Yesterday it rained, and we went to the local children’s museum. Of course, we aren’t the only family that can tell that very same story. I feel like every family in the area decided to the same thing.
Picture this: it’s full of kids and parents. So much so that they have to open up the rooms typically reserved for parties. Kids are running everywhere, with a general buzz of noise that would rival a noisy beehive. Luckily because there’s so much to do, it isn’t overwhelming; at least, not for us.
“This place is way too packed,” I hear a kid mutter as he stomps to another part of the museum. I have to chuckle. He sounds like a grown-up.
Which is when it hits me. It sounds exactly like something that would come out of my mouth. It really makes me stop and think – what kinds of things am I saying that my kids are picking up on and imitating?
Kids are Sponges
Yesterday I joked about the museum being full, and I didn’t complain – that time. But I can think of many other opportunities:
Seriously?! You picked NOW to back out of your spot?
Ugh, I don’t have time for this. Don’t you see I have two kids with me? Forget it.
Well, if your father would hurry up and get home, I could get everything done in time.
Even the times I think I’m being subtle, or I mutter under my breath, I can be setting my kids up for impatience and a critical heart.
And my oldest repeats after me. Ranging from the funny, “You’re a stinker bunch!” To the impatient, “Are we going to be stuck here forever?” To the downright annoyed – insert scowl or dramatic sigh here.
Parents Can Steer the Ship
Looking at yesterday, when we walked in, I honestly felt a little overwhelmed at all the people. My social anxiety kicks in at moments like those. I also worried we would be battling older kids for toys and my little ones would be pushed out of the way.
It’s easy for me to jump right to the complaint, to let it out before I even realize it. I’m not immune to impatience and a temper when things don’t go my way; I’m human and I mess up. But I’m learning to be more conscious about what I say when the kids are around.
Some things that help are:
- Wait and see. Often a situation is not what I expect it to be. For example: none of those things I was worried about actually happened. We found a great spot and played for a long time. (My kids even played together in the same section, which rarely happens.)
- Find the good. Figure out what’s positive and shine a light on that. Or share something you’re thankful for, like how the rain is giving the plants some much-needed water, or that there are lots of friends to play with today.
- Prepare before the kids are even up. It starts way before you actually get out of the house for the day. If I can get a few minutes to myself, including for me good prayer time and some scriptures, it sets me up for a better, more patient and even-tempered day.
- Share family memory scriptures. Have family Bible verses to that gear the mind towards the positive and fight the negative. We’ve been focusing on this one, and it doesn’t even have the word “complain” in it: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
No, there’s really no foolproof way to completely avoid complaining. It’ll happen – whether it comes out of your mouth or theirs. (Unless you’re amazing and you just don’t complain! Teach me your ways!) But you can set your household up for success by being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
So how do you fight complaining at home?
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