Heartfelt Discipline – And a Giveaway!

Clay’s book on Heartfelt Discipline–hopefully to be back in print the end of the year!

One of the most common emails or letters that I get concerns child discipline. How do you make your children stay in bed at night? My daughter will not obey my husband but runs to me when he tries to discipline her. What should I do? My children are always bickering and I want them to stop.

Now all of these are common habits of children and of course our goal is to help our children to mature enough that they will move toward mature behavior and learn self-control and practice obedience. The maturing of a child is a life-long process that will take many years. But it is possible to have pleasant children, most of the time, who are secure, happy and moving towards godly character.

However, it is not by formula or “follow these rules” that the shaping of their heart and character is developed. This is not a post about how many spanks for lying, talking back, or giving Mommy “the look.” This is not a post about Ten Easy Steps to Make Your Children Obey. Our culture is formula-driven and impatient. We want to know what to do, how to do it, and when we can expect results so we can move on to the next issue. Surrounded by these false teachings, no wonder so many moms are tired and stressed and feel that they have failed when their less than perfect children continue to act like children–and often are out of control from being treated as objects of discipline and punishment instead of unique children with gender and personality and maturity differences.

For many years, I have pondered scripture as well as the ways God parents the Jews and how He seems to parent me. Our Heavenly Father is loving, gracious, and makes all things beautiful in His time. His timetable for my life and for answers to my own prayers and questions seems to take a lot longer than I ever would. He doesn’t seem to mind at all letting me suffer through circumstances–instead He encourages me to hold fast, obey, stay strong and so many times He makes me wait for things. 

As I look at how Jesus worked with His disciples, He was patient with them, put up with their personality differences, often said, “They did not understand,” and let them fail. Aren’t you thankful He loves you enough to stick with you, gently pointing out areas of your life that need work, and allow you ample opportunities to grow in those areas? I know I am! I have often felt that I make so many mistakes that I am disqualified from being in ministry. But He still chooses to use me, by His grace, because His glory is to show His likeness and grace through normal, human beings.

With this kind of a patient, loving, accepting Father, I have no other choice but to be like him as a parent to my children.

The reason I want to obey Him and please Him is because of a deep, heart fulfilling relationship I experience with Him most of the time. But there are times I feel far away from Him, and still He loves me and waits until my heart warms again.  I believe He is trustworthy and has integrity and calls to my inner self–that if I follow Him and obey Him, I will find the best for my life.

He loves me, He cares for me, He teaches me truth, He calls me to excellence, He gives me purpose, He humbles me, He provided beauty and love and intellect to give my life scope, challenge, meaning and stimulation, He provides for celebration and feasts in His plan for the life of His people, He commands rest. He called me into a relationship with Him before He started working on my attitudes, my bad habits, and the areas of sin with which I struggle.

His discipline and love and training for me is a whole life experience, not limited somehow to “paddle-time.”

Several years ago, Clay wrote a book called Heartfelt Discipline. It is out-of-print now, but we plan to put it back in print. So many parents have told us how it changed their concept of “discipline.” In the first chapter, Clay wrote:

We are all influenced by the cultural tendency to view discipline only as punishment. To be honest, this narrow view makes things easier on us as parents. If my disciplinary responsibility is fulfilled by a simple act of punishment or correction, then very little else is required of me. But God has issued a much higher calling. Biblical discipline is much more than an act. It is both an ongoing, heart-to-heart relationship and a continuous spiritual interaction with my children. It is far more than simple correction; it is a parent and child walking together along the path of life. That is the Bible’s bigger picture. ” p. 15 of Heartfelt Discipline

Discipline is about a heart-to-heart relationship,  continuous spiritual interaction.

Does that sound easy? time-consuming? sacrificial? intentional? I have yet to meet a mom who told me she felt so refreshed after working on her child’s character training! What you are doing will affect eternity ~ you are in a battle for the hearts of your children. Your enemy wants you to feel like a failure, he wants you to give up. He does not want you to see baby steps of progress ~ he wants you discouraged. Is it a wonder then that so many moms look for shortcuts to having “the perfect child”?

