FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Avoiding Traps of Ineffective Discipline

with Ginger Plowman | August 28, 2008
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On today's broadcast, Preparing the Way Ministries founder and mother of two, Ginger Plowman, talks about some parenting techniques that are, in her opinion, ineffective and unbiblical. Hear some methods of discipline that may revolutionize the way you parent!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • On today's broadcast, Preparing the Way Ministries founder and mother of two, Ginger Plowman, talks about some parenting techniques that are, in her opinion, ineffective and unbiblical. Hear some methods of discipline that may revolutionize the way you parent!

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

On today’s broadcast, Preparing the Way Ministries founder and mother of two, Ginger Plowman, talks about some parenting techniques that are, in her opinion, ineffective and unbiblical.

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Avoiding Traps of Ineffective Discipline

With Ginger Plowman
August 28, 2008
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Ginger: A lot of times we fall into threatening, and this usually comes after we have repeated our instructions several times to no avail, and so we pull out the big gun – it's "If you don't start sharing your toys right now, I'm going to send them all off to kids who will share."  This teaches them that Mommy doesn't mean what she says.  I mean, how many of our parents, in an attempt to get us to appreciate our toys, talked about the kids on the other side of the world who don't have any toys?  We need to say what we mean and mean what we say.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 28th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk today about some other things not to do and some things to do as you discipline your children.  Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  I think there is a universal experience that everyone's had – you've been in the supermarket, you've been at the Wal-Mart, you're walking down the aisles, and you see a parent disciplining – I hate to even use the word, "disciplining," but you know what I mean – a parent who is trying to deal with a child …

Dennis: To get them under control, they grab their ear and start pulling them toward the counter, they yell at them …

Bob: You watch this in horror. 

Dennis: Yes.  It's demeaning to a child.

Bob: Yeah, and it seems like the only thing the parent knows how to do or – it's really one of those things, everybody's been there and kind of wanted to go up and tap the parent on the shoulder and say, "You know, you need some help.  This isn't going to work.  You need someone to give you some counsel on what to do if you've got an issue with your child, but it's not what you're doing right here."

Dennis: That's right, and we have someone with us to help you know what to do. 

Bob: We're going to send her around to the supermarkets and the Wal-Marts of the world and make it your mission, Ginger, to just go correct – have you ever done that in a supermarket?  Have you ever talked to a parent?

Ginger: I've been tempted but, no, I don't butt in.

Bob: You don't pull your book out of your purse and say, "Here, take this, please, read."

Dennis: You know, it really is tempting to say something because you just want to step up to protect the child.  It really isn't fair to the child.  And then you wonder, as I leave Wal-Mart or wherever I've been, and I've seen it occur, you wonder what's happening behind closed doors.

Ginger: Right.

Dennis: If they treat their children …

Ginger: … in public that way …

Dennis: … that way, you just wonder what's happening at home.  Well, Ginger Plowman does join us again here on FamilyLife Today.  She's been talking about her new book, "Don't Make Me Count to Three," which is a book to really equip moms and dads around the subject of various aspects of discipline.

One time you were standing in line at a Chik-Fil-A restaurant …

Ginger: I was, Dennis.  It was interesting what happened with that situation.  I was standing there with my children in line, and there was a mom standing in the line next to me with her two small children, and just, all of a sudden, one sibling just rares back and slaps the other sibling upside the head.  And this mom looked at her son as if he had turned into a green three-headed alien, and she said, "Why do you act like that?"  And I didn't, but I wanted to butt in and say, "Because he's a sinner.  Why wouldn't he act like that?"

Bob: And he's got no consequences for acting like that.

Ginger: That's right.  The question is not "Why does he act like that?"  The question is what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to use this opportunity to train him in what's right, or are you going to make excuses?  And tragically what she did was she began to make excuses.  She looks around at some of the people standing in line and, for some reason, she felt the need to tell all of us that her son was just so tired.  "He hasn't had a nap, and he's really hungry," and at this point I wanted to say, "Well, I'm tired and hungry, too, but I'm not going to slap you upside the head."

