How can we teach our children the truths about complaining in such a way that they actually change? Join AMBrewster as he opens God’s Word to help Christian parents learn how to guide their children into trust and contentment.
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“Speed Parenting” series (starts in episode 115)
“The Merest Christianity” series (starts in episode 95)
“Parenting a Zombie” series (starts in episode 200)
“Teach Your Children to Apologize” series (starts in episode 238)
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This is the final part of “The Hidden Sin in Our Homes” series. Please make sure you listen to the previous two before continuing today.
When this series is posted under the “Episodes by Series" of TruthLoveParent.com, it will be called “Parenting Complainers” because that’s really what all of this is about.
On the first episode we discussed the fruit of complaining; last time it was the root of complaining; and today is all about the biblical Truth that we can bring to bear on the complaining in our homes.
But before we do that, I want to thank Dave for making today’s episode possible. TLP is a listener-supported ministry, and I love that God chooses to equip His work by using His people.
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By the way, I have a surprise announcement to make on our next episode. I hope you’ll all join me for some very exiting news.
But today we’re talking about complaining. I think we all recognize that there’s a problem when our kids complain, but I think we often just don’t know how to address it.
We ask (or demand) that our children stop complaining, but we struggle to connect the dots between their behavior and their beliefs and then apply the right Bible to the situation.
Since that’s the goal of this series, I’m looking forward to icing this proverbial cake with you today.
I’m going to present this information in two ways:
1. During this whole series I’ve been using a “Speed Parenting” formula I shared with you in episodes 115 and 116. I called one of the methods “The Fruit, The Root, and The Truth.”
If you look back at the episode titles, you’ll see that I organized them that way. That makes this episode the “Truth” step. Just keep in mind that in order to make the Truth Step profitable, you need to work through the Fruit and Root steps with your kids as well.
And . . .
2. I’m going to present this information in what I consider to be a logical flow. However, you can decide the best way to explain it to your children. I’m also going to lay this out for the parent who hasn’t yet addressed it from a biblical perspective.
And I’ll package all this up in some nice free episode notes. You can find the link to that in the description.
So, your child is complaining. The age of the child may change how I present this, but the degree of the complaining won’t. Remember discontentment is discontentment. Not trusting God is always a sin.
Therefore, it may be complaining about a meal or about a teacher or about your views concerning a boyfriend or girlfriend . . . it’s still complaining.
So, the first thing we want to establish is that . . .
1. Everything we say comes from our heart.
Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
I believe this is an important starting point because there’s a philosophy in the world today that says, “I’m a good person who does bad things.” That could not be further from the Truth.
Biblically speaking, we’re all bad people in need of righteousness. We’re sinners in need of a Savior. Your child isn’t a contented, sweet, little pumpkin who complains. They’re inherently a discontented, untrusting little pumpkin.
When we help our kids understand that every word that proceeds from their mouths is a revelation of heart, it’s easy for them to accept that bad speech grows from a bad heart. Sinful speech grows from a sinful heart.
This means that we cannot simply change what we say.
This is an important point. In “The Merest Christianity” series that started in episode 95, we discussed the fact that we can’t fix an apple tree that has bad apples by simply removing the apples off the tree. If there’s something wrong with the apples, there’s something wrong with the tree. A bad tree will just grow more bad apples if all we do is remove the bad fruit.
In a similar way, telling our child to “Stop complaining,” or “Will you please stop whining,” or “I can’t take your bellyaching anymore,” is merely trying to reduce the bad fruit without actually taking care of the tree.
If you haven’t heard “The Merest Christianity” series, you really need to check it out. It deals with what I believe is the single most seminal information for everyone on the entire planet. And it applies to absolutely everything anyone may ever do . . . including parenting.
So, again, this means that we cannot simply change what we say; we have to change who we are.
A discontented person will speak in a discontented way. A mean person will speak in a mean way. And even if they have the occasional self-control, it’s going to eventually come out.
So, start by helping your child realize that the complaining isn’t so much the problem as it is a revelation of the problem. And that leads us to . . .
2. Everything we say must grow out of our relationship with God.
This should sound familiar if you’ve been listening to TLP for any length of time.
Everything goes back to our relationship with God. If we don’t have one with Him, we can’t be what we’re supposed to be. We’re spiritually dead zombies.
But if we have a relationship with Him, then He has expectations for our lives.
Over the past two episodes we referenced Philippians 2:12-16. Let’s dig into that a little deeper today: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
So, God — through the pen of Paul — just said that if we have a relationship with Him — if we’re saved — then it’s required of us to obey. Why is that? Because a truly born again believer is indwelt by God Himself, and He’s the one working in us both to desire and to accomplish righteousness.
There is no born again believer who isn’t indwelt by the Holy Spirit. There is no born again believer who God is not working in to produce righteous desire and behavior.
Now, no earth-bound child of God will perfectly obey all the time, but we’re talking about a trajectory here.
So, once the Lord lays out the expectation for our holy living, the very first thing on the list — the very first example of working out our salvation with fear and trembling is “Do all things without grumbling.”
And He then explains that that kind of lifestyle is required to be blameless and innocent children of God who are unblemished in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation.
Your child needs to understand what their grumbling communicates about their relationship with God. At best, they are hurting Him by disobeying. At worst, they never had a relationship with Him in the first place. And last time we discussed that a habitual sinner who refuses to acknowledge his sin and repent is acting like an unsaved person.
And the Lord says that continued rejection of Truth is the evidence of a lack of spiritual life.
So, once our kids understand that their speech grows from who they are, and once they understand that it reflects on their relationship with God, we can help them see exactly how their speech attacks God and His character.
