By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” (continued) August 5, 2007

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 3:02 am
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I’ve finished “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman (see previous post below for the basic premise of the book) and have been trying to apply the principles for about three weeks. I recommend that every Christian mom buy a copy immediately, and just for the record, if you have read the book already and didn’t tell me about it, you are in big trouble! There are many ideas that were meaningful to me, and I should probably make your life easier by splitting them into more than one post. But I want to get this done while they are fresh in my head, so read as far as you can and feel free to come back tomorrow. I won’t know. 🙂 So here it goes . . .

p. 33: “Behavior is simply what alerts you to your child’s need for correction. But don’t make the mistake that so many parents make and allow your desire for changed behavior to replace your desire for a changed heart.” She goes on to quote Tedd Tripp’s words about how changed behavior that does not stem from a changed heart being the same hypocrisy displayed by the Pharisees. The tough part is that going beyond the changed behavior to a changed heart takes so much more time and energy and thought.

P. 40: “Our goal in probing our child’s heart is to bring him to the sober assessment of himself as a sinner, to help him recognize his need for Christ, and to teach him to act, think and be motivated as a Christian. It is not that difficult to train our children to act as Christians. We have really accomplished something when we have trained them to think like Christians. Thinking like a Christian will help them grow in wisdom and prepare them to govern their own behavior in a way that will glorify God.”

She makes the point multiple times that the reason we must train and instruct our children in obedience is so someday they will be ready to submit in obedience to God. It isn’t so people will marvel at my obedient, well-mannered children or to make my life easier because we all get along so nicely. I want their disobedience to point them to their need for a Savior. I want them to grow in wisdom as I speak God’s Word (Scripture) to them. As Ginger Plowman puts it, I want to prepare their hearts for the Savior by praying for them and being a godly example (p. 75).

One section of this book that was especially convicting was one of her guidelines for verbal correction: using the right tone of voice. She quotes Proverbs 15:28: “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Too often I fly off the handle and just start scolding Christopher without stopping to pray and choose my words and tone of voice carefully. Plowman also quotes H. Clay Trumbull’s writings in 1891 about scolding, which he defines as “an expression of a bad spirit and a loss of temper” and “to assail or revile with boisterous speech.” He writes: “If a child has done wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words. If the parent is tempted to speak rapidly . . . the parent’s first duty is to gain entire self-control . . . Scolding never benefits the one against whom it is directed . . . however, it may give physical relief to the one who indulges in it.” (p. 89-90 in Plowman’s book). All I can say about that is OUCH.

Another great thought from the book is the way she defines the standard of obedience. In their family, they must obey “all the way, right away, and with a happy heart” (p. 117). She talks about expecting complete obedience, immediate obedience, and joyful obedience. To fail in any of these aspects is an act of disobedience. The thought of enforcing this standard is overwhelming and exhausting to me, but I am motivated by knowing that this is how my children should someday obey Jesus. It is my responsibility to not let them become lazy in obeying me so that they will not be lazy in obeying their Lord and Savior.

Finally, I continue to be convicted of my need to know Scripture better and use it more often in the training and instruction of my children. After reading I Corinthians 13 with Christopher and mentioning it often, I praised him one morning for how kind he was being to his brother. He replied, “Yes! Just like we read in Mommy’s Bible!” It was so encouraging to me that he is starting to understand that these are not arbitrary principles given on my own authority. These are principles given to us by our Creator as we submit to His authority. I went through Plowman’s book and made notecards of all the Bible verses she mentioned. The notecards are sorted into two stacks: verses of encouragement or conviction for my kids and verses of encouragement or conviction for me. Here’s the list–and if you don’t have a Bible handy, you can look them up at

For the kids:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (love)—Galatians 5:22-23 (fruits of the Spirit)—Matthew 5:9 (promoting peace)—Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 (obeying your parents)—Philippians 2:14 (complaining)—I Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Psalm 100:2 (having a joyful attitude)— Proverbs 17:5b (not rejoicing at your brother’s sorrow)—Matthew 18:15 (solving conflict with your brother)—Ephesians 4:32 (kindness and forgiveness)—Proverbs 6:16-19 (six things God hates).

