Once, Ruth saw one of the girls sitting on the lawn, staring wistfully at an airplane in the distance and calling out, “Bye, Daddy! Bye, Daddy!” A plane meant Daddy was going somewhere.
Acquaintances from the early years remember that the Graham youngsters were less than models of decorum in their behavior at church and other public gatherings, but Ruth did her best to exercise a rather stern and consistent discipline at home. She claimed to have obtained some of her most effective child-rearing techniques from a dog-training manual whose directives included keeping commands simple and at a minimum, seeing to it that they were obeyed, rewarding obedience with praise and being consistent.
Gigi recalled, “She was strict. I got spanked nearly every day. Franklin, too. Anne didn’t seem to need it. But Mother had a great sense of humor, and we had a lot of fun. I have no memories of a screaming mother.”
When Billy was home, which was less than half the time, much of Ruth’s disciplinary regimen went out the window. “Mother would have us in a routine,” Gigi recalled. “She monitored our TV watching, made us do our homework, and put us to bed at a set time. Then, when Daddy was home, he’d say, ‘Oh, let them stay up and watch this TV show with me,’ or he’d give us extra spending money for candy and gum. Mother always handled it with grace. She never said, ‘Well, here comes Bill. Everything I’m trying to do is going to be all messed up.’ She just said, ‘Whatever your daddy says is fine with me.’ ”
Gigi offered a possible explanation of her father’s more relaxed approach. “Once, he disciplined me for something I did. I don’t even remember what it was about, but we had some disagreement in the kitchen. I ran up the stairs, and when I thought I was out of range, I stomped my feet. Then I ran into my room and locked my door. He came up the stairs, two at a time it sounded like, and he was angry. When I finally opened the door, he pulled me across the room, sat me on the bed, and gave me a real tongue-lashing. I said, ‘Some dad you are! You go away and leave us all the time!’ Immediately, his eyes filled with tears. It just broke my heart. That whole scene was always a part of my memory bank after that. I realized he was making a sacrifice, too. But it does seem like he didn’t discipline us much after that.”