school friends

Last Updated on February 23, 2024

Have I ever blown it in the area of unbiblical scolding?  You bet I have. Am I going to tell you about it in this blog?  Of course not! Perhaps one day, after we’ve gotten to know each other better, I’ll share about some of the times I’ve really messed up.  However, this is my first blog post ever and I’m bent on making myself look good <grin>.  Vain? I know, but first impressions are important. So, I’ve decided to tell you about a time when I did it right in hopes that you might be encouraged to train your children in love today, without the damaging effects of scolding.  This is a story that I share in my book Don’t Make Me Count to Three published by Shepherd Press.

It was a cold day in February when my children asked if they could go outside to play. I gave them permission, but instructed them to put on their coats and shoes first. My daughter Alex has always loved to play outside barefooted, so as she whizzed by, I confirmed my orders by repeating, “Don’t forget to put on your shoes.”

Twenty minutes later, as I was taking the trash outside, what should I find but Alex, running around on bare feet that had turned a bluish purple color. To make matters even worse, the pants she was sporting were a little too long for her legs so without shoes, she was stepping on them. The results? Two holes in her brand new pants. Okay, to put it mildly, I was ticked. It may have been cold outside, but the heat building up in Momma could have warmed the entire neighborhood.

Alex had chosen to directly disobey me, but I knew that I, too, had a choice.

Option one: I could scold her by yelling, “Alex, I TOLD you to put your shoes on! Now your feet are HALF FROZEN and just LOOK at what you’ve done to your pants! (Picture hands on hips and finger wagging frantically for emphasis.) YOUR DADDY works so hard to buy you these clothes, and THIS is how you show your appreciation! You just see how fast you can get your tail in your room young lady! You are getting a major spanking!”

Option two:  I could biblically reprove her in love. Lucky for Alex, I’d spent extra time reading my Bible and praying that morning, so this is the option I chose. I calmly said, “Alex, Honey, I told you to put on your shoes before you went outside. have you obeyed or disobeyed?” Then, after she verbalized that she has disobeyed, I said, “Well, Sweetheart, God says that children are to obey their parents and I love you too much to allow you to disobey. You need to go to your room and I’ll be there in a minute.”

It’s amazing how much more receptive children are when correction is given with gentleness and self-control. I so desire to demonstrate unconditional love and careful instruction so that my children are never provoked to anger. It has become evident to me that angry parents breed angry children.

Scolding is an angry response that does not honor God or our children. “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Because I struggle with my tone of voice, I have found that making a conscious effort to reprove my children in a softer tone of voice than I normally use helps me to have self-control.

Let’s strive to speak softly and carry a big … um … Bible! Okay, that last statement was really corny. I’ve had too much coffee this morning.


{Editor’s note: Today Ginger Plowman is a guest guest writer on MomLife Today!}

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  1. Jennifer Dyer says:

    Funny I should read this after my kids have gone to bed today. Earlier, when I was trying to read this blog, my mothering kept pulling me away from the computer. So, of course, this huge discipline problem arose. What did I do? I blew up. Yep. I did apologize and talk softly after the first few sharp words, but if I had gotten to finish this blog in the first place maybe I would have done better. "Sigh." Thanks for the reminder. Maybe it's my children who should carry a big Bible … as a shield.
    Jennifer Dyer

  2. I am trying to figure out what do do about my grunter/screamer son. He is 2.5 ( will be 3 in early Oct.)
    When I tell him to come, he grunts at me….I am trying to be more calmly consistent. By this I mean no yelling at him, just calmly go to him, tell him he disobeyed, and spank him. Then I back off and tell him to come again…
    as I am in the process of this, my husband steps in and yells, "MIND MAMA NOW!" Then, he cries and obeys immediately.
    Hubby is realizing that this is not helping him learn to mind me at my word,
    Is there anyway you can help me with first time obedience without the whining?

  3. First, I want to commend you in not yelling at your son when he disobeys. I also want to encourage you that you are wise to be consistent in desiring and requiring first time obedience. However, in doing so, we don’t want our children to become robots, who mindlessly obey just because mom or dad “said so.” We also don’t want them to obey out of a fear of punishment. We want them to obey because it’s right and because it pleases God. They do this by learning to understand their own hearts and their own need for Jesus. When you tell your little one to come to you and he refuses to obey by grunting or screaming, begin your training with heart-probing questions, such as, “Sweetheart, have you obeyed or disobeyed? How did you disobey? How does God want you to obey?” If he doesn’t answer, answer for him, but know that just by asking him heart-probing questions, you are causing him to evaluate his own heart and take ownership for the sin that is there. Then you might say, “Honey, God says children are to obey their parents and I just love you too much to allow you to disobey.” Then, follow through with consequences in a loving, self-controlled way. The key is consistency. Also, there is a time to require them to try again, and a time to be wise and not encourage a power struggle. Since this is an issue he seems to be really struggling with, I think I might ask the heart-probing questions, be consistent with consequences, and then drop the matter. In other words, you told him to come, he chose to disobey, you dealt with it, and now he has a clean slate to choose wisely next time. By bringing him right back and “setting him up,” you could be encouraging a power struggle. One thing I used to pray every morning when my children were young was, “Lord, help me to be wiser than my children today!”

