FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Discipline from Zero to Two Years

with Barbara Rainey, Dennis Rainey | October 21, 2009
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What does your newborn really need from you? Dennis and Barbara Rainey, parents of six and grandparents of more than a dozen, reminisce about their early years of parenting and what they wanted to communicate to their children from day one.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What does your newborn really need from you? Dennis and Barbara Rainey, parents of six and grandparents of more than a dozen, reminisce about their early years of parenting and what they wanted to communicate to their children from day one.

  • 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.

What does your newborn really need from you?

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Discipline from Zero to Two Years

With Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more
October 21, 2009
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Barbara:   The changing table situation became a point of discipline with all of our children.  Where I would say to them, “No, you may not roll over when mommy is changing your diaper.”  And of course we’d never had this kind of an encounter with a baby before and they look at you and smile and they’re so cute.

Dennis:  But then there is a look in their eye.  I’m not kidding you after six children you begin to see this, there was a day when the light would come on there would be a look in their eye and their eyes would meet their mother’s eyes and it was like we’ll just see about that. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 21st.  The host today is the president of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  From the changing table to the dinner table to just about every spot in the house you’re going to have plenty of opportunities as a parent to exercise a little discipline with your children.  We’ll talk about that today.  Stay tuned.

Bob:  Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  One thing we can pretty much guarantee if you’re a parent of a preschooler you will have many opportunities to test out a variety of corrective measures with your children.  Right?

Dennis:  I was wondering what you were going to guarantee there are a lot of guarantees with a preschooler, but you’re right Bob, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities to apply various techniques of discipline.

Bob:  You’re going to have it at mealtime, you’re going to have it at nap time, you’re going to have it with, two basic areas.  When they’re awake and when they’re asleep.  Those are the two main areas where you’ll have it.

Dennis:  Even when you put them to bed.

Bob:  That’s right.

Dennis:  Let me tell you something, we’ve got some great stories about that. 

Bob:  We got together with a number of young couples awhile back and with some single parents as well and spent a day unpacking this issue of early childhood discipline.  We brought in cameras so that we could capture it for video and so that we could create a resource that moms and dads can use with other moms and dads in a small group and a Sunday school class, in a church setting, or just in your living room. 

And we want you to hear a portion of the third installment of that video series today as we talked about the issues parents face in the area of early childhood discipline right from the start.

Bob:  In this session we want to talk about the first year of a child’s life and how discipline fits in to that child’s first year and Barbara you are grandparents again for the I don’t know, eleventh, twelfth time.

Barbara:  Twelfth.

Bob:  Twelfth time, you were just up with your new grandbaby.

Barbara:   I was, about three weeks ago.

Bob:  And were you exhorting your daughter to discipline that baby?

Barbara:    I was, actually.  In a manner of speaking, this was her first baby and when she brought her home she said I don’t know if I can even keep her alive, I mean she was so nervous and as first time moms always are.  You don’t know what you are doing you don’t know how to do it, it’s overwhelming, you’re tired, you just don’t know where to begin with that baby. 

And so, I got the privilege of spending a few days with her and my older daughter, Ashley, did as well, and between the two of us we gave her some coaching on how to help this baby adjust to life in the real world.  And one of those things quite honestly is the subject of discipline.  What I mean by that is that I was encouraging our daughter to begin to establish a parent-directed home rather than a child-directed one. 

I said to her, “Now you need to be in charge, yes when your baby cries she is telling you something and you need to learn what her cries mean and all of that, but you are in charge.  Not her.  And you need to set the schedule, not her.  And we talked that through and she’s working on it and she is only three weeks into it, but I just encouraged her that from the very beginning as you establish your routine for your baby and as that baby becomes a toddler if you begin from the very beginning with the idea that you are in charge and that you are responsible it is much easier to establish a schedule and a routine that everybody can be comfortable with and that is the beginning of discipline with your children.

Bob:  Dennis, we don’t normally think about disciplining little infants who all they do basically is sleep and then wake up and eat and then sleep some more, but

Dennis:  And a few other things.


Bob:  And a few other things we won’t mention here, but there is a pattern that you want to establish that Barbara’s talking about that communicates even to a newborn baby that you are a welcome part of this family, but you are not the center of the universe.  Right?

Dennis:  Right.  And I think what Barbara is talking about here is, from the very beginning you’re training your child and what dads have to realize at this point is they play a very important role alongside the one who carries most of the burden here emotionally and physically,  their wives, in terms of coaching, encouraging, cheering her on as she sets the boundaries in those moments when she lacks confidence you come alongside her and talk about it, enter into her world and discuss it. 

