FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Discipline from Three to Five Years

with Barbara Rainey, Dennis Rainey | October 23, 2009
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Is your kindergartner starting to push back on your correction? Dennis and Barbara Rainey give parents some helpful advice for loving and correcting their three to five-year-old children. Find out what to do about sassiness, lying, and bullying.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Is your kindergartner starting to push back on your correction? Dennis and Barbara Rainey give parents some helpful advice for loving and correcting their three to five-year-old children. Find out what to do about sassiness, lying, and bullying.

  • 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.

Is your kindergartner starting to push back on your correction?

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Discipline from Three to Five Years

With Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more
October 23, 2009
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Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday October 23rd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  So what do you do as a parent when you’ve caught your child red-handed telling a lie.  We’re going to talk about that today.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  I’m just tired listening to this week.  You know, to re-consider…

Dennis:  Oh, I’m energized!  Are you kidding?  Parents need every advantage they can possibly get, Bob, to raise a child through the first five years of life.  And what we’ve done is, we’ve been life-givers to moms all across the nation. I can hear them cheering.  Hear them?   There it is. They’re cheering even as I speak right now.  Because they finally have a plan that they can apply to their children and their home as a husband and a wife, mom and dad.

Bob:  Well, I guess even though I’m kind of worn out by hearing it all week, I can still go home and sleep at night without being interrupted by a toddler or a preschooler.

Dennis:  It’s done for you.

Bob:  That’s right.  We got together not long ago with a number of young couples and some single parents and spent almost a whole day unpacking the issues that parents face especially around discipline, correction, training, and instruction of toddlers and preschoolers.  We brought in cameras so that we could capture the whole thing on video, and so that parents would have a video resource to share with other young couples, with their Sunday school class, their small group, in the whole church setting.

We’ve got samples of those videos on our website at  The series is called, Right from the Start, and we’re going to jump right into session number five as we talk about some of the issues facing parents in the area of early childhood discipline.

Bob:  Well, you ready for the major leagues?   We’re going to talk today about disciplining children when they move from those early stages of “No Mommy” into the three to five year old, active, deliberate, willful, disobedient kinds of kids that they can be.  You got an e-mail recently from a parent who is right in the thick of this. Didn’t you?

Dennis:  They were listening to the broadcast, a series of broadcasts that we did here on FamilyLife Today, and the mom was evidently doing carpool, and she had a three and a half year-old in the back seat, who wasn’t dropped off anywhere.  And so, after two or three days of the carpool, the mom was beginning to take home some of what she was learning about discipline of the children.  She said, on day three, or day four, somewhere in there, she heard this little voice from the back seat, and the broadcast was on. “Mommy, turn off the music. Mommy, turn off the music.”  I have a feeling that there was some pain occurring in this little toddler’s life.

Bob:  Didn’t want Mom or Dad hearing what you were trying to teach them.

Dennis:  Didn’t want them to hear.  I think as you implement your plans about discipline, you can expect some push back.  You can expect them to try to shame you, make you feel guilty, try to reason with you.  Again, it goes all the way back to the boot camp they go to. I don’t know where they get all this stuff, but they will try to find a way out from under it.  There’s a couple of Proverbs I want you to write down. Proverbs 29:17 “Correct your son and he will give you comfort.  He will also delight your soul.”

That’s a great principle.  You know, we talk about discipline and spanking, and the rigors of being a parent. It is a responsibility, yes it is a stewardship, yes it’s a burden, but it really is a great privilege to shape the direction of a life and watch them emerge into adults.  Our children are now between the ages of 23 and 33, and 12 grandchildren, seeing them establish their own families and homes, and now beginning to form their own patterns of discipline.  Which by the way, are different than how we raised them, which is another series of broadcasts we need to do some day.

Proverbs 29:15 also says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom.” And the definition of wisdom in the Proverbs is “Godly skill in everyday living.”  It’s taking the raw components of life and ordering them in such a way that they’re skillfully put together to live a productive, fruitful life. Godly skill in everyday living, that’s wisdom.  “The rod and reproof give wisdom.  But a child, who gets his own way, brings shame to his mother.”

Bob:  Proverbs talks about things the Lord hates.  When you came across this passage, you decided this was going to be a big part of your training of your children, right?

Dennis:  Yeah.  You know, Proverbs chapter 6, verses 16-19, says “There are six things the Lord hates, yes seven that are an abomination to Him.”   Now, you may say, “What in the world does this have to do with parenting?”  Well, for us, it just hit us, that if God went out of his way to make that strong of a statement about seven things, about things he hates, what should we as parents do about those seven things when we see some of them occurring in our children? 

