FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Family Rules

with Karis Kimmel Murray | August 2, 2017
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What are the family rules? When Karis Kimmel Murray asked her two daughters, she was surprised and amused by their replies, even though they were way off track. Karis tells how granting forgiveness is the #1 rule of the Murray household, followed closely by "be brave and face your fears, especially when you do the hard thing."

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What are the family rules? When Karis Kimmel Murray asked her two daughters, she was surprised and amused by their replies, even though they were way off track. Karis tells how granting forgiveness is the #1 rule of the Murray household, followed closely by "be brave and face your fears, especially when you do the hard thing."

  • 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.

Karis Kimmel Murray tells how granting forgiveness is the #1 rule of the Murray household, followed closely by “be brave and face your fears, especially when you do the hard thing.”

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Family Rules

With Karis Kimmel Murray
August 02, 2017
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Bob: Do your kids know how to push your buttons? Maybe the better question is—do you know how to keep your buttons from getting pushed? Here’s Karis Kimmel Murray.

Karis: When your emotions are going off—they are happening—you have to choose to sort of disconnect from your victimhood and act in the best interest of your kids, because you are the first responder to their crises that their behaviors create—but you’re also the victim of their behavior—you’re in that burning building with them—but you have to be the firefighter that responds to save them at the same time.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When there is an emotional crisis going on between you and your children, it’s up to you to be the grown-up. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think you need to find out from our guest about the time she walked out of the grocery store without paying for her groceries.

Karis: The time I accidentally shoplifted groceries?

Dennis: Wow. Well, I knew you compared parents to firefighters, first responders, but I wasn’t thinking of police.

Karis: Yes.

Bob: Felons.

Karis: Yes; right. [Laughter]


Dennis: Well, that’s Karis Kimmel Murray who is destroying her reputation. She is the author of the book Grace-Based Discipline: How to Be at Your Best When Your Kids Are at Their Worst.

Bob: Don’t you love the picture on the front of this book? I mean, here’s a kid with a muddy face, and he just has that look in his eye like, “I’m going to get it from my mom and dad.” I love it.

Dennis: This is not one of yours—because you have two teenage daughters—but where’d you get this kid?

Karis: He’s a model. He had a whole great series of photos—and I just saw him and I saw his little muddy face—and I knew—



I’ve seen that look on my own children—where you see them in the backyard and they were in their school clothes five minutes ago, clean and ready to go to school—and you look out into the backyard and they’ve destroyed their clothes. [Laughter] I have two girls and they did it too, and you want to run out there and scream all three of their names as loud as you can and just let them have it. Those are the kind of those moments, as a mom, where you have to stop and go, “What is the right thing to come next?”

Bob: You’ve written this book about grace based discipline. I’m wondering—would your kids say, “My mom is so strict. She is such a strict mom.” Do you think?

Karis: I think that they would acknowledge that I am strict about things that their friends’ parents maybe aren’t—that I seem to care about things that their friends’ parents don’t.

Bob: Now you’ve written this book on it. They’re probably really annoyed that you’re in this whole line of work, aren’t they?



Karis: Well, their new favorite thing to do now is when I say something inappropriate or wrong—which is frequently—they go, “Mom, you wrote a parenting book,” or they say it sarcastically, like, “She wrote a parenting book, folks!” [Laughter]


Dennis: I have news for you—having written a book on raising adolescents before we were done raising adolescents—it will come back to haunt you. [Laughter]

Karis: Yes, I know it will.

Bob: Tell us about the grocery store. What happened?

Karis: Tired, working mom, I went to the store. I didn’t even have my kids with me this time, but I just was walking through the aisles pulling things down, putting them in my cart, until finally I looked down and went, “Yep, that’s everything I need.” And I just walked my cart out to the car. As I’m loading it all in my truck I’m like, “Man, why didn’t they put any of this stuff in bags? That’s super weird.” I’m thinking, “Is Walmart trying to save the environment now—is it like California where you have to buy your bags?”

