Today on the broadcast, Ginger Plowman, founder of Preparing the Way Ministries and author of the book Don't Make Me Count to Three, talks with Dennis Rainey about a parent's sometimes daunting task of disciplining children with love.
Today on the broadcast, Ginger Plowman, founder of Preparing the Way Ministries and author of the book Don't Make Me Count to Three, talks with Dennis Rainey about a parent's sometimes daunting task of disciplining children with love.
Bob: If you want to hear some people express strong opinions, bring up the subject of corporate punishment. You may hear people suggest that spanking a child as a form of discipline will teach that child to hit other people. Here is author and parenting speaker, Ginger Plowman.
Ginger: Parents that administer discipline in anger will have angry children, but if children say that Mom is doing this because she loves me, and Mom has taken the time to do this right with instruction and love and hugging, then they are going to view that as being done the right way and for the right reason.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 25th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about healthy ways for parents to administer discipline and to reach the heart of your child. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I don't know if you've been watching these shows that are showing up on TV – the "Super Nanny." Have you seen that one?
Dennis: I have.
Bob: And there's another – "Nanny 911," but I turned one of these on the other day, and I've got to be honest, things at our house have not always been under perfect control, you know what I mean? As we've raised our kids …
Dennis: I do know what you mean.
Bob: … we have not always had everything just kind of finely wired. But I'm watching some of these parents on these TV shows. There are some houses where things are out of control. I mean, where Mom and Dad don't have a clue about what they're supposed to be doing.
Dennis: Like, maybe they are relationally illiterate?
Bob: Like, like, I don't know, they don't know. You know what I mean?
Dennis: I do know what you mean there, and what I think we're beginning to see, Bob, is the results of more than a generation worth of self-focus, children being raised in homes that didn't have boundaries and didn't have good discipline by the parents, and now they're beginning to establish their own homes, coming out of that background, and I think we're going to see even more of this as we move into the future.
Bob: Well, we want to be on the cutting edge and culturally relevant, and we recognize that there are a lot of folks tuning in to watch these shows, and we thought, "We ought to go get our own super nanny."
Dennis: Super Super Nanny. Ginger Plowman joins us on FamilyLife Today. How do you like that?
Ginger: I'm not so sure I'm going to live up to that expectation.
Dennis: Well, Ginger is a wife and a homeschooling mother of two children, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old. She is the founder of Preparing the Way Ministries, a writer, a speaker, and she's written a book called – are you ready for this? "Don't Make Me Count to Three." What mother hasn't said that – or dad?
Bob: Or gone to "One, two, two and a half" …
Ginger: "Two and a half" …
Dennis: Don't make me count to 10. Don't make me have to talk to you again about this.
Bob: You've heard all of this, haven't you?
Ginger: I have, and I want to go past 20 now.
Dennis: All kidding aside, though, I called Ashley, my oldest daughter, who is now a mom of four children, six and under, and I just asked her for her observations about discipline because she's around a lot of young families and you know what, Bob? This was exactly – this was her observation – she said, "It's scary. It's even scary in churches today." She said there's a lot of families who do not know how to build the boundaries into their families and to raise this next generation.
Now, was that what motivated you, Ginger, to write this book, "Don't Make Me Count to Three?"
Ginger: That is definitely part of the motivation. We do – we live in an age that defies God at every point including child training. And, you know, Dennis, it's not that parents don't desire to raise happy and obedient children – all parents desire to raise happy and obedient children yet many parents fail to get those results, and I think the reason is twofold. I think the first reason is that parents, in an attempt to get their children to obey, have adopted faulty child-training methods, which focus only on the outward behavior of the child, but they fail to reach the heart.
Many parents today have developed the philosophy that if they can get their children to act right, to behave, that they're raising them in the right way. But there is far more to parenting than getting our children to act right. We have to get them to think right and to be motivated out of a love of virtue, a love for God, rather than just a fear of punishment. So failure to reach their hearts and just addressing that outward behavior is the first problem, and I think the second problem is that parents are simply not following the instructions in the instruction manual.
I once heard Roy Lessen compare God's instructions for parenting to an owner's manual for a new appliance. You know, when you buy a new appliance, the manufacturer provides you with an instruction manual. It tells you how to use the appliance and how to keep it in the best working order and, Dennis, it's the same with families. The family was God's idea. He brought it into being, and in the Bible He has given us examples and illustrations and instructions for how it operates best.
Dennis: You know, there are a lot of young families getting started today, though, Ginger, who hear us start talking about boundaries and the "D" word – discipline. And they're not sure they really believe in what the Bible has to say about discipline.
Dennis: What would you say to a young couple who are just starting their family out, and they're not sure that they believe in discipline or spanking or correction or reproof?