Many of the shortcuts leave out the relationship completely or allow the child to usurp the parents’ authority. Here are some words from The Ministry of Motherhood (p. 37):

Sometimes we serve our children best and most lovingly by sticking to our guns and not letting them have their way. Loving discipline can be part of the gift of grace. So can teaching with words and exhorting our children to excellence. But the relationship has to come first. Discipline and teaching are most effective when administered in a context of a close, ongoing relationship of love.

Some Biblical Wisdom

1. Discipline is a long term process based on long term family relationships. Timothy is one of the classic examples of a young man whose godly mother and grandmother invested in his life. In II Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” What dwelt in Timothy’s mother and grandmother? How do you think they passed that on to Timothy? They did not have children’s Bibles or Awana or DVDs.

2. Read Romans 2:4, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance? What does this verse say leads to repentance? Whose kindness is this verse talking about? If God used patience and kindness and tolerance (mercy) in relationship to us to lead us to Him, what does that say about our attitude toward our children?

3. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” What are we tempted to do? What will happen if we persevere? How does this encourage you as a mom?


What are some practical ways you can build relationships with your children this week? Fixing ice cream cones (it’s supposed to reach 100 degrees today!)? Playing with them? Reading books to them? Building legos–doing what they want to do! For a list of great family oriented books, see Sarah’s Recommended List of Children’s Literature here.

Give Away

Another way that Clay and I knew how to train our children was that we laid out very clearly what values we wanted to pass on to our children. We published this devotional book that we used as a family. Training is specific and it gave our children something to shoot towards. We will give a 24 Family Ways away next Thursday. 


To purchase or read about Our Twenty Four Family Ways, go here.

 To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment on this post; connect this post to your blog or facebook or twitter, and then let us know by contacting admin@wholeheart.org

 Post a comment telling a practical way you are building relationships with your children. We will focus on character qualities we desire our children (and ourselves) to have in next week’s Bible study. Until then, pray to “keep heart” and to not grow weary!

For more on discipline, you can read this older post: Will Training

Related posts:


  1. says

    I am so thrilled to hear that Heartfelt Discipline is going to be back in print. I loved it and God used that book to change my heart, my husband’s heart, and our home. I loaned my copy and it never made it back home and I have wanted to look it over again so many times. If it makes it back to my shelf again someday, it will definately be one of those books I don’t loan. :)

  2. says

    I have found it so hard to make myself stop and spend time with my children with the endless list of to-do’s inevitable in a house full of small children. When I do not “sit” with them, their attitude reflects it greatly. I’ve recently decided to spend a little time each morning sitting with them, usually reading a story and then again in the evening. I’m also trying to welcome them into my lap and arms as frequently as possible to whisper in their ear how much they mean to me. Thanks for this encouragement. This book sounds terrific! Would love to see it back in print.

  3. karina says

    Reading your books has helped me tons!!!!! That is what is helping…We have girl time and tons of talks!

  4. says

    One of the ways we build relationships with our children is through camping. There is no cell phone reception in many parks, no internet, no tv, just family time.
    It has done wonders for our family, especially as the kids have hit the teen years. We have had some of the most meaningful discussions around the campfire.

  5. says

    Thanks for this post and an opportunity to win a book. I have a 3 year old boy and a girl on the way. One way I am trying to build our relationship is through patience. My son has so many “why” questions all day that I sometimes wonder if he is even listening to my responses or just simply asking “why” out of habit. I have made the decision to patiently answer each “why”. Even when I am tired of speaking and would rather sit in silence for a few minutes, I will lovingly answer his “why’s” and hope he is listening/learning! I know this time will pass quickly.

  6. khaki says

    I love reading books with my kids, but I am working on remembering to play with them also! Yesterday I left my computer and joined my 3 & 6 yr old in the playroom playing legos…I had to kick myself in to do it, but the immediate reward of their smiles was so worth it! For me, it can be hard to make the time , but without fail it’s so amazing when I do! Trail walks are another favorite for us!

