Is a grumpy child just destined to be grumpy? Since his lip naturally turns downward and his arms easily fold and his body crumples, should we just give in and let him be a grump? Well, no. Just like anything else (how our kids approach their schoolwork, what sort of attitude they bring to family gatherings, how they respond when gifts are given, etc.), we can affect *not only* how our children behave, *but also* how they think.
“what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” ~Matthew 15:18-20
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~Romans 12:2
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ~Proverbs 4:23
The things we think in our hearts affect our reactions, our attitudes, and our choices. Kids need lots of help with this. Because (unlike what culture might say) kids are not a blank slate. They come to us with sinful hearts, and a generally selfish approach to life. Please understand that I am not unduly condemning children– this is true of every one of us. We all have to fight a self-ward focus in our hearts.
And in addition to just our general pull toward sin, we each have our own areas where we tend toward weakness. So with my children who are more naturally predisposed to grumping/ miserable/ discouraged/ defeatist thinking, I have learned that I have to do a lot of thought-supplying.
It’s basically teaching them how to biblically counsel their own hearts.
Let’s say we’re having rhubarb crisp (something I just made up and don’t even know if people eat), and one of my kids starts to act like it’s the worst meal ever, and he’s tearing up, asking questions like why does he have to eat it, and on and on… So I’ll say something like,
“Instead of thinking, “I HATE rhubarb crisp! I’ll just die if I have to eat it. Nothing will ever be good again if I have to eat it. I’m so mad. Sad. Angry. Grossed out.” (etc… whatever I actually think he’s thinking, based on what I know of my son and his words/phrases/reactions) … “What you SHOULD be thinking is, “God always gives us enough food. Daddy works so hard to provide for our family. Mama works hard to make good things for us. Even if this isn’t my favorite, I can eat it, drink water after every bite, and be thankful for the food God, Daddy, and Mama have put in front of me.
Even if I don’t like the taste of something, I can stop my heart from being selfish and instead, think about what other people have done for me. I can say something honest and kind afterward, like, ‘Thanks, Mom, for making this.'”
“You can also think things like, ‘Lots of people don’t love everything they eat, but we can still eat and be thankful. I don’t have to love it, and I don’t have to make the whole meal miserable. I can enjoy time with my family and try to smile and think about other pleasant things we’ve done today. I have a family that loves me and plenty of things to be grateful to God for.”
Then have the child list out 5 things he can be thankful for right now. Or 3, if you can already see his attitude changing. Or 10, if his attitude is just flat out rotten.
This is the process I take my natural-grumpers through semi-regularly.
Really, what’s it’s doing is teaching them how to counsel their own hearts and change their thinking when they get in a bad rut. Some of them need it more frequently than others, but it does seem to train them out of habitually thinking this way (for the most part) the older they get.
Of course, because this is a trait they came “out of the box” possessing, I have no doubt some will struggle for their whole lives. But instead of leaving them to flounder on their own, sulking in their bedroom, or trying to finagle a way out of the meal, I want to equip them with the tools that will help them master their rotten attitudes, for their whole lives.
We all come with our in-built ‘bents’ toward sin (some criticize others internally, some are grumpy, some are depressive, some are manipulative, some are super-self-centered and attention-seeking, etc) but as moms we can help our children learn to biblically and truthfully counsel their own hearts against sinful attitudes that would captivate them for their whole lives.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: Have you tried this with your children? With yourself?