Kids, Mommy’s Not a Liar ~ (or) Discipling Your Babies and Toddlers

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Kids, Mommy's Not a Liar - Discipling Your Babies and Toddlers for Christ {Danika Cooley at}

Discipline your children while there is hope.
    Otherwise you will ruin their lives.

Proverbs 19:18 (NLT)

Well, how’s that verse for heavy?  I looked up Proverbs 19:18 in a number of translations, and they all state it a little differently.  The English Standard Version says:  “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on  putting him to death.”

The New King James Version says:  “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.”

The general gist of Proverbs 19:18 – no matter which version you’re reading –  is two-fold:

1)  There is a time to discipline and train up your children… and there is a time when it is too late.

2)  Failing to discipline your children is akin to destroying or killing them.  At best, it ruins their lives.

Hm…  Yep, that’s really heavy, and a little culturally unpopular.

I’ve had a number of people argue with me that Proverbs 19:18 doesn’t really mean what it says.  I would take issue with a liberal application of the verse.  You see, I raised two kids (full-time) from the ages of 8 and 10 ~ from a really rough background.  They’re all grown-up now, and they’ve launched out on their own lives.  I’m careful how I write about my family.  I think our kids have the right to some privacy.  But, let me say this clearly:  our children’s foundational years will affect the rest of their lives.  Your discipleship of your children in their first three years of life will set the tone for their childhood, their teen years, and their adult life.  I’ve had the opportunity to observe, first hand, how training and experiences in those first few years can truly form a child.  Proverbs 19:18 is vividly real to me, because I’ve walked it four times now.

The good news is that, if your children are still young, there is still time to discipline, guide, and train them for the Lord.  If your children are no longer young, and you are regretting the foundation you’ve laid for them (or if someone else laid that foundation), the good news is that our Father in Heaven is in the business of redeeming lives.  Our job is to be faithful, to sow seeds of the Gospel, to walk upright before Him, and to love our kids sacrificially with our lives.

“Kids, Mommy’s Not a Liar!”

One of the most heartbreaking mistakes I think we tend to make in the early years with our little ones is lying to them.

Parenting and training are hard work.  The baby and toddler years are all about constant, unending, grueling, repetitive training.  We train them to walk, to eat, to use the potty, to dress themselves.  We train them not to run in the street, strip naked, or throw their spaghetti over their brother’s head.

It’s exhausting.  Constant.  I’m tired just thinking about it.

Enter the lying mommy.  It is so much easier to threaten our children than it is to actually discipline them.  I can’t tell you how many times I see mothers at the grocery store threaten, cajole, and actually beg their kids not to do something.  Their child does whatever it is they’re not supposed to.  The mother then raises her voice, complains, capitulates, or pretends she didn’t see it.  There’s no follow-through, no discipline, and no consequence.

What did the child just learn?  Mommy’s a liar. 

Mommy says things that aren’t true, and mommy doesn’t mean what she says.

This is a devastating thing to teach our children at an early age.  That lesson – learned at the age of two – will translate to something much tougher to deal with at the age of 15 than the tantrum your child is currently throwing in the middle of Costco.  Believe me, you want to train your children NOW to believe what you say.  You want to establish a loving, healthy relationship now, to point them to Jesus now, to overcome your exhaustion and train them up well now.

Build a good foundation for your children now, and later, your journey with them will be easier, not harder.  All those warnings people give you about waiting for the terror of the teen years?  Do a good job now, and the teen years are an exciting time of helping your children discover God’s plan for their lives, rather than trying to patch together a faulty foundation.

I won’t discuss the methods in which you should discipline your children in this post.  There are lots of great, biblically-based books on discipline.  My favorite is the Bible.  :)   I will say this:  beware the formulaic, “guaranteed” system books.  Children are human beings, not dogs.  Our job as parents includes developing individual relationships with our kids, pouring energy into training them in the way they (individually) should go, and pointing them to Christ.  Our job is to touch their hearts with Scripture, with our relationship, with our love.  Be certain that any advice you act on is truly Scriptural.

What does this have to do with discipling our kids?  If we’re going to teach our Littles to follow Jesus, they must first believe us.  Establishing our authority in their lives is vital.  In doing so, we’re teaching them about God’s authority in their lives.