  7. Jessica Whitehouse says

    One of the ways we are building relationships with our kids is to always have game night, eat dinner together, and have had to make some serious priority changes concerning extra curricular activities….Thanks for the opportunity and all the words of wisdom, I am new to this blog, your books, homeschooling, and learning to appreciate God’s role for me in my family.

  8. Holly Schwartz says

    Please sign me up for the giveaway. Thanks for the generous offer.
    God bless, Holly from Kentucky

  9. says

    I think a practical way for me to build my relationship with my two year old daughter, is just by spending time with her and making sure to do things with her throughout the day that she enjoys. She does entertain herself quite a bit which gives me time to do what I need to get done throughout the day but when she comes to me needing attention or a snuggle, I try to put aside what I am doing to give her my undivided attention. She is telling me she needs from me at that time, and though I can’t always drop everything right that minute, I try to connect with her through words and a touch at least. I feel her needs are important and I don’t always get to choose the “perfect time” for those needs to be met. I just remember that she won’t always want me this way and I will miss it later on!

  10. says

    My daughter is only 14 months old at this point but as bright as a button!! At this point in the game, the biggest way we work to forge relationship with her is to take her everywhere with us, and include her in everything. We talk to her about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, what we’re feeling, talk, talk, talk, teach, teach, teach. And she LOVES it! She’s super outgoing, and loves to walk up to people, make eye contact and “say hi!” She’s very brave, but trusts that we’ll be there for her and is always eager to reach out a hand for us to hold when need be. :-) We also try to make time to read to her everyday, and my personal favorite is the songs I sing to her when I’m helping her fall asleep at night and the cuddles we share as a family in our family bed. Toddler nursing too! Is a BIG help!! Absolutely LOVE your books and cannot wait until the discipline books come out. It’s so refreshing to have found a Christian woman and family out there who speaks my “mom-language.” :-)

  11. Dawn Kilgore says

    I am so glad this book is going back into print. I had bought Educating the WholeHearted Child 2 years ago on recommendation of a friend. I must say I love reading your books. We are on a tight budget or I would probably have every book you have ever written. I feel like every time I open one of your books, that I am sitting down with a long time friend, who knows exactly what to say to make me feel better.

  12. amy says

    Oh, so excited for another Clarkson book and just in time. AS my sweet girl is turning 2 next month I’ve decided that it’s time to discipline her. We’ve spent the past two years loving her, playing with her, praying with her. We are building the relationship, but sometimes worry that without proper balance she won’t get the benefit of the relationship. Our favorite relationship builder now is a cold treat after her nap. Please sign me up for the giveaway.

  13. says

    Oh I would love to win this! So excited to know that Heartfelt Discipline is coming back into print. One practical thing that we have been doing is trying to hug our kids like crazy so that they are saturated and filled up emotionally. It is so easy to focus on the negative and that little extra hugging is going a long way to change my attitude and put a smile on my children’s faces.

  14. Amy says

    What a great giveaway! My son is three years old and very active, so I am trying to actually “play” with him more instead of just letting him play on his own. He loves it and has so much fun when my husband and I join in his fun!

  15. says

    We started our 24 Family Ways this week and put the “way” to a song which always helps my kids remember. One way I’m working at being intentional is playing catch when asked, jumping on the trampoline, sitting in bed talking until the fall asleep…just spending time with them so they will see that they are most important.

  16. Tana Agudelo says

    I am so glad you are a voice for mercy and grace-filled mothering. It is incredible to me to be back in the young mothers’ arena again after all these years, and see how prevalent the “systems” are, even still, in the church, claiming to be the godly way to parent and discipline. What parent wants to be ungodly? But those books/systems/formulas do not lead to abundant life and love-they lead to death of a compassionate heart in parents and fear-inspired obedience in children. Thank you for being constant in your resolve to speak truth, to love, and to gently lead in a better path. So, what are we doing to deepen relationships in our home? P
    One, purposefully allowing myself to be interrupted and care more about what my kids need than what I want, and coming along side them when they are doing chores-the goal for me being spending time and making it more companionable and less drudgery, as well as them seeing that I came to help them when they weren’t expecting it. It turns into fun, actually!!!

