FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Discipline isn’t a Dirty Word

with Dennis Rainey | August 7, 2006
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You know the saying - "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Join us on for today's broadcast when father of six, Dennis Rainey, gives some timely advice on disciplining children.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • You know the saying - "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Join us on for today's broadcast when father of six, Dennis Rainey, gives some timely advice on disciplining children.

  • 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.

Dennis Rainey, gives some timely advice on disciplining children.

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Discipline isn’t a Dirty Word

With Dennis Rainey
August 07, 2006
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Dennis: As a husband, your number-one disciple is your wife.  And as a husband and a wife who have children, your number-one disciples as parents are your children.

 Okay, so now you have an assignment from God, a responsibility from God – now, how do you discharge that responsibility?  Well, I think the key is not quitting but keeping on building into the lives of your children.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 7th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.   For parents, making disciples at home is part of growing a spiritually strong family.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  I think all of us want to have healthy families, and, for many of us, that definition of what a healthy family is – well, for some people it means you go to the health food store to make sure that you're feeding your family healthy food.  In other cases, it means that you make sure that you have disease out of the house; that your kids are immunized; and that you've got medicine around in case somebody gets sick or you keep them quarantined. 

But oftentimes we ignore the spiritual health of our family, and if we really want to have really healthy families, they need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy not just physically healthy.  It's something you and Barbara have addressed in a new book called "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family."

Dennis: I think the subject of family values has been a hot topic in the last decade or so, and one of the values that I think needs to be at the top of the list is that of helping your family grow spiritually but specifically helping your children become disciples, and I think helping your spouse be a disciple as well.

 We don't think in those terms, Bob.  When we think of the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus commanded us to go to the world, proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, we think of going on a missions trip to Haiti to make disciples or Latin America or overseas or to Africa on the Continent somewhere, but we don't think of making disciples at home.

 And I think sometimes the reason why we don't think of our families and our spouse in that way is because we don't understand what the concept of discipleship is all about.  The word "disciple" means "learner."  And if we are commanded to make disciples of all nations, I believe your closest neighbor is at home, and I believe a husband's responsibility, first and foremost, is to disciple, to encourage, his wife to grow so that the family will also grow spiritually. 

 And so if you really want to be obedient to what the Scriptures are talking about, I think you have to evaluate on an ongoing basis how are we doing in terms of being followers of Jesus Christ.

Bob: You know, when I think about discipling my children, I guess I think about some kind of a formal process where I sit down, and I open a book, and they get out a notebook, and we look at a passage of the Scriptures together and, certainly, that's a part of discipleship.  But fundamentally before we ever get there, my kids are being discipled more by what they see in me than what they hear from me, aren't they?

Dennis: That's exactly right, and Psalm 101 says, "He who walks uprightly in his home with integrity in his heart; who walks before God blameless in his home, he is the one who will minister to me."  And so I think the point of modeling commitment to Jesus Christ in our choices – I'll never forget a businessman who was in a small group of men that I was discipling who was talking about how the evening before he was lying down on the bed, and the phone rang.  And his 10-year-old son answered the phone and put his hand over the receiver and said, "Dad, it's for you."  And the dad said, "Tell them I'm not here."  And the son took his hand off the phone, and he got a puzzled look on his face, the dad said, and said, "But, Dad, you are here."  "Well, tell them I'm asleep."  And the boy said, "Dad, you're not asleep, you're awake.  You're talking to me."  And the father said, "Oh, here, give me the phone, I'll just talk to them."

 And I've reflected many times on that dialog of a father and his son, because here is a man who is taking his family to church.  Well, that's a good thing to model – to go to church.  That's a good place to begin.  But if those principles learned at church and the Word of God that you do hear and you do know are not applied in the little decisions of daily life, then at that point, I believe, you communicate somewhat of a disconnect to your children, because they're watching this disconnect from reality.  They're watching you go to church and then live a different way.  They're watching you make choices in the marketplace – cheat, steal, lie, and not tell the truth, and they understand. 

 And so I think it does start, Bob, by modeling a life as a life of integrity.

