We all have people in our lives that we literally have to prepare ourselves to spend any amount of time with. You know exactly who I am talking about! Maybe it is an aunt that you have to see every Sunday when you go to your parents’ house for Sunday dinner. It could even be a Sunday School teacher at church that you have to talk to every Sunday. Whoever that person is for you, they bring you down and somehow end up putting you in a mood because their negativity is contagious! Everything that comes out of their mouth sounds negative and they always sound like a grumbler.
Unfortunately the world is full of people like that, and sometimes those people do not even realize that all they ever do is complain or grumble. It is just how some people’s personality shapes up after years of practice. Many of these people have an amazing heart, and they truly do have good intentions, but they do not have the self-awareness to realize that the words that are coming out of their mouth on a regular basis are making our skin crawl. Sometimes they even speak the right words, but use a tone that sounds extremely negative. Regardless… we find ourselves dreading ever having to be around them for any amount of time, right?
Behavior such as this is a learned behavior. People who grow up to become a grumbler more than likely did not have anyone teaching them how to speak positively rather than negatively. Over time it just becomes habit, and even though our heart may grow, our words and our tone stay the same. Parents need to be aware of how they are actively cultivating their child’s heart. So how do we raise a child to be an encourager rather than a grumbler so that they do not one day become that person that nobody likes to be around?
First of all we need to take a look at ourselves. Do we grumble a lot? Do we complain about our spouse? Do we speak negatively about things that happen in our day? Are we gossiping about other people? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then we really need to turn that around so that we can give our children an example of how they should speak. If our children hear us complain all the time, then chances are they will too.
Practicing a thankful form of speech can do wonders for us and for our children. When you are sitting down at the table for supper, take turns talking about what they are thankful for that day. Make sure that you and your spouse are also participating. Give each other compliments and focus on being specific. By practicing this sort of self-talk, we are literally changing the chemical balance in our brains.
When we are tempted to complain about something, don’t. Find something positive to be thankful for instead. We do not have to voice everything that we are unhappy about, but it is helpful to voice the things that we are thankful for. If you hear your children complaining, simply ask them to state something positive instead. Redirecting their thoughts and words will eventually help them to learn to speak positively.
We can also teach our children how to sandwich a complaint. Yes I totally just used the word “sandwich” as a verb. Think about it. If your child is complaining because they think it is unfair that they have to go to bed at 8:00 pm, teach them how to speak that complaint in between two positive statements. Instead of saying, “All my friends get to stay up until 10:00 pm on school nights. It’s not fair that I have to go to bed at 8:00 pm.” They could say this instead: “I think it is great that my friends get to stay up so much later than I do. I wish I didn’t have to go to bed at 8:00 every night. They are so lucky.” We still understand their complaint without it having to sound so bratty. Right?
All of this is a learned behavior. We simply need to take the time, as their parents, to redirect their negativity. We need to teach them how to express their concerns in a way that doesn’t leave people wanting to run. We also have to be careful not to crush their spirit by jumping down their throat every single time we think they could have said something a little nicer. Their is a fine line between redirecting them, and getting onto them every time we want to them to learn how to say something a little differently. We know our children, and we typically know how they are going to respond to what we say to them.
Practicing positive speech is the key. If we want to raise our children to be become encouragers rather than someone who people will dread spending time with, then we need to practice positive speech ourselves. Then we can be an example for them and easily redirect them to say something differently when needed. Over time positive speech becomes a habit just like negative speech does for some people. It is all a learned behavior, and we just need to have the awareness and the desire to turn it around.