[Book Review] "Don't Make Me Count to Three!"

I have had a copy of Ginger Plowman’s book “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” on my shelf for about five years. My wife read it years ago, but I never picked it up until a few months ago. While I had heard great things about the book, I thought the material wasn’t for me.

Plowman is clear that this book is for mothers, so I didn’t fit the target audience. Also, every time I thought about reading it, I figured that since my children were getting older, the principles and applications would not be as relevant.

But I was wrong on both counts.

While the author wrote this book for moms, and especially moms of younger children, this book has been just as helpful for me as a father, giving me some new ideas and reminding me of some that I had let slip and needed to get back to.

Structure of the Book

This book is centered around three parts:
  1. Focusing on the heart
  2. Biblical correction and training 
  3. Spanking (“The Rod”) 

The book then concludes with three helpful appendices, which I will outline below

Focus on the Heart 

Anyone who has read Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Tedd Tripp) will immediately connect with the idea of reaching a child’s heart. In the acknowledgments, Plowman calls Tripp’s book the “most Christ-centered parenting material on the market today.” Therefore, it makes sense that she would incorporate his gospel-centered principles in her book.

In short, “reaching the heart of the child” means going beyond looking at his actions, and realizing that more is needed than unbiblical behavior modification. Two mistakes that parents (like me) make are tolerating and controlling their children’s behavior. In view of Luke 6:45, Plowman writes, 
“The heart is the control center of life. Behavior is simply what alerts you to your child’s need for correction.” 

Instead of laboring to get our children to behave according to biblical (or non-biblical but good) standards, the goal should be on gospel-centered, heart-focused change from the inside out. “It is not that difficult to train children to act like Christians. We have really accomplished something when we have trained them to think like Christians.” One way we train our children to think this way is by asking heart-related questions.

Above all, we parents must remember that heart-centered parenting is a process. We will have ups and downs, victorious and moments of frustration. But we must continually move towards (and lead our children towards) the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Biblical Reproof 

When you correct your child, how often do you give a biblical reproof? “A reproof is verbally expressing to another person how they have violated God’s Word.”

I have failed often in this. I excel at rebuking and correcting them, but I often neglect to point them to the Bible. For all that my kids know, they are violating my preferences instead of their heavenly Father’s commands. Plowman reminds us, “Our ultimate goal in everything should be to point them to Christ.”

God’s word is powerful and useful for growing in our faith (II Timothy 3:16). Therefore, I need to specifically direct my children towards God’s words as I disciple, train, and correct them. I need to focus my family on the Bible, not just on my wisdom.

It is our responsibility, as parents, to:
  • Use every opportunity to point children to their need for Christ.
  • Train them to obey God by honoring and obeying their parents. 
  • Teach them wisdom. 
  • Train them in righteousness.
  • Pray for them. 
  • Be a godly example. 

Plowman spends a chapter on giving guidelines for verbal correction. Additionally, she has developed a helpful Wise Words for Mom chart, which helps take you from the child’s behavior, to his heart, to verbal reproof and encouragement from Scripture.


“The rod and reproof give wisdom 
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” 
Proverbs 29:15 

There is much debate in the culture, and even in the church, on the issue of spanking. And even if you agree with biblically-oriented spanking for your children, we need to humbly enter into these conversations, especially in light of how this parenting tool has been abused (even in the rare but real death of some children).

A cursory explanation of spanking will not suffice in this post. You need to read the book, or others like it. But like Plowman, I urge you to not overly depend on worldly methods used by parents to instill obedience in their children, such as:
  • Bribing. “Children should be taught to obey because it is right and because it pleases God, not to get a reward.”
  • Threatening. “Never, never, issue a warning or a command without following it through.” 
  • Appealing to their emotions. Don’t use guilt trips. 
  • Manipulating their environment. Instead, teach your child self-control and obedience. 
  • Reasoning with the child. The parent is the God-ordained authority (Tripp makes a great case for this truth in his book), and young children, especially, do not have the capacity or authority to make most decisions. 

Of course, there may be situations to require each of these methods. However, even collectively, they should never be the primary parenting tools.

Read chapters 10-12 for a more detailed description of God-honoring spanking, plus answers to common objections.

Above all else, remember that any kind of reproof and discipline is never a formula for success. The best we as parents can do is depend on God and His Word, to seek to honor and obey Him, and to pray for His mercy on the hearts and souls of our children.


Closing out the book, Plowman gives some helpful wisdom three appendices:
  1. How to Become a Christian 
  2. How to Lead Your Child to Christ 
  3. How to Pray for Your Child (I’ve already incorporated this list of 15 prayers in how I pray for my own children)


If you have never read this book, I highly recommend that you do so. If at all possible, read Shepherding a Child’s Heart first, so that you can begin to understand the foundational concept of reaching the heart of your child. I’ve read Tripp’s book at least four times, and each time I understand and apply a little more.

The only regret I have about this book is not reading it sooner, because I thought it was only for moms and because I thought I was growing past the stage of needing it. The truth is that the gospel-centered principles are needed by all parents and for any aged child in your home.

Moms and Dads alike -- buy your copy of “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” today. While you’re at it, put Wise Words for Moms in your shopping cart, too.

Note: This book was one of the best books I read in 2013.

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