FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Importance of Discipline

with Sam Crabtree | July 23, 2020
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Pastor Sam Crabtree, author of "Parenting With Loving Correction," helps young couples understand the importance of loving discipline in their children's lives. Crabtree emphasizes that parents must mean what they say and be consistent with the boundaries they set. He also explains why disciplining a child with loving correction will gain a child's heart in the long run.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 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.

Sam Crabtree helps young couples understand the importance of loving discipline in their children’s lives. Crabtree emphasizes that parents must mean what they say and be consistent with boundaries.

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The Importance of Discipline

With Sam Crabtree
July 23, 2020
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Bob: Sam Crabtree is a grandfather, who recently was watching his grandchildren while their parents were gone; and before they went to school, Sam let them know about a boundary he was putting in place. After school, they could have a snack until four but not after that.

Sam: Pick them up after school; gave the reminder, “You can have snacks until four o’ clock; after four o’ clock, no snacks.” Well, four o’ clock comes; no snacks. I’m starting to hear, “I’m hungry.” Then the tone starts to intensify, “I’m hungry! I’m so hungry, Grandpa!”

“Well, supper will be in a little bit,”—held the line—“No snacks till supper.” The next night, only one said, “I’m hungry, Grandpa”; third night, no comments.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at Are there boundaries in place for your kids at your house, and do you enforce those boundaries? Do they get tested? Of course they do! We’re going to offer some help today on how you can hold the line with your kids. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I get excited about programs we’re going to do, where I feel like, “Okay, we’re going to help some moms and dads with some real, honest stuff you’re dealing with”; but then I think to myself—I come across a book like the one we’re talking about today and I go—“What I really want is to send this to my kids [Laughter] and say, ‘Start doing this with the grandkids!’”—right? Do you feel the same way?

Dave: Yes; I was just going to say: “Do you know what I get excited about?”

Ann: What?

Dave: Finding out little-known facts about Bob Lepine. I just found out—

Bob: What’d you just find out?

Dave: —in the last minute. Our guest today is from Minnesota; and I didn’t know you were born in Edina, Minnesota.

Bob: I was born in Edina, Minnesota, which I understand is kind of like “Old money Minnesota”; is that right?

Ann: Oh!

Dave: Yes.

Bob: I don’t think it was, in the ’50s when I was there, because we didn’t have old money; we didn’t have much money. But I understand, when I say “Edina” now, people go, “Oh, you’re from that part of town.”

Dave: Yes; well you’re trying to get away from what I’m going to say, because I just found out Edina stands for—

Bob: It’s an acronym.

Dave: —it’s an acronym for Every Day I Need Attention. I thought, “There it is! Bob Lepine!” [Laughter]

Bob: That explains why I’m on radio every day. [Laughter]

Sam: Oh, my. I hope they let me fly home. [Laughter]

Bob: Our guest is not from Edina, but he is from the Twin Cities. Sam Crabtree is joining us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.

Sam: Glad to be here; really glad to be here.

Bob: Sam is an author. He’s the executive pastor at a church in Minnesota called Bethlehem Baptist Church, which, if people have heard of Bethlehem Baptist, it’s probably because you had a pastor for a number of years, who you worked with, who became pretty well-known.

Sam: Yes; John Piper brought me there. He was there 30-some years; and now he’s full-time with Desiring God Ministries, and I’m on the board. Just incidentally, we’re also next-door neighbors.

Bob: Is that right?

Dave: Oh, really?

Sam: So we roll our garbage to the curb together. [Laughter]

Bob: Well, and you continue to serve at Bethlehem Baptist, although Dr. Piper matriculated about five years ago and is, as you said, full-time with Desiring God.

Sam: Yes.

Bob: Sam’s an author. He’s been here on FamilyLife Today before; and when I saw your new book, I’m thinking, “A grandparent had to write this book.” [Laughter] Your heart here is really to help young couples understand that they can serve their children really well if they will correct them really well.

Sam: That’s right. It’s been my heart’s cry to God and my prayer that this would be helpful to parents, not just a book to put on the coffee table, or add to the product line, or something like that.

I love Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book on parenting.

Bob: Yes.

Sam: It emphasizes children as arrows, which is a biblical motif. This book that I’ve written, Parenting with Loving Correction, is just a little, tiny subcomponent of parenting; but it aims at making sure those arrows are straight—

Bob: Yes.

