FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Effective Discipline for Your Child

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | August 13, 2004
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Do your children argue, complain, or disobey? If so, join us for today's broadcast when Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about effectively disciplining children. Discipline is just one of the topics covered in the HomeBuilders parenting studies offered by FamilyLife.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Do your children argue, complain, or disobey? If so, join us for today's broadcast when Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about effectively disciplining children. Discipline is just one of the topics covered in the HomeBuilders parenting studies offered by FamilyLife.

  • 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 and Barbara Rainey talk about effectively disciplining children.

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Effective Discipline for Your Child

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
August 13, 2004
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Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  Listen as this group of parents talks about all the different ways that children can come up with to disobey.

Man: Okay, so what are common ways our children tend not to obey us fully?

Woman: You name it.

Man: I think there's too many ways to mention.

Woman: They have mostly attitudes, and you can tell me yes with your mouth, but if your attitude, your heart, your demeanor, says "Pfffft."  Obedience is what God is after, and that is what, as a mom, that is what pleases me, is your obedience.  Not your partial obedience, but your obedience.

Man: We have one daughter that obeyed all the time.  She just knew, from an early age, that that was the way to get what she wanted.  And we have two daughters that just sort of never obeyed –  "never" might be too big of a word, but …

Woman: Yes, that was too big a word.

Man: But the frequency of their disobedience reminds me of the song, "40 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

Woman: Forty ways to irritate your father?

Man: Yes.

Man: Just slip out the back, jack.

Man: That was one of them.


Man: I've heard of praying in front of your children, asking the Lord to help them get caught …

Woman: … absolutely …

Man: We've done that.

Woman: And our 19-year-old still thinks I have eyes in the back of my head.

Woman: We do.  We'll never tell her different.

Woman: No, no, he tells his cousins, "No, she can tell.  She knows.  Don't try anything."

Bob: We've been listening to a group of parents meeting together in a HomeBuilders parenting group, going through a study called "Establishing Effective Discipline for Your Children," and talking about children who disobey.

Dennis: I have a better list.

Bob: You've got a more complete list, is that what it is?

Dennis: Well, it's just – yeah.  I just started reflecting on all the ways our kids disobeyed.  In fact, one of the questions we ask in this small group Bible study is to ask parents to just circle three or four of the following negative responses that your children have expressed to you or to your authority.

Bob: You had to limit yourself to three or four, huh?

Dennis: There's probably 20 here, okay?

Bob: I may be able to circle all of them, if possible.

Dennis: Well, why don't you do that?  Barbara is also joining us on this broadcast.  You listen, sweetheart, and see if you can't pick out just three or four from this list – defiance, sassiness, ignoring instructions, giving excuses, arguing, willful disobedience, procrastination, complaining, criticizing, twisting your words, anger, temper tantrums, rejecting responsibility, blaming others, interrupting, lying, belligerent questioning.

Bob: Now, are you asking …

Dennis: … I'm not through – cheating, sneaking, acting disrespectfully, whining, rudeness, sarcasm, and then, just in case I missed one on this Bible study I wrote – "other."

Bob: Are you asking which my kids have ever done or which they do most regularly?

Dennis: Which do you typically experience most frequently in your home.  Just give us a couple.

Bob: Let me look at that list again.  You know, my kids might be listening – well, they know, don't they?

Dennis: They know.

Bob: We would get arguing – arguing would be one.

Dennis: High scores on sibling …

Bob: High scores on arguing; excuses, we'd get excuses; sarcasm, they come by that honestly, I'm afraid.

Dennis: Your kids?

Bob: Yeah, I'm afraid they do.  And the one you don't have on here is …

Dennis: … that you're going to put in "other?"

Bob: "Other" is acting like they didn't understand the instructions.

Dennis: Oh, no, that's on there.

Bob: Is that ignoring instructions?

Dennis: That's it, that's ignoring instructions.

Bob: All right.

Dennis: All right, Barbara, which ones would you pick for our kids.

Barbara: Well, we've seen all of these.

Bob: Yes.

Barbara: So I have to pick four that we saw most often?