Bob: There's a phrase I remember hearing when I was young.  I don't know that I heard it from my parents, but I think I heard it from parents at that time.  It was the phrase, "Do as I say not as I do."  We've got to recognize as parents that our children may do what we say, but they will grow up to become what they see in us.  And if we're telling them, "Don't you do this," and yet it's a part of our life on a regular basis – "Don't watch these movies, but we will," "Don't use drugs," but we drink.  "Don't cheat on tests," but we don't always tell the truth like with that telephone call.  Those are the issues that will ultimately mold their behavior.  More than what we teach them, what they see in us is how they're going to grow.

Dennis: There's a second thing, too, not must modeling that's important.  But I think building into their lives by reminding them of the truth of God's Word.  We have three adult children who are married now and, you know, this process of discipleship doesn't stop when they leave home.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: They may become peers with us and no longer be under our authority as children, but it doesn't mean we stop building into their lives as they face issues in their lives.  And Barbara related a story to me just about one of our children who called back home, because they do call back home, and they do call back home with problems, and they call back home with challenges that they are facing personally, and I listened as Barbara told me how she encouraged one of our children to make a right choice when no one is looking – to keep following Jesus Christ because the little choices that you make determine what a life becomes, and a small choice made in the wrong direction can open the door to become a bigger issue a few miles down the road, and that was Barbara's counsel to one of our adult children.

 I couldn't help but think, you know what?  This is what a family is all about.  Yeah, they're out from under our authority, but they do call back home and, hopefully, they are still teachable.  And so Ephesians, chapter 4, reminds us that we are to speak the truth in love.  We are not always to come alongside our children and to take their side.  We should remind them of the truth and help them step up to what is their responsibility in obedience to that truth.

Bob: So when we talk about discipling our children and discipling our wife or our husband, being a part of this discipling process, it is important what we model, and it's important that in those times throughout our daily life when we face challenges and issues, we keep pointing one another back toward God, is there a more formal aspect to disciple-making?  I guess I'm thinking of a mom or a dad who is listening and going, "I've never been a discipler.  I've never thought of myself as one who trains disciples.  What do I do?  How do I make that work if I want to grow a spiritually strong family?"

Dennis: Well, I think it begins with that thought, first of all, Bob, that you recognize, as a husband, that your number-one disciple is your wife.  And as a husband and a wife who have children, that your number-one disciples as parents are your children. 

 Okay, so now you have an assignment from God, a responsibility from God.  Now, how do you discharge that responsibility?  Well, I think you do that as you just said – you have some formal teaching times, and I have to say early in our family's growth I didn't do as good a job in terms of the regular formal teaching times, but later on as the children grew up, and it was easier to do this over breakfast, the regular reading of a devotional in the morning, praying for them.

 In the last decade, Barbara and I have done a much better job, and the key is not quitting but keeping on building into the lives of your children.

Bob: I have to tell you, sometimes when you're doing that building, it looks like nothing is happening – the kids are half asleep, comatose, not paying attention, getting up to get orange juice – you think, "This is not worth the time."

Dennis: You know, Bob, as I reflect on more than 30 years in ministry and leadership of an organization, I would have to say some of the most discouraging moments in my life have come in attempting to lead my family spiritually.

Bob: Amen, that's right.

Dennis: I mean it.  It's like somebody has dusted their little bodies with itching powder.  They're squirming, climbing, throwing paper wads and airplanes and launching food across the table, and it helped me years ago when you and I interviewed Elisabeth Elliott, and she reflected back on her father who had a regimen of teaching the Scriptures on a daily basis, and she talked about how she didn't listen and how they didn't pay attention and how it would discourage her dad.  But she also reflected back on how God would take one out of 10 of those daily devotionals and, you know, if you do it 365 days a year, that means that God, if He uses one out of 10 in a teenager's life or a young person's life, that means you've hit them 36 and a half times.  So will you take, over a period of a year, 36 lessons of truth, of reminders of how to live wisely and make godly choices?  I will every time.

 But I think sometimes we're wanting to hit 10 out of 10, and so I think we need to give our children freedom to be who they are and to still hang in there and continue to teach and instruct them and do our best to engage them.  I think sometimes we sit down and expect them to just dutifully sit there and listen to us lecture when we need to be asking them questions and maybe even letting them lead a devotional every once in a while.