Ginger: Well, God's Word says, "Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you punish him with a rod, he will not die. Punish him with a rod and save his soul from death." And so – and the Bible says that we are to discipline our children carefully. So it's not a formal, strict, or legalistic way of teaching but rather a way of life that brings peace and unity to the family. And so I would encourage the parent that is hesitant to discipline their children to understand it that God equates discipline with love, and so when we discipline our children in love, our children are going to equate discipline with love.
Dennis: You know, we had six children in 10 years, so that means we had a 10-year-old, who was Ashley, all the way down to Laura, who was – well, an infant, okay? Well, discipline begins early, and it really doesn't end until you launch them into life. You're still bringing discipline to the table with your children until ultimately they become adults and then leave your home.
And so I remember on more than one occasion, our children just seemed to be winding down, and I would compare it to an alarm clock that just seemed to be getting slower and slower and slower, except in the case of children, they become unruly, and they're not doing themselves any good; they're not doing one another any good, and it was like Barbara and I would begin to pray, and we'd ask God for an opportunity to catch them clearly doing something wrong so that we could correct them, discipline them, and address the issue of the heart because they needed a wheel alignment. They needed a little alignment of the soul, alignment of the attitude, and it was discipline. It was pain – it was pain that brought about that alignment.
Ginger: Right. And, you know, and, like I said, that's not a pleasant thing to do.
Dennis: No, the easiest thing to do is nothing.
Ginger: The easiest thing to do is nothing – to ignore and all of the other things that the world has come up with as a substitute for biblical discipline, but as far as it not being pleasant, in Hebrews it tells us that "no discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful." Later on, however, it produces "a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
And so we can hold that verse before us because when discipline is met with painful consequences, children learn the law of the harvest. They learn that God has built the principle of sowing and reaping into their worlds.
Bob: You mentioned a differentiation between reaching the heart of a child and behavior modification. And I want you to elaborate on that, because some parents may not understand the difference between trying to shape a child's behavior and reaching their heart. It seems like – aren't those the same?
Ginger: No, they're not the same. It is so important that we reach past that behavior. The outward behavior is just a manifestation of the real problem, which is what's going on in the heart. The heart is the control center of life.
Now, the thing that alerts us to our child's need for correction is behavior, but we don't need to make the mistake that so many parents make by allowing our desire for changed behavior to substitute our desire for a changed heart – because if we can reach the heart, then the behavior is going to take care of itself.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of what you're talking about. Let's nail a specific situation where you contrast what someone might do who is into behavior modification versus a parent who is attempting to address the needs of the heart.
Ginger: Okay. Let's say that Mom and the child are in the grocery store, and the child is playing with the candy on the candy stand, and Mom says, you know, "Stop it right now. I told you not to play with that candy," and then when they get home, she puts some consequence on the child like a spanking or a time out or whatever it is that she's using. See, that would just be behavior modification. Where, in order to get to the heart, I think one of the most effective things we can do is ask heart-probing questions just like Jesus did.
If you think about it, throughout Scripture, when someone would do something wrong, Christ wouldn't just point His finger and say, "This is what you did wrong, and here is the consequence." Jesus would ask those heart-probing questions, and in order for people to answer those questions, they had to take their focus off of the circumstances around them and onto the sin that was in their own heart.
Bob: So if you're in the grocery store with your child, and he's fiddling with the candy on the counter, what do you do? How do you stop and ask a heart-probing question here?
Ginger: You might ask – and even a young child – you might could ask, "Honey, are you obeying or are you disobeying?"
Dennis: Now, that assumes you've made it clear, as you roll up in the car, and your child is seated in the child restraint seat there in the cart, that you've made it clear you're not to touch the candy.
Ginger: That's right, and, you know, that is very important – that when you're on the way into the grocery store, for the mom to make eye-to-eye contact with the child and say, "Now, here is what's expected. You need to sit in the buggy, and you may not touch things on the aisles."
Bob: So you're saying instruction is the first step in discipline?
Ginger: Instruction is the first step – making sure that the child understands what disobedience would be, going into the situation. Because, obviously, we cannot hold them accountable for instruction that they don't understand.
Dennis: That's right, and a child going through the checkout counter can just be curious.
Ginger: That's right.
Dennis: They may not be disobedient at that point if they haven't been clearly told, "You know what? You're not to touch the things in the aisle."
Ginger: And not just tell them that, not just saying, you know, Mom's driving the car, and the child's in the back seat, and she's just flippantly giving these instructions. I would make it a big deal with these children. You know, turn around, make eye-to-eye contact, require the child to respond – "Do you understand Mommy's instructions?" "Yes, Mom."
Dennis: And just to drive the point home further, I remember, as a Dad, taking my children into the grocery store. It was a totally different experience when I did not sit in the car first and clarify the game plan. When I didn't give them instruction, and they'd kind of forgotten about it, it was chaos.