Dennis: Just three or four.

Barbara: The problem is that different ones were experts at different things, so it depends on which child.  One child was really good at ignoring, like you were saying – you still want me to pick four?

Dennis: I think, generally, one of the habitual sins was complaining.

Barbara: Oh, clearly, yes, we had complaining a lot.

Bob: So did your kids …

Barbara: We had twisting your words, too, where we would give them an instruction to, say, clean their room, and they would say, "Oh, I thought you just meant clean my closet," or "I just thought you meant make my bed."  They would come back with some modified version of the instruction and assume that they had complied because they'd done what it was that they wanted to do but not all of it.

Dennis: Actually, they knew it was …

Barbara: Oh, of course, they did.

Dennis: A lame excuse.

Barbara: Oh, of course, they did, but they always tried to do it, anyway.

Bob: The reality is every parent has seen these behaviors from their children at some point in time, and a part of getting together with other parents and going through a HomeBuilders study, like "Establishing Effective Discipline for Your Children," you're going to benefit not only from the interaction with other parents, but there is a sense of relief coming to know our children are not the only juvenile delinquents in town.

Dennis: I'll tell you what I would promise folks on this – Barbara and I really enjoyed writing this, and I think it's because we've been given every excuse, and it was our chance to get the upper hand one last time and equip parents to know how to do it.  But I would predict that if you will get together with four or five other couples who may be at the same life stage you are with children, and you take on these six topics, and here is what we talk about – purposeful discipline; we talk about responsibility, and that list we just laughed about – that came from Session Two on responsibility.  That's what you're training in your children.

Bob: Their ability to respond.

Dennis: Their ability to respond.  Session Three is on boundaries; Session Four and Five, we took two sessions on this one, because there was so much to say about this, we couldn't get this in in one session – consequences.  What are the consequences for willful disobedience?  One just on general consequences and the second one, Part Two on spanking.  And I know that's not a politically correct topic these days but, I'll tell you what, the Bible speaks about it.  It does need to be used sparingly but appropriately with children up to a certain age, and we talk about that in there.  And then Session Six is about perseverance.  Just hanging in there and keeping your boundaries in place and just keep on leading your children in what's right, because – bottom line – they need parents who hold the line and who don't cave in to the culture.

Bob: You know, many years ago Dr. Dobson wrote the classic book, "Dare to Discipline," and it really was, at the time, a book that gave parents a whole lot of courage to step up and to apply discipline and consequences, the things you're talking about here.  But even with a book like that, we can shrink in the moment, and the great thing about having a group of parents that you're going through this kind of material with is it gives you courage in those times when you want to shrink.  It refreshes you for what you're going to face week in and week out with your children.  I know there have been times when Mary Ann and I have looked at one another, and we've seen some behavior pattern, and we've smiled because when we were together with our friends the week before, they talked about their kids doing the same thing.  And, all of a sudden, something that could make you tense, you can just relax a little bit and keep going as a parent.

Dennis: I can tell you, this past Christmas we had all five of our grandchildren at our house.

Bob: All at the same time?

Dennis: All at the same time.  In fact, we got them together for a picture, and that, in and of itself, was very entertaining.

Bob: What are the ages?

Dennis: Four months to four years.

Barbara: Yes, that's correct.

Dennis: Four boys, four thugs, and one princess, one Polynesian princess.  And it was really funny – I'm going to protect the anonymity and, you know, the self-esteem of this poor little toddler, because, you know, I'm sure if he was to hear it over the radio, it could just damage him for the rest of his life.  Actually, it wouldn't, it's just a cute story, but this particular grandchild was just whining.  And finally I looked over at him, and I said his name.  And I said, "Huh-uh, this is Papa's house, and this is a no-whine zone."

Bob: Now, is he old enough to understand what you're saying?

Dennis: He did understand, because instantly – whoooppp – he stopped whining.

Bob: He'd look up at you?

Barbara: Mm-hm.

Dennis: His eyes never left my eyes when I was saying, "Papa said this is a no-whine zone."