And I was always amazed at Barbara’s wisdom in terms of welcoming baby into a very nurturing home, one where she was loved and cared for, but at the same time helping that baby begin to realize that that baby was a part of a bigger universe.  And that there was a family and it was made of a constellation of stars not just one star that was in the middle and that the baby was treasured and valued and cherished but needed to understand that this galaxy had some rules and boundaries around it and she needed or he needed to be able to abide by them.

Bob:  Barbara, some of those rules and boundaries with an infant are around the issues of eating and sleeping and you believe that a mom needs to be working to set a schedule for a child in those areas, right?

Barbara:  I do.  I think that the primary responsibility for a parent, especially a mom in those early days, is the eating and the feeding of the baby and that needs to be scheduled.  And by creating a schedule of some kind for your baby you’re creating security, you’re creating an environment that’s stable and you’re creating a training environment where the baby learns to respond, you know where you are in charge of your baby and you’re feeding it when it needs to be fed, not necessarily every time it cries. 

My goal was to feed my babies every four hours and sometimes it was three, sometimes it was three and a half but my goal was four so that I could stretch them out enough so that eventually they would sleep through the night.  Because getting them to sleep through the night so that they don’t have their days and nights mixed up which babies so often do was one of my goals.  Because I needed my sleep to be able to take care of the other people in the family, that was my goal that I was always striving for from day one when I brought that baby home was to get that baby on a schedule so that we could work toward better sleeping patterns so I could sleep better.

Bob:  Dennis, your kids at this age are not being willfully and intentionally disobedient or self-willed when they are crying because they want something to eat, but you’re still communicating something to a child even in these early days about discipline, right?

Dennis:  Well Barbara said it, the purpose of discipline is ultimately to train your child to know how to respond to authority.  And ultimately you’re training them to respond to God as their life-authority for how they should live their lives and so what Barbara’s talking about in these very formative weeks and months of life is giving a child a framework to begin to understand yes, there is an authority over her or him and that they need to respond by living within those boundaries, that framework. 

And then there are times that Barbara began to experience after four to six, seven months where you begin to encounter little tests where you think something is going on here that is not just a baby, it’s a young person beginning to push back a little bit.

Bob:  Diaper changing was one of those times when a baby was four, five or six months old that you started to experience this, right?

Barbara:  Yes, I realized one of the benefits of having a big family is you see these things repeated over and over again with kids.  And one of the things that I saw repeated with our babies is that when they learned how to roll over, everybody celebrates it, we clap and we  take pictures and movies of it, it is such a big accomplishment when a baby learns to roll over and we celebrate it and enjoy it, but eventually that new accomplishment can become a problem because on the changing table as all of you know who have had babies they think it’s cute and they have no idea if they roll over on the changing table and hit the edge and go off on the floor that it is going to hurt.  They don’t know, but we know and so we’re responsible for their protection. 

Again that’s one of our responsibilities as parents is safety and protection and so I always made that a training situation for our children.  Again, when they were little to have an opportunity to teach them that they couldn’t always do what they wanted to do.  Yes, rolling over was fun, it was a great accomplishment but they couldn’t always do it when they wanted to do it.  And so, the changing table situation became a point of discipline with all of our children where I would say to them, “No, you may not roll over when mommy is changing your diaper” and of course we’ve never had this kind of an encounter with a baby before and they would look at you and smile and they’re so cute.

Dennis:  But then there was a look in their eye.


 I’m not kidding you after six children you begin to see this.  There was a day when the light would come on there would be a look in their eye and their eyes would meet their mother’s eyes and it was like, we’ll just see about that.

Bob:  And you’d actually say to this baby, “No you can’t roll over.”  This five month old baby?

Dennis:  And the baby understood what she was saying.

Bob:  Oh, come on. The baby understands.

Barbara:  Well, you change your tone of voice, it’s not the cute, “Oh, you’re so cute, I just love you.”  It’s, “No, you may not roll over” and that change, babies are so perceptive, and they really know and so while the baby doesn’t understand the words, the baby understands the change in the tone of voice.  And so, what I would do if the baby did not comply and lay still is I would administer a short, small amount of a sting to their upper leg and just say, “No, you may not roll over.”  And they would look back up at me with their eyes real big, like, what happened?  And then they would start crying and we would go through the talking phase where I would say, “It’s ok, mommy loves you, but you can’t roll over when we change your diaper.”

Bob:  What about biting when it was feeding time?

Barbara:  This was something that I ran into repeatedly and because I nursed my babies when they began teething, they you know how babies like to gum on things and chew on things they would all for one time they would try to do that while I was nursing them and I remember my oldest one was just barely five months old when she did this for the first time and I remember that I decided that I was going to let her know that that was unacceptable behavior and I did the same thing as I did with the changing table. 