Sam: —so that they’ll fly to the mark where you’re intending to aim them.

Bob: As you look at young couples today, raising the next generation of children, would you say that, in this area of loving correction, young couples are getting it or that they need some help in this area?

Sam: Well, there’s a continuum, as you know; there’s a spectrum. Some young parents are well-trained—maybe by their parents or grandparents, or well-read, or they’ve followed FamilyLife®—[Laughter]—and they’re just sharp as a tack on this. Then there are other families that I’ve observed that seem clueless, and I don’t mean to be pejorative or condemning of them. It’s my ache for them that prompted me to want to write this book to try to help them mean what they say when they speak to their children, so they would get it.

Bob: Those that are clueless, are they just checking out of correction altogether with their kids? Is that what you’re seeing?

Sam: Well again, I would hate to generalize and put everybody in the same bucket as to why they would do it.

Bob: Right.

Sam: I think there can be different reasons why people don’t correct their children well. And I don’t mean become dictatorial/tyrannical—that’s not what I’m talking about here; that is not what I’m talking about here.

Bob: Right.

Sam: But they don’t hold a line with their children—maybe because they don’t know how to; maybe because they’re afraid of their children; maybe that they have been influenced to think, “If I’m too consistent, that equates to harshness and rigidity; and my child will grow up warped, and will hate me, and despise his childhood.” Some parents are just weary—they’re just bushed; they’re tired—it takes energy to correct your children.

Bob: Right.

Sam: So there can be multiple of reasons why parents don’t do it or won’t do it.

Dave: We just spent four days watching our grandkids—a four-year-old girl, two-year-old boy, and a one-year-old boy. You know, we’re grandparents—right?—so when we got on the plane to fly home after four days, my wife looks at me and says: “So? How are you doing? We haven’t talked in four days!” [Laughter]

Ann: I’m telling you, Sam, I remembered—like, “Oh, I forgot how all-consuming this was/that stage is; and ‘How did I have any time to spend with God? How did I have a marriage?’” Because it really is so demanding when our kids are so little.

I think, in this culture, the loving piece—we all want to love our kids—but what about the correction piece? What does that mean, and why is that so important?

Sam: Yes. Well, just to identify with the energy part there. [Laughter] I mean, we love when our grandkids come; and we love when they go. [Laughter] And we love them dearly!

Ann: Yes.

Sam: I mean, I would guess I don’t pray for anybody more—

Ann: Us, too.

Sam: —than for my grandchildren. [Choked up] They’re a high priority.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: How many do you have?

Sam: Six.

Dave: Wow.

Sam: Six, from age, soon-to-be-14 on down. They take energy; they do.

My daughter-in-law, because of her work, was on a work trip; and her husband was able to go with her. They asked us if we would be the grandparents; and Vicki was not able to be along, because she has a music studio, and she had stuff scheduled in there. I went to be solo grandpa for four days and nights.

Bob: Wow!

Sam: Yes.

Ann: How old were the kids at that time?

Sam: Well, I’d say they probably were 11 on down, something like that.

Ann: Yes.

Sam: So I’m going to get them up in the morning; I’m going to breakfast them; make sure they’re ready for school, have their hair brushed and whatever; and get them off to school— except for the four-year-old, who was with me all day, Payton—get them after school; after-school snacks; meals; supper; bedtime; Scripture memory—all that stuff—baths; get them to bed.

Ann: I am very impressed right now.

Bob: I’m exhausted right now! [Laughter]

Sam: That’s the point! Yes; so one of the things that I did—and this is germane, now, to this book, Parenting with Loving Correction—is I decided that, while I was there, and while I was the adult who was—

Bob: —in charge.

Sam: —going to be responsible for stewarding these four opportunities—when they come home from school, snacks are the order of the day. That’s fine—appropriate snacks—but after four o’ clock, no snacks.

Bob: Yes.

Sam: It’s a new rule at their house. Well, I was fully anticipating that this would meet with some push-back; because it’s a new rule, and besides, they’re hungry. [Laughter]

Bob: Yes.

Sam: So they had multiple reasons to think, “Could we have another king?” [Laughter]

But I established the rule early in the day: “Now, when you get home from school tonight, you can snack. At four o’ clock, no snacks till supper.”