Barbara: And you did it just to be cute more than to discipline him, because you weren't trying to take the upper hand.

Dennis: Well, I don't think grandparents – I think grandparents need to spoil them.  I mean, we've been through this once …

Bob: … let somebody else discipline them.

Dennis: That's right, let the parents do that.  So I really wasn't trying to overstep my bounds, but what happened in the process was that I did it repeatedly over the three or four days the little tyke was at our place, and every time – zip – he quit.

Barbara: He knew Mom and Dad were looking at you, going – how do you have this magic power?  We can't do that.  They were so funny.  They just were in awe that he would quit.  So we ended up having a really good conversation about discipline.

Bob: Tell me about the conversation – what kinds of things came up?

Barbara: Basically, they just wanted to know what do you do with whining and how do you handle it?  And my first answer was, "I don't really know," because it's not a real cut-and-dry, simple answer.

Bob: You can't say, "Follow these four steps and eliminate whining."

Barbara: Exactly.  Oh, I wish we could have, because I would have done it in a heartbeat, but it's not a real simple thing to cure.  But we did talk about setting boundaries, we talked about it's okay to let them cry, we talked about the time-out chair, we talked about putting him in his crib or in a safe place until he got happy, and we talked about all of those things and how you use that to your advantage so that the goal is that the parent is in charge and not the child, and the child has learned, by whining, that he can get Mom to come back in the room or pick me up or whatever it is that he wants.  And so that was the gist of our conversation – was trying to help them understand again that they are the parent, and they have to be in charge, and they have to win – not the little one.

Dennis: And tell our listeners about the e-mail you just go today.

Barbara: Well, it was interesting – they got home after Christmas, and then he got a cold, and so when they're sick, you pick them up more, you hold them more, because you know that they don't feel well.  And so this had gone on for a few days, but he was starting to get better, but his …

Bob: … waaaa, waaaa, waaaa, pick me up.

Barbara: Yeah, but his whining was getting worse, because he'd figure this out – "Okay, if I whine and cry, I'm going to get held," and his mom was about to go nuts.  And she called on the phone and said, "What do I do?"  She said, "We try to act like Papa and say, 'This is a no-whine zone,' and she said, "It doesn't do any good."  It was so cute.  So we had this conversation, and I just encouraged her to let him cry, even if he's still not totally over his cold, it is not going to hurt him to sit in his crib or on the floor in his room and cry.  Because he would cry when she'd walk out of the room.

 So I just encouraged her, and she said, "Okay, I can do this, I can do this."  It was so cute.  And she just sent me an e-mail today, because I e-mailed her this morning, and I said, "I haven't heard anything in a week.  Are you guys okay?"  And she said, "He is 10 times better.  It's like a different child.  We stuck with it for three days and by the end of three days he was fine."

Dennis: And that process of coaching, encouragement, and accountability is what the HomeBuilders parent series is built around.  You're going to have a session where you talk about a hot topic like consequences – all types of consequences.  Then you're going to have a make-a-date, where the husband and wife, mom and dad, go out on a date before the next HomeBuilders session, all right?  And the make-a-date sometimes will be more profitable even than the interaction with the other parents.  Because you take a subject like consequences, and I'm opening my HomeBuilders at this point to the make-a-date, and it's got a list of rewards and praises for your child, a list of punishments, and a list here for couples to look at and begin to hammer out, "What are we going to reward our children with," and "What are we going to punish our children with."  And find other solutions other than just spanking, other than just getting angry, other than just threatening them, and instead step back into your children's lives with a purposeful plan.

 Now, you're not going to do it perfectly, but take, for instance, the issue of rewards, which is a part of this Bible study on consequences.  We have a list here of all types of ways you can reward your child when he does something right -- a spoken word of praise or affirmation, physical affection, notes and cards, fun activities, dinner at your child's favorite restaurant, special date with mom or dad, throw a special celebration, earn points or tickets for good choices and a good attitude, and on it goes -- a chart, increased privileges, and there's other ideas here that I'm not going to get into, but the point is that a couple can agree on their approach, Bob, and that's what happens to a lot of couples.  They get worn out in the process of raising kids, and they can't be creative, and they don't have other ideas or solutions, and a small group like HomeBuilders can meet and, all of a sudden, they can be refreshed, and they can have a little island of clarity in the midst of this sea of confusion and say, "You know what?  We can win at this game called parenting."

