The article below is adapted from Parenting with Loving Correction by Sam Crabtree. 

Wise discipline for your children begins prior to any actual incident of misbehavior. In order to practice correction wisely and effectively you’ll want to prepare yourself and your family.

Prepare Yourself

Before disciplining children, discipline yourself. Jesus would put it this way: get the log out of your own eye. Do you model a Christlike heart and character? Do you model dying to self (delay of gratification)? One of the most effective ways to teach children to embrace “no” is to embrace it ourselves. We must model self-discipline.

Humble Yourself for the Work of Discipline

Good discipline of children is a loving service rendered to them, but when performed in sinful pride, the children can sense something is awry.

“God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). If there’s anything a parent doesn’t need, it’s God’s resistance. So how do we humble ourselves for the parental responsibility of correctively disciplining our children? Here are a few strategic ways.


Most importantly, pray for God’s help in your parenting. “You do not have,” Scripture tells us, “because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Ask for God’s help. God is the main worker. Asking him to work is not some technique, but explicit, conscious dependence upon the main actor to act. 

  • Ask him to help you, grow you, and improve your parenting.
  • Ask God to show you how you might be fostering or rewarding your child’s disobedience. Ask him for fresh ways to correct and encourage your child. (And in love for your neighbors, ask God to help your friends raise their children.)
  • [TIP] Beware of placing confidence in mere techniques. Remember: “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
  • Ask God specifically to guide your tongue, so that you mean what you say and say what you mean. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).


  • Control your own attitudes and tongue.
  • Overcome your own anger.
  • Conform you to the image of Jesus.
  • Transform your children into believers.
  • Temper any expectations that you’ll have perfect children by reading a book, or by applying your own good intentions.

“Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Parents need all of the Holy Spirit’s ninefold fruit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” (Gal. 5:22–23). Notice joy in that list. Make sure that in the Spirit, your own heart is pursuing delight in God.

Earnestly pursue wisdom and love, as biblically understood. Be diligent to learn wise correction. Good parenting is never automatic. Apply yourself wholeheartedly to these things. Work in the strength God supplies. Your diligence can mean writing down the most important standards you want to enforce in your home.

Prepare Your Family

Besides preparing yourself, you’ll also want to prepare your family and your home environment for wise discipline.

Most importantly, pray for your children. Ask God to make your children receptive to correction. Pray for them by name. Ask God to bind the Enemy of your children. Ask God to put a hedge of protection around them. Point with thanksgiving to the good work of God in your children already. They’re made in his image, and he’s at work in them.

Explore and apply the Bible with your children. Read it to them and with them. Be alert to observe in the Scriptures where people experienced disciplinary correction. 

And remember again the pattern of parental discipline set by God the Father himself: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). Aim for your child’s peace and righteousness. Under God’s fatherly care, confirm to your children their belongingness and acceptance in your family. Lay down a robust foundation of affirmation, consistently commending each child for the good things he or she does.

Know Each Child Well

Learn your children. One of the discoveries that continually impresses parents is how different siblings can be. Not all children respond the same to certain forms of correction. Each of them is to be disciplined, but the discipline is to be customized to fit each child’s wiring.

Plan Ahead

Remember that good intentions and good discipline are not the same. Plan ahead for what you’ll do in response to the kinds of disobedience most likely to occur in your family, and inform everyone of your plan. This is far superior to waiting until you can’t take it anymore, and you erupt with a reaction conceived in the moment, on the fly. Are bedtimes combative? Plan for them. Is going to a restaurant war? Plan ahead.

Communicate Expectations Clearly

Clearly and specifically define your family’s rules and boundaries before enforcing them. “You may ride your tricycle up the sidewalk to that tree, and down the sidewalk to the Olsons’ mailbox, but no further. Understand?” Clearly defined rules and boundaries are like reliable fences that establish comfort zones.

It’s best to keep family rules to a minimum. Your aim is for minimum rules, but consistent, instant enforcement of the rules you make. And zero idle threats.

Be Clear about Consequences

Be clear also about establishing the consequences of disobedience. Your readiness for the moment when correction is required includes knowing your options. Several forms of corrective response are available to parents, like these:

    • Solitude. “Go sit in that chair until I come and get you.”
    • Removal. “Since you’re fighting over it, we’re putting that toy away.”
    • Restraint. Scoop up the child and pull him away from the skirmish; physically carry him to the bathtub; take away the toy from his grip.
    • Natural consequences. The top of the child’s ice cream cone falls off into the gravel. “That’s why we try to be careful, buddy. I guess we’ll just have to enjoy what’s left in the cone.”
    • Appeal to conscience. “Do you think your behavior pleases Jesus?” “Is this the way a young man should behave?”
    • Logical consequences. “We won’t get you a bicycle until you consistently put your tricycle away each day.”
    • What about spanking? Because spanking is controversial, it calls for careful discussion. Please pick up a copy of Parenting with Loving Correction to learn more about how Sam Crabtree addresses this topic.


This excerpt is adapted from Parenting with Loving Correction by Sam Crabtree, © 2019, pp. 88-91. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, Pick up a copy for more practical help raising young children.

Sam Crabtree is a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he has served for over twenty years. He is a former public-school teacher and is chairman of the board of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is the author of Practicing Affirmation. Sam and his wife, Vicki, live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have two daughters and six grandchildren.