So… tell your kids the truth.  Do it in love, and follow-through with your promises.

If something isn’t worth disciplining over, don’t correct them in the first place.  It’s ok to have areas in which we give our kids more rein.  But… if you set a boundary, make sure you keep it.  If you choose to train your child in any given area, be sure you complete the training, no matter how long it takes.

Train in love, train with a smile, train gently… but use these years to train your children for the Lord.  And to use the toilet.  Both are important.

* * *

“Kids, Mommy’s Not a Liar” is part of a five-month series on discipling our children (see the launch post: Raising Grown-Ups ~ The Great Commission at Home).  This month, we’ll be talking about the vital years from ages 0-3.  Next Friday:  Bible for the Littles ~ Pointing our Toddlers to Jesus.

What do you think?  How do you approach training and discipline in the toddler years?

We educate our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, to the glory of the Lord, in the joy of the Lord.

(Eph. 6:4, 1 Cor. 10:31, Phil. 2:14-15)

~ Danika Cooley

Danika Cooley is a children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.; Upper Room Ministries’ Pockets and Devozine; CBH Ministries’ Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey. Her work also appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.


  1. debbie wenzel says

    This is so true! I’ve been raising kids for 30 years now, my own and many, many, toddlers and preschoolers as I have provided childcare, and I see this mistake being made so often. I understand it; consistency in parenting is H-A-R-D work. It takes enormous amounts of self sacrifice and self discipline to be consistent, and may I say a reliance upon Holy Spirit. You have to keep your heart and head in the game, while quelling your own uncomfortable emotions, like frustration, anger, embarrassment, and impatience. Hear me clearly, I have and continue to struggle with this, but struggle I will because the stakes are high, and God has entrusted little people to me.
    I would also add that when we fail to be consistent in our parenting, in addition to teaching our little people that ‘Mommy is a liar’, we also teach them to disobey. When we tell them what is required of them by setting a limit or asking them to do something, and then we do not follow through and require them to obey or impose the penalty/discipline we promised (i.e. ‘We don’t throw toys, if you throw that toy again I’m going to take it away from you.’) we are actually teaching them to disobey. When we do not follow through, they know it, and we are rewarding their disobedience with our failure to discipline as we have promised. This reinforces that obedience is optional. It sends the false message that disobedience may, or may not, have consequences; which may be true with us, their flawed parents and caregivers, but will never be true with their Heavenly Father!

    • says


      Consistency is VERY hard. I fall short frequently, but it helps that my husband and I remind each other frequently that we need to tell our kids the truth!

      What a great point about obedience. We know that the Lord disciplines His own, and that He holds us responsible for our actions. It’s important that we teach our children that there are consequences in life. Without that base, it’s difficult to understand that there are consquences in eternity!

      ~ Danika

  2. says

    Bravo! Awesome! Thank you for saying the hard things. People don’t like to hear it. I write these kinds of thing on my blog also and I get rotten eggs thrown at me. I appreciate so much reading it said by others too. Fight the good fight, the one worth fighting, the real enemy.

    Sorry if I got carried away. It’s just so nice to read it somewhere else. It’s like sweet relief that we’re not alone. Lisa~

  3. Elly McC says

    Great, great post, Danika. Thank you SO much, I really needed this Biblical encouragement. Training has been especially needed the past few months, as my younger turned two recently, and is in the “training twos” now. I don’t want to waste these formation years and then just try to pick up the pieces later! I pray God will remind me of His Word on this subject often during those difficult days :o)

    • says


      Thank you for the comment. Two can be such an exhausting age. I absolutely remember the reason it’s so easy to let training slide. I know that your prayers will not go unheard. The Lord is so faithful to strengthen and renew us!

      ~ Danika

  4. Amanda B says

    Great post! Consistency is so important but so hard, when you’re tired, stressed, etc. I’ve also found that raising a three-year-old has brought out the three-year-old desires in me! Could I PLEASE just throw a tantrum and kick my legs on the floor while yelling about how I want things my way? Maybe I could be the one to cry on the bus for 45 minutes this time? No? I guess I’ll have to ask God for the grace to be a grown-up, then. :)


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