"But MOM, I don't LIKE THIS dinner!"
"Yuck. Not this again."
"But I wanted a yogurt, not a smoothie. I won't eat it. No no no."
I don't think he really has an ungrateful heart because he always typically been a very polite, respectful, and kind little guy. What I think has happened is that he's just gotten into a bad habit of complaining.
So, we decided to give Asante a few tools that we hoped would help him curb the complaining.
1. Complaining Coins
We made Asante three complaining coins. Each time he complains, he has to give us a coin. After the three coins are gone, he can't complain anymore that day. This alone has helped him to stop complaining almost all together. We didn't connect any rewards or punishment with the coins (i.e. he didn't get a treat for having all three coins at the end of the day or get a timeout if he complained after the coins were gone). Having the coins in his pocket gave him a visual reminder to slow down and think about what he was going to say before he said it.
To make the complaining coins, we used some gold St. Patrick's Day coins I used in our play scene and taped a complaining face on them. However, we used a random photo from the internet (think: google images). Here's a link to some complaining coins I just made up - you could easily just glue these pictures on thick cardboard and cut a circle around them. I wouldn't put too much work into it because hopefully you won't have to use them for a long period of time :).
2. Planting some Seeds
...in his heart, that is. We memorized Philippians 2:14: "Do everything without complaining or arguing." It's short and sweet and easily sung. :)
3. Journal and Prayer
We've been journaling and praying about things we are thankful for- in general. On Monday we named three things that we like about each other. At dinner, we've been talking about what we are most thankful for during that day. We've been offering quick prayers to God throughout the day when we are thankful for something. "Thank you, God, for healing my ear so quickly." "Thank you Jesus for flowers." "Thank you that we can play at the park on this warm day."
And of course, I can't forget to add that I've tried to be more thankful myself- watching my own complaining spirit. It always seems that whatever I'm working on with the kids, the Lord has a way of gently and kindly suggesting that perhaps I look into my own heart to see what's there. While I don't carry around complaining coins (maybe I should?! :)), the verses proceeding Philippians 2:14 have helped me by reminding me WHY Paul gives this exhortation-
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. (The Message)Daily life gives us stuff to complain about- people cutting us off in traffic, kids who have attitudes, not getting enough sleep, our blender breaking, kids who have been potty-trained suddenly deciding not to be potty-trained. But by seeing the silver lining, but laying our frustrations at God's feet and not letting everyone around us know everything that is going wrong in our life (on a regular basis), we can be a breath of fresh air to the world around us, giving others a peek at the goodness of God.