Bob: Did anybody follow you out?

Karis: No! I’m like, “Oh, I forgot to check out,” right.



That was the longest walk back into the store. Everybody is trying to come out the “in” door, and so I’m stuck behind a throng of people with all these contraband groceries in my cart. The alarms didn’t go off, either—that’s the craziest thing. This particular Walmart, literally every time I walk in the door the alarm goes off. So it goes off when you walk in, but not when you’re shoplifting a cartful of groceries.

Dennis: This is what parenting does to parents.

Karis: To our brains, yes.

Dennis: It does.

Karis: Which is what I explained to the manager when I walked back in. I said, “I have mommy brain and it made me go all walking dead and I don’t know what I did; I just accidentally stole all this stuff.” He was like, “It’s going to be okay, honey.” He goes, “I’m not calling the cops. Let’s just go check out and let’s have you pay for this and that’ll be okay.”

Bob: You have a goal—you want to see parents better understand and better apply discipline in their homes, and do it in an environment of grace.



Karis: Yes.

Bob: That’s what your book, Grace Based Discipline, is all about. You’re not saying—in the book—that grace means we live in a no-rules family. In fact, you have the Murray family rules at your house; right?

Karis: Yes—because that’s not the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not a kingdom with no rules—if God is our Father and we’re His children—then that’s not the example He’s setting for us—

Bob: Are these rules something that you and your husband wrote on your honeymoon?

Karis: No. I mean, if you have been tracking up to this point you know that we had a plan that went off the rails pretty early on, and we hardly did anything on purpose from that point on for a while. It just kind of felt like we were chasing our life.

Dennis: You had a couple of kids—

Karis: Had a couple of kids.

Dennis: —and you said you compare parenting to—like firefighters. That’s where you had the idea of the rules in the first place; right?

Karis: Yes. My brother Colt is a firefighter with the Phoenix fire department, and I was talking with him.



We were kind of talking through some ideas that I had about the book and talking about first responders and—how do they know what to do in a situation? How do they prepare for what they’re going to roll up on so that they can respond and not react—and that kind of thing.

He says, “Well, we have rules, and those rules are: Rule number one—survive; Rule number two—prevent harm; Rule number three—be nice. Those are the three.” That’s the hierarchy, too. First of all, they have to survive—because if they don’t survive nobody else can either. Second is to prevent harm—and then to try to be nice while they’re doing it. That really…those three things—the Phoenix fire department has boiled down their philosophy and their strategy and their protocol—to those three rules.

Bob: Those sound like they’d work for parents too: survive, prevent harm, and be nice.

Karis: Well, yes—prevent harm and be nice. I mean yes, they work in so many different situations.



But it kind of got me thinking, “Oh, the firefighters have three rules,” and according to Colt you can kind of grab any firefighter and ask them—in his department—and say, “What are the rules?” and they will rattle those off. They know them by heart. So I thought, “Yes. I wonder if my kids could do the same thing? Could they tell someone what are the Murray family rules?”

I was in my room writing in my journal, doing some studying—some preparation, and I was like, “Oh, we’re going to do a little impromptu experiment and put them on the spot and see what they say,” which is always a great idea with children—by the way—because have you noticed that kids really love to make their parents look good? No.

Bob: Not at our house. [Laughter]


Karis: Right. Sarcasm. I called my older daughter in and I said, “Riley, what are the rules? If someone was new to our house and you were trying to explain to them what the rules were—what would you say?” She’s like, “I don’t know.”



Her personality is that she kind of thinks that anything—she’s a pleaser—so she thinks that anything that she’s done that’s displeased or annoyed or pushed our buttons in the last six months ought to be a rule. So from her it was things like, “Don’t cut your hair and leave it in the sink,” and, “Don’t leave scissors on the couch,” and, “Don’t color your sister with markers.” She’s rattling off—and I’m thinking, “Well, we kind of missed the mark on that one,” but I’m writing them all down. I said, “Okay, thank you, you’re done. Call your sister in here, but don’t tell her anything, because I want to get her shocked response as well.”

