewer children can do it," she explained. She continued, "Some moms feel overwhelmed and walk away from the family. This is where my heart is — to encourage young moms."

A shocking allegation rocked this Kids by the Dozen family

The Jeub family of Colorado was the focus of one Kids by the Dozen episode, focusing on the couple and their 13 children. One of their children is daughter Cynthia, who was 14 when she was filmed for the show. And, in 2014, she made some shocking allegations about her upbringing. "I was physically abused, and I don't just mean that I'm opposed to spanking," she wrote on her website (via Radar Online).

"I am not labeling everything in the following stories as abuse," she continued. "But the time my mom grabbed my ear as a small child and threw me on the hardwood floor so my head rang, or the time my dad hit my sister over 40 times with a belt not as punishment, but because she had a rebellious spirit, or when my brother wasn't allowed to attend his regular extracurricular activities for a couple of weeks so nobody would see the bruises my mom left on his face... I think it's fair to call those things abusive."

How Kids by the Dozen's Jeub family responded to their daughter's allegations

Radar Online reported that Kids by the Dozen's Chris Jeub issued a response to daughter Cynthia Jeub's allegations of abuse in a YouTube video that was later taken down.

"What she explained is illegal behavior," he said, according to Radar Online. "This is not true... Beatings do not take place in our home." Chris went on, "We love Cynthia, and there is pain in those accusations. I don't know what that pain is. Before her blog post, we had been wrestling with her for several months and one of the pleads with her we had was please come with us to counseling... But it's been an appeal for her to get help for what I believe is mental illness." 

The father of 16 has continued to deny all accusations, which remain unproven. "The allegations were made four years ago and have proven to be false," he told the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2018. "I haven't made public rebuttals because, frankly, I am more interested in reconciliation with my daughter. This is a personal family matter that has been difficult on all of us."

Was this fringe religious movement underlying Kids by the Dozen?

As Cynthia Jeub wrote in her HuffPost essay, her family and others who appeared on Kids by the Dozen could be adherents to what's come to be known as the Quiverfull Movement, an ultra-conservative form of fundamentalist Christianity that Jeub alleged inspires "cult-like beliefs." 

Quiverfull believers base their faith on Psalm 127, which reads, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Based on that verse, Quiverfull parents apparently believe their life's mission is to have as many children as possible. 

The Quiverfull belief system is outlined in Mary Pride's 1985 book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, which promotes the notion that contraception is contrary to the Almighty's plan. "Family planning is the mother of abortion," she wrote, as reported by Newsweek, noting that Quiverfull parents are reportedly instructed to leave family planning up to God. Producing as many offspring as humanly possible, wrote Newsweek, is "both a demonstration of radical faith and obedience, as well as a plan to effect Christian revival in the culture through demographic means."

This Kids by the Dozen controversy refused to die down

The accusations of abuse that Cynthia Jeub made against her family later led to more controversy for her father. In 2018, Kids by the Dozen's Chris Jeub was hired to teach at Monument Academy in Colorado Springs, placing his fundamentalist beliefs in direct opposition with some of his students' parents. "He may be a good teacher, but my family doesn't follow the views and things he's done in the past," parent Heather Yuen told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "I don't like the fact we're being taught by someone we don't align with."

However, the school's executive director Don Griffin defended Jeub's hiring, insisting the school undertook a thorough investigation, including background checks and interviews with his children. "Some parents initially objected to the fact that he was an evangelical Christian with strong religious beliefs, and old internet articles that spoke about possible abuse with his children," Griffin told the Gazette, adding that all of the Jeub children interviewed "[denounced] what was on the internet and claimed abuse never happened." Chris Jeub also wrote a book refuting Cynthia's allegations, titled Facing Hate: Overcoming Social Smearing, Recovering Relationships, and Rebuilding Your Reputation, which was set for release in 2020. 

What kind of ratings did Kids by the Dozen really get?

In a 2008 performance/schedule analysis of TLC that was put together by Multichannel NewsKids by the Dozen was viewed as part of a programming strategy that was underway during 2007 and 2008. "TLC is under new Management and is trying to boost ratings with existing inventory while trying to develop new series to carry the network into the future," reported the cable TV industry trade magazine. This strategy combined existing series that had been performing well (including Kids by the Dozen) with new offerings focused on not-quite-average families such as Jon & Kate Plus 8 and Little People, Big World

According to Multichannel News, rebroadcasts of Kids by the Dozen (the show originally aired in 2007, with reruns continuing to air in 2008) were still performing well. Airing Mondays at 8 p.m., ratings for Kids by the Dozen were clearly boosted by Jon & Kate, which emerged as one of TLC's highest-rated shows, although Multichannel News also pointed out that ratings for Jon & Kate were 62 percent higher than its lead-in, Kids by the Dozen.