Have you watched the cable tv show 19 and Counting? It is a reality tv show about the Duggar family. They have a boatload of kids (because that is what happens when no family planning is practiced) and the kids are homeschooled. I have found the show to be fascinating because I am always interested in how families function, especially on the child discipline front.

The one thing I admired from the show was how well behaved the children are. Almost scarily so. I didn’t have an understanding of how the parents managed to raise 17 kids who never rebelled in any way.

Then I read this online article about the Duggars that helped me understand more fully what exactly is going on in their family. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2011/11/but-they-look-so-happy

The author has a couple of other posts critiquing the Duggar’s style of parenting on the same site. She says she was raised the same way as the Duggar children so she knows the details of how it works. How do you get 17 kids to obey without question, do chores without argument and have absolutely no meltdowns, ever? The Duggar’s found one way to do it.

Another way which probably has a lot to in common with the Duggar’s approach, is the way I have seen my Amish and Mennonite clients raise their kids.

I have Amish and Mennonite families who I help professionally in my office. When I say families, I really do mean families. When someone in the family is sick, the whole family comes to the appointment. It is not unusual for my office to be packed with grandparents, parents and children all there to attend to the ill person. They travel in groups to take advantage of the practicality of “going to town” and running other errands and the reality they don’t want family members mixing too freely with the English –what they call everyone who isn’t Amish or Mennonite.

Amish and Mennonite families can be sitting in my office for several hours at a time. They don’t watch tv, so my stack of Disney children’s movies are useless to entertain the children. I have a toy closet that the kids love because they aren’t allowed to have commercialized toys at home. Not that it really matters. In all my 19 years as a practicing homeopathic practitioner, I have never, ever seen an Amish or Mennonite child throw a temper tantrum. Ever. They just don’t. Even as infants, they sit quietly on their parents laps and don’t fuss. They learn/are genetically programmed from birth to sit still for hours at a time. In the beginning it creeped me out. Then I grew to appreciate how nice it was to not have constant chaos in the office when the families came.

The difference in stress levels in my office between a typical out-of –control American kid who is climbing the walls and smashing things vs. a quiet, submissive Amish child who speaks only in hushed tones, is jarring.

Then last summer I was given the highest compliment a Amish/Mennonite can possibly give. I was invited to an honest-to-goodness Old Order Mennonite wedding. That does not happen. Ever. As in never, ever. The Amish and Mennonites work so hard to limit contact with the English world, just like the Duggar family, that they would never invite an English person to something like a wedding.

Of course, I went. I understood the significance of being invited and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. The only thing I could compare the experience to is what it would be like if a non-member was allowed into our temple and permitted to participate in getting endowed and attending a temple session. And just like how it would be if a non-member went to our temple, I was completely unprepared for what I experienced at the Mennonite wedding.

I plan on writing a post specifically about the wedding, so I won’t go into all the details of that day, other than to say I spent three hours sitting on a wooden church pew, surrounded by 700 people in a chapel that was completely silent. Yes, there were children in attendance. Babies even. And not one of them disrupted the religious service. No toddlers stood on the benches, no cheerios were thrown. Heck, cheerios weren’t even offered. No food , no toys, no books, nothing. All the children sat silently or slept for three hours. I am not exaggerating.

It was extreme parenting in the highest form I have ever seen. The whole wedding took six hours from beginning to end and I never saw one child run around, squawk or cause a ruckus in any way. I was so, so glad I didn’t bring my family with me. Even my adult children would have had trouble sitting silently for six hours. I was dying myself and I am an adult with pretty good self control.

When I go to our church and the children around me are in various states of meltdown and the poor parents are looking all bedraggled and worn, I can’t help but think back to my day in the Mennonite community and how all the Amish families are in my office and how the Duggars are on tv.

I would love to know how to achieve that level of calmness in public without squishing the souls out of the children. Because trust me, what I know about my Amish and Mennonite clients is, there is a whole heck of a lot of soul squishing that goes on. I suspect the same level of conformity-training goes on in the Duggar family.

So, here is my question: Is it possible to have extremely well-behaved offspring without doing spirit- crushing discipline to achieve the goal?

How my adoptive parents got us kids to behave was to beat and severely abuse us into complete compliance. I also am not a fan of the Amish/Mennonite approach. And the Duggar’s aren’t looking so good to me, either. Has anyone figured this stuff out without crossing over into abusive, controlling parenting? Is it even a realistic goal?

Tell me who you know that does it well. I am ready to be taught.