Bob: You've talked about how we can interact with our children during those occasions in life when they're looking for our help and our counsel and our guidance and about the discipline of a daily devotional.  What are some other ways we disciple our kids?

Dennis: Well, one additional way that we can, I think, teach our children is to get them out of the house and take them and go get a doughnut or a hot breakfast and I may be tipping a little bit of an insider piece of information here that we don't always have a hot breakfast at our house but, you know, my mom, Bob, always cooked bacon and eggs and had hot buttered toast.  It probably wasn't the most healthy meal but, anyway, we'll not get off into food at this point, but you can bribe your children by taking away one day a week, getting a hot breakfast or doughnuts, you know, that's one of the groups.

Bob: You're talking about sugar or fried food.

Dennis: That's right, and having a Bible study alone with them or with one of their buddies or pals or friends from school.  And it just reminds, I believe, both parent and child, as you are a follower of Christ, as you are a learner, and decide that you're going to do what God wants, that there are requirements.

Bob: You know, as you talk about the doughnut, I'm thinking about the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, and that's a principle that, as parents, we need to keep in mind.  We don't want our children to think that spiritual growth and development is some painful process that they should resist at all costs.  We can find ways to make it more appealing and more attractive, and if it takes a doughnut to do that, well, then, whatever negative calories get added by the doughnut will be offset by the spiritual benefit of some time in God's Word.

Dennis: If you want to disciple your child, you have to use, I believe, the finest resources and tools available and, I believe, kind of look at it like a spiritual smorgasbord – kind of pick and choose how you are going to disciple your children at different stages of their lives.

 One of the things that Barbara and I used was a camp experience – going to a formal camp and being immersed with Christian counselors with a camp that has a spiritual mandate and a spiritual purpose, and our children were both campers and counselors at Kanakuk Camps in Branson, Missouri.  Joe White is a personal friend, and I just can't speak highly enough for a camping experience to be in your spiritual smorgasbord is one of the things you ought to begin to play in the life of your child.  Do not underestimate how a counselor who is just a few years older than your child, whose head is screwed on pretty straight, how that counselor can build a relationship with your child and teach truth to your child that you've been teaching and help your child to begin to build some convictions in his or her life.

Bob: Our children have been involved in Christian camping as well at places like Pine Cove in Texas and Camp Timberline in Colorado.  They've been involved both as campers and as counselors.  New Life Ranch is another one that we've used.  There's an association of Christian camps, and if you don't know about Christian camping or where there are Christian camps near you, you can go online at We've got a link to a listing of Christian camps. 

 I agree with you.  Our kids have always come back from their camping experience, and you can see that they've notched it up a step in their spiritual lives.  They come back a little bit more mature in their faith, closer to Christ and, at least for a while, they act better around the house.

Dennis: Yes, and, Bob, I know what "a while" is.  I mean, there is a spiritual high from camping that does wear off, but what I've found each time is that the bottom where they kind of fell to was much higher than where they'd been before.

 Another key tool that you need to use are the student conferences led by a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ called "Student Venture."  Student Venture has summer conferences and Christmas conferences and, in certain cities around the country, they have fall conferences and spring conferences for teenagers.

Bob: You've spoken at some of these conferences to high school students, right?

Dennis: That's right.  Our children, however, have been to literally – well, probably 50 of them over the years, and I would say this – of any of the outside resources we have used, these conferences are the hardest hitting.  They are designed to call your teenager up to a spiritual commitment not merely to grow personally but begin to look at their world and think of reaching their world with the Gospel.  Now, I want to tell you something – when you get a teenager who is not thinking about himself or herself, but they're thinking about the spiritual condition of their friends at school, well, Bob, that's a miracle, because the nature of the teenage years is self-absorption.

 But my friend, Chuck Klein, who leads Student Venture, and his wonderful staff across the country I believe have done a wonderful job of using these Christmas breaks and summer vacation breaks to take a four or five-day experience and really challenge young people to become true followers, true learners, true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Bob: You know, you're hitting on something that's important here.  As we think about discipling our children, we don't have to think that we bear the whole burden ourselves.  We can call on other allies to help us in the spiritual discipling of our children.

