My son told me this morning that he always feels so much more thankful around this time of year. With Thanksgiving coming up and stories of the Pilgrims’ gratitude in spite of tremendous hardship, it’s just a little easier to give thanks. As Christians, we want our homes to always be characterized by this gratitude, but often our own fussiness gets in the way.
After listening to a sermon series on godly parenting, my husband and I decided to adopt the pastor’s suggestions for “house rules.” One of the rules we chose was No Fussing. I was particularly happy about this new rule because it meant no whining, arguing, complaining, or general irritability from my children. But as with so many initiatives that start with smug self-righteousness, I was quickly humbled by how incredibly difficult it was to keep my No Fussing rule. I found myself repenting in front of my children for my frustrated tone when I found I didn’t have an ingredient I needed. I repented for my irritated sighing at messes. I repented for griping about fellow drivers. I realized more and more just how frequently I was fussing at the little irritations in my life.
I had a serious fussing problem. And then I came to realize that I had a bigger problem: my complaining was really a way of cursing God.
If all comes from His hand, for His glory and our good, then ultimately He is responsible for what comes to pass in my life, whether it be the death of a loved one or the red light when I’m already running late. My sighing and complaining and aggravation aren’t just being put out into the universe to dissipate as soon as they leave my mouth. They have an object; the fussing is an arrow sent to its mark, my sovereign God.
I had a fussing problem in my heart, in my mind, in my words, in my sighs, in my attitudes and in my actions. But as I began repenting, I noticed a big change in my contentment. I became more grateful, and my kids noticed! They became more verbal in gratitude, and less fussy. We were eventually able to implement the No Fussing rule, and though we still repent daily, these moments are generally quick.
A friend recently asked me how we implemented our No Fussing rule. I will try to remember the exact steps we took.
Decide if you WANT to give up fussing.
As discussed above, you have to decide if you, as the parent, want to give up fussing. Most of us feel entitled to a little complaining – “venting” we might call it. Reading The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment was a huge turning point for me regarding this issue. In fact, I should probably re-read it! The bottom line: Everything is from God, for his glory and for our good. So even that traffic jam when you’re already late, or the rain on your wedding day, or the “no smoking” sign on your cigarette break (see what I did there?)… all of it is for a good purpose in our lives. When you believe that, you begin to see that all your fussing is directed toward God, and you realize that it is sinful.
Explain the new policy.
Sit down and explain to the entire family that you would like to implement this new policy. Apologize for not having been very good at “not fussing” yourself if that’s the case.
Of every little fuss. Of sighing just loudly enough for family members to hear your disappointment. Of rolling your eyes in disgust. Of “venting.” Of frustrated expressions.
Invite your children to point out to you when YOU fuss.
Warning: It can be very difficult not to fuss at your children when they point this out to you. 😉
Make it a game.
Start involving your children, even as you are repenting in front of them. Rachel Jankovich (in Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches or Fit to Burst, both excellent reads) talks about playing Thanksters vs. Cranksters with her children. You can ask your children while riding in the car, “What would Cranksters be doing right now?” and listen to their creative responses: complaining about the sun shining in their eyes, fussing about the straps on the car seat, wishing they could watch a movie, etc. Then ask, “What would Thanksters be doing on this car ride?”
Memorize verses about gratitude.
Psalm 106:1 tells us to give thanks unto the Lord because He is good and his mercy endures forever. Phillippians 4 tells us that when we bring our requests to God with thanksgiving, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Jesus. Psalm 100 is a great passage to learn for giving thanks and remembering that God made us and not “we ourselves.” Colossians 3 reminds us to give thanks in everything.
Sometimes we will stop and think of things we’re grateful for, big and small: bright fall colors, skin that heals itself, Daddy, the smell of cinnamon. Replace fussing with thankfulness – it’s a great exercise for people of all ages.
Guide your children to repentance.
After several weeks, gently point out to your child when he/she is fussing and guide him/her in repentance and gratitude. Also be sure to praise your child when the temptation to fuss is not given into in a trying situation.
Help your children respond appropriately.
If overblown reactions are part of your child’s ingratitude, check out this free printable for controlling tantrums.
Make No Fussing enjoyable.
If fussing is still rearing its ugly head, try to appeal to something your child enjoys. I believe it was Rachel Jankovich again (perhaps in a webinar this time?) who had this idea: If you have a little one who is fussing, tell him that the fussy dragon is trying to get him to fuss and that he needs to SLAY that dragon. Give him a sword (preferably plastic 😉 ) and have him act it out – cut off the dragon’s head! With an older child, you could ask him to tell or write a story about Cranksters and Thanksters and discuss who your child would rather be friends with.
Create consequences when needed.
If your child won’t participate, tell him that if he won’t kill the fussy dragon, Momma will have to kill it for him (cue unpleasant consequence). Or if your older child is refusing to participate in a discussion, obviously a consequence is needed. The idea, though, is to be gently pulling our children toward wanting to be grateful rather than pushing them into it.
Implementing the No Fussing rule in our home has been life-changing. Not just because I’m a better example to my children (though I’m starting to be), and not because I’m simply less of a complainer. Living in the belief that everything comes to me from God has given me a glimpse of what a contented life looks like. So many sinful thoughts patterns have been revealed and repented of (and repented of again). I am just beginning this journey to contentment, but I truly believe that it is an attainable goal and one worthy of pursuit. “For godliness with contentment is great gain.” My prayer is that we will learn to be contented people, rejoicing in the great mercies of our great God
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