You see, there is nothing in the Scriptures to validate the neglect of training because a child is tired or hungry.  They sin not because they are tired or hungry, but because they are sinners, and God has placed parents as the authority over them to teach them – not to make excuses for their behavior.

Bob: You are convinced that there are a lot of techniques that parents are attempting to use in training their children that are not only ineffective, but they're unbiblical in the way parents are approaching this, right?

Ginger: Right, but, unfortunately, they've become very popular.   I know one that we all see quite often when we're out in public is bribing.  You see moms bribing the child trying to get him to behave the way she wants him to.  Not too long ago I saw a mom in Wal-Mart, and her two-and-a-half or three-year-old took off running in the other direction and mom, in desperation, calls out, "Come to Mommy, and I'll give you a sucker," and immediately the child goes from hearing impaired to exceptional hearing and comes quickly to Mom's side. 

But, you see, giving them a reward in order to get them to obey encourages them in selfishness, because their motive for obeying is "I'll obey for what I can get out of it."  And that's a selfish motive.  Children should be taught to obey because it's right and because it pleases God – not to get a reward.

Bob: So you would not use positive motivation for the right behavior?  You wouldn't come up with a scenario where you say, "Listen, we're going into the store.  You act this way, and when we get home, we'll have ice cream."  You wouldn't do that?

Ginger: Well, I would not, because the reason they would obey, if that was the offer, is for selfish reasons.  They would say, "Well, I'm going to obey because this is what I'll get.  That's a selfish reason to obey.  They need to obey because it's right.

Dennis: What if you're just trying to break bad habits, though?  I mean, in our family, from time to time there would be an issue that just seemed like it was – well, it was like chicken pox.  It got passed around to all the kids, and they all had it at the same time, and you're just trying to break – you're trying to break the habits, and we came up with a nickel jar or a dime jar, and we just said, "You know, every time you complain, we're going to take a nickel or a dime out of the jar, and at the end of this week, we're all going to go out and celebrate with the money that's left."  Anything wrong with that?

Ginger: I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I don't think that's bribing, I think that is encouraging them to do what's right.  I think there's a difference when you say, "Okay, we need to work on complaining in our family, and so this is what we're going to do," and you establish the nickel jar.  But I think that there is a difference in having a goal that you're wanting them to reach and looking forward to going out with the family and spending that money.  There's a difference in that and just simply using bribing to get a child to comply.

Bob: When our kids were little, most of them went through a phase where they'd wake up in the middle of the night, and they'd come into Mom and Dad's room, right, and after a while you're kind of tired of that, and so we used the positive reinforcement.  As we'd put them to bed, we'd say, "You know, if you wake up, and you're scared, and you need to come see Mom and Dad, that's fine, but if you sleep all night or if you stay in your bed all night, and you don't get out when you wake up, we'll give you a quarter in the morning."  Now, again, that feels like less of a bribe and more of a …

Ginger: That's not a bribe.  That's more of an incentive.  It was a teaching tool.  It was a motivation, and you are using that motivation not only to help stop the behavior but also to train the child in what's right.

Bob: What about the other side of the bribe?  What about instead of the positive reinforcement, what about the threat that says, "If you don't do" – "When your dad gets home," or "When we get out to the car" or whatever.

Dennis: "If you don't stop doing that" …

Bob: That's right – "Here are the consequences that are coming."

Ginger: A lot of times we fall into threatening, and this usually comes after we have repeated our instructions several times to no avail, and so we pull out the big gun – "If you don't start sharing your toys right now, I'm going to send them all off to kids who will share."  But, see, this teaches them that Mommy doesn't mean what she says.  I mean, how many of our parents, in an attempt to get us to appreciate our toys, talked about the kids on the other side of the world who don't have any toys?  But then how many of our parents actually packed up our toys and sent them off to Timbuktu? 