Dennis: That's right, and there's one other ally I'd just like to mention at this point – my friend Greg Speck – Greg and Bonnie speak at the Weekend to Remember marriage conferences that we have all around the country, but Greg's real job, his real passion, his real heart, is around helping junior high and high school youth really get a vision for their world, and he has – his ministry is called "Reign Ministries" – r-e-i-g-n.  His ministry is to take young people to a spiritual boot camp in the summer, and then take them overseas to a three, four-week, five-week, six-week adventure where they are given spiritual assignments.

 And, Bob, I think as your young person gets older – 15, 16, 17, 18 years of age, an assignment like this in the summer can really shake up your child's value system and help them not only get a picture of the world but the spiritual needs of the world.

Bob: You know, we're talking about summer camp and summer missions projects, things like that.  A lot of parents look at summer and say, "That's when I want my child to get a job and make some money.  I don't want to be spending money and having them off somewhere.  I want them to be earning some money so that they can help with the car insurance payment."

Dennis: Well, and those are the realities.  Some families may not be able to pull it off, but young people can raise money for missions trips like this, and I believe when you really have a legitimate spiritual mission with an outreach like Reign Ministries, I think you can justify your child missing a few weeks of work.  They have the rest of their lives to work.  If they don't get the spiritual foundation in place, let me tell you something, we can lose the next generation because they know how to work hard, they know how to earn a living, but they don't know how to live.

Bob: We've got a link on our website at that can point you to where you can get more information about Reign Ministries so that you and your family can consider taking a mission trip together maybe next summer, or you can consider sending your kids on a mission experience.

 Let me encourage you, when you do get in touch with us on our website at or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY, ask about getting a copy of the book that Dennis and Barbara have written called "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family."  This is a very helpful resource for understanding the basics of our responsibility as husbands and wives, moms and dads, to build into the lives of one another as a couple and into the lives of our children as we raise them.

 Again, go to our website,  You'll see a button in the middle of the home page that's red that says "Go."  You click that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get more information about ordering the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family."  All of the links we've talked about on today's program are there as well.

 There is also information about a classic devotional for couples that you and your wife Barbara wrote called "Moments Together for Couples," and that provides a husband and wife with a great discipline for their own relationship.  You just spend a little bit of time each day reading through one of these devotionals, "Praying Together as a Couple."  It's a great tool that I know tens of thousands of couples have used in their marriages.

 There is information about how to order that book on our website at  You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information on any of these resources, and we'll be happy to get the information to you or let you know how you can get these books sent out to you.  And, by the way, if you order both books together, we'll send you at no additional cost the CD audio from last week's conversation and this week's discussion on this subject.  We'll send that along at no additional cost to you when you order both of these books together.

 When you do get in touch with us, we want to ask you to consider being one of the few, one of the proud – no, wait, I guess that would make them a Marine.  We want to ask you instead to consider joining with a handful of families in your community who help pay the bills for this radio program.  We've got listeners in each city where FamilyLife Today is heard who help support this ministry with donations, and it's those folks who make sure that this program stays on the air in this community and in cities all across the country. 

We want to ask you to consider making a donation and being part of that group.  We're listener-supported, and so if folks like you don't step forward to make donations, then we have to make some tough decisions, and we want to just encourage you, if you can help with a donation of any amount during the month of August, we would love to hear from you.  In fact, we'd love to send you a thank you gift.

 We had a conversation not long ago with Beth Moore, who is the author of a number of Bible studies that women have used all across the country.  We talked with Beth about her marriage to her husband Keith, about her whole family, and the challenges that they've faced in trying to grow a spiritually strong family.  We'd love to send you a CD of that conversation with Beth Moore as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of this ministry during the month of August.  For a gift of any amount, you can request that CD.  If you're donating online at, when you get to the keycode box, just type in the word "free," and that will alert us to the fact that you'd like to have the CD sent to you.  Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, again, just mention that you're interested in the CD with Beth Moore, and we'll be happy to send it out to you.  Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry.  We do appreciate hearing from you.

 Tomorrow we want to talk about the importance of community.  You know, in some ways, it really does take a village to grow a spiritually strong family – maybe not a village but certainly a church, a community of believers whose lives are linked together, and we're going to talk about the importance of that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with 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'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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