For moms:

James 1:2-4 (positive results of enduring trials)—James 1:5 (wisdom)—Proverbs 15:28 (weighing my words)—Hebrews 4:12 (the power of God’s Word)—Colossians 3:13 (forgiving my kids–see post below)— Proverbs 3:5-6 (trusting the Lord)—James 3:17-18 (God’s wisdom)—Ephesians 6:4 (do not provoke your children)—Proverbs 22:15 (the rod of discipline).

And the verse I’m clinging to as I pray for the wisdom and strength to put all of this into practice:

Galatians 6:8-9: For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I’m not sure when that due season is–it is probably not anytime soon, and may not even be during my time on this earth–but God has promised that we WILL reap what we sow if we do not give up!


“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” July 25, 2007

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 2:03 am
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I can’t believe it has been a month since my last post. Two weeks of our entire family being sick, immediately followed by a 600-mile move . . . in the midst of the chaos, I’ve barely had a coherent thought in my brain to speak to new people I’m meeting, let alone several to form into a blog post! 🙂

As I was moving in, a friend of mine here in Arkansas invited me to a book discussion group. I thought, “I certainly don’t have time to read a book, but I could use some friends, so why not?” Little did I know that God didn’t only bring this opportunity along for the new friends (although that is a nice by-product) but for the wisdom that is found in the book we’re discussing–“Don’t Make Me Count to Three” by Ginger Plowman. If you’ve read “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp, it is a similar parenting philosophy (she actually quotes him quite a bit), but she also provides lots of practical suggestions on how to discuss disobedience with your child and Scripture passages to use in instructing them in obedience. This will probably be the first of multiple posts I’ll write about this book as I finish reading and work on applying what God is teaching me.

This quote from the book summarizes it well: “Biblical disciple gets to the heart of the problem. After all, if you can reach the heart, the behavior will take care of itself. In order for us to reach the hearts of our children we must realize that there is far more to parenting than getting our children to act right. We have to get them to think right . . . We do this by training them in righteousness. Righteous training can only come from the Word of God” (p. 26).

It seems that so many times, I can only muster the energy and time to punish Christopher for what he’s done wrong. This book has shown me the importance of delving into the heart issues behind Christopher’s disobedience and then training him to do what is right and, as Plowman puts it, “think like a Christian” about his behavior. And as she says in the quote above, this can only be accomplished with God’s Word playing an integral role. I’m hoping my new routine will look like this: 1. punishment for disobedience, 2. discussion about the heart issue behind it, 3. instruction from God’s Word about what he should have done instead, and even role-playing how to do it differently.

I Corinthians 10:13 says: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” In reference to this verse, Plowman writes: “When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, we will exasperate them because we are not providing them with a way of escape” (p. 48). I’ve never thought of it this way before, but now I see the importance in providing Christopher a way out, and it makes so much sense. How could he possibly be expected to figure it out for himself?

A few days ago, this actually worked. I woke up Christopher that morning, and when I told him it was time to go potty, he stated in a very whiny voice that he wanted to wake up Will before going potty. I told him that I could not say “yes” because he was whining, and then I walked him through how he could ask me correctly the next time. I had completely forgotten about it the next morning, when I woke Christopher up and said it was time to go potty, and just like we had practiced the day before, he said, “Mommy, can we wake up Will first, please?” I was shocked!

I’ve been very convicted by this book that I need to know Scripture better to truly train my children in righteousness. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The other moms in the discussion group and I are all planning to make notecards with Scripture references pertaining to different situations we encounter with our kids . . . if anyone has some great verses to share, please leave a comment. So far, I’ve just been reading I Corinthians 13 with Christopher and talking about what it means to love his brother. This gets applied many, many times, every single day. “Love is not rude! Love does not seek its own interest! LOVE IS KIND!!!! STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER!!!!” (Is it training in righteousness if you are yelling Scripture at them? Probably not.)

More to come . . .