So, we made as many of them as possible applicable to our children as we raise them. And they really became almost like the Ten Commandments of sorts in our family, in terms of raising our children.   What Barbara and I want to do, is just real quickly go through all seven, and we’re going to focus on a couple of them, because our kids had a propensity, maybe genetically because they’re related to their parents, to give in to certain ones of these.  But, we’ll talk about how we did this as we encountered the big leagues of handling a three to five year old.

Barbara:  The first one on the list that says God hates, is “haughty eyes.”   That’s one of those things that became automatic in our family.  When our kids gave us that disrespectful look, it deserved a spanking and they got one for that.   It was automatic.

Dennis:  It might have come out in sassiness.  One of the things that can happen, if you have a child who is an attorney by trade, they argue a lot, in terms of trying to reason their way out of things.  And we had one particular child who will remain anonymous for this group, who just knew how to wrap his mother around his little finger.  He had her number.  He would get her off in an argument, and we often talked about, don’t let your children pull you off into an emotional mud puddle.   Well, he started doing this at a young age and continued on into adolescence.  It was one of his chief ways that he would try to get the upper hand. And I think that’s why God gave children, ideally to two parents.  Because it takes another parent to kind of spot what’s taking place, in terms of these haughty eyes and step in and help correct it.

Bob:  In addition to haughty eyes, the next thing it talks about is a lying tongue.

Barbara:  The second one is a lying tongue.  The thing about lies that I discovered with our kids, is that some time in their third year, every one of our children told their first lie.  So, if you don’t have a three-year-old yet, you need to be aware, that some time after that child turns three; they will try to tell a lie.  The good news is that the young three-year-olds, when they tell their first lie, don’t do a real good job, it’s pretty obvious, and you can usually catch that first one fairly easily, because they’re not sophisticated enough to really be devious.   So, you catch that first lie.

And our tendency as parents, if we’re not really on guard against that is to say, “Well, isn’t that cute. I can’t believe he did that.”  And just kind of blow it off.  But, we determined as a couple, that lying was one of the things that we were going to meet hard and fast from the very first offence.

And so, for the very first time our child told a lie, we sat down with them and explained that they told a lie, it wasn’t the truth.  We talked about what a lie is, and what the truth is, and why it was important.  That God hated it and we hated it, and that in our family, lying meant that you got a spanking.  And because we dealt with it right away, even thought it came up sometimes in later years, when you deal with it right off the bat, it’s much easier to catch it, and they don’t develop that habit of lying about everything.

Dennis:  This occurred one morning on a Saturday morning. J ust a lot like it normally would in your family.  Where, we were sleeping in, enjoying a little later having to get up, and at the doorway appeared our daughter Rebecca.   She was standing there, I think she had her t-shirt on, it was covered with chocolate.  Even to this day, she’s my chocolate buddy.  But, she had gotten up, and had gotten in one of the plastic jars of chocolate.   She had flipped open the little lid and she had turned it up and she had just drunk from it.  It was all over her face, she looked like a raccoon, and both Barbara and I laughed.

We go, “Oh Rebecca, you’ve been getting in the chocolate haven’t you?”  And all of a sudden, this little beaming three-year-old, she was smiling, her smile broke to a frown and she goes, “Huh uh.”

So, Barbara and I looked at each other, and it’s like, “Oh my goodness.”  We have just taken a delightful moment, and it’s now turning into an issue of the will.   So, she came over to the bed. She was in bed, we said, “Rebecca, you’ve been in the chocolate.”  She had a sticker that said, “Shake well” on her.

I said, "Rebecca, you know what do in our family for lying. We spank!"  This is going to sound a bit out of the ordinary, and you need to know, this only happened two or three times in our family, where a child received more than one spanking at a time.  We spanked her for the lie, put her back up on our lap and said, "Now, Rebecca, tell the truth.  You got in the chocolate. Rebecca, we spank for lying."

"I didn't get in the chocolate." She's still kind of whimpering. We said, we spank.  So, three more.  Set her back up on our lap, "Rebecca, you tell the truth, you drank the chocolate."  I think this is right, I think the third time she said, "I didn't get into the chocolate."

Bob:  Now, were you thinking at this time, maybe she didn't somehow get in the chocolate.

Dennis:  You know, seriously Bob.

Barbara:  I would have if it hadn't been all over the front of her.

Dennis:  I mean, seriously...

Barbara:  You really do think, Oh my gosh, this can't be right.

Dennis:  I'm ruining this child, I'm damaging her, this is going to be terrible.