Bob: We used to have some round black magnets on the refrigerator, and the black dots became – you had to put them under your name if you'd done something wrong, and if you got so many black dots during the week there were consequences – or if you didn't have any, there was benefit.  You do those kinds of things, and that's all a part of shaping character.  It's really modifying behavior.  What you're really going for with discipline is not just a change in behavior, but a change in the heart attitude, and that's why I appreciate, in these studies, you keep driving parents back to the Scriptures and back to getting to the heart of the child, not simply to the behavior of the child.  Because we can raise little hypocrites, can't we?  But we've got to make sure that more than just the behavior is cured, but the heart is cured.

 Let me ask you this – the two of you could have sat down and written a book on the subject of disciplining your children, and you may do that someday, but if you had the choice between sending your children a book on how to discipline their children or getting them involved in a HomeBuilders group to go through this study with other parents their age, which would you pick?

Barbara: I think I'd pick the study, because I think what a group does for you, a group of people who are at the same life stage, and you're going through the same things together, it's like a support group.  You encourage one another, you can hold each other accountable, you give each other ideas, and it gives you hope and courage to hang in there, whereas a book is just a one-person or maybe two people reading the book, and there is not as much interaction.  I think a group is absolutely the way to go.

Dennis: No question about it – 10 times out of 10 times, I'd want my son or daughter and their spouse to sit in a group of three or four, five couples, and interact around the Scriptures around a well-designed Bible study that will walk them through the process of not only where they came from and the kind of discipline they had in their homes that they grew up in, but now, as they come together as a couple, with one, two, three children or more, how are they going to hammer out their game plan now, as parents, and what are going to be their consequences for disrespectful behavior?  And how are you going to reward your children?

And, as a couple – well, I'll tell you this story – recently I was on the phone with three young men that I'm mentoring, and I gave them – well, I gave them a question.  I said, "I will answer any question you guys want to ask about sex in marriage."  Well, I knew they'd be on time for this meeting, and when they showed up for the phone call when I talk to them, did you know that there was not a single question about that subject.  The questions were all about this right here …

Bob: … disciplining your children.

Dennis: About disciplining your children and how do I, as a young man, lead my wife and love her and help her and get on the same page as her, and we spent an hour talking about these issues, encouraging these young men to lead their wives spiritually.  And there are some moms, right now, listening to this broadcast saying, "Man, I would love for my husband to lead me."  Well, you know what?  Find a group of people that you think he'd fit with and get him in a HomeBuilders group.  It might even be the opportunity to see him come to faith in Christ where he has rejected Christianity, he's refused to go to church.  This need may be so great in your family that maybe the pain of a whining child will drive you all to a small group of people who can encourage one another as parents.

Bob: Mm-hm, and the thing about this subject is, this goes on and on and on.

Dennis: Yeah, it's not just for parents of toddlers.  This was written for parents all the way through the teenage years, because boundaries don't go away.

Bob: And you also don't fix this in a week.  I mean, you talked about your son and your daughter and their grandchild, and now things are 10 times better – that's just temporary right?

Barbara: That's right.

Bob: The next issue is just around the corner, or this one is going to re-emerge …

Barbara: … it will re-emerge …

Bob: … and, as parents, we get exhausted …

Barbara: … exhausted …

Bob: In fact, I think discipline and consequences and holding the line is maybe the most exhausting part of parenting.

Dennis: I think you're on target, Bob.

Barbara: I couldn't agree more.

Bob: I've talked to parents, you know, to moms who have said, "I'm home with the child.  This is the sixth time today the child has been in time out.  It's, like, as soon as we get the thing done, and the discipline is over, a half an hour later the same behavior re-emerges."  And, as a parent, you just want to go, "This is not working."

Barbara: When are you going to get it?

