FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Deciding to Discipline

with Steve Farrar | July 26, 2012
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God can use any man fully committed to Him. Steve Farrar, talks to fathers today about the important and necessary task of discipline. Farrar tells men to teach their children to respect their authority and to start discipline early while their kids are still young and pliable.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • God can use any man fully committed to Him. Steve Farrar, talks to fathers today about the important and necessary task of discipline. Farrar tells men to teach their children to respect their authority and to start discipline early while their kids are still young and pliable.

  • 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.

God can use any man fully committed to Him.

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Deciding to Discipline

With Steve Farrar
July 26, 2012
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Bob:  Steve Farrar is convinced that one of the reasons he is walking with Christ today is because his father has been faithful as an anchor man. 

Steve:  My dad is 75 years old.  I haven’t talked with him today—I’ll guarantee you my dad got up at 5:30 this morning, went downstairs, turned on the coffee maker, went over, got his Thompson Chain Reference Bible, got his coffee, went upstairs, spent the first hour this morning in the Word and prayer.  My dad prayed for me this morning, I’ll guarantee you. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 26th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  One of the ways we can anchor our children in Christ, as dads, is by praying faithfully for them.  Stay tuned.       

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition of our broadcast.  We’re here with Coach Rainey and Coach Farrar.  We’ve had a couple of days of coaching tips from Coach Farrar.    


Dennis:  We’ve had several requests from some of our female listeners, “Please, do not take us back”—

Bob:  “No more football!”  [Laughter] 

Dennis:  —“to the locker room—to the locker room for any more coaching tips.”  They appreciate the help for their husbands; but it gets a little smelly in the locker room, down there where we’ve been for the past couple of days.  Bob, of course, is referring to Steve Farrar who joins us here, for a fourth day, here on the broadcast.  Steve, welcome back to FamilyLife Today

Steve:  Thanks.  Great to be back with you guys. 

Dennis:  Steve is an author of numerous books, speaks all around the country for men’s groups, and is the founder and chairman of the Men’s Leadership Ministries, which is based out of Bryan-College Station, Texas, and is married to his wife Mary, and has three children.  In fact, for a number of years, Steve, you spoke at our FamilyLife marriage conferences, all around the country. 

Steve:  Yes. 

Dennis:  I think, sometimes, folks look at a guy like you, and they look at your ministry, and they think, “I could never do that;” but they don’t know what God could do through them if they’ll just be obedient to Him. 

Bob:  The point of your book, Anchor Man, is that every man God is using to anchor his family for a generation, or two, or three—for the next century.  His obedience to Christ and his commitment to his family can set the course of a family for a century. 

Steve:  That’s exactly right.  I think one of the things that happens—as we talk about this—I don’t want to give anyone the sense that there is a magic formula.  Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, has a great line.  Jim said—and you know Jim went into the inner city, took a dying church—less than 20 people—and nobody in their right mind would have done that, but it was an obedience issue.  God led him there. 

Jim’s line is, “Over the years, I’ve learned that God is greatly attracted to weakness.”  You see—none of us like to be weak.  Sometimes, when you write books, Dennis, and when you’re on the radio, people think, “Oh, that guys got it together.”  Wait!  We don’t have it together.  There is great weakness in our lives.  If there was no weakness, we wouldn’t have to depend on Christ.  This is all about Jesus Christ, but He puts us in situations. 

Some of you are in situations today where you are absolutely beyond yourself.  You don’t know what you’re going to do next.  You’re not sure if you’re going to make it through dinner.  That’s because He wants you dependent on Him.  He’ll get you through dinner. 

Dennis:  Yes, that same pastor, Jim Cymbala, had a daughter who was a prodigal. 

Steve:  That’s right. 

Dennis:  That prodigal drove him to that point of weakness that we’re talking about here. 

Bob:  Yes, the Bible says that when we are weak, He is made strong.  It’s in our weakness that God’s strength is perfected.  That’s where we get the consistency and perseverance to be obedient to what God calls us to.  Steve, one of the things you talk about in your book—that God does call us to as anchor men—is the assignment to provide consistent discipline. 

I’ve got to tell you, “One of the hardest things I’ve done as a dad is to be consistent in my discipline with my children because they keep asking for it day in and day out.”  You know what I mean? 

Steve:  Yes. 

Bob:  Disciplining is a hard chore. 

Dennis:  Your kids ask—

Bob:  Yes—

Dennis:  —for discipline? 

Bob:  —they ask for it.  They don’t come up and say, “Dad, will you discipline me?”  They ask for it by being disobedient, on a regular basis. 