  17. says

    Your books The Mission of Motherhood and Educating the Wholehearted Child have been such a blessing to me! I’d love to have another of your books:)

  18. Charise says

    Just the last few days my husband and I took turns taking our boys out for some one on one time. We went out for a small bite to eat and enjoyed one another’s company. My three year old and I ate, fed birds and talked of God’s love and provision for us even more than the birds we were watching.
    The time with my five year old was much more playful but I could tell his heart melted by the undivided attention he received. Those times are so precious and so worth the effort!
    Thank you Sally for inspiring me!

  19. Kim says

    This is (again) so timely! Yesterday at the park, I took the time to not just sit on the bench watching my children swing or even push them on the swing, but I grabbed that third swing myself and let THEM push ME on the swing! Boy, did they love that!
    we are working on self-control with both 8 and 4 y.o. and just this week saw a SMALL glimmer of my training paying off with quiet voices in the car ride home from VBS (when the neighbor kids were screaming!).
    CONSISTENCY and FOLLOW-THROUGH have been my catch phrases this week.
    Thanks for the encouragement! ~Kim

  20. Minglu Wang says

    I just found out the treasure of the series of books written by Clarkson Family! Originally I heard about a Chinese translation of The Mission of Motherhood, then I began to find out the English books. What a great work done by God through your family! Raising a 2-year old and a 4-year old daughters right now, Sally and Sarah’s books are just in time for me. Haven’t read Clay’s book yet, really want to give one to my husband!

  21. says

    Legos, puzzles, and books are favorite bonding activities of my two year old. Thanks for the encouragement to love as Christ has loved us.

  22. Nickki says

    I was at the homeschool convention in Nampa, Idaho this June and heard you there. I love your heart and your dedication to helping those of us following after you and raising up our children. I loved your idea yesterday of the trays and I would like to implement that with my children to spend time talking with them, focused on them and without distractions. I am trying to figure out a way to rearrange my room so that we can have that spot for trays and conversation! Thank you for what you are doing, your timely encouragement and gentle convictions.

  23. says

    Sally, I love Clay’s book! I kept it in our hallway bathroom for many months and soon found that my husband had read it in its entirety, too–he’d share quotes with me at night. (Makes me wonder what other books I could leave in there?)
    Today, I felt the grumpies coming on, and I remembered your walks with your children. So although it’s nearly 100 here, I took my 8 year old son on a walk with me. We dreamed and explored and hung out at the frog pond, and he and I both loved it, and we came home sweaty and much cheered.
    Thank you for the continual encouragement towards strong relationships with our children!

  24. Adriana Watt says

    I confess that my husband and I feel at a loss most of the time with our children and feel defeated. So I look to formulas, but none of it seems to work except letting them know any way I can that I love them no matter what. So even though they embarrass me and I get lots of looks I am seeking the Lord and trying to figure this parenting thing out His way. We like to read, go swimming, take walks, play cards, and play in the kitchen.

  25. Courtney says

    Sally – This giveaway is wonderful! We have 3 children; ages 6 1/2, almost 3, and 10 month old. I have found myself losing patience more easily lately, and it seems I’m losing my ability to “get through” to them (the older 2, of course!). I feel at times I’m losing my mind trying to “reason” with them. It’s ridiculous, really. My husband feels he doesn’t say the right thing to our oldest (a daughter) and after Father’s Day he asked me to find him some good books on take on parenting so he could listen to them on his way to work. We realize these formative years are so short and knowing you and Clay are there with us along the way providing encouragement is so reassuring! Thank you!!

  26. Dawn Kilgore says

    This week has been a case of grumbles. Well it is hot and muggy here in Pa, and it doesn’t do well for our dispositions. So today when I saw it was going to be another one of those days, I decided we were first going to play the wii in the cool of the air conditioner, then we ate popsycles while reading about Daniel Boone (our book we started this week). Your words encouraged me to rethink how I wanted this week of grumbles to end. Thank You!

