Past the Grumbling
About the Guest
Best-selling author and adoptive parent Tricia Goyer shares with Michelle Hill about her parenting experiences. She describes what she's done to help her kids move beyond grumbling to expressing thankfulness.
Tricia GoyerTricia Goyer is the award-winning author of more than seventy books, including Walk It Out: The Radical Result of Living God's Word One Step at a Time. She is a homeschooling mom of ten and a grandmother of four. Tricia and her family live in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Tricia Goyer shares with Michelle Hill about her parenting experiences. She describes what she’s done to help her kids move beyond grumbling to expressing thankfulness.
Past the Grumbling
Michelle: Imagine taking all your children to Build-a-Bear, but the problem is that a thousand other people have the same idea. Can you say, “Grumble and complain?” Here’s Tricia Goyer.
Tricia: All of us had gone to the mall for the Build-a-Bear day.
Tricia: The line took forever; I thought, “Maybe a couple of hours,”—no! We were there for nine hours. We were at the threshold—like we were the next ones to go in: me and all this group of kids—after being there all day. We were hungry; we were tired. I could see that the manager came out and was talking with the security guard. I was like, “Oh, no!” The manager was like: “Ma’am, the mall closes in one hour. We have to get all these people out of here. This is taking a long time. Everyone will get a bear, but you’re not going to get it stuffed.”
It was in that moment where, I mean, if I would have grumbled or complained, all of the kids would have just melted down—
Tricia: —because we were already tired; we had been there all day. It was like, “We can turn this around.”
Michelle: We’re going to talk about avoiding the meltdowns and getting past the grumbling with Tricia Goyer on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. So, it’s the first weekend of December, and the children in your life are filling out their Christmas lists, and maybe you have one, too. Your tree is up, and the lights are twinkling. Whoops!—that was in your dream, because maybe you haven’t put your tree up. You wanted to get that done last weekend; but you know, those other Christmas-y things got in the way.
I don’t know about you, but Christmas time is about how much I can get done. There are the cards and the presents; there’s the food to bake, the house to look cute, the parties to go to, and Build-a-Bear! You know, the more that I do, the more I complain about all that I have to get done or all that I did get done. I complain, and I complain, and I complain. As I look around, pretty much everybody is joining me in harmony on that; right?—yes?
Well, I recently sat down with Tricia Goyer. She’s an author, speaker, and one of my close friends. What she had to say kind of pricked my heart on this complaining and grumbling that I’ve seen go on in my life. She started noticing complaining in her own life and, actually, in her family. She set out to change those habits in one year. It was a great conversation—very helpful to me! So I hope that it’s helpful to you also.
Here’s my conversation with Tricia Goyer, as she explains the dynamics of her household and how it’s really a hotbed for a lot of complaining and grumbling.
Tricia: Well, we have 11 people in our house. [Laughter] There is a lot of grumbling!
Michelle: That is a lot!
Tricia: John and I—we have grandma there, who has just turned 90; and then we have—19 and down—6 kids. Then we had Nathan; which, now, he has his own apartment; but he was living there when we did the grumble-free journey.
We adopted the younger seven. There’s been a lot of anger, and issues, and stuff with them; but we’ve overcome so much of that! We don’t have those angry outbursts anymore, but there was just a lot of grumbling—like I would tell someone to go do their chores and, “Ugg!”—they grumble and they’re stomping in there.
Tricia: I tell them something else, and they’re rolling their eyes. You know, every time I put dinner down, someone’s complaining about it. Really, we just got to the point we were like, “We need to do something.”
John and I had been talking about this before; and so we said, “I think this is the time to talk to them.” We just said, “We think we want to go a year without grumbling.” Some kids are like, “Okay!”; some kids were like, “There is no way that’s going to happen!” They were grumbling about not having to grumble. [Laughter]
Michelle: How did you describe “grumbling”? Because grumbling, for a 15-year-old, is different than grumbling for a 6-year-old. How did you guys go, “Okay, so this is what you all are doing”?
Tricia: Right. When we first sat down/the very first time, we started memorizing, “Do everything without grumbling or complaining.” I said: “Grumbling——it’s not just the words. It is the eye rolls; it is the complaining; it is making fun of something if mom tells you to do something.
Tricia: “I mean, it’s just all that.”
One of the kids said, “Oh! Well, I whine.” Then, someone else said, “Well, I complain.” Then they started each identifying themselves, which I was so surprised, instead of pointing the finger at the other person.