Barbara:  Oh yes.

Dennis:  But it was all over her.  So, we spanked her a third time, and set her back.  Both Barbara and I are looking at each other and going, "How long will this go?"

Barbara:  How long is it going to last?

Dennis:  "Rebecca, tell the truth, pretty please?"

Barbara:  “Please tell the truth.”

Dennis:  “Will you tell the truth that you took the chocolate and you drank it?”  And she went, "I drank the chocolate." So she admitted it. And at that point we hugged her a bunch, because we weren't going to spank her for drinking the chocolate.  But, you know, the point was, the deceit.  The lie.  God is a god of truth.  And there's a reason why He hates lies.  He's not one who likes to put up with a lie.  I think our children need to learn, that the truth has value and that, if they lie, there's consequences that will occur.

Bob:  Okay, so we've talked about haughty eyes, and a lying tongue.  What else does Proverbs talk about?

Barbara:  Well, the third one is, "Hands that shed innocent blood."   When a child harms another child, whether it's a sibling or a friend, he's destroying that relationship.  He's damaging that relationship.  He's damaging the trust that those two little people have amongst themselves. He needs to be instructed that that's not a good thing.   So, in our family when one of our children intentionally harm another child, that was grounds for discipline.

I have a friend who sent me an e-mail about a friend of hers who had a daughter who was really bad at biting and the mother tried spanking, and that didn't seem to work so she decided to try another tactic, and what she did was she gave this little girl Tobasco sauce.  She kept it in her purse, and she said, whenever they would come to visit and play and if the little girl bit the child that she was playing with, the mother pulled out the Tobasco sauce and gave her a spoonful and she said, within a couple of times it disappeared.  So it may be that spanking doesn't always communicate with your child.  That another kind of pain might. And for this mom Tobasco sauce gave that little girl the kind of pain that she needed for her to choose self-control and not bite other children.

Bob:  Okay some listener just went ballistic.  You know that don't you?

Barbara:  About Tabasco sauce?

Bob:  Yes!  Gave her a spoonful of Tabasco sauce?

Barbara:  Well, I don't know how big the spoon was, it could have been a little tiny spoon.

Dennis:  A drop.  It doesn't matter.  I mean when I was growing up, it was... we didn't have liquid soap, they actually pulled your tongue out and used.

Bob:  Bar soap.

Barbara:  Bar soap.

Dennis:  Bar soap to, you know.  And that's not food.  So, you know the point is...

Barbara:  At least Tabasco is a food product.

Dennis:  It's a food product, so... biodegradable.  Right there on the spot.

Bob:  Ok, haughty eyes, lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, what's the next one?

Barbara:  The fourth one is a heart that devises wicked plans.  The idea behind that is that a child who does something that's premeditated.  This usually doesn't happen with a three year old. This is more four or five years old.  That they're capable of doing this.  But they pull back and they think up something really mean to do.  Sometimes, it's they say something really mean, sometimes they do something that's really mean, but it's that ability that they have as they get older to premeditate some kind of hurtful action on another child or another person.

An interesting situation we had with one of ours is this sibling, this child knew that if she hit or did something physical to hurt one of her siblings, that she was going to get in trouble.  And so she thought of a really creative-- and I couldn't believe this. I've never seen this before.

Dennis:  But you watched this actually happen.

Barbara:  But I actually saw it happen or I probably wouldn't have believed it.  But they were playing a game in the living room, three of our girls were.  They got to arguing about whose turn it was, or I can't remember.  But there was some kind of disagreement in this little game they were playing.  This daughter really made her angry, and so instead of kicking or hitting or shoving, she got up in their faces, and coughed on them, because she had a cold.  I watched her do that and I thought, "Oh, my gosh!"

It just seemed so evil, that she wanted to damage them in that way, and I gave her a spanking for it, because she obviously thought it through. T hat was not an accidental action on her part, because she moved into their face, and coughed deliberately, to spread germs.

Dennis:  This fifth one is feet that run rapidly to evil. This has to do with a child that likes to create chaos.  Just creates a mess for mom and this takes a little discernment.  It may take the father stepping in and being able to discern this.  But it has to do closely with the wicked plans. But it's the idea of creating evil, or chaos especially so that it disrupts the family.

Barbara:  Or, it's a case of a child wanting to manipulate the parents, and just always trying to be in control in one way or the other.

Dennis:  The sixth one, is "A false witness who utters lies."  It's interesting in this list that lies are mentioned twice.  Directly against the ninth commandment of the Ten Commandments.  I'm not sure why it was, but it seemed that our children, as Barbara said, as they moved through their fourth and fifth year, would not only demonstrate a lie, but they'd also--you'd also see them begin to devise these plans, these schemes that they came up with, and sometimes they involved their siblings.  It would involve tattling, and saying wrong things about their siblings.

