I had an interesting conversation with my seven-year-old on the way home the other day. Besides the sleeping twins, we were the only ones in the car so she had my complete attention. She talked non-stop, as is her way when she is one-on-one with either parent or even a grandparent. She shows incredible depth of understanding sometimes and whatever she said positively blew me away. The trouble is, I can’t remember now what she said! I hate it when that happens. Clearly, I am getting old.
That evening, my middle children (ages 5 and 7) watched videos in the car all the way to, during, and home from ballet — a total of 2.5 hours. Of course, that means I was listening to children’s videos all that time which is not my favorite car pastime. I would much rather listen to Anna talk! (I’m complaining there, did you notice that?)
The last video was a 3-2-1 Penguins video about complaining which I had never listened to in the past. I was delighted to hear the verse “Do everything without complaining or arguing” completed fully with the next two verses. I started thinking I could get a lot of mileage out of that video . . . You know – for my kids’ complaining habit. From that moment, when one of my children starts complaining I ask them if they are being shining stars in the universe, or seeds of discontent. Even my ten-year-old asked me today if he had been a shining star.
Thankfully, this verse has remained in my mind and hasn’t flown the coop like other cartime conversations have.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the universe 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
(Disclaimer: Most versions I found online had the words world or sky instead of universe, but the Veggie Tale version used the word universe and I feel it is a very appropriate translation since that is what we now call the area where the stars reside. Otherwise this is the NIV version.)
So how can we realistically teach our children to stop complaining when it is a bad habit? Asking good questions in casual conversation like I mentioned above (Are you shining like a star in the universe or are you planting seeds of discontent?) can be a wonderful foothold, but are there other ways we can kick the complaining habit to the curb?
You know what the biggest step for me is? I have to stop complaining. It’s just stunning sometimes how many of our bad habits our kids pick up on isn’t it? Stunning and convicting. I think we can all encourage our kids to stop complaining if we practice what we preach a little bit more. Ouch. This hits a little too close to home.
Charge a fee. Every time someone complains, expect them (even you parents) to put some money of your chosen amount (maybe $1?) into the Seeds of Discontent jar. When it is full, donate it to someone who truly has a need that is not being met. (Food, clothing shelter, that kind of need.)
Take your kids to help at a homeless ministry. Nothing is more humbling than to see people with real needs, in real life, smells and all. This is HUGE.
Watch videos on YouTube. When one of my younger boys complained about doing school work yet again for the gazillionth time early this year – we watched quite a few videos on YouTube showcasing exactly what it would be like to live a homeless life. Which is where he could very well end up if he actually chooses to fight getting an education day-in and day-out. That day was pivotal for him.
Encourage family service. And by that I mean encourage your kids to serve others. Life is not all about what they can get for themselves. Praise your child when you notice him kindly helping someone else in the family meet a real need or just enjoy life. Acts of service are a big deal. Getting a cup down for a little one for the umpteenth time today with patience deserves a pat on the back when you are only 12. This helps cut down on the “me first” attitude and therefore helps cut down on complaining.
Make it fun! I wanted to remind the kids of the Bible verse about complaining in a more tangible way, so I made them a fun star themed lunch box to eat on the way to AWANA tonight. I included star-shaped pineapple, star-shaped cheesy focaccia bread, star-shaped cheese, star-shaped crackers, star shaped fruit leather, and some toffee butter peanuts for protein. Normally I would have had some lunch meat or meat based protein in there, but we were out. I put the scripture on shiny gold paper on the outside and made one of the big kids read it out loud in the car before they all dug in.
I’ve listed seven things you can do that will help in encouraging your kids to stop complaining. I would like to encourage you to just start taking baby steps! If you have an atmosphere of discontent in your home, this can take a long time. You can do this, Mom!