  27. SaraA says

    Since our oldest, now 9, moved from a crib to a bed, we have always taken turns “cuddling” him and our three other children who have followed. Once all the kids are ready for bed, after reading a few books, we stay in the room lying down together and talking for 20-30 minutes most nights. We pray and chat and maybe act silly, playing goofy rhyming games or making up crazy stories. My husband likes to draw with his finger on the kids backs and have them guess what he drew. Some parents like to get the kids down quickly with a hug and kiss, but this is our best time for connecting with them. Sometimes we have to apologize for offenses or coach for the next day’s events- like how to be gracious at his birthday party this week or have self control when Grandma comes and he’s tempted to disobey. We trust this is laying a good foundation for when our kids are teens and need to talk at night! Plus, we all really treasure that special time!

  28. Darcey says

    We have been trying to read their bibles at least weekly and I am weekly getting them to memorize a verse from an ABC Bible memory book. I like it cause it has a story to explain the verse. Just found this blog and plan on finding out more. Looks good.

  29. says

    Hi lovely Sally!
    Please don’t enter me in the draw (since we already own the book!) but wanted to share here what we are doing with our 4 treasures…
    With our eldest daughter (8.5 yrs) we’ve been keeping a special journal that we pass back and forth to share our hearts, favourite verses, any concerns…it’s lovely looking back over the pages. Hoping we fill books and nooks full over the years to come.
    We’ve been really enjoying a Sabbath fire together; some reading around the fire and roasting marshmallows (it’s winter here!) such precious, restful times.
    We love taking our kids on ‘Night Time Adventures’. We just get in the car altogether and go for a drive or go to our fave local cafe!
    I bought a mini scrapbook album recently and we’ve started recording stories of ways God has answered our prayers. We call it our Monumental Moments book. God often asked Israel to erect an altar or some other kind of monument to help them remember Him and His awesome hand! Anything from parking spots to Him lovingly providing soup through a kind friend…it all gets recorded in the book.
    Random date times; loving these! Just love going out one on one when we can and being together; chatting, dreaming, praising.
    Anyway they are a couple of the things we are doing to build deeper relationships with our children.

  30. says

    Thanks for sharing this great post! Your book, The Mission of Motherhood, has been life changing in the way I now interact with and discipline my children but I am still most certainly a work in progress :). One of the things I started doing after reading your book was trying to start each day with a really happy attitude since my boys can be kind of grumpy in the morning. I greet them with a big smile, hugs and kisses and get right to starting breakfast. I even found some great kids music cd’s to play to lighten the moode and get us to dance and sing together. It’s made a huge difference in how we start our days. Thanks again for your encouraging and wise words!

  31. Edwena says

    I’ve been placing cards with something special written on them at their spot at breakfast time. It makes them feel special. Thanks for the chance to win.

  32. Mary P. says

    I would love to win this book. I am always looking for resources to help are family grow closer to one another and the Lord. I am grateful for the 3 girls the Lord has blessed us with so far, ages 4, 2, and 3 months. One practical way I am building relationships with our girls…being able to stay home with them each day. What a blessing to do that even as challenging as some days are. We are able to eat together, take walks, read books, do chores, play outside etc.

  33. lyn says

    I would love to read this book. I feel like I have been having a bit of a crisis in my parenting. I feel that I’m doing a hopeless job and feel that I am making a big mess of it all. I pray each day that God would help me, but I still feel at the end of each day that I’m failing. I do enjoy reading good books with my children, and going on walks as a family, playing board games.

  34. says

    I would love to win that resource! I too feel that parenting is so hard! Nobody ever warned me it would be this hard and I’m always looking for encouragement!
    I seek to build relationships with my kiddos by setting aside a chunk of time every day that is just for them. I don’t take phone calls, don’t do chores, don’t worry about clean bedrooms…I just focus on playing, talking and reading with them.

