Giving Thanks Instead of Grumbling

“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).

Grumbling ChildDo 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!

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  1. This is so biblical, practical, and encouraging, Pam! Thank you so much! : )

  2. Thanks! This is a great lesson, and we will certainly be putting it into practice starting today! 🙂

  3. We so need this lesson in our home. Thank you for the encouragement!

  4. Thanks – we have one that just starting the grumbling and mumbling as he is off to do something we asked. This is definitely of use!

  5. wonderful reminder, thanks!! I’ll try this exercise with my kids.

  6. I needed this reminder. Great Bible time lesson for our family today. Thank you!

  7. “give God thanks for this child and each opportunity He is giving you to train him in godliness” Great statement – I am going to type it up & hang it somewhere as a reminder. Can’t wait to share this exercise with my family & begin implementing these ideas!

  8. I love this blog. Such biblical practicality. Thank you for the valuable lessons. I look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays.



  9. God is so good and ties everything together. We just learned about thankfulness this past Sunday in Sunday School. My husband taught the lesson on the 10 lepers and the one who came back and thanked him. Then he taught us to rejoice and that is our theme for Junior Church where we teach. 🙂 Good reinforcement today! Thanks!

  10. I love this advice and we really need it in our family. We have a preteen who has been a grumbler for years and we have not been able to break her of it. I was just crying out to God about this issue yesterday, so this is a blessing to see this post today.

  11. Thank-you so much for this blog. Sometimes, I know what I want to teach my kids, such as a particular verse that they need to hear, but then I am unsure of how to really get it to sink into their heads. You are truly richly blessed with an unusual ability to put these truths into words for any age child. What practical ideas (and fun!) to get the kids engaged, not just their heads but their hearts! Blessings!

  12. Thank you for this post. I am using it today as part of our study on thankfulness.

  13. I too, have a grumbling preteen and a sibling that’s following suit. Thank you for this sweet thankfulness lesson and for spelling it out for this desperate momma. I pray we can nip this in the bud before it spreads to the baby and beyond!

  14. Thank you for this post. I will be using it for my children.

  15. I just printed the verses out on index cards to hang up around the house! Thanks for the practicality of this project!

  16. I would appreciate any ideas on this geared toward teenagers.

  17. Kristin Yoshimura

    Very wonderful! Pam, you know I’m a big fan, especially after all these years!

  18. Thank you so much for your Biblical reminders, in our house Mom needs it just as much as her kids! I get carried along with the day and fail to evaluate all the grumbling that comes out of my mouth. Thank you!!

  19. This is a great lesson not only for my son but for me as well!

  20. I thought my toes were bruised and then I read this line: It is tempting to give in to our own grumbling attitude when dealing with complainers. Wow. What an eye opener. Here is me, learning humility….again. Thank you.

  21. Hi, Kristin! Good to “see” you here!

  22. Thank you so much for this!! Perfect timing! =)

  23. So many words, comments, prayers have been said towards your unusual blessed gift you have with your ministry and the ability to make the Bible so lively and practical for families, that I am looking for words to praise you, but I just want God to reward you for all you do in His name! Thank you!

  24. Thanks for the activities. Sometimes I need to remind even myself, not just the children!

  25. My children have a real issue with this, my daugther is 2 and we are working very hard in one specific area that is screaming… She screams at the top of her voice when she doesnt like something. She has even found a way to incorporate screaming into her crying. I dont know how to stop her of this. Today, I was at Walmart. She doesnt like her carseat. Im in the parking lot trying to buckle her and she is screaming so loudly the whole lot could hear, I got terrible looks, it took me 5 minutes to force her into the carseat. Does anyone have any wisdom (without judgement please) to offer? I would truly appreciate it. Also, what material would be good to purchase from Doorposts for discipline and character building. I have a 5 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. I will most surely purchase it.. Thanks in advance!

  26. Wonderful idea! I’m making verse signs tonight for the kids so that we can spend tomorrow really focused on this. Thank you for the blessing this blog is already.

  27. Love this. Sending to the printer right now to work on tomorrow, for all of us! I don’t even know how to do this very well, and defintly respond to complaining with the wrong attitude. Ugh.

    How do I teach a 4 year old and 2 year old to ask such questions of me, because I need that, in a respectful way? Words are important, but tone is too.

    Thank you so much for this!

  28. I just found your blog and am so excited! I have two boys, 6 & 2. We are needing help training them to love God and follow His teachings. My own blog is focused on this challenge.


  29. OH I love this post! We have a terrible problem with complaining in our house. Especially when it comes to chores.

  30. Thank you so much for this post! I think I need it as much as our children do right now! Been “weak” in this area, as I am pregnant with our seventh, and feeling tired, and very BIG! Praise God for the truth of His word being spoken, and for your edifying and encouragement on Thanksgiving rather than grumbling! Have a Super day!

  31. What a wonderful post! I was feeling very thankful today as well on my blog. Thank you for sharing this, it makes my day! 🙂

  32. We went through this the next morning, and wether it has helped the kids or not, i’m not sure. The mama? Daily. Thank you again.

  33. @his.talmidat-I think if it is easier with a 2 and 4 yr old than older children. I struggle with my older ones rejoicing in point out someone’s sin! I would teach them to say, sweetly and respectfully, “Mommy, remember our verses.(?)” (It could be a statement or a question.) To which you could respond, “Yes, I do, but I had forgotten for a moment. Thank you for helping me obey God’s Word. Families help each other, and I appreciate you’re helping me.” Or something of that sort. I would then pray out loud, confessing my sin, repenting, and thank God for the child and his desire to see his family obey God’s Word. This would give them an example of how to pray when they are committing the sin. If the child’s tone gets too harsh, and seems to rejoice at “catching” Mommy, respond differently. “Yes, I do, but I had forgotten for a moment. I did need that reminder, but your tone was not respectful. Mommy has given you permission to draw my attention to this situation when I forget, but it must be done respectfully and out of love, with a desire to see Mommy obeying God, because families help each other, we do not rejoice in sin or catching others in sin. Sin breaks God’s heart, and it should break ours too.” Go on to remind them of Exodus 20:12-Honor your Father and Mother, and then secondly Proverbs 15:1-A gentle answer turns away wrath, and lastly, 1 Timothy 5:1-Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. (I only listed the first half of the first two verses. I try to keep them short for my little ones. It makes it easier for them to remember.) Obviously, these are not the only words that can be used, but it is an example of how I have done it in my home. It is by no means the only or even the best way, but it’s the best I have come up with so far, with God’s help and much prayer.

  34. Oh, and when my children respond incorrectly, I make them try again to practice the right way. It helps them remember the next time, what they should say and how they should say it, even when it’s as simple as my asking a question and them saying, “Yeah,” rather than answering respectfully, which at our house is “Yes, ma’am,” but I think a child should not say “yeah” to an adult. I continue to repeat the question until they answer correctly. Also, when they ask for something by saying, “Give me some juice,” rather than “May I please have some juice?” they have to repeat the question, etc. You get the idea. That being said, if they rebuked me harshly for grumbling, after my correction of their tone and attitude, I would require them to respond in the way I had taught them, and then respond the way that you should to the positive correction. Does that make sense?

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