We need to avoid saying things that we don't mean and, I'll tell you, it wasn't too long ago that I caught myself threatening my children.  I said, "If you guys don't hurry up and get these rooms cleaned up, you are not spending the night with your grandparents tonight."  But I knew good and well I wasn't about to follow through with that threat and forfeit my date night with my husband.  We need to say what we mean and mean what we say.  In Matthew it says, "Let our yes be yes and our no be no."

Dennis: It really is an issue of integrity and following through on what you promise, because if you don't do that, they're not going to be able to trust you long haul.

Now, there's another aspect of – well, I hate to call it "worldly parenting," but that really is what it is, ultimately, it's being trained by the world's system, and that's reasoning with small children.

Bob: This is one that my mom today would still tell you, "This is what you ought to do.  You sit the child down, you reason with the child, that's the best method of discipline."  What would you say to my mom?

Ginger: Reasoning with small children causes confusion to me, because it erases the line of who is the parent and who is the child.  I think it's better to clearly instruct small children in what they need to do and then expect them to do what you say.  Just like a mom might say, "Sweetie, don't you want to come and eat your hot dog now?"  "Oh, no, Mom, I think I'll wait.  I'm playing with my cars."  "Oh, but, Sweetie, your hot dog is going to get cold if you don't come eat it now."  "Oh, I think I'd rather just play."  "Well, I thought if you would go ahead and come eat lunch, then we might have time to go to the park after lunch."

Bob: A bribe – you moved from reasoning to bribing.

Ginger: You moved from reasoning to bribing.  And so parents that try to reason with small children usually end up outwitted.

Bob: Because the small child …

Dennis: … is in control.

Bob: And doesn't have the same reasoning capability, and they're acting on impulse.  So you try to reason with them on why this makes good long-term sense, they're not thinking long term, they're just thinking right now.

Ginger: Right, and it's amazing how they can outsmart Mom when she gets on that level, that peer level with the child and tries to reason with him.  Children are more secure when they know the instructions, and then they are expected to abide by those instructions.

Dennis: I think you have to go back to the Scripture and just take a look at what it says about children.  It says children are a gift from God.  They are given to parents, and they are a reward.  They are also a responsibility.  That means the parent must remain the parent and must be the person in charge taking the child somewhere.  If you get down on a child's level and try to reason with them, you've given up your role as parent.  Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't try to communicate with the child.  That's not what we're saying here, but to simply make it a matter of mind-to-mind, and that's the kind of training you provide for your children – that simply will not work.

Ginger: I agree.

Dennis: And I can imagine a mom might be saying at this point, Ginger, "Okay, you don't reason with the child.  What do you do, then?"

Ginger: You give the child clear instructions in a way that he understands, and you require a response, and then you expect the child to follow through with your instructions.

Dennis: And if they don't?

Ginger: So instead of "Don't you want to come and eat lunch now?"  It would be, "Sweetheart, it's time to come eat.  Come in the kitchen."  And see the difference?

Dennis: Right, and if they don't come to lunch?

Ginger: If they don't come, then it's "Honey, have you obeyed or disobeyed?"  "How did you disobey?"  "How does God want you to obey?"

Bob: Now we're moving into the instruction and the correction, and we've talked this week about spanking as a method of correction.  You don't necessarily think that's the exclusive method of correction, do you?

Ginger: I don't.  I actually think that spanking – God does talk about spanking.  It says do not withhold discipline from a child.  If you punish him with a rod, he will not die.  Punish him with a rod and save his soul from death.  However, the Scriptures are also full of other instructions for parents.  Spanking is a very small part of discipline.  The important thing is that we are reaching their heart; that we're not just training them in what not to do but we're following through and training them in what to do, because that's what training them in righteousness is all about – that we are equipping them to evaluate their own hearts and discern matters of their own hearts and preparing them to govern their own actions in a way that pleases God.

