I have a five year old who whines routinely, cries when she doesn’t get her own way, and wants her own way most of the time. As she came to tell me about a sister who did not move when she told her to, I informed her that her sister was not being mean, and that her desire was unreasonable in this case.
As I watched her process this information (atypically without tears) I thought, What if I saw my role with my daughter as simply a definer of these types of situations– interpreting for her when she cannot have her own way, and when she’s actually been treated unfairly. What if a child needs a patient interpreter of life to repeatedly help her understand she is not the center of the universe?
Usually, I’m thinking more like an antagonist: My child is whining and complaining. Whining and complaining are sins, and thus I must do or say what is necessary to stop such behavior in my child.
Maybe these aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. Just thinking.
Jay Younts says
I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. This is a wisdom issue for parents. However, I do think it is important to teach your daughter how to express a legitimate desire to gain information, clarification without having a complaining spirit. Children do indeed need interpreters to help them deal with life’s inequities. For young children,saying “mommy, help me learn, help me understand” with regard to relational struggles is as good as it gets. Teaching wisdom in this situation is a delicate art. Our goal is to have our kids learn ask how God can help them deal with stinky, unpleasant circumstances so that God is honored. That is a life skill they will never out grow!
Thanks, Jay. It’s always a pleasure when you stop by. Learning how to express a legitimate desire without a complaining spirit is something I’m learning, too! Perhaps the reason my reaction was more of an interpreter in this case was that she was in fact, coming for help in an appropriate way. Good thoughts.
Jon Gleason says
Michelle, your first sentence sounds like a lot of adults! 🙂
I agree with Jay, they aren’t mutually exclusive. First, we do need to recognize that the problem is sin. But God doesn’t beat us up every time we sin. Sometimes, He just helps us see how stupid we are being by removing the temptation.
I complain about a circumstance, and He lets me see that the circumstance was for my benefit. Sometimes, there is no direct rebuke at all.
In the example you’ve given, that may be an opportunity to explain one of the reasons why the complaining response is wrong. “When we complain, we end up accusing our sister of being mean, when she wasn’t at all. That’s one reason that complaining is dangerous. It gets us thinking about things all the wrong way.” etc.
We can teach children (or adults, for that matter) to see the temptation more clearly, which is what you’ve described. We can teach them to see the sin a little more clearly (what I described in my last paragraph). We can rebuke the sin directly.
I don’t think there is any one answer as to what is best in any particular situation. The Lord deals with us in all of these ways, and they all have a role in our parenting “arsenal”.
“I complain about a circumstance, and He lets me see that the circumstance was for my benefit. Sometimes, there is no direct rebuke at all.” I like this a lot. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in. I’m still thinking about these thoughts.