I am like, “Well, let’s get a white board.” It was totally impromptu. We got a white board, and we wrote each person and their grumbling style. They were like: “Mom! You gripe at us.” I was like, “You’re right.” I’m known to gripe—like, “Pick up your shoes! How can you leave the living room like this?!”
Tricia: It’s just that constant—that’s grumbling, too. I think I’m really directing my children, but I’m not; I’m just complaining.
Tricia: You need to have a plan if you’re training and directing them. Really, I was just grumbling.
All of us wrote on the board; and then at dinner that night, they were like, “Show Dad the board!!” [Laughter] We were all talking about ourselves. That really helped, even from the beginning, letting each one know what they’re prone to do. Some will not like outwardly grumble, but they might pull into themselves; they’ll withdraw. They kind of like complain inwardly, like, “I’m just going to go to my room,”—like that type of thing.
Each person knew what their style was and how to watch. We made sure they knew: “This is not for you to point out in other people.
Tricia: “This is for you to catch yourself.” I think that was really important; because otherwise, everyone would be grumbling about everyone grumbling, and we wouldn’t get anywhere.
Michelle: Right. That is fascinating to me! I never thought of a grumbling style.
Michelle: I never thought that; because I know I grumble, but how do I grumble? That’s fascinating there—like you said—there are so many other ways. You can turn into yourself; you can eye roll.
Where does that come from?—that seed in our heart? Did you guys talk that through with them?—
Tricia: Yes, absolutely.
Michelle: —where that was coming from?
Tricia: Well, at first, I thought, “Okay, we’re going to do this year; and we’re going to memorize these verses and do these activities. And then, everyone is going to get better.” Pretty soon, I realized, “No one is changing.”
We were more aware of it; but then it was me looking at myself like, “Where did that come from?” One of the things I looked at was like, even, how I was raised. My parents didn’t fight—my mom and my step-dad—but it was stuff like, “Oh, I wish we had money to go on vacation,” or “It must be nice to get a new car.” You know, just that discontent, where we never had enough.
Michelle: It was like a passive—
Michelle: —“The grass is always greener on the other side”; but it’s a passive grumbling.
Michelle: What were some of the things that you did with your kids? I know you had mentioned a Bible verse—memorizing. That first month, or that couple of months, is hard when you’re trying to change a habit!
Michelle: Because that’s basically what you’re doing; you’re changing a habit, and you’ve been in this habit for a long time. All of a sudden, you have to start pulling that habit in and changing it. What else did you do?
Tricia: So one of the things I thought is we would have a gratitude jar. If anyone was grumbling, they would, instead of grumbling, they would have to change and write something they were grateful for. It sounds like a great idea.
Michelle: It does!
Tricia: The first time one of the girls—she was 12 at the time—I said, “You need to go do your chores, please.” She said, “I don’t want to do my chores.” She had some excuse why she didn’t want to. I said, “Well, you’re going to have—because you’re grumbling, you’re going to have to go write a gratitude.” “I don’t want to write a stupid gratitude!!” [Laughter]
I was like, “Oh, my goodness!” I am in her room; by the time I follow her downstairs to where the jar is in our kitchen, she had to write nine gratitudes. She kept grumbling; and I kept saying, “That’s another gratitude.” It was not calming the situation; it was provoking her. By the time she got down there, I am like, “You have to write it or you’re going to go to bed right after dinner.” “FINE! I’ll write the gratitudes!” She scribbled something and threw them in the jar.
I like, “Okay; obviously, that did not work.” [Laughter] It’s a great idea, but I realized later what we did with the gratitude jar wasn’t when we were already feeling thankful—so maybe, after our morning devotions/after we’ve prayed and thanked God for something—then I’m like, “Let’s write something in the gratitude jar.” It was like capturing those moments when they’re already leaning toward gratefulness. Everyone was excited; they were writing their gratitudes. Later/I mean, weeks later, we would pull them out and remember what things we were grateful for. Not only—I mean, we did want to try to limit the grumbling—but really, growing the gratitude kind of replaced the grumbling. That really made a difference.
Then, just probably four months in, my grandma ended up breaking her back. For a while, I’m like: “I don’t even have time to think about this. We just have to help Grandma.”
Michelle: “Let’s put it on hold.
Tricia: “Let’s put it on hold.”
Michelle: “I want to start grumbling.”
