What to Do with a Whiner

Ccomplaining-childhildren tend to whine and complain. (Ever notice that? ­čśë ) 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. ┬áThe 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.┬áPray 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!


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  1. Thank you Pam! Whining and complaining is a huge challenge at our home right now. God knew I needed to read this right now! As always, I thank you for your wisdom! Hugs! ­čÖé

  2. Very helpful tip to prayerfully consider how to deal with this as God dealt with the Israelites and even with us. Thanks for the post!

  3. I also thank you. I’m going through this with my 6 yo right now. What a great perspective you give!

  4. Love this! Thanks for posting!

  5. This is a very good reminder. For me, it’s especially a good reminder to be patient and loving in their discipline. It can easily frustrate a mama with whining, but sometimes there might be outside causes (tiredness, hunger, sickness) as well to consider (not that this excuses it).

    One other thing I thought about recently is, what attitude am I portraying? When things don’t go my way, do I complain? When my husband makes a decision I don’t agree with, do I have a submissive attitude and obey with a cheerful heart? Too often I see my own shortcomings in my children, but I am so thankful that we can take them to the One who is perfect!

  6. Funny, I was using your book today discussing this very topic with my children. I found it interesting, and true, about how infectious grumbling/ complaining can be on the entire household. After some discussion and a beautiful time in prayer together the rest of our day went much better! Thank you for your words of wisdom! : )

  7. I appreciate the lesson…The whiner in me needed the great examples from the Bible. So glad you shared it with us..

  8. Any suggestions for an almost-2 year old?

  9. Love this! Thank you, Pam! And may I make a suggestion to Anna? We have 3yr old twins and a 17 month old. What we did for our twins worked so well we find them repeating it to their little brother. When the twins started their whining near their second birthday, I would take them on my lap and quietly – almost a whisper – ask them to repeat what they said in a sing song voice. So, we practiced NOT whining. I talked with them about the best way to get a positive response from mommy was to talk in a positive way – not a whiny or grumbly way. Now when little brother wants something they are playing with, they tell him, “If you want me to share my toy, you must ask nicely first.” And he does! We also repeat some key Bible verses with hand motions to help. I would recommend “My ABC Bible Verses” by Susan Hunt. A – “A soft answer turns away wrath.” B – “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” C – “Children obey in all things for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” D – “Do all things without complaining.” As you help to hide them in their heart and use them to discipline it really helps. And they use them with each other, too. God Bless!

  10. We do gratitude lists in our house. For now the children (ages 5,4 &3) tell us 5 things for which they are grateful and why, with the intention of written gratitude journals as the get older. If, after thinking of things for which to be grateful, the grumbling continues then their unappreciative spirits are “rewarded” with the removal of toys which they can earn back. If people, regardless of age, want to be unhappy they will find a way, no matter the circumstances. The opposite is true as well so I pray that my children learn that all things are God’s and He allows us to use them so “In all things give thanks”

  11. We have a grumbler. A sigh, a look of frustration and sometimes. Huff, when asked to do something when it changes his plan. A resistence. Going to look at grumbling this week.

  12. Thank you! Needed some creative ideas to deal with complaining and grumbling in our home.

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