Dennis:  Yes. 

Steve:  Yes. 

Dennis:  In fact, I love the quote that you have at the beginning of this chapter.  The chapter is entitled, “Taming Your Barbarians”.  What mother hasn’t felt that?  You quote John Owen, and he’s a great writer.  He said this, “We ought, as much, to pray for a blessing on our daily rod as upon our daily bread.”  [Laughter]  I like that. 

Steve:  Yes, it’s a great line.  You go back to Deuteronomy 6, and this idea of—we talk about anchor men and leading your family for a hundred years.  That Deuteronomy 6 passage—he says to men, “So that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD.”  The fear of the Lord is a pivotal principle that runs through the Word of God. 

You cannot have a society that functions well without the fear of the Lord.  Why is America in such deep trouble?  Why have we lost where we used to be?  We’ve lost the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Why do we read about court decisions and get upset?—because there is no wisdom because we’ve lost the fear of the Lord.  You know, the Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” “The fear of the Lord prolongs life.”  You can work your way with a concordance.  Take the phrase, “Fear of the Lord”, and go through Proverbs.  There are so many benefits that come from the fear of the Lord. 

My point in this is this, “Where does a child learn the fear of the Lord?”  Fathers are told to instill the fear of the Lord, not only to their sons, but to the next generation.  I think the fear of the Lord—and this is going to startle some listeners.  Before a child will learn the fear of the Lord, they must first learn the fear of a father.   They say, “Wait a minute.  What do you mean the fear of a father?” 

On one of the programs this week, we called my dad, just out of the blue.  I mentioned my dad.  I said he got up this morning, as he always does, and 5:30 was in the Word.  Bob, you stopped me and said, “What’s your dad’s phone number?”  So, we called my dad—and it was crazy—got my dad on the line.  Sure enough, he—that’s what he did this morning.  I’m grateful for my dad because my dad taught me the fear of the Lord, but the way I learned the fear of the Lord was by first learning the fear of my dad. 

Bob:  You say that, and you’ve seen it in this culture.  Some people have the wrong kind of fear because their fathers have been the wrong kinds of fathers. 

Steve:  They’re abusive fathers, and we are not talking about that.  Thanks for the clarification, Bob.  There are some people that are terrified of their fathers.  That has nothing to do with the fear of the Lord.  What we are talking about is awe—is a respect.  Nevertheless, there is a fear there. 

Let me give you an illustration.  I can remember San Mateo High School, my junior year, after a football game.  Friday night—two of my buddies pull up.  They’ve got a trunk, full of beer.  There were three gals in the car—one that would be available for me.  You guys know the drill.  “Hey, Steve, let’s go!  Come on.”  You know what?  There was something in me, “You know—that might be interesting.” 

I pondered it for about a nanosecond; and I said, “Tell you what—you guys go on.”  They said, “Oh, no.  Come on, let’s go.”  I said, “No, no.  You guys go.”  Why didn’t I go with them?  Let me tell you why.  I knew that somehow, someway in his omniscience, my dad would find out that I did it.  I’m dead serious.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  You know what?  It just wasn’t worth it.  I was 17; but you see, I wanted to live to be 18.  [Laughter]  What I’m saying is, knowing that I’d have to face my dad—

Dennis:  Right. 

Bob:  Right. 

Steven:  —kept me from doing something very, very stupid and very, very foolish. 

Dennis:  You know, what you’re talking about here, as you’re talking about the fear of the Lord—and there are a lot of things encompassed around this principle from the Bible—but it’s a respect for authority.  If you don’t have respect for authority, you are not going to be obedient.  Secondly, it’s submission to authority.  It’s learning how to put yourself under authority, without kicking and screaming—realizing that—that’s where life comes from. 

Third, I believe the fear of the Lord is living your life in the presence of God.  You laughed about it, Steve; but you talked about your dad and his omniscience—

Steve:  Oh, yes. 

Dennis:  —would find out.  You know God knows everything. 

Steve:  Yes, He does. 

Dennis:  Living your life in the fear of the Lord means we practice His presence.  Finally, the fear of the Lord, I believe, leads us to understand that for every act, there are consequences. 

Steve:  Absolutely. 

Bob:  I’ve just got to jump on the soapbox, here, for a second. 

Dennis:  I’ll get off, Bob.  Excuse me.  I didn’t mean to keep you off of it, Bob. 

