Any good book, no matter what the subject should challenge us personally and this is just what Ginger Plowman’s book, “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” accomplished for me. I came away from the book with a personal conviction that if I am to practice the central concept of her teaching, quoting scripture to my child as reasoning for good behavior, i.e., “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” I had to make sure that the way I was “living out” complied with scripture in the best way I knew how.
From the same publishers that brought you Tedd Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, comes Plowman’s work, which draws on similar themes of carefully, circumspectly guiding your child in right behavior. What does a child’s disobedience spring from? The heart. Her message is clear “the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart”. Getting to the core of a child’s disobedience: whether it is jealousy, hatred or envy, we must ask ourselves “Why?” She wants us to encourage our children to grow in wisdom and see God’s viewpoint on all situations.
I appreciate the author’s tone. This is a mom of two who has gone through the daily struggle of raising children well, of getting to the heart of instruction, obedience and Godly guidance. Plowman sprinkles her writing with personal, often humorous stories of how she has tried and oftentimes failed, and emphasizes the need for personal humility, for when you see glimmers of “the fruit of your labor”, your children will most certainly bring you back to reality.
I would say that a good portion of this book is most applicable to children who have begun to reason for themselves (around 5 and up), because at the core at her behavioral correction technique is verbally reminding your child of scripture. For instance, “Love does not delight in evil” (we would need to assume those words have definitions in our child’s vocabulary). However, I should emphasize that her concepts would not be lost on the new mom. She encourages us to reinforce our words of correction with role playing--that once you have corrected wrong behavior, it is the parent’s job to instruct them in right conduct and this will help in the learning process. “When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, this provokes them to anger.”
God’s design for discipline drives out foolishness and replaces it with wisdom. She admonishes us to never use the rod without reproof and expounds on this even more later in her book, giving some awesome guidelines for parents who spank: telling the reader when the rod is necessary and guidelines for administering biblical chastisement. Just as the rod should not be used in the heat of the moment, neither should scripture with a “This is why you’re being naughty” statement. Instead, it is important that we teach our children what the Bible says regarding the particular struggle they are going through and to instruct them in accordance with the child’s need to learn. However, she also spends time on the concept of teaching in the context of the moment--which is something as a parent we must do over and over, and then gradually, this will become like second nature. She likens this process to a master craftsman/apprentice relationship. She encourages us to use God’s word in a conversational manner, to teach our children from our hearts.
Plowman also offers tips on how we can identify young and old manipulators and how to respond accordingly.
For me, one of the toughest to process yet the most important to hear pieces of advice would have to be that of:
1) Pray through your motives before you administer any form of discipline
2) Examine your life: Ask yourself “Am I exasperating my child?”
3) Choose the right time and place for discipline.
4) Use biblical terminology when you can i.e. foolish vs. stubborn, “lie” vs. “fib”.
I also appreciated her personal “Standard of Obedience”: “All the way, right away and with a happy heart.” I find this “right away” concept to be so applicable in my own life with the concept that delayed obedience is disobedience.
Over and over again, the author reassures the reader of her fallibility and reinforces it in her statement, “Actually, if you could visit my home and see my failures you probably would not have purchased this book.” Under this underlies the importance of the parent’s role in walking the talk.
As with any skill, good parenting takes practice, the ability to accept yours and your child's failures and the determination to seek God’s guidance while doing it. Plowmen reassures the frustrated, sometimes despondent parent with the verse in Galatians 6:9 “We will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” Keep going, you will see that fruit some day.