Sibling rivalry was one of the biggest challenges we faced as a couple in terms of raising our children.  Obviously we had six of them.  We found ways to punish both kids at the same time, give them both a chore.  At points, we really wondered if we were going to be raising kids who hated each other when they grew up, because there seemed to be a lot of competition taking place in our family.

Bob:  And how are they getting along today?

Dennis:  Our children have good relationships with each other.  They have normal disagreements around their values, and how they're living their lives, but they're fine.

Barbara:  They like each other.  That's what I wanted.  I just wanted them to like each other. They don't have to be best friends.

Dennis:  They look out for each other.  So, I think that's a real measure of whether they care for each other. But the sibling rivalry really exhausted us.  And while I'm talking about that, I'd add this. I think one of the reasons why you will experience sibling rivalry in your families, is I think God wants you to train your children to know how to resolve conflict.  You'll see it over and over and over again.

And I think, after you've been through this a few hundred times, you're going to realize, you're training your son or daughter to know how to be married someday.  Because how many of you have experienced conflict in your marriage?  All of us.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  We need training in how to do that, and the home is the best place for that to occur. What's the last one sweetheart?

Barbara:  The last one is "One who spreads strife among brothers."  And that's really more of a summary statement of the previous six because if you have a child who's not been curbed in his haughty spirit or his lying tongue, or in being premeditated in doing evil things, then that child is going to be the one who spreads strife among brothers and in the family.  So, that's really more of a summary statement.  But it's a picture of what happens if we don't discipline and train our children.  Then, that child is going to grow up to be one who does destroy families.

Dennis:  You know, after hearing this many principles and stories and all that, it's easy to get something like parenting down to a formula, or an "A + B =C" type of approach.  I just want to encourage you that, don't remove God from the equation.  Because he has all kinds of surprises that you're going to discover as you raise your family.  Some of what's going to happen with your children is going to help you grow up.

We mistakenly thought God gave us six to raise them; He gave us six to finish the process of growing us up.  It's interesting how many times you can observe behavior in your children, that's a real reflection back of your own devious heart.  What I'd just encourage you to do is keep following Christ, and don't lose your first love for him in growing as a follower of Christ.

Because, it's your relationship with Him, that's going to enable you to stay ahead of your kids. Because he knows where they're headed; he knows what they're dealing with.  He does feel sorry for us at times, as we raise our family.  He will help you catch them, when they're doing something wrong and when they're doing something right.  You need to celebrate the positive, and we've talked about what you do with the negative, but in all of those things, have courage that you can do the right thing and finish the course, and raise the next generation who are going to take our places.

Bob:  You've actually been listening to an excerpt of the fifth session from a DVD series called Right From the Start, dealing with the issue of early childhood discipline and that DVD series, which is available for small groups to use, for churches, for individuals moms and dads to sit down and watch together. You can find out more about it on our website,

Just go to, in fact there are some clips up from the DVD series so you can see what it looks like, and have a chance to see how some of the interaction took place, as we produced this series. Again, the website is If it's easier for you to order by phone, call 800-FLTODAY.  1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY, and someone can answer any questions you might have about the DVD series, or can make arrangements to have it sent to you.

Now, I've got a question for you, do you know who the sponsors are for FamilyLife Today? If you're a regular FamilyLife Today listener, you undoubtedly know that our sponsors, are those of you who listen to FamilyLife Today. We're listener sponsored, listener supported. We're non-profit organization, and so we don't have any corporate underwriting, or national sponsors who pay the bills, the costs associated with producing and syndicating this program are costs that are borne by folks like you who listen to FamilyLife Today

Some of you donate on a monthly basis as legacy partners, others of you just make a donation from time to time as you're able, and in either case, we are grateful for your support of this ministry, and in fact this month if you're able to make a donation of any amount, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you. It's the audio of Thanksgiving a Time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey.  We've had this book read by a dramatic actor; we've added some sound effects, and some music, so that the story really does come alive as you listen. You're hearing the story of the pilgrims, and that first Thanksgiving. And, it's wonderful for the whole family to be able to listen to this.

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We hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back again on Monday.  We're going to continue to talk about the preschool years as Brenda Nixon is going to join us.  We're going to talk about some of the key elements. Not so much of discipline at this point, but just issues facing parents in the years when our children are zero to age five. So I hope you can tune in for that.

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

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