During their interview with Fox News‘ Megyn Kelly, even Jim Bob Duggar admitted that the “safeguards” he had put in place to protect his daughters following eldest son Josh‘s inappropriate touching were not entirely effective.
“Nothing ever happened in the girls’ bedrooms after that,” he said. “So we had safeguards that protected them from that. But there was another incident, two different instances where girls were laying on the couch.”
The safeguards included not letting the boys babysit, not letting the boys and girls play hide-and-seek together (“Two don’t go off and hide,” said Michelle), ensuring that a girl was never alone in the same room as a boy and that, “You know, little ones don’t sit on big boys’ laps or people that you don’t know or even family members, unless it’s your daddy. So we just … there’s boundaries that we’ve learned,” Michelle added.
Gail Wyatt, Ph.D. and director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Sexual Health program, tells PEOPLE that these safeguards are not necessarily effective, and not just for the practical reasons that caused them to fail as Jim Bob described.
“Parents need to recognize that forcing kids to behave in a way that may make the parents feel comfortable or someone else feel comfortable [doesn’t necessarily make the kids feel comfortable],” says Dr. Wyatt. “It’s just something that we really need to pay attention to and stop enforcing.”
When it comes to keeping children from sitting on laps or hugging or kissing relatives in greeting, “kids need to express their own feelings about greeting people and it may be based on their experience, not your own,” adds Dr. Wyatt.
Furthermore, limiting certain games – such as hide-and-seek – doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. “You need to sit down and talk to your kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior,” says Dr. Wyatt, because abuse takes many forms – “sometimes as a game” devised by the perpetrator – and “you can’t just identify one particular game because then you might miss four others.”
Essentially, Dr. Wyatt stresses communication and supervision as opposed to arbitrary-seeming guidelines in an attempt to limit certain behavior. The Duggars did mention in their interview that they counseled their daughters on what constitutes an “improper touch,” though it’s unclear whether the sons received the same conversation.
Michelle and Jim Bob blamed “an agenda” for the backlash the Duggar family has received since news broke. “There are people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”
RELATED VIDEO: The Duggars Reveal Safeguards Put in Place to Protect Their Children
The Duggars will be speaking more in a one-hour special of The Kelly File airing Friday (9 p.m. ET) on Fox News.