Bob:  I think you’re dead on to this, Steve.  Mary Ann and I were walking—I’ll never forget—walking down the street together in San Antonio a few years back.  I said to her, “I’m not sure our children fear me, and I think that’s probably not right.  I think they probably should.”  She looked at me like, “What are you talking about?”  We had this discussion; but here’s where it turned.  I said, “Our children will learn to fear and respect me when they see you, as my wife, showing them how to do that.” 

Now, I wasn’t trying to whip her into some submissive state, but I really do think this principle is profound.  I think that moms—I think that wives need to understand that what they model for their children, by talking honorably about their father, “You need to be careful around your dad and be respectful of your dad.  Don’t talk that way to your father.”  Then, modeling it in the way they relate, in front of the children, to dad.  If they are contradictory, if they are provoking their father, in front of them, they are setting their kids up to not have any fear of Dad. 

Steve:  You’re talking about an attitude of respect that a wife conveys and that kids pick up on. 

Bob:  I was thinking back to the old movies.  You remember the old movie where there would be a family of eight kids, and Dad was this patriarch.  Mom would say, “Shhh!  Dad’s coming home.  Shhh!”   She’d be there, trying to get everything right for Dad.  You remember—in Mary Poppins—when the dad gets home from the bank, and they are getting the house all cleaned up because, “Dad’s coming home, and he likes things—he wants the paper there.  He wants it just”—

Now, you can look at that and say, “A lot of men have abused their office;” and that’s one reason, I think, we’ve lost the fear of him.  We’ve got to recapture a holy sense of that. 

Steve:  You know—there are some guys that want that, expect it, and demand it.  Those are the guys that don’t get it. 

Bob:  That’s right and don’t deserve it. 

Steve:  It’s like when we moved to Texas—one of my sons was on a pee-wee football league.  The first thing this coach gets up, and does, and says to these kids is, “Guys, if there is one thing I demand, it is respect.”  I thought, “This guy doesn’t know leadership from the back of his head.”  You don’t get up and demand respect; you live it.  You live your life, and respect is the by-product. 

Dennis:  I think, today, in many men, they are trying to be pals with their kids—buddies.  As a result, their kids don’t have that sense of awe that we’re speaking about here, for that authority. 

Bob:  Well, that’s kind of a foundational issue as we’ve described it.  In your book, you lay out some very specific, very practical principles for discipline.  Just coach us here as husbands, and as dads, as anchor men.  What are some things that we can do that are effective ways of disciplining our children so that we do show love and respect for them but that they show love for us?  I think you’ve got ten tips that you give in the book.  Just share them with our listeners. 

Steve:  The ten tips, quite frankly, came right out of Proverbs.  Number one:  “Start early in disciplining your child.”  Anne Ortlund had a great line.  She had a title of a book called Children Are Wet Cement.  You can’t wait until the cement is dry.  You have got to shape them while the cement is freshly-poured.

Bob:  Two, three, four years old—you talking about that early? 

Steve:  Oh, yes.  If you read James Dobson—we’ve all appreciated—he’s written some of the best books on discipline.  Jim talks about the fact that you start 16-, 18-months.  Now, you’re not going to discipline an 18-month-old child the way you do an eight-year-old—

Bob:  Right. 

Steve:  —but the principle that not letting that will get the upper hand.  You’ve got to start early.  You have those teenage battles.  The time to win the teenage battles is when they’re two, three, and four. 

Dennis:  Yes, if you lose them when they’re two, three, and four, you’ll really pay the price when they’re teenagers. 

Steve:  Yes, Dennis—

Dennis:  What’s the second tip? 

Steve:  We’ve got to win early.  That’s not the second tip.  That’s just a comment.  The second tip is this, “Use discipline for training, not humiliation or venting anger.”  This is where we have to be in control. 

Bob:  That’s right. 

Steve:  We have power as parents, but we—you know God has all power, but the great thing about God is God has power over His power.  He doesn’t use it randomly.  He doesn’t have a temper.  So, when we discipline, it has to be for a specific purpose.  We are trying to train kids; we’re not trying to abuse kids. 

Bob:  Yes, in fact, if you find yourself losing your temper, losing control, that’s the time to back off and not be involved. 

Steve:  That’s exactly right.  If you can’t control yourself, then, don’t try to control a child.  You’ve got to get control of yourself first. 

The third principle:  “Deal swiftly with disrespect.”  When I went out for football, my freshman year, I was 5’ 7”, weighed 135 pounds.  Twelve months later, football rolls around, I’m 6’3”; I weighed 180.  That was a year of a lot of growth.  We do two-a-days. 