  35. says

    This looks great and so intriging :) I’d love to win! We just added our 3rd little and I’m really focusing on one on one time with each of them, even if it’s just a trip to the store with just mommy, they are loving it!!

  36. Brandy says

    This would be so great to read! Many of your books have been recommended to me by a friend of mine, and my husband and I are in the thick of developing our training ideology for our first born (we didn’t expect to need to do this so early). I am excited to see what your family ideas were. Thanks!

  37. Brandy says

    Our newest approach to address our little girl’s heart is to have little talks with her about what she did wrong and why. We explain to her our great love for her and her well being which is why there are rules. We pray that as she learns to trust us she will want to obey knowing it is for her best. We also let her know that we don’t like to obey always either, but that God wants us to and so we must. She is only 20 months old, but I see these little chats working as she responds in obedience to us. I hope that these talks continue and only get deeper as her heart grows and she processes her attitudes and actions. Maybe having your book will give us more ways to connect with our children.

  38. Angela says

    I seek to build relationship with my children by reading nightly with them – books and the bible, then time for prayers and songs and cuddles.

  39. says

    I thought I’d posted a comment here, but I think I didn’t finish the process – so writing again to say Thank You! I first encountered your books with Educating the Wholehearted Child. And was amazed, encouraged, and a little daunted, by what I read. Then I read your books – my favourite being Mission of Motherhood. And I was no longer daunted, but even more encouraged. You have been an inspiration from across the seas.
    I first read about the 24 family ways in Wholehearted Child book and loved the idea. Having thoughts and principles on paper works for me, sieve brained as I am :)
    My family relationship building tip? I have loads to learn. But, so far, my favourite is reading great books together in fun places – outside on the lawn, or by the fireplace sipping hot chocolate or cuddled up in bed or even out and about. Because we homeschool, we’re forced to do this more than we might otherwise, and I’m grateful for the discipline. The kids love it, we love it and the conversation starters and heart issues are endless.

  40. Jami Whaley says

    Sally, thank you for a Biblical look at discipline. I needed the reminder to focus on relationship. Oh, I’m so glad that my heavenly Father is so much more patient that me! I love reading books with my girls and need to make it a daily ritual and not a random act.

  41. amy says

    Hi Sally, I would love to win this book and thank you for the opportunity. One of the things I try to do with my kids is to share my own experiences with them – good or bad and how the Lord has brought me through. My children are still quite young and so the level is a little a different but I want them to know that what I tell them, I do too or at least try to do:)

  42. Jessica says

    Please count me in! I’m reading the mission of motherhood & am greatly encouraged & inspired! I would love to read more of your books!

  43. says

    You are a “Titus 2″ Woman to me, Sally! I’d love to win this book!
    Just playing with my children really ties heart strings and means so much to them.

  44. Sara says

    I would love to win this book. I need the encouragement and ideas for sure. I definitely started out just focusing on the discipline and not the relationship, so I’m working on that. We help build relationships with our four children (ages 8, 6, 4, & 10 months) by reading to them LOTS, trying to take them individually on an errand, or for a “date.” Also, I try to take time to slow down, make eye contact and truly listen to what he or she wants to tell me–that can sometimes be a challenge for this introverted mom with extroverted and very chatty children!

  45. Gwen says

    I would love to have this book. One thing I am trying to do is to kiss or hug them each time I give them something to eat…instead of tossing their plate in front of them as if we are in some sort of rush.

  46. Julia says

    I was just searching for this book from amazon and different places and realized that it was out of print at this moment. As a results, many sellers are really selling this book at a expensive price.
    With that said, I would really love to read this book. This book kept popping into my mind every now and then. I thought, it’s about time to get one.

    • Michelle G. says

      I was wondering if you have an idea of when this will be back in print. I’ve been dying to buy a copy, but I can’t afford the inflated prices used sellers are asking. I rarely buy books in digital form, but I’d even buy it that way if the cost of printing was too high for you all to justify a reprinting.


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