Bob: Well, are you talking about giving instruction every time you go to the grocery store – repeating, "Now, don't forget, we do this and this and this?"
Ginger: Well …
Dennis: The younger the child, yes.
Ginger: Yeah, when they're really young, I agree. I think that you should do that every single time. And don't give, like, a list of 10 different things.
Ginger: You know, "You need to sit in the buggy and you may not touch things on the aisle." And so let's go back to the scenario. Let's say that Mom is at the checkout counter, and the child is down from the buggy, and the child is rummaging through the candy on the candy stand. You know, again, what not to do is just to take the child home and be upset and disappointed in the child and only address the outward behavior. A better thing to do would be to ask those heart-probing questions by perhaps saying, "Are you obeying or are you disobeying?"
And, see, when you require the child to verbalize that he's disobeyed, you are helping that young child take ownership for the sin that's in his own heart, which is going to help him recognize his need for Christ.
Bob: Okay, so let's carry this all the way through. We had the instruction when we went into the grocery store, "You're not to touch anything," and you're in the checkout line. The child is touching, and you say, "Sweetheart, are you obeying or disobeying because I told you not to touch that, and how does God feel about that," and you're asking some of these probing questions, now, when they get out to the car or when they get home, what are you going to do?
Ginger: When they get home, they we would go back over. You know, I would say, "Honey, now, I told you that you needed to obey in the grocery store, and that you were not to be touching things, and you were grabbing the candy off, and that was disobeying Mom, and so now there's going to be consequences."
Bob: And the consequences are going to be what?
Ginger: A spanking. For a small child, I believe that a spanking is the most effective consequence. I've had many moms call me, and they're frustrated because they've adopted some of these worldly methods that is a substitute for biblical discipline, and they're frustrated – "because my child disobeyed, and I put him in time out, and I set him down in the chair, and then he got up, and then I told him to sit back down, and then he got back up, and then I stuck him under my arm, and I ran him back in there, and I forced him back down on the chair, and I've had moms say, "I tied him down in the chair, and he got out of the ropes." I mean, it's totally insane what these parents will do.
And you know what? They don't even remember what the child did in the first place because they have gotten into a power struggle of time outs.
Bob: So you're taking a child home who has been touching the candy when he knew he shouldn't. You reinforce, you bring back up, you rehearse what it is, "I love you too much," now we're going to have some swats. What does that spanking – again, carry this out – what's that look like?
Ginger: Well, what I would do with my children is have them bend over their bed, fold their hands and place them on the bed, because that just helps them to have something to do instead of guarding with their hands where the spanking is going to be administered on their bottom. And so I would give them the swats, and then I would hug them, take them in my lap and hug and say "I love you, honey, and I want you to learn to obey and to grow up to be wise," and I don't think my children have ever felt that it was done in anger.
And so parents that administer discipline in anger will have angry children, but if children see that Mom is doing this because she loves me, and Mom has taken the time to do this right, with instruction and love and hugging, then they are going to view that as being done the right way and for the right reason.
Bob: We're talking about little kids, two, three years old – are you swatting them with your hand? With a paddle? What are you using?
Ginger: I had a leather thing – it was like a scrap of old leather that my husband cut out into the shape of a paddle. You don't want to use something so stiff, like a board or something, that it bruises the child. So you just want to use something that has a little bit of flex that will sting without bruising.
Dennis: You actually had an illustration in your book where you told a story about an encounter that you had with your daughter, Alex, who was three years old, and how you had told her not to get into your purse and into your makeup?
Ginger: Yes, my daughter, Alex, was not allowed to go and get into my purse, and our little Yorkie, oh, it was so funny, we were all sitting around the table, and my little Yorkshire terrier walked into the kitchen, comes prancing in there, and he has Rosewood lips, where my daughter had obviously gotten into my makeup and put lipstick on the dog.
And so we all kind of chuckled, and I looked over at Alex, and I said, "Honey, did you get into my makeup?" And she says, "Well, no, ma'am. And I said, "Well, how did Mickey get lipstick on?" And she kind of, you know, looks down a little bit, and it's obvious that she's lying, and she says, "Well, Doug did it," which is this little action figure that she had probably gotten in a Happy Meal or something, and on top of Doug's head is this little clip thing, and so Alex explains how the lipstick went into this clip thing on top of Doug's head, and Doug put the lipstick on Mickey.
Bob: Alex is pretty creative.
Ginger: Oh, she's very creative, a very creative child.
Dennis: Great imagination.