Ann: So you prepped them early.

Sam: Yes, right. Talk about it—that’s fair. You know, tyrants spring rules on people.

Bob: Right; right.

Sam: Good legislators prep the people, and have listening meetings, and all that sort of thing.

Ann: That’s wisdom.

Sam: I think so. I pick them up after school; gave the reminder: “You can have snacks till four o’ clock; after four o’ clock, no snacks.” Well, four o’ clock comes; no snacks, and I’m starting to hear, “I’m hungry.”

Bob: Yes.

Sam: And then the tone starts to intensify a little bit: “I’m hungry! I’m so hungry, Grandpa!”

“Well, supper will be in a little bit,”—I held the line—“No snacks till supper.” The next night, only one said, “I’m hungry, Grandpa”; the third night, no comments. They knew, “When supper gets here, we can eat; but at four o’ clock, there’s a cutoff.”

Well, they ate better at supper.

Bob: Right.

Sam: We enjoyed conversation better at supper. There just was a better family dynamic that “We’re in this together”; and this rule isn’t hurting anybody. Nobody is becoming malnourished because they can’t graze ‘til supper. [Laughter]

Now, my enforcement—I’m on the energy question—you know, that took energy.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: Yes.

Sam: I don’t know how many times I had to say: “Nope,” “Nope, sorry,” “Supper will be in a little bit. It’s on the stove.”

That takes energy from parents; and when you’re burning through energy, there’s a grace for it. But the more grace you’re burning through, the more you want to—you know, you can run your engine at high speed a long time; but once in a while you have to stop and change the oil, as it were.

Bob: Right.

Sam: So it does take energy from parents, but I think the payoff is well worth it; and it was in that particular instance. I think the children win, and the adults win; because by the third night, nobody said a thing.

Dave: Yes; so you hear that story and you’re like: “Of course! Why wouldn’t any parent do that?” Here’s the question: “Why don’t parents do that?”

Sam: Well, I think we’re revisiting some of the rationale mentioned earlier: some are tired; some don’t know that they could do it; some don’t want to invest the energy.

Bob: I’ll tell you what it was for me, because Mary Ann tended to be the more authoritarian parent in our household; I tend to be the more permissive. I’m the fun dad; she’s the rules mom.

Ann: Oh yes, this is Dave Wilson.

Bob: Does it sound familiar to you?—okay.

Ann: Yes, but I’m not resentful at all—[Laughter]

Dave: Not at all!

Ann: —always having to be the bad guy. [Laughter]

Bob: Honestly, part of—I think what motivated me in this direction was—I think there was some fear in my heart that, if I was too rigid with my kids, I would lose their heart/that the relationship would somehow deteriorate.

Looking back, I recognize that was more about my fear than it was about what was there in reality. I mean, if I could do the do-over, I would know that—when I say, “No”; and they say, “You’re the meanest dad there is,” and get mad and storm out—I haven’t lost them. That’s a momentary childish eruption that doesn’t mean they’re not going to snuggle with me that night; right?

But as a parent, I was fearful, Sam, of: “I don’t want to be too rigid, because I don’t want my kids growing up, going, ‘I just hate my dad.’”

Sam: Yes; my experience has been—both with my children and my grandchildren—and those rare episodes; and I’m so grateful they were rare/very rare, where I most sternly had to consistently chasten the child/punish the child—within 30 minutes, they’re sitting in my lap; and we’re playing a game together.

Bob: Right.

Sam: And the endearment is there/the belongingness is there; the past is the past; we’ve buried the hatchet. Yes, I don’t think we need to fear that; but we should hasten to say that correction takes place best in an environment where there is lots of affirmation.

Bob: Yes. The reason loving correction is in this is because, unless loving is the atmosphere in which correction’s taking place, you’re going to have problems—if it’s all correction and no loving—right?

Sam: Yes; in fact, you use the word, “no loving.” “No” is loving; but if all they get is “no”—

Bob: Right.

Sam: —“No this,” “No that,” “No never,” “No, knock it off,”; and there’s not enough yeses—the no’s become very unappetizing. In fact, they’re hard to take anyway—but if the child knows there are lots of yeses: lots of permission; lots of “Let’s do this together”; lots of “Let’s experiment with this”; lots of happiness, and smiling, and laughing—“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Ann: Well, I like that in your book, that you talk about rewarding obedience and not disobedience. What’s that look like?

Sam: Let me illustrate it. I was at the store, just a couple weeks ago, in line behind a woman with two small children: one of them in the cart, and she has a cart full of stuff. She’s trying to get it on the conveyor belt for the checkout clerk and the child—the little boy—in the cart is having a hissy fit.

I would insert in here: “Parents, you can tell the difference in the cry of your children: you know when there’s a hurt/injured cry—they just pinched their finger—and you know when there’s a tired cry; and so on.” Well, there’s also a defiant, “I want to be in charge,” cry: “I want to have my way!”

Ann: “I want that candy at the checkout line.”

Sam: Exactly. Well, apparently, she’d led him to believe somehow—I’d say he was maybe two years old—that she was going to buy some Twizzlers®, and there they were. They were in the cart, but she hadn’t gotten rid of them yet. He’s demanding, and most of the checkout area in the store is aware that this is going on. [Laughter] She’s feeling embarrassed, I’m sure.

Ann: Oh, the poor mom is humiliated; yes.

Sam: Right; I’m not on her case about this. You’re asking, “How does it work?”

Ann: Yes.

Sam: She fishes through the cart, finds the Twizzlers, hands them to the clerk so we can pay for the Twizzlers first. Then she opens the package, while he’s crying; pulls out a Twizzler; and gives it to him.

Now, I would ask, “What did she just do?”

Ann: She rewarded his disobedience.

Sam: She rewarded his hissy fit!

The principle that God has wired into the universe is that behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated. She rewarded his hissy fit/his demanding cry—actually, his defiance—because she told him, “No,” several times.

She hands him a Twizzler. I watched. He bit the end off of the Twizzler, held his hand out over the edge of the cart, and dropped it on the floor.

Ann: —on purpose.

Sam: —on purpose—

Dave: Oh, boy!

Sam: —and demanded another one—a hissy fit/just a screaming fit. She pulled out another one and gave him another Twizzler.

You know, she’s paying him to do this!

Dave: Right.

Sam: Instead of rewarding his cooperation, she’s rewarding his hassle factor, if you might call it that. [Laughter]

Dave: Did you say anything to her?

Sam: I didn’t; jurisdiction matters—

Dave: Right.

Sam: —I mean, if it’s your own kid, that’s one thing; and if it’s a stranger in a checkout line—a lot of judgment calls there—I wouldn’t fault somebody if they did say something. There are people, who would handle it, maybe, different than I did, which was just to watch it happen, and then wish her well as she went on her way.

Ann: You wrote your book!

Sam: I tried to engage both of the children in conversation.

Dave: Yes.

Sam: What I would say to her is that: “If you want to just placate the child so that you can get done with the shopping and get out of the store, just beware you just made your problem worse. Are you sure you want to pay that cost to get out of the store?”

The child would not be injured if you just let him cry. He can learn to wait. Isn’t waiting one of the hardest things in life we do, even as adults?

Bob: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Sam: We so hate to wait; but delayed gratification—that’s part of maturity.

We help our children when they have to wait for some things—not that we intentionally torture them by extending wait periods—but a reasonable wait is, “Get out of the store, and you can have your Twizzler.”

Dave: Now, would you have, in this situation—say it’s your granddaughter/grandson, and the same thing’s happening; or it’s your son, years ago/daughter, years ago—would you have said, “No, you’re not going to get a Twizzler now”? Or would you have said, “If you can ask more politely, I’ll give you a Twizzler”?—“If you stop the crying/stop the whining, and ask for one more politely,”—

Sam: Yes.

Dave: —rewarding the good behavior and not rewarding the bad.

Sam: Well, it’s a good question. My answer would vary, based upon how old the child was. I didn’t know this two-year-old in the shopping cart; but with my children, we had the conversation before going to the store; and my daughters loved going to the grocery store with me! We would get two carts. For a number of years in our marriage, I would go to the grocery store. Vicki would stay home, and I’d take the girls. It was an adventure: one girl in each cart.

Bob: Are you pushing both carts?

Sam: I’m pushing one and pulling the other. [Laughter] As they grew older, I would invite them into decisions I thought they could make. Now, early on, I just would hand them stuff; and then their decision is where to put it in the cart. They’d stack, and restack, and then restack, and re-restack. But later, I’d ask: “Which kind of soup should we get?” “Which kind of cereal should we buy?” “Do you think we’re out of lettuce?”—and invite them into the shopping—“This one costs this much, and this one costs this much. What do you think we should do?”

But we had the conversation ahead of time, and they knew that, “If you are belligerent”—which is different than just being active, or mischievous, or you happen to knock something off the shelf inadvertently, or something like that—“If there’s a belligerence, we’ll just leave the carts right there; and we’ll get in the car and go home; and you won’t be happy about it.”

Bob: Yes; you hit on something. We talk about this in the Art of Parenting® video series; it’s what you’re talking about in the book, Sam. For correction to occur, there has to be instruction before there’s correction.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: And I see a lot of parents assuming that a child is going to know how to behave—not coaching a child, not doing the instructing—not having those huddles in the parking lot, before you go in, and execute the game plan in the store.

When you pull in and say: “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to go into the store. It’s going to take us about 20 minutes. You may get bored at some point, but I want this behavior to be like this,” and “It’ll be a good experience if we get this, and maybe we’ll go to the park this afternoon if it all works out well here; but if it doesn’t go well here, it’s not going to be a good day the rest of the day.”

Ann: Yes.

Bob: You get them understanding that; and then, in the middle of it, you can say, “Remember what we talked about in the car?” and you can draw on that.

Sam: Not only talking in advance in the car, but it can happen in the moment in the store.

Bob: Right.

Sam: If something happens in the store, you can say: “You know, you’re not in trouble about it this time; but if you do that again, are we clear? Look at me in the eye now.

Bob: Yes.

Sam: “Do you understand? If you do that again, that’s an offense; that’s trouble for you.”

Bob: Yes; the key here is that there needs to be loving correction.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: And for this to be loving, you have to have a foundation in place for that correction to occur properly. That’s what is at the heart of what you’ve written about in the book, Parenting with Loving Correction: Practical Help for Raising Your Children. We’re making this book available to FamilyLife Today listeners who can help support the work of this ministry. We’re a listener-supported ministry; your donations are what make this daily program possible. If you can pitch in and help with the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today, we’d love to send you a copy of Sam’s book as our thank-you gift for your support.

Again, the title of the book is Parenting with Loving Correction: Practical Help for Raising Your Children. You can request your copy when you donate, online, at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation. Again, the website is; the number to call is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Be sure to ask for your copy of Sam Crabtree’s book, Parenting with Loving Correction, when you make a donation.

And then, find out more about FamilyLife’s resource—the Art of Parenting, the video series that we have available that’s being used in small group settings—at least, when we’re able to have small group settings, or Zoom classes, or whatever you’re doing to connect with people. The Art of Parenting is a great resource to help you think about the key issues we face when we’re raising toddlers or raising teenagers. Find out more about the Art of Parenting when you go to

One more resource I want to mention to you—we’re aware that a lot of marriages have been facing strain and pressure because of the uncertainties of what is going on in our world and in our lives these days. That stress has put pressure on marriages, so we’ve put together an online resource that is called “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great.” This includes a couple of online mini-courses: one on resolving conflict in marriage; another one called “Light Bulb Moments for Your Marriage.” There is access to audio teaching from Paul David Tripp, Gary Chapman, Voddie Baucham, Juli Slattery; and some download-ables: a quiz you can take to determine whether you’re a good listener; conversation-starter questions for you and your spouse.

And then, there’s an additional incentive to get you to engage with this content. One couple, who signs up for the “Taking Your Marriage from Good to Great”resource/one couple is going to join us, here at FamilyLife, for an upcoming FamilyLife Today recording session as our guests. We’ll fly you in; put you up [in a hotel]; and after the recording session, you’ll have dinner that night with Dave and Ann Wilson. We thought maybe that would just give you a little extra incentive to build a stronger marriage. Go to for all the information/all the details. There’s no purchase necessary. Again, the information is available, online, at

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about why it’s so important for parents to, not only set boundaries, but to not capitulate/not to weaken on those boundaries. Sam Crabtree joins us again tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us for that as well.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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