She comes in and I said, “Lydia, what are the rules? If you were going to tell someone the Murray family code and they were new to our family and you wanted them to know, ‘These are the things you need to know about being a Murray,’ what would you say?” She’s like, “Mom, I can see through the page what Riley told you,” She’s like, “What did Riley say?” I’m like, “No, I want to know what you think.”



She kind of winds up and she goes, “Never pass up a chance to go to the bathroom.”

[Laughter] That was what she said.

Bob: That’s the rule.

Karis: Clearly I was winning at the parenting game in that moment and thinking, “First of all, neither of them said anything that I would consider our rules. One thinks that everything she’s done that annoys us should be a rule, and the other one thinks that there are no rules except for, ‘Don’t pass up an opportunity to use the restroom,’” which is a good principle, but—

Dennis: Right.

Bob: Not a rule.

Dennis: So, let’s go to the Murray family rules, then. What’s rule number one?


Karis: Well, rule number one is forgive. We kind of qualify all of these rules. We have a quick one or two word statement, but then we explain it a little bit. So rule number one is, “Forgive—be quick to seek, grant, and accept forgiveness.”



Dennis: You need to know that when I saw this I thought, “You’re absolutely on target,” because I believe what the family is—is an incubator to train the next generation for how a group of imperfect, sinful, selfish human beings live together in this thing called family.

Karis: Right.

Dennis: Some of them will get married and they’re going to learn how to live together with another selfish, sinful spouse—of which they will be one too. And if you don’t know how to seek, grant, and—what’s the last?

Karis: Seek, grant, and accept forgiveness.

Dennis: There you go.

Karis: Accept is on there for a reason, right? Because a lot of times we have a hard time accepting others’ forgiveness or forgiving ourselves and accepting God’s forgiveness.

Dennis: What’s your definition of forgiveness that you trained your daughters with?

Karis: I don’t know that I have defined it specifically for them, but forgetting to the capacity that we can—taking something off the table in terms of recalling and remembering and rehashing it. I mean, God’s able to forget our sins and remember them no more.



We are human beings—so we can’t actually forget—but it’s interesting that the process of truly letting go of our hurt and our pain and saying, “You’re off my hook.” I mean, people aren’t off God’s hook for what they did—there are still consequences—but when you forgive, you’re saying, “I’m letting you off my hook.”

Dennis: You nailed it at that point. Absolutely—because forgiveness is giving up the right to punish another person.

Karis: Right. Yes.

Dennis: So letting them off the hook means they’re no longer guilty as charged and under that dreaded word—punishment—where you’re trying to hurt them back.

Karis: Right; exactly.

Bob: There may still be consequences or pain or memories, because we can forgive things even if we remember them, even if there’s still pain attached to it, even if there are consequences. We can still decide, “I’m going to not hold you accountable for how you wronged me here. I’m going to let you off the hook.”

Karis: Right.

Dennis: There’s such a thing as a scar.



When you’ve wounded someone and it heals…

Bob: There are still scars.

Dennis: There are still scars. Children have to be trained repeatedly—and this is very tiresome.

Karis: Right.

Bob: So you would say to your kids, “We have a rule in this house, and that’s that we forgive one another.”

Karis: Yes. And that we’re quick to seek forgiveness when we know we’ve wronged someone, then we’re quick to grant that forgiveness, and we’re quick to accept the forgiveness. Quick is important, because it creates a standard whereby—we’re not flippant about it, but the process of reconciliation can’t begin until forgiveness has happened, so the sooner that that happens, the faster it happens—the less damage—collateral damage that happens along the way.

Bob: So you and your husband have to model this for your kids.

Karis: Yes.

Bob: And you have to model by forgiving them or by asking for forgiveness when you’ve wronged them.

Karis: Yes.

Bob: Are they picking up on it? Are they forgiving each other quickly?