Ginger: And so I explain, you know, "Alex, honey, I know that you're not telling the truth, because Doug is not a person. Doug cannot move on his own, Doug cannot put lipstick on the dog." And it was several hours that went by before she was willing to confess, and I remember, I think we were in my bathroom, and I was brushing her teeth and helping her get ready for bed and just, all of a sudden, she broke, and she said that it was a lie; that she had put the lipstick on Mickey, but she was afraid to tell me.
And at that point, I talked to her about the importance of us trusting one another and our family relationship being built on honesty and truthfulness, and so – but there was still a consequence, because she had told a lie. And I tell you, I was very tempted, because she had admitted that she lied, she had cried, she had repented, she had asked for forgiveness, but …
Dennis: I know what you're getting ready to say in terms of being tempted – you were tempted not to spank her.
Ginger: Not to spank her, not to let there be consequences. And I remember battling with God in my head about that, you know, she's confessed, and that is our goal, is that they repent. But there needed to be consequences for that. Lying is a serious sin, and there needed to be consequences. And so – and I can tell you, Dennis, I think that was the most relieved she ever was to get a spanking. You could just see after her spanking, I mean, she cried, it hurt, but you could just see this burden, this weight, just lift off of her after that consequence was over. Because she had done this, and there was a consequence, and now it was over.
Dennis: You know, there's two points here I want to make for parents. Number one, and it's a minor point, but it's in a situation where you're dealing with a young child who has, as Alex had done, disobeyed you about getting in your purse and then complicated the disobedience by then turning it into a lie and not just one lie but multiple lies.
The younger the child, the more you want to focus on the major act of disobedience. Young children can't get into all of the weight of, well, there was this act of disobedience, this other act, this third act, this fourth act – you just need to pick the biggest one, and I agree with you, lying is a big issue. I believe it's Proverbs, chapter 6, that talks about seven things God hates, and one of them is lying, a lying tongue. And if God hates it, we should hate it, too, and we should discipline for it.
But the second point I want to make about this, and you've really captured this, Ginger, and you do in your book as well – parenting children today takes a lot of courage, and it takes facing your own fears, facing the culture, which wants to take – it really wants to take the boundaries out of your hand so that you don't address the needs of your child's heart, and you just let them slide and get by.
And it also takes courage to perhaps break some of your own habits of how you were raised as a young person where perhaps you were indulged. And so you're not raising your children the way you were raised, and you're fighting a current, and it takes courage to be able to face his or her fears and then do what's right for their child.
Bob: I think in addition to courage, you need stamina, because it becomes exhausting to be consistent with discipline. You had the situation – Barbara, you'd come home, and she'd say "I just feel like I've been disciplining all day long. I haven't been doing anything other than just correcting and disciplining, and you're exhausted, you're worn out, you're depleted.
And, in fact, Ginger, one of the reasons that we wanted to have you as a guest on FamilyLife Today is because I ran into a mom who is right in the thick of raising her children, and she said, "Have you had Ginger Plowman on FamilyLife Today yet," and I said, "No, we haven't," and I don't know if she had read your book, "Don't Make Me Count to Three," or had been to one of your seminars, but she found the information there very helpful, and we want to make it available to our listeners as well.
We have your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Again, the book is called "Don't Make Me Count to Three," along with the new resource that you've developed, the No More Whining kit that includes a watch that a child wears that's got a timer on it so you can train them on how to ask with the right tone of voice, how to make a request, how to do that without whining.
There's the Wise Words chart that you've developed for parents so that there is a regular Scripture reference to get to the heart issues that you're dealing with in your children – and all of this is available in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," click the "Learn More" button, and that will take you to the area of the site where there is information about all of these resources. There is also a link to Ginger's website, and there's a link to the new Mom Blog that we've developed here at FamilyLife where a number of young moms are sharing their insights and their experiences as they are raising their own children.
Again, all of this is available on our website at FamilyLife.com. You click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to the area of the site where you'll find all this information. Or if it's easier, simply call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
I need to mention for our listeners, this is the last week for our Family First challenge campaign that we've had going on this month. We have been inviting listeners to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today either by responding to a challenge from one of our other listeners or by issuing a challenge of their own.
And one of the challenges that was issued recently was from a mother of preschoolers, who is probably dealing with some of what we've been talking about today. She called in to say "FamilyLife Today is helping me as I try to raise these children, and I appreciate what you guys are doing. I want to make a donation, and I want to challenge other mothers of preschoolers to join me and to help support the ministry."
So we're passing her challenge on to you and hoping that you will either go online at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Join the Family First challenge – either respond to one of the challenges that has been issued or issue a challenge of your own. We do appreciate your support of the ministry, and we want to say thanks in advance for contacting us either to make a donation online at FamilyLife.com or by calling 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
Tomorrow we want to talk about turning down the volume in your home. Do you find yourself raising your voice to talk to your children? And you think that's the only way they'll listen? We're going to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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