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The 3 Ds of Discipline
While speaking in Kelowna last weekend at a Family Life marriage conference, I was listening to the other speaker couple share about their lives. Keith and I are still the “young” speaker couples, since we’re only in our 30s, but Pete and Shirley Unrau, whom we were speaking with, have been married fifty years and are in their 70s. So they have a wealth of wisdom.

Shirley at one point was delivering a talk to mothers on the three thigns that they used to discipline their four children over: dishonesty, disrespect, and downright disobedience. The 3 d’s.

I love that model! It makes sense, and it’s easy to remember. So let’s go over them:

Dishonesty: if you don’t have honesty, you don’t have anything. Without honesty you can’t trust your children. You don’t know if they’ll confess if they’ve done something wrong, or follow through when you ask them to do something. We’ve always come down hard on dishonesty. So sneakiness is a no-no. I'm struggling with this right now because my 14-year-old likes to keep her door closed while she works, etc. I'm not a fan of closed doors. I think it inspires secrets. Occasionally it's okay, but normally it's not. I believe in giving children space (and when she's in her room, it's not like we're standing over her), but you still need to be part of the family. So I'm trying to figure out if I'm being mean or not. She is an honest kid, but I don't believe in creating conditions where dishonesty could flourish.

Disrespect: Another cornerstone of family life is respect. Children must respect their parents. Too often parents treat their children as equals, but family is not a democracy. Parents get the final say, which is the way it is supposed to be. We know how the world works. We know what’s best. We pay the bills. We get the final say. People struggle with this, but it's foundational in parenting.

So don't let your child whine at you or talk back to you! I've been in the nursery at church when a 3-year-old yelled at his mother, telling her she was mean and all sorts of horrible things, and she just stood there and tried to whisper to him and say "it was all right". It wasn't all right! He was disrespecting his mother, and that should never be allowed.

This is one of those things that if you come down hard on early becomes much less of a problem later. So watch how they talk to you when they're three and four. Make a big deal out of whining at you or talking back. And then they'll learn that you are to be respected!

I honestly don't think, though, that many parents recognize disrespect. They think it's just a child throwing a tantrum, or that's just the way 3-year-olds are. No. A child is not allowed to talk back to his/her parents, or call them names, or yell at them. These are specific things that need to be dealt with.

When children act up, we often try the distraction method. Just get them thinking about something else and they'll stop whatever they're angry about. That may work if the problem is that they don't want to share a toy. But if the problem is that they're yelling at Mommy, distraction is not appropriate. Discipline is.

Downright Disobedience: When you tell them to do something and they don't do it, that's a reason for punishing them. This one's the most obvious. Many discipline for disobedience, but not for the other two. Ironically, though, if you discipline for the other two, this one is less likely to happen!

I think I'll do a post this weekend on things NOT to discipline for. I think a lot of people discipline for things that we should just let go. I have my own ideas, but if you want to leave yours in the comments, that would be great! And in the meantime, why don't you also share how you discipline? Looking forward to reading it!

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At 9:12 AM , Blogger Cheri Gregory said…

I love it! Especially the 2nd "D."

Teachers--and society--pay dearly for the "they need to express themselves" movement.


At 9:34 AM , Blogger Joanna J. said…

Hi Sheila! I love reading your blog. I'm also working through "Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight!" You have a wonderful ministry.

For the past several weeks, I have been hosting a book study on my blog as we read through "Don't Make Me Count To Three!" by Ginger Plowman. I love that this book is FULL of scriptural references and examples. It's also full of practical advice and has really forced me to look at my own heart issues when disciplining our daughter.

One of my favorite guidelines that we are using is the concept that obedience should be "all the way, right away, and with a happy heart." The first two are easier, but the third is tough! It's hard for kids to not be a slave to their emotions. I honestly believe that happiness is a choice, and one of the most valuable things we can teach our daughter is that true happiness is a natural result of obedience and submission to God.

To read more about what I've learned, you can go to the "Book Study" label on my blog.

Blessings to you!


At 12:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Amen to the 3 D's. Wow if only everyone could get a handle on that. I suppose that's what we've always done just didn't have a cute name for it. :) We're often complimented on how well behaved our children are. And then asked what's the secret? Oh that always saddens my heart. That is a parent living under a child's thumb...definitely not good.

I always say the same thing...we discipline. It always gets a curious look and the response of "but so do I". It always leads to interesting discussion and I've had this talk with enough people to know the ones NOT to go into it with. Some people, sadly, don't understand the monster they're creating by letting their child lead. I pray for these people.

As for not letting your 14 yr old shut her bedroom door...I think you're right. I completely agree with your reasons too. I just had the same discussion with my 14 yr old about a month ago. She didn't appreciate it but (because of discipline!) she respects my rule and leaves it open. I told her I don't sit in rooms with the door closed do I? Answer no. I explained that as a family member we should be able to go to a room to chat on the phone or read a book alone...but...other family members should be able to reach out to you if need be. A closed door says I don't want to be bothered, go away. I asked if that was the message she was trying to convey to us. She said no just she wants to be alone once in a while. I told her the same thing you said, no one is hanging over your shoulder in your room. Which of course brought on the excuse of "but little brother does sometimes". I said, Sweetie maybe he just wants a little of your time. :) He misses you after you've been apart at school all day.

(We used to homeschool so the transition a year and a half ago to public school was hard on all of us. My son (11) especially misses his sister during the day. They are so close.)

Well anyway I'm getting long winded here, sorry. :) I just completely agree on the open door issue. Don't feel bad one tiny bit!

Hugs to you,


At 1:28 PM , Blogger Ashley said…

I read a parenting article before that had the same concept, but it was 4 Ds. They had destructiveness on the list too.


At 3:11 PM , Blogger Amanda #1 said…

I know this isn't really what you're post is about, but I feel like your 14 year old should be allowed to close her door, unless she's given you a reason to distrust her. Everyone needs some privacy and some time to themselves. I see what you're saying about the importance of being part of the family, but unless she's sequestering herself in her room for hours at at a time, I don't see an issue.


At 3:30 PM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

Great list, looking forward to reading part 2! I remember growing up my parents DID NOT allow disrespect, and I remember my dad standing up for my mom (she stood up for herself too, but it was really big when dad stepped in). I didn't really understand it completely until my little girl came along.


At 4:50 PM , Blogger Tiffany said…

As a new parent, I really appreciate advice like this. It is so hard to sort through all of the influences out there to know what to do in raising kids. I look forward to reading your post on what not to discipline over!


At 4:07 PM , Blogger kelli said…

I can see how important all the "d"'s are! What a great reminder!


At 9:45 AM , Blogger ~Tami said…

How would you discipline a disrespectful ten year old?

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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