Karis: Yes, and I mean, truly—as parent—what you do is what matters the absolute most with your kids. What you say only matters if they see your life reflect what you say. If they see your life reflect the opposite of what you say, they’re going to assume that you must not really believe it and it must not really be true. So, we have to be quick with this. I watched my parents do it. It established a paradigm by which we are moved quickly to forgiveness—to asking for it, to doing it publicly, to doing it in front of them—admitting wrong quickly.

I think for them, they see that we know we’re not perfect parents and that we know they’re not perfect kids. Nobody expects perfection—but we’re just going to patch things up as we go, the best that we can.

Dennis: Karis, I like all ten, but I really like number two, because we are training the next generation of warriors. Warriors in a culture that is increasingly going to be hostile to any warrior who stands strong for Jesus Christ.



Karis: Yes. Rule number two is, “Be brave—face your fears, especially when it’s required to do the hard but right thing.”

My oldest daughter—her name is Riley—and that name means “valiant one.” My younger daughter’s name is Lydia, named after the biblical woman in the Bible who was very courageous. So courage—especially in women—I think is so powerful. It’s sort of expected in men, and it’s not always expected in women. They act courageously and that is a calling on our lives as believers—that we ought to not be afraid. It says it all over the Bible. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel fear—but it means we don’t let fear rule us and act out of our fears.

Bob: Well here’s what Dennis would tell you courage means: courage means doing your duty in the face of fear.

Karis: Right.



Bob: Even when you fear, you do what you’re supposed to do because that’s what brave people do.

Karis: Exactly.

Dennis: So Karis, your kids are going to listen to this broadcast. I want to know—in all your life—what’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear. It’s the Murray family rule.

Karis: Yes.

Dennis: Number two, and I’ve stalled now for about 15 seconds. You’re thinking, I can tell.

Karis: I’m thinking.

Dennis: I’ve seen the Kimmel look from your dad before when he’s thinking—

Karis: When he’s winding up?

Dennis: Yes.

Karis: Well, I kind of want to say making the choice to write a book was a big leap for me, because it was hard. I watched my dad do it and I knew how painful the process is—at least is for him. It’s like giving birth. I didn’t want to sign up for that, but I felt like I needed to do it.

I’ll also say a bit moment where I had to just draw on courage and not be afraid was—my husband in the hospital for about a month-and-a-half—this has been years now.



He was very sick. There were a couple of nights he was going to bed, I was holding him in his hospital bed wondering if he would wake up in the morning—not being sure. During that time the recession had hit and his business was suffering tremendously. We had kind of gone all in on it and so I knew we were headed for a financial unraveling, personally, and we would probably lose our house.

I was just gripping onto the fragments of our life, especially the things that looked good on the outside, because you know, I’m the minister’s daughter—I should have it all together—I need to look like I’m living out this gracious legacy that I’ve been given. I had put that pressure on myself.



So, going through these very visible struggles—which, losing your house is a visible struggle—I was just like, “I am going to work through this. We’re going to make this happen, we’re going to make it right—we’re going to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” And God kept saying to me, “Be still. Be still.”

That verse would echo through my mind, “Be still and know that I am God,” and I’m like, “Lord! Be still? You want me to just stand still and do nothing? That is not who I am. You didn’t make me to do nothing in the face of this kind of stuff.” Finally I understood that “be still,” the Hebrew word is rapa, which means to make fall or to let go. I realized what the Lord was telling me was, “Be still in My love and in My favor and in My grace for you. Let it fall, because it’s going to—so you could keep clinging or you could let it all fall down—and then let me rebuild it in you.”

There was a moment where I picked up my cell phone and I called my husband and I just said, “I’m not afraid anymore.



“I’m not afraid to face whatever’s coming—I’m not ashamed. We’re just going to join hands. Our family is a family that loves each other no matter where we live. Let’s give the house back to the bank. Let’s let it go—let’s move forward.”

That was a hard time for a lot of people, that period of time, but I just had to let go of expectations I’d put on myself—of image, of sort of a façade that I—at least in my mind—thought that I had built, and people’s perception of me—and just say, “Lord, take whatever You’re going to take. I’m letting it fall out of my hands, and You’re going to be there with me.”