I took my hand about this far away from her leg, so I didn’t haul back, but at six inches away, I gave her one pop on the top of her leg, just as she bit me and she looked up at me with those big eyes and then she, just for a second, and then she started to cry and I told her that I loved her and that it was important for her to learn to control her mouth and that biting was not acceptable. 

A five month old doesn’t understand that any more than a five or six-month old rolling over on the changing table but it was something that I needed to do and I did that with each of my children the first time they would try to bite me and they never did it again.

Not one of them ever did it more than once. 

And it was really a good instruction for me to realize how important it is to deal with things the first time with our children when they are most teachable and most impressionable because it’s so much easier to deal with it quickly and early on than it is to wait until they are much older.

Bob:  Dennis, you’re really setting patterns both for yourself as a parent and also for your child during these early months of life aren’t you?

Dennis:  You are and it’s just going back to a pattern of how you discipline, how you express love how you bring about just a very small amount, a measured amount of pain and it’s all about training them, training them to respond to authority appropriately. 

Bob:  What about the arched back when you are trying to put the child in the high chair like they don’t want to sit down there or in the car seat, I’m not getting in here.  How do you deal with that?

Barbara:  Well, I just let my kids know that they’re not going to win and if it really becomes an issue then I might choose to make it an issue of discipline where they get a spanking.  But, you know with some you can talk them it out of it, you can force them to get in and to submit, but others you have to make it a point of discipline.   So I think it depends on the child.

Dennis:  Throwing food on the floor, off the high chair, and again you can begin to detect when it becomes an issue with your child when you tell them not to do it and they look up at you and then they just, their eyes never leave yours and they just push it off to the side.  You have to decide what you’re going to do with those things.  Whether you’re going to ignore it, which sometimes that may be the best thing to do or really decide, no, this child is drawing a line in the sand and is saying, “no, it’s my will, not your will; I’m going to do what I want to do”.

Bob:  Let’s take some questions.  Who’s got a question?  You do, sir, go ahead.

Question:  You mentioned the arched back especially a strong willed child who is going to test you on some of these.  What about when you get that and you’re in the process of trying to gain control, or you’re in the process leading to a spanking, it almost seems like a series of events now that you’re having to discipline for.  How do you address that?

Barbara:  Yes, so much of it depends on the situation.  For instance if it’s at the grocery store and your child is resisting getting into the shopping cart you have a choice, are you going to force him to do it on the spot, do you pick him up and go back to the car, have a conversation and say, “we’re going into the grocery store and you will get in the cart” and you try again and he resists again and then you go back and spank.  So there are so many pieces to it because each situation so often is different.

I mean they don’t always do the same thing every time so I think a lot of it depends on where you are and what the other circumstances are.  The thing that makes it difficult is that it takes a lot of time.  And here you are at the grocery store, you’ve got thirty minutes to get in and out of there because you’ve got to be somewhere and you’ve got this two year-old that resists getting in the shopping cart and is making a big scene.  What do you do about it?  I mean there have been times when I’ve left the grocery store and just walked away and went home because you just can’t do it.

Dennis:  If you are trying to get the child to comply so you can administer the spanking then I think you have to begin to appeal to his sense of reason that if he doesn’t submit, if he doesn’t yield to the spanking he’s going to get two spankings instead of one.  And the first spanking is for his current state which is resisting getting a spanking.  And children can get quite strong where they can literally make it tough on a mom or a day to be able to spank them, being so still you can’t bend them over your lap or you can’t get him to come to you.  It’s all an issue of the will.

Barbara:  The power game.

Dennis:  Yes, and so you really do separate out the consequence that you started on first from the current which is a resistant spirit to receiving the discipline that needs to occur and just remain real consistent keep doing it and you will win the battle.  It does occur, it may not occur the first time you may feel like my child won, he won that little skirmish, and you know what we didn’t win every skirmish either, it’s ok. 

Bob:  I have a question back here.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  If you have a one year-old like you were explaining before that’s openly defiant, the throwing the food off the high chair or eating the dirt, what do you do if they are fully clothed, you can’t give them the little swat on the leg, what do you do?

Barbara:  I would take those overalls or whatever that child has on so that I could get to bare skin and that doesn’t take that long, usually they’ve got those snaps and you can pop those snaps pretty quickly and then put them on your lap and say, “No, you may not eat the dirt, or no you may not throw the food off,” and then you can give them a swat on their bare leg that will give the proper amount of pain.

Bob:  Now you said put them on your lap if they’re in the high chair and the food is in front of them would you move the food, get them out of the high chair put them on the lap, do the swat?

