As a mom of ten kids, I’ve discovered that the parenting journey is filled with unexpected detours, potholes, and roadblocks. These can’t be avoided. Yet, I’ve also learned I can choose my attitude. When I feel lost, turned around, or stuck, I can choose whether to grumble or to have gratitude. I can also teach my kids how to steer their attitudes toward gratitude along the way.
My husband and I decided to confront our family’s grumbling head-on by offering a challenge to our kids. John and I proposed (in the middle of a long road trip, as a matter of fact), that if our family worked on going grumble-free for one year, we’d take all our kids on a cruise. Yes, this got their attention. Our kids still at home were ages 6-22 at the time, and all of them agreed to try. This was a first, positive step.
You see, after adding seven, adopted kids to our family, we were in a desperate state. We’d merged multiple sibling groups and attempted to transform strangers into “family.” We’d discovered a new normal, yet I knew things could be better. There was a lot of grumbling about chores, homework and annoying siblings. (Similar to every other American home, only multiplied by 10.)
We learned a lot, over the months, and I wrote about it in my book The Grumble Free Year. Here are some of the highlights:
- Grumbling impacts our lives and hurts our relationships
- Before we try to change our kids, parents need to look to our negativity (and grumbling) first.
- Change must start with our hearts.
- When we grumble we set ourselves up to be a victim.
- Each of us has different types of grumbling styles (whining, criticizing, fussing) but the discontent is the same.
- Instead of pointing out each other’s faults, it’s important to praise each other when we see someone getting it right by not grumbling.
- We often forget how seriously God takes grumbling. It’s a big deal to him.
- Our gratefulness is saying “thank you” to God.
There are more lessons we learned, and the crash course wasn’t always easy. There were activities I tried that failed (i.e. our disastrous gratitude jar). And there were unexpected challenges—like becoming my grandmother’s full-time caretaker—that made me question if we should just give up. Yet along the way, I discovered—we all discovered—that focusing on heart-changes and better communication benefited us all. And the reward wasn’t just for that year. We are still reaping the benefits of our hard work.
Today, all of us are faced with unexpected detours, potholes, and roadblocks. Schools are closed, store shelves are empty, sports are cancelled, friends are distant, and church is online. Yet, we still get to choose whether to grumble or to be grateful. When we can’t fix the world, we can work on ourselves … on our hearts.
When I choose to be grateful, I grow closer to family and friends, even during hardships.
When I decide to focus on things to be thankful for, I provide hope and stability for my kids.
When I praise my kids for finding good—even amid disappointment—they look for more good to find.
And ultimately, my gratefulness says “thank you” to God. This year may look completely different than I imagined, but He never changes. God is ever-loving, faithful and good.
I thought our grumble-free challenge would help us for that year, but now I know the lessons we learned have had an impact far beyond that. Attempting to go grumble-free was worth the effort. And who knows, this may be just the right season for your family to give it a try.