Children tend to whine and complain. (Ever notice that? 😉 ) Since we have been commanded to “do all things without murmuring or complaining”, we need to help our children overcome this sin.
One place we can look for ideas on how to deal with a whiner is in the Old Testament. The Israelites seemed to specialize in grumbling! What can we learn from observing God’s dealings with His whining children?
The Israelites never seemed to be satisfied. They certainly had plenty to be thankful for! God sent plagues upon the Egyptians, but spared His children, the Israelites. He sent them out of the land, loaded with riches the Egyptians begged them to take. He opened the Red Sea for them to walk through and then drowned their enemies. He made water come out of rocks and food appear on the ground.
But, instead of thanking God, the Israelites complained and grumbled and whined. They accused God of just bringing them out of Egypt to let them die.
So what did God do with them? He was amazingly patient and merciful! He understood their weakness, just as we need to understand the weaknesses of our children. The people would whine and complain, and then God would deliver them from the Egyptians or send them tons of quail.
But He also disciplined them for their constant ingratitude (which is what complaining is all about). In Numbers 11, He sent fire among the people. In Numbers 16, He struck the people with a plague. In Numbers 21, serpents came and bit the grumblers. God let them wander around for forty years and didn’t allow any of the people who originally left Egypt even enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1).
Read some of these accounts to your complainers. Let them see what happened to God’s chosen people when they decided to grumble about the way God was taking care of them.
- Numbers 11:1-2
- Numbers 16:41-50
- Numbers 21:4-9
- Deuteronomy 1:19-46
Can you give your child a little picture of God’s love and justice as you deal with their complaints?
Be patient with the complainer! Give him time to grow! Help him see his ungrateful attitude, and coach him on giving thanks instead of complaining. Love him where he is! But also love him enough to help him root the sin of grumbling out of his heart.
If your child continues in his grumbling, especially against you or the other authorities in his life, can you send a bit of “fire” into his life? Fire destroys. Discipline your complainer in a way that lovingly pictures that truth. Perhaps he needs to lose a favorite toy or a valued privilege. Or he could simply haul or stack the firewood, or gather all the trash and burn it. Explain why you are disciplining him in this way. Point him to the account in Numbers 11.
What sort of “plague” can you manufacture? Perhaps the complainer needs to miss out on a family activity while he sits quietly in his room. Or maybe a planned outing should be postponed or cancelled until he has a more thankful heart. Or he could be sent to bed early while the rest of the family enjoys an activity together.
God also sent serpents to bite the whining Israelites. Explain this to your complainer while you apply the sting of the rod, if he has openly grumbled against you and your instructions. Encourage him to confess his sinful attitude and repent, just as the Israelites did. Take him to the cross and help him remember that Jesus died for his sins, just like Moses sent the Israelites to look up at the bronze serpent on the pole in order to live.
Leave him to “wander in the desert for 40 years” by having him do the same job over and over until he can do it with a cheerful heart, or have him run around the outside of your house a specified number of times.
Think of something that will be a little picture of the ways God disciplined the grumbling Israelites. Pray and ask for God’s guidance. Read the related account from the Bible, explain why you are going to discipline in the way you are, discipline the child, and then reach out to bless him, just as God did with the Israelites and continues to do with us!