Bob: How do you, as a mom, decide whether this infraction is worthy of corporal punishment or some other form of discipline, and if there is another form of discipline, what might it be?

Ginger:  Well, the Bible certainly doesn't talk about time out and things like that.  It does talk about the rod, and I think with smaller children, that is the most effective means of discipline.  The rod is somewhat of a mystery in how it works, but we can be confident that if we are obeying God and working on the bottom, God is honoring our obedience, and He is working on the heart.

So – to answer your question if I think there are other means of discipline, I think that as the child gets older, you are certainly going to move into other means of discipline that are going to be more effective for the older child.  But for a small child, things are really black and white.  You are either obeying or disobeying, and there needs to be a consistent consequence so that the child knows what to expect.  The child that knows what to expect is a secure child.  It's the child who doesn't know when you're going to discipline that's walking on eggshells, and it's a sad thing because those children are the ones that their discipline is based on the mood or the emotion of the parent.  A secure child is a child that knows his boundaries and is consistently corrected when he oversteps those boundaries.

Dennis: And there were certain things in our family that we spanked for.  One was lying, and we based these pretty much from Proverbs, chapter 6, where it talks about seven things God hates.  One was lying.  Another one was biting, where one bit the other and drew blood or didn't draw blood, because there's a statement in there that God hates those who bring bloodshed.  He's talking about violence, and I think it's just not right.  They shouldn't be allowed to do that.  They need to learn that they can't bring pain to someone else without experiencing pain themselves.

When we moved out of some of those types of punishments, however, we would begin to take away toys.  If, for instance, they had taken a toy away from a brother or a sister, we would not only make them give that toy back and apologize for taking it, but then we would perhaps take away one of their favorite toys for a period of time and say, "You know what?  Because you've stolen this toy, you're going to lose the privilege of playing with your own toy."

Barbara and I actually came up with a list that we used on a 3x5 card and used Scotch tape to put it inside our cupboards to give her alternatives other than spanking.  In the heat of the moment, where she could open the cupboard door and see, "Take them to their room.  Set them on their bed until they quit crying.  Remove the audience.  Take them to the other room if they're pitching a fit."  It may be a penalty of an extra chore, like washing windows, cleaning out the car, cleaning the toilet when they got older.  That was an interesting one to see a young teenager have to get some latrine duty for an attitude problem.

Ginger: Right, I agree, I agree.  And we did that, too.  There were certain times that, especially if they began to get older where we felt like other consequences were not only more appropriate but also more effective.  I know – and I still do this to this day – my son is 13, my daughter is 10, but they'll go through periods where they are not treating each other with the respect that we require in our family.  They get in these little ruts where they're kind of criticizing one another and arguing with one another, and one consequence that we do when that happens is we say that if they can't treat each other as friends, then they lose the privilege of spending time with other friends for a week or until we can see an improvement in the way that they're treating one another, and at our house we always have friends over.  We always have a gang of kids at our house, so that's a big deal to them – to go one week where they can't have any friends over so that they can work on their own friendship.  So, see, that's an appropriate consequence to the struggle that they're having.

I can think of another time that my son left – kept leaving his bike out.  After he had ridden his bike during the day, instead of putting it in the garage, which is where he is supposed to put it, he kept leaving it out in the front yard.  And so for three days he lost the privilege of riding his bike.  So there's always appropriate consequences that fit the crime.

Bob: I don't mean to keep coming back to the issue of spanking, but I do know that there are folks – well, you've seen this happen when you speak. You bring up the subject, and folks tune out.  They're not going to listen to you anymore.  I've had people say, "I don't think hitting is the right thing to do, because hitting teaches hitting, and that's not what you want to be training your children in."

You've heard the Christians who object to the idea of spanking.  How do you respond to them?