Some of you ladies—you’re not familiar with this.  When you start football, you practice in the morning; and then, you go back in the afternoon.  It’s a horrendous experience.  Your body is so sore.

I come home from two-a-days.  I walk in the house.  My mom says, “Steve”—and I’m so sore I can hardly move.  She says, “Steve, I have some ladies coming over.  I need you to sweep out the garage.”  Now, the first thought in my mind was, “Are these ladies going to eat in the garage?”  I didn’t say that, but, “What does that have to do with anything?”  The garage needed to—I said, “Mom, you know what?  I’m dying.  Can I just do that later?”  She said, “I need you to do it now.”  I said, “Mom, please, I’m just aching”—she said, “Steve, do it now.” 

You know what?  I’m 6’3.  I’m 180.  I look down on my mom, and I said, “You know what, Mom?  I’m not going to do it.  I’ll catch it later.  I’m sorry, but I’m just feeling—I don’t feel good.”  I walk in, get my sandwich; and I was feeling pretty good.  Then, I hear my dad drive up. 

Dennis:  Judgment. 

Steve:  My dad came in the house.  “Steve, come over here.  I want you to have a seat.”  We sat on the blue sofa—never forget this as long as I live.  My dad looked at me and he said, “You know, Steve, I want you to have a happy life.”  That’s what he said, “—a happy life.”  I’m kind of looking at him; but he said, “I want you to know this—if you ever talk to your mother like that again, I’ll pull you off that football team so fast it’ll make your head spin.” 

Nobody loves football more than my dad, but there are some things that are more important than football to my dad.  He said, “I’ll pull you off that”—I knew he would.  He had the credibility capital built up.  He also said to me—he said, “I don’t talk to your mother like that.  You will never ever again, in your life, speak to her in that tone of voice.”  He said, “The other thing you need to realize.  This is not an issue between you and your mother.  This is an issue between you and me.”  He went on another 25, 30 minutes. 

Bob:  Did you go clean out the garage, at that point? 

Steve:  Oh, yes and quickly.  There—my dad demanded respect for my mom.  What is funny is—I’ve got two teenage sons.  One of them grew nine inches in nine months, a couple years ago.  We had a similar situation—kind of a smart remark.  I dealt with it.  I said—we were watching it for about a week.

I was on a trip.  I come home.  I found out the smart remark had been made again, got my son out of bed.  I came in late from California, about one in the morning.  Found out about this, got him out of bed, sat down with him.  I looked at him, and I said—and it was John.  He wouldn’t mind me telling this story.  I said, “John, you know what?  I want you to have a happy life.”  [Laughter]

Then, I said to him, “This is not—John, you need to understand something.  If you ever talk to your mother like that again, I’ll pull you off that basketball team so fast it’ll make your head spin.  I don’t talk to your mother like that.  You will never talk to her again like that.  The other thing, John—you need to realize this is not an issue between you and your mother.  This is an issue between you and me.”  You know, guys, it was all I could do to keep from cracking up. 

The funny thing about this whole story is this—in 30 years, John’s going to be sitting down with his son—

Dennis:  Sure he is. 

Steve:  —and saying, “I want you to have a happy life.”  You see, but what’s the principle we’re talking about here?  My dad dealt swiftly with disrespect.  You have—this is a non-negotiable. 

Dennis:  What we’re hearing in all of these principles about discipline is a father who is INVOLVED—involvement, step-in.  Even if you don’t know where you’re going, and what you’re doing, and you don’t have a story from your own life—like you had, to go to the bank on—step in there and swiftly engage your child around these issues because they need a daddy. 

Steve:  Even daughters, as they hit certain times—get in those early teenage years.  Sometimes, they’ll think mom’s not cool.  Rachel’s a sweetheart.  She’s a great kid.  She went through a period of time—Mary could do nothing right.  Finally, I had to sit down with her.

I said, “Rach, listen, Sweetheart, you don’t see this, but I want to tell you something—your mom can’t do anything right in your eyes, right now.  I know you love Mom; but everything she does, you are critiquing.  Your big deal is you don’t think she’s cool.  I want to tell you something.  I think Mom’s cool.  I think Mom is real cool.  I think Mom is sharp; and in your heart, you do to.  So, you know what?  We’re just not going to do that anymore.”  That’s all I needed to say, and the tears started flowing. 

That’s where dads step in and—it’s really an issue of protection.  You demand respect for your wife. 

Bob:  Well, I think you’ve illustrated one other thing that’s profound and shouldn’t be missed.  That is that when your dad set you down on the blue sofa, he wasn’t just talking to you—he was talking to your son, John. 

