“Do all things without murmurings and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Do you have any complainers in your household? Whining and complaining are evidences of an ungrateful heart. Since God has commanded us to give thanks in everything, and to do everything without murmuring, a grumbling spirit is sin and should be recognized as sin when we see it in our children and in ourselves.
Try this exercise for a few days:
Read Philippians 2:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 with your children. Ask them the following questions:
- What things are we supposed to do without murmuring and disputing? (All things.)
- What things are we supposed to give thanks for? (All things.)
- Instead of grumbling about this particular circumstance, do these verses mean that we should give thanks for it instead? (If we’re supposed to do all things without grumbling, and we’re supposed to give thanks for all things, the answer to this question is yes.)
Tell your children that whenever you notice them complaining or grumbling, you are going to help them learn to give thanks instead. Remind them that we can grumble with more than just our words. “Poochy lips,” rolled eyes, stomping feet, and other displays of body language are also forms of grumbling.
Ask your children to help you, too. Welcome their questions when they notice you complain. Throughout the day, when you notice each other grumbling, ask these questions, “Does God want you to do or experience this without grumbling?” (The answer will be yes, because we are to do all things without grumbling.) Recite Philippians 2:14 together.
Then ask, “What does God want you to do instead of grumbling about this?” Recite 1 Thessalonians 5:18 together. Then encourage your child (or yourself) to give thanks. This can be a short prayer together, or a simple, spontaneous prayer such as, “Thank you, God, for this chore that will help me learn to serve others better.” Say a prayer, with your child repeating the words after you, if he is young and needs help.
A child may need some coaching or suggestions to help him see what he can be thankful for different situations. Help him think about:
- The things he can learn from the situation (patience, humility, kindness, service, etc.).
- The blessings he is overlooking (i.e., when complaining about food, he can be thankful for his Mama who made the meal, for his Daddy who worked to earn money to buy the food, and for God who takes care of him and provides for him).
- The people who make his life so much richer (i.e., the daddy who loves him enough to teach him to work hard, the siblings who are such good friends to him).
- His heavenly Father who loves him so much that He is giving him this chance to grow and become more like His Son.
After he has thanked God, encourage him to go back to the situation and continue with a cheerful heart. If you hear him grumble again, repeat the process of questioning him and praying words of thanksgiving with him. Continue this process throughout the day.
Remember that your goal is to help your child become more like Jesus. It is tempting to give in to our own grumbling attitude when dealing with complainers. Focus on thankfulness. Help your child grow in gratitude, and give God thanks for this child and each opportunity He is giving you to train him in godliness.
Review your day together before bedtime. What did you learn about yourselves? What are your children most tempted to complain about? Are you setting an example of thankfulness for your children, or do they hear you complaining about the people and events God brings into your day? Pray together for God’s grace to be even more thankful tomorrow!