Barbara:  Well, I might set them, I’m just picturing real quickly my daughter who has one of those little high chairs that sits on a counter, the kind that doesn’t have the legs and she feeds him on this little chair that sits on the kitchen counter I would picture taking him out of that little high chair and setting him on the counter next to me where I could put my arm around him and still get to his leg without necessarily going into another room where there was a chair and I could sit down.

I might do some variation but I would still create some kind of closeness but where I could also get to his or her bare leg that there would actually be some pain involved in it.  Because to spank on top of a diaper is pointless and to spank on top of some of the corduroys or denim things that kids where is almost close to pointless because it doesn’t give the sting that’s needed for them to want to change their behavior.

Question:  I have a, well he’s now two, but when he was one with the thing about throwing the food off the high chair I don’t know if I was wrong but it actually worked for me and when he threw the food, did the look, when he looked you in the eye and slid the food off, I actually popped his hand, told him no, took him out of the high chair and told him you pick that up and made him throw it away and put him back in the high chair and I said, “Now you eat your food”.  It actually worked versus having him watch you pick it up and He’ll think oh, well I just have to slide it off again, I actually made him pick it up and I made him throw it away and put him back in and said eat your food.  And when I did that repeatedly it actually worked and he’s stopped throwing the food off.

Bob:  There are going to be people who are going to be sending their children to your house for this type of lesson.


Barbara:  And really what that illustrates is that different things work for different children.  I never felt like spanking my children on their hands ever made any difference to them.  so that’s why I always  resorted to spanking them on the tops of their legs, but I know that that’s true that that does work for other parents and other children to spank them on the hand and I think making him pick it up and put it in the trash was a brilliant idea.  Because they do need to learn that their actions have other kinds of consequences, too.

Bob:  We’ll do one more question. Yes, sir.

Question:  What about pinching versus spanking at a younger age instead of trying to spank the leg, would a pinch get the same effect?

Barbara:  It might, it’s not something we ever did.  I didn’t feel like that in my way of thinking that didn’t equate with a spanking to me.  That just felt a little more demeaning personally.  Whereas spanking to me was a really clearly defined in the discipline category, but I wouldn’t say that it would be absolutely off-limits if it was something that again was done in love clearly tied to the offense with a name you disobeyed mommy you threw your food on the floor, whatever, so that they associate the pain with the offense.  And I think that’s the key is that whatever the pain that you give has to be associated with the offense.  And again it has to be something that they feel otherwise it won’t do any good.

Bob:  I think MaryAnn used pinching in the nursing scenario with biting, she’d do a pinch in response to a bite and it seemed to work with her.

Barbara:  And I think that is fine too.

Bob:  We’ve been listening today to excerpts from the third session in the early childhood discipline series that is called, Right From the Start.  This is a DVD resource that we’ve produced for small groups to use or for a Sunday school class or for a mom and a dad to sit down and view together if they’d like.  You can use it in your church. 

The information about the Right From the Start DVD series on early childhood discipline with Dennis and Barbara Rainey can be found on our website which is  If you are experiencing some discipline struggles with your toddlers, your preschoolers, hopefully what you’re listening to this week has already been helpful.  If you would like even more information order the DVD series from us online at or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  And again when you get in touch with us we can let you know how you can get the DVD series sent to you.

You know I don’t know if it’s dawned on you over the last twenty plus minutes as you’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today but we didn’t stop for any commercial words from our sponsors and that’s because we don’t have any sponsors.  The only sponsors we have are you folks, those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today

We are listener supported; we are a non-profit organization so it’s donations from listeners that make this daily radio program possible.  And I know some of you, a few of you are legacy partners you make monthly donations to help keep FamilyLife Today on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.  We appreciate you and I know there are others of you who make a donation from time to time to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate you as well and we wanted to let you know that this month if you can help with a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and maybe you’ve never done that before. 

If you can make a donation this month, we have a thank you gift we’d like to send you.  An audio book, its Barbara Rainey’s Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and this audio book is read by a dramatic actor, it includes sound effects, and sound design elements there is music underneath it as well.  It is very nicely done and it’s our thank you gift for you and your family this month if you’re able to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.

 So go to there’s a donation form online and as you fill it out you will see a key code box on the form, type the word “THANKSGIVING” into that box and we will know to send the audio book as a thank you for your donation to this ministry.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, make your donation over the phone and just ask for the thanksgiving audio book when you do.  And again let me say thanks in advance for your financial support we do appreciate you. 

And we hope you will be back tomorrow.  We’re going to continue to look at how parents can best discipline their children in the early years.  I hope you can join us 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 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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