Then those years of rebuilding were just sort of weathering that period of time with our business and our home. The closest I’ve ever felt to the Lord was during that period, and He really rewarded that act of faith for me by being close and being near.



Dennis: Bob, I’m looking at these other eight rules of the Murray family and I’m thinking how powerful these first two are and how much is demanded of the parent first—on both of them—to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, to be courageous and not be afraid.

That’s what you’re training your kids to do as a parent—you’re modeling before you teach.

Karis: These are rules for me and for my husband before they’re rules for our kids. It just helps to have them codified and solidified so that we can remind ourselves. Israel constantly needed that reminder of who God said they were and how they were supposed to live—and we need it too.

Bob: We just touched a couple of them, and we do have the whole list available on our website if listeners would like to see all ten of the rules—they’re up at



These may not be the same ten that you’d have in your family, but it’s a good exercise for any family to go through and say, “What are the rules? What are the values? What’s going to matter most around here?”

Dennis: Yes, and there’s one last thing I’d like to ask you to do before we’re done here. I want Bob to tell folks how they can get a copy of your book, but I want to give you a special privilege.

Karis: Okay.

Dennis: With a couple I really love, and I know for sure you do too. I’m going to challenge you to give a tribute to your mom and dad. Can you do that?

Karis: I can.

Bob: You think for a minute about what you want to share, and I’ll let listeners know how they can get a copy of your book, Grace Based Discipline. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at and order the book from us. Again, the website is The title of the book is Grace Based Discipline by Karis Kimmel Murray.

You can also call to order at 1-800-358-6329.



That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” And again, if you want to see all ten of the Murray family rules, they’re posted online at as well.

Now quickly, before we turn it back to Karis for her tribute, we want to say a quick word of thanks to those of you who help extend the reach of FamilyLife Today and all that we do here at FamilyLife. Our goal through this ministry is to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We want to see every home become a godly home. Every time you make a donation to this ministry you’re helping us take the practical, biblical help and hope you hear on this program or that you find online or that you find in our resources or at our events—you’re helping us take this message to more people in our country and around the world.

If you’re a Legacy Partner—somebody who contributes monthly—“Thank you”—so much—for providing the financial stability that this ministry needs to be able to continue to operate. We’re grateful for you.



And if you’re a longtime listener and you’ve never made a donation to FamilyLife Today, we’d love for today to be the day you join the team. Donate online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or, if you’d like to mail your donation, you can do that as well. Our address is FamilyLife Today at P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.


Dennis: Well, Karis Kimmel Murray has been a great hero this week on FamilyLife Today. Thanks for calling all of us as parents back to grace and to stay the course—to discipline and train our children to follow Christ. I told you I wanted to give you an opportunity. I wanted to seat your mom and your dad right here and—I know them pretty well, and both Bob and I love them as well, but not as much as you.



I want to give you the chance to be able to give them a tribute.

Karis: Mom and Dad, I would say—to your credit—you made sure that all four of your kids knew that we had your favor—no matter what. We were your children and there was nothing that we could do to be more accepted in our family, because we were already 100 percent loved and accepted—and there’s nothing that we could do for you to love us and accept us less. I appreciated the fact that you did draw boundaries and had standards and worked to build character into our hearts in the midst of that, because you wanted us to grow up to be people who could affect a world that you would likely not get to see.

Mom, I’m grateful that you let Shiloh and I be who we are—that you saw that we’re different from you but that you celebrated our differences and the way that we are designed.



Dad, I am so grateful that you affirmed all of us kids—that you never let a time go by when you didn’t pull us onto your lap, give us a hug, give us a word. Dad, you would be on an important phone call and we would walk into your office, and I can’t remember a time that you didn’t say, “Hang on just a second,” and you would stop and you would give us a hug, find out how we were. You always would pause for us—and that made us recognize how valuable we are to you. So, I’m grateful.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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