Bob: Uh-huh, but we've got to stay faithful to it, and that's why not only can biblical material help, but a group – somebody you can call and say, "Okay, I just put my child in time out for the sixth time today, I'm about to go crazy – help."  And to have another parent who can say, "I've been there," or "I am there, too," that can be all the refreshment, the load-lightening you need.

Dennis: And a group of people who can say, "Could I pray for you?"  Pray for you all as a couple and, you know, prayer works.  I've said it many times – God loves the prayer of the helpless parent, and if it takes that to get you dependent upon Him and looking to Him and the Scriptures for solution, then maybe that's a good thing.

Bob: You know, we've got a lot of folks who are listening this week, heard us talk about getting in one of these groups, getting some other parents together, and they think, "I would love to be in a group like this, but we could never start one, we could never lead one.  We're too dysfunctional to lead a group like this or to start one."

Dennis: Nah – now, if you can carry on a conversation, you can lead one of these.  The reason is – people want to talk about these issues.  You don't have to be an expert.  This material is designed in such a way that, I'm not kidding, if you can carry on a conversation with another person, you can guide people through the HomeBuilders parents series.  It is virtually self-led material.  The group will take off.  In fact, if anything happens, you're going to find it will be difficult to finish all 12 questions that are in each session, and that's 90 minutes.  People today, Bob, are wanting what you talked about and have been talking about all week.  They want community, they want another parent to relate to who will listen to them and affirm them and encourage them.  And you simply don't have to be seminary trained, you don't have to be a small group leader, you just need to have enough courage to step out and to call – get the material, and get a group together and start one of these groups.

Bob: You not only don't have to be seminary trained, you don't have to be doing it right yourself, because most of us aren't.

Dennis: The authors didn't.

Bob: And you don't have to have been a Christian for years and years.  If you're new to the faith, again, the material will point you in the right direction.  It's not up to you to do that.  There are six studies in the HomeBuilders parenting series, and we're calling on our listeners to join the FamilyLife parenting revolution by putting a group together and seeing if we can't change the paradigm for a lot of Christian parents all around the country.

 Call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY or go online at  The information you need about the studies is available there.  You can see all six titles, decide which one would be the right one to start a group with, and then let's kick it off.  Let's see if we can't get a bunch of folks involved and getting together and going through these studies, because we think it can make a difference not only in your family but in the lives of the next generation.

Dennis: Here is a quote from James – how do you pronounce the name of that California town, Bob?

Bob: Paso Robles.

Dennis: Thank you.  I knew your San Antonio connection would pay off.  He said this – "Our marriage is based on a firm foundation in Christ.  Homebuilders puts the finishing touches on the home.  Sometimes the old wallpaper needs to come down.  HomeBuilders gives us the tools to help strip it off."

 I like that, because you know what?  You do sometimes need a tool to do some remodeling, and HomeBuilders is a great tool for every family.

Bob: And this month we're trying to add a special incentive to make that happen.  All of our HomeBuilders titles, both in the parenting series and in the HomeBuilders couples series for married couples – all of these resources are 25 percent off the regular price from now until the end of the month of August.  So a little extra incentive for you to get things started with your friends or your neighbors.  Call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

Dennis: And I already know what our listeners are thinking.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: Do not send your toddler to our house.

Bob: To the whine-free zone?

Dennis: To the no-whine zone.  We are now empty-nesters.

Bob: Papa, can't you fix this for us?

Dennis: We are now empty-nesters, and we have five grandchildren of our own, thank you.

Bob: You could fund your retirement with "A Day in the Whine-Free Zone."  A couple of hundred bucks for that – there would be a lot of takers.

Dennis: I'll tell you what, now, if they'll become a Legacy Partner …

Bob: … we can talk …

Dennis: I think we might take a kid or two.

Bob: 1-800-FLTODAY, the number to call, or go online at 

 Hope you have a great weekend, hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when Tim Stafford is going to be here.  We're going to talk about what you can do to avoid comparison with other families and how you can zero in on your own family values, the goals you want to set for your family.  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'll see you Monday 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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