3. Everything we say must grow from our trust in God.
If our speech reveals that we’re not submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit, then we’re not trusting God that His way is best.
We’re not trusting Him that we need to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.”
When we disobey, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we’re telling God that He doesn’t know what’s best and that our way is better.
But in Ephesians 4:29 God says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
He’s right. We’re wrong.
We need to trust that God knows what He’s talking about and that He’s loving enough to lead us in the best ways.
You can then help your children see how their complaining doesn’t build anyone up; it only tears down.
It communicates that the individual or event or request or demand is bad.
“But, Aaron, what if the thing my child is complaining about is genuinely bad?”
Here are two things:
A. A formal complaint may be something like, “I think my teacher is being unreasonable. What should I do?” Or “Thanks for dinner, Mom. Have I ever told you I don’t particularly care for cauliflower? I mean, you do the best with it that can be done, I’m just not a fan. If you make it, I’ll eat it, but maybe we don’t have to have it every week?”
That kind of communication isn’t expressing a bad attitude, it’s not pitting anyone against anyone else. It’s a legitimate explanation of a verifiable reality. Your child does really think their teacher is being unreasonable. You need to help them understand if they are and then what the child needs to do.
Your child doesn’t like cauliflower . . . and I can’t blame them. That’s a reality.
But that kind of communication is also seeking for a solution that is acceptable and wise.
Now, even though you could technically call that a “complaint,” I don’t think any of us would call it that. My child talks to me about their teacher, and I tell my spouse that she was “complaining about her teacher.”
That’s why I’m trying to stay away from that particular part of the technical definition.
But since it’s used that way in the Scriptures, it’s good to understand.
But, we also have to acknowledge that our definition of what is “bad” needs to be aligned with Scripture.
It’s been said that “The only time a bad thing happened to a good person, He wanted it to happen.” And — of course — they’re referring to Jesus.
Otherwise, you can’t really talk about bad things happening to good people. And even if we can justify saying that what happened to Jesus was “bad,” we still have to ask why He invited it!
So . . .
B. Biblically speaking, nothing is bad.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I’ve known a lot of people who had surgery, and absolutely none of them said, “The doctor is going to do something bad to me tomorrow.”
Even though the doctor was going to cut them open — taking their life in his hands — and even though they would have weeks or month of recovery, no one looks at that as being bad.
What if the uncomfortable situations in our life are exactly the same?
Last time — in order to illustrate how discontentment grows from a lack of trust — I shared Romans 8:28-29, James 1:2-4, and Matthew 5:10-11 which all teach us that just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t make it bad.
God does nothing bad.
If we love Him and are submitting to the Holy Spirit who is empowering us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, then we have God’s promise that every difficult situation is guaranteed to end with us becoming more like Christ.
And as we Trust God and His Word we will find that we are far more content with the perceived difficulties and inconveniences of life.
Ergo . . .
4. Everything we say must grow from contentment.
I Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
When God says we need to be thankful, but we’d rather be discontent with the way our life is going, we’re acting as if God doesn’t know what He’s talking about and we know better.
That’s an affront to the Cosmos-Creating God of our lives.
So after we help our kids understand that their complaining is sin, we can teach them to be thankful about whatever it was they were previously complaining.
And if your child has no idea how God could expect them to be thankful for the pain or annoyance or discomfort He allowed to enter their lives . . . you have a fantastic opportunity to parent them into even more Truth concerning our last point.
In fact, we have an episode planned for the future called, “How to Be Thankful for Suffering.” We won’t be getting to it for a while. That has to do with the crazy awesome news we need to share with you on episode 312, but we will get to it.
So, if our child is willing to accept our teaching and reproof, they’ve learned that their words betray their heart and show the strength of their relationship with God as well as their trust in Him. Therefore, instead of complaining, they must be content.
And finally . . .
5. In order to repent of our lack of trust, discontentment, and complaining, we must change our minds, change our direction, and change our words.
A couple episodes ago we read Psalm 106. I want to focus in on verses 44-48 for a minute: “Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46 He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. 47 Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!”
Verses 47-48 provide us the orientation we’re going to need in order to truly address complaining.
It will never work to just “stop complaining.” We need to be in a relationship with God, trust Him, and respond in contentment if we want our communication to change.
Listen again to what the author of Psalm 106 said, “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!”
Doesn’t that sound like someone who is embracing the reality that God is good, loving, powerful, and all knowing?
Doesn’t that sound like someone who is trusting God?
Instead of seeing cauliflower as being a terrible thing forced on me by my mother, I can understand that God is working a gracious act in my life to help me become the child He wants me to be.
Now, that’s some mature thinking, but that’s the start.
Once I change my mind, I can change my direction. The Bible calls that repentance.
Once I change my direction and view the uncomfortable moments in my life as God’s handiwork to help me become more mature, my words will naturally change.
By the way, if you’d be interested in learning more about how to teach your children to apologize, we have a two-part episode dedicated to “Teaching Your Children to Apologize.” You can access that link and any other episode I’ve cited today in the description of this episode.
I know your household struggles with complaining as much as mine does. It may be because individuals in your home are unsaved, or it may be because individuals in your home aren’t trusting that God knows what’s best.
Either way, I’m glad you joined us for this series.
If it’s been a blessing to you, please share it and review the show on iTunes or Facebook. When you do that, it helps other parents who are interested in how God has called and created them to parent to find our free resources.
Don’t forget to shop Amazon this week using the TLP links, and join us next time as I share with you a super exciting development at Truth.Love.Parent. You’re not going to want to miss it!
I’ll see you then!
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