Steve:  Look at that.  I hadn’t thought of that. 

Bob:  He was being an anchor man. 

Steve:  Yes. 

Bob:  Not only was he talking to your son, John, but he was talking to John’s son because you’re right—John will someday have that whole discussion with his son.  It all happened because a dad invested.  He was an anchor man, and that goes on for a hundred years. 

Dennis:  In all these things we’re discussing here—we’re talking about dads assuming their responsibility to provide, to protect, to set a course for their families.  A lot of times, we think of that in terms of monetary provision, provision of homes, material provisions; but Steve, what you’ve illustrated so beautifully here—as we shape the character of the next generation—you’re providing the moral basis, the moral foundation that is going to determine the choices your sons and daughters make in the future.

That’s what every man needs to hear in this.  This assignment God has given us is not optional.  You can’t just decide to do it one day and then, not for a week.  You’ve got to hang in there.  You’ve got to be there.  You’ve got to shape that child’s conscience because if you don’t, the world will. 

Bob:  Yes, again, I just want to make sure we’re continuing to reinforce the idea that while all of this is an essential part of the assignment that God has given us as parents—and it is essential—but ultimately, the transformation that needs to happen in your child’s life is a work of the Spirit. 

What we’re doing as parents—and I heard a Bible teacher say this recently—what we do as parents, here, is we put kindling around your child and hope that God will light a spark there that will flare up and flame up.  That’s really—as you talk about shaping the conscience, as you talk about discipline and cultivating all of this, you’re really praying, all the while, that God would do a spiritually-transforming work in your child’s life. 

You be diligent to do what God’s called you to do as a parent, but don’t mistake moral behavior for spiritual regeneration because they are not the same thing.  You can have a child, who is displaying the right kind of moral characteristics; but if God hasn’t done a heart-work in that child, it’s all for naught.  That’s what the Pharisees tried to get people to do.  There are really two aspects of being an anchor man.  One, is that you do all you need to do, as a dad, to point your kids in the right direction; and then, the other aspect is that you pray faithfully to ask God to transform your child’s heart. 

We’ve got copies of Steve’s book, Anchor Man, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  You can go to for more information about how to get a copy of this book.  Again, the website is; or you can call us, toll-free.  Ask about the book, Anchor Man.  You can order from us when you call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. 

Now, we’re excited about what’s going to be taking place, a week from Saturday—the National Men’s Simulcast, that FamilyLife Today is hosting.  It originates in Chicago; and it’s going to be simulcast in churches all around the country.  It starts Saturday morning at 9 A.M., Eastern; 8 A.M., Central time.  It’s a four-hour-long simulcast.  I know there are churches in a lot of communities that are hosting this event.  They would love to have you show up. 

In fact, if you get together with a group of other guys, why don’t all of you attend the simulcast at a nearby location, at a local church in your area?  If there’s not a local church in your area, hosting this national simulcast, there is still an opportunity for your church to be a simulcast host location.  Go to and find out how you can be a host site for the National Men’s Simulcast next Saturday from 9 until 1 Eastern time; 8 to noon Central time; and then, there are Mountain and West Coast time releases, as well.  Again, go to for more information on how you can participate; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  We’ll answer any questions that you might have about the National Men’s Simulcast. 

This is all a part of a larger effort that we’ve got going on, this year at FamilyLife, to call men to be men.  It started with Dennis’ book, Stepping Up.  We’ve got the National Men’s Simulcast.  Then, we’ve got a new ten-part video series that we’re releasing a few months from now, and the Stepping Up Men’s Event Kit that we’re putting together, as well. 

We want to thank those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You help make all of this possible—this daily radio program and all of our efforts, here, at FamilyLife Today.  This month, if you’re able to help with a donation of any amount, we’d love to send you a couple of CD’s—a message from Dennis about men stepping up to be men and a message from Dennis’ wife Barbara Rainey, about how a wife can help her husband step up and be the man God’s called him to be.

All you have to do to receive the CD’s is go online at, click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation.  We’ll send those to you automatically; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make a donation over the phone.  When you do that, ask how you can receive the Stepping Up CD’s, and we’ll be happy to send them out to you.  We appreciate your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today

We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to talk about men having a generational vision, not being focused on next week, or next month, or even next year, but looking to the next decade and beyond—and thinking long-term about your family, even after you’re no longer on the scene.  We’ll talk about that with Steve Farrar tomorrow.  Hope you can be back for that.

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 will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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