Ginger: I just give them the Word of God.  People sometimes take what they want to hear from God's Word, and then they ignore the rest.  But God's Word does call us to use the rod in disciplining our children.  God has ordained two means to assist us in reaching the hearts of our children, and they are the rod and the reproof.  And so the rod is a part of discipline, and so I simply tell them the Scriptures that God says about the rod.  One is Proverbs 13:24 that says, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline."  Not abusive but "careful to discipline."  And so often, unfortunately, even Christians are missing it.

Dennis: You know, anytime you talk about a controversial subject like spanking, you're going to find people in this culture because, as we just said, where they've come from or maybe an inaccurate perception of the process where they've never really had it explained in a way that makes sense from the Scripture.  But, you know, I've found that the Bible really is healthy when applied, as you've just talked about, in a gracious, kind, compassionate manner but with firmness and with boundaries. 

And my great fear today among parents is that we're raising a generation of children where families have become very child-centric, and the family is revolving around the children rather than the children being trained and raised to know how to, first of all, know how to deal with their own wrong attitudes and their negative behavior, their weaknesses in their own flesh, because they're related to us as parents.  They're going to have some. 

That was one of the disappointing things to me as Barbara and I raised our kids.  We began to see that they inherited some of our tendencies and some of our weaknesses.  And it was interesting, as we raised them, to look at our kids and go, "You know, I'm trying to correct that in my son, but I have that same problem."

Again, it's what God is up to.  I think He's growing us up as we grow our children up and as we help them deal with their issues in their lives, and I think it's all about God doing a work in all of our hearts.  I think that's what parenting is all about.

Bob: And we've said this before on FamilyLife Today, and you mentioned it just a minute ago, but one of the key issues that parents have got to address is the issue of who is at the center of your home.  Is it your child?  Is what the child wants driving everything else in the home?  Is it you?  Are you at the center of your home?  And that can be equally wrong. 

The real answer to that should be that God and His Word are at the center of your home, and you, as the wiser parent, are applying God's Word and teaching God's Word and correcting using God's Word as you raise your children.  And more and more, as they grow to maturity, they're beginning to learn how to apply this themselves so that they can move out into the world, out from underneath your parenting and still operate on the principles that were central to your home as you were raising them.

And the title of Ginger's book, that I think helps us do that, as parents, is "Don't Make Me Count to Three," and we've got the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website,, and on the right side of the screen you'll see a button that says "Today's Broadcast."  Click through that button, and it will take you to an area of our website where you can find out more about Ginger's book and about the No More Whining resource that Ginger has put together that I think is a great resource to help parents deal with this issue of whining in a very practical way.  And the information about it is on the website.

There is also information about a new Mom Blog that we've put together here at FamilyLife, and this week a lot of moms are blogging together about the subject of discipline.  So you can find out more about that when you go to our website at

If you're interesting in these resources, you can also give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you get in touch with us, someone on our team will let you know how you can have the resources you need sent to you.

And I want to say thanks to those listeners who have already responded this month to our Family First challenge campaign.  This has been a lot of fun.  We've had listeners making end-of-summer donations to FamilyLife Today, and your donations have been very helpful.  We appreciate your financial support of this ministry and your generosity.

In addition to the donations, a lot of listeners have been issuing challenges to other listeners, like the one mom who called in who is in a blended family situation and has faced some challenges in that situation, and she said, "You guys have been helping me figure out how to do this right.  I appreciate your ministry.  I want to make a donation, and I want to challenge other families who are in a blended situation to consider making an end-of-summer donation to FamilyLife Today in the Family First challenge campaign."

So thanks to those of you who have already called.  The campaign is winding down.  If you can help us with a donation this week either online at or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, we would appreciate your support, and we appreciate hearing from you.  Thanks for partnering with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

Now, tomorrow we're going to talk about what you have told us is the number-one issue you're wrestling with as you raise your children, and that's this issue of whining, and we'll talk more about how you get a handle on that in your home.  I hope you can join us back for that tomorrow.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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