Tricia: Yes, exactly! I mean, I was having to get up in the night with her, because she has dementia. She couldn’t remember her back was broken, so she would try to get out of the bed. You know, every time she got up, we had to put a back brace on. It was like, “I don’t even have time to think about doing this!”
But the amazing thing was that God probably used that more than anything! Here Grandma was—she has a broken back—can’t even use the potty chair most of the time, because it hurt her back so much to get out of bed—but she would be singing there, praising Jesus—praisingJesus.
I remember—our school room is right next to the bedroom. The girls were like: “What’s that? That’s Grandma!” You know, she’d just been home from the hospital a couple of days. She was just praising Jesus like life is perfect, and she has no problems in the world. She had trained herself, through the years—she had hardwired herself for praise. When things got tough, that’s what she defaulted to.
It wasn’t like she was grumbling and complaining, which she had every right—she had a broken back, and she couldn’t get out of bed—but she was praising God. So then, after, I realized/I’m like, “I was thinking I didn’t have time for this. God was like: ‘Let Me show you! This is an example greater than any of those ideas that you thought would work.’”
I had a phone call this morning. I was late to work because I received a phone call from a dear, dear lady. She has been praying for me through this week. This has been a hard week for me—some significant losses in my life. She said: “What’s your verse that you’re leaning on this week, Michelle? What are you praising God for? What is that verse?—and does it have praise in it?—because you’re supposed to be praising God.”
I am just like: “Oh, Miss Susie.
Tricia: “Oh, my goodness!”—yes.
Michelle: “I don’t want to be praising God right now.” She goes, “That’s not an option, and you know it.” It’s like, “You’re right; it’s not an option. That’s—okay; thank you for reminding me.” I had been working through some verses, but she had better verses for me.
Tricia: Yes; it was just such a good example.
For me, the things that I complain about are usually like a messy house/noisy kids. Halfway through the year, I’m like: “I just need—instead of letting those/the frustrations go over and over in my mind, which is like inward grumbling that may not even be coming out—but that inward frustration of, “The house is always messy,”—it’s like: “You know what? We have a house! These kids have a home!
Tricia: “There are shoes all over, but we have shoes!” So even—I mean, just this week/just today, I’ll see something and I’m like: “Ugg! This child left this,” or “…broke this,” or “…did this.” [Laughter] And it’s like: “You know what? God is at work! And eternity—like we’re working on their hearts—eternity is what matters; it’s not the stuff.”
It is in that moment—when you’re feeling frustrated, when you’re feeling down, when you’re feeling discouraged—like turning your mind around and: “It’s not going to help if I grumble. It helps nothing. It doesn’t help me; it doesn’t help the kids.”
But if I start praising God, stepping over the shoes—
Michelle: It feels good!—it feels good to grumble sometimes.
Tricia: —you know—yes—
Michelle: I’m sorry! [Laughter]
Tricia: —it almost is like this power; but then, afterwards, you feel defeated—
Michelle: Yes, true!
Tricia: —especially when I’m grumbling at the kids. They will sometimes jump to attention, and all of a sudden pick stuff up; because I’m like grumbling. But then, afterwards, no one feels good about it.
Tricia: I don’t feel good about it; they don’t feel good about it.
Tricia: For a while there, I was so grumbly, that one of the girls would get up—there are three who share a bedroom upstairs; teenagers—and they’d say, “Go check and see how Mom is doing today.” [Laughter]One would come down to see my attitude, which is a problem, when like some days I don’t let things bother me; and some days I’m grumbling and complaining.
It really wasn’t just me trying to help the kids; it was me really working on my heart and “How do I even approach them, and help them, and guide them, and model for them?”
Michelle: Well, it sounds like what you’re also modeling for them, as a side note, not just grumbling, but some empathy.
Michelle: Because they were realizing: “Oh, Mom’s complaining today; something’s not quite right.
Michelle: “We’ve got to go check on her. We have to make sure that she’s okay.”
Michelle: That’s Tricia Goyer in Part One of our conversation about grumbling and complaining, where she’s talking about really being able to look at some of this grumbling and complaining and understanding empathy in it and how we care for others.
When we come back, we’re going to take a look at how to get past that tattle-tale phase of grumbling and complaining and really getting down to the brass tacks. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I’m talking with Tricia Goyer today about a grumble-free year. Have you thought about a grumble-free year? I’ll tell you, after this conversation with Tricia Goyer, I just might make this my resolution for 2020. You know, maybe you might want to