  4. Tiffany Farless says:

    I find your advice really interesting and I can not wait to put it to use. I am going to purchase your book "Don't make me count to three". I listened to you all week on family life and I have a few questions about preschoolers. I have a son that is 2 years and 4 months and I was wondering if this is too early to start doing what you say to do? I am not sure if a child as young as mine would fully understand. With my son, I have a hard time changing his pull ups. He fights me the whole time, and he will not go potty. I am not sure what to do, any advice? He throws fits (as I am sure most 2 year olds do) quite a bit. It is hard to handle him when he does because he throws himself on the floor even if I am holding him and screams. I have tried the "time-outs and spanking" but it does not seem to be effective. He sits in time out and plays, it is almost a game to him no matter how serious I am, which of course make me even more frustrated. When I work my mother keeps him so I will be able to work with her to implement the techniques you give me. This is my first kid and I really do not know what to do. I have got other advice to do "time-out, spanking, etc" or I hear "it is just part of the terrible two’s; there is nothing you can do". It is hard for me to accept that. I believe these first years are so important in building a great foundation. Can you please give me some advice for a child the age of my son?
    Thank you,

  5. Hi Tiffany,
    How wonderful that you desire to teach your little one to obey! Believe me, I know how frustrating that age can be at times, but these are important months that will set the standard. For what you sow now, you will reap a harvest later. Habits are beginning to develop as far as what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable behavior. Also, boundaries are being determined as far as who is the parent and who is the child. Always remember that it is easier to train now, than to retrain later. You are wise to begin your training now. The more consistent you are now in requiring obedience, the easier it will become as he gets older. God has called children to obey their parents, and He has called parents to teach their children to obey. And, yes, that does begin by age two. Sometimes we don’t give our toddlers enough credit as to their level of understanding. Think about it, most eight month olds can wave bye-bye, play pat-a-cake with their hands upon encouragement, and point to things they want. They respond to instructions, such as “come to mommy, hug your teddy bear, and look at the airplane in the sky.” If they can understand all this and more, they can certainly understand the word “no” and “obey.” My thoughts have always been that if a child is old enough to disobey, he is old enough to learn to obey.
    Resisting your authority: Unfortunately, there is no magic solution for getting him to submit while you are changing his pull-up or gain self-control in the midst of a temper tantrum. Parenting is not about solutions, it’s about striving to teach them right from wrong and pointing them to their need for Christ. You can only do so much, then you must pray and trust God to do a work in his heart. We will become discouraged if our attitude is “That method didn’t work.” It’s not so much about methods as it is a desire to train them in the ways of the Lord by teaching them to obey their parents. This takes time. It’s not accomplished overnight. However, when we lovingly and consistently strive to teach them to obey, we can lay our heads down at night and say, “Lord, I’ve done the best I can today to train my child in what’s right, but I also know that only you can reach his heart.” There is peace in trusting God.
    On the practical side, I’ll tell you how I handled these situations and then you can pray about how God would have you to handle these situations. When my toddler would fight me on something, such has changing a pull-up or diaper, I would hold his hands or legs (whatever was flailing about), look into his eyes and gently, but firmly say, “No, you need to obey mommy.” If he continued to fight me, I would pop his fanny (southern for buttocks) or the back of his upper thigh and calmly repeat, “No, you need to obey mommy.” Usually, he would stop the fighting and cry for the remainder of the diaper/pull-up change. Then, we would cuddle and I would sweetly say, “Sweetheart, mommy loves you too much to allow you to disobey.” Gentle consistency is the key. And again, there is no magic wand solution. It’s just about being pro-active in obeying God by training your child in what’s right. God’s Word clearly says that parents are to administer discipline when children disobey. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14). We have to trust that God honors our obedience. How long might this go on before your child submits? I don’t know. But I do know that God has required us to do all that he has commanded for as long as it takes.
    Temper tantrums: I did not grant an audience. I would gently pick him up and place him in his crib or playpen in his room and say, “Honey, you need to have self-control.” He eventually figured out, “Hey, it is much more fun to be playing in the living room with my family, than alone in my room pitching a fit.”
    Potty Training: Don’t ask me! That was NOT my cup of tea. Nightmare, total nightmare. I will say that some children do much better after two and a half, some even closer to three. Whatever you decide, don’t let peer pressure effect your decision as to when your individual child might be ready. Who cares if he wears a diaper a few extra months? I remember feeling peer pressure in the church nursery. I was affected by comments like, “Oh, you haven’t started potty-training yet?” and “My child was potty-trained at sixteen months.” Whatever. I started potty-training at two. If I could go back, I would have waited longer.

  6. Thank you so much for the great advice. I have been "putting my food down" with him over the past few weeks. Instead of searching for a particular method or saying to use to "control" his actions I have focused on making my directions clear to him in a firm voice and, if not corrected afterwards, always follow through with appropriate discipline. Then afterwards I explain again what he did wrong and that he must obey mommy and after an apology and lots of hugs and kisses it’s over. Though it has only been a few weeks and his tantrums have not ended… I have been noticing a big difference. Instead of disregarding what I say he is obeying me more and making better choices. There has been a change in me too. By seeing some improvement I have gained some confidence to better handle myself and him. I might make it thru the “terrible twos” after all. 🙂 I have also noticed a big difference between how he obeys me and how he obeys my mother (who watches him while I work). He is more obedient to me so I am going to work with my mother to make sure we are on the same page and he shows her (and anyone else) the same respect he shows me. I have noticed my mother will tell him no or stop or what ever he needs to do over and over till she gives up and lets him be or she gets so frustrated she yells and screams and punishes in a way that does not teach him what to do…it just stops the situation. I think your advice could help her also so I am going to try to work with her to follow up situations before she gets frustrated and to be consistent. Soon he will be going to day care so I think he needs to learn to obey other caregivers as well as us. Thank you for your wonderful advice which I already see making an improvement. You have enlightened me on a few of God's instructions on parenting that I was not aware of and they are making a big difference. I have ordered your book and I can not wait for it to arrive. I am sure that between my prayers, some hard work, and the experienced advice in your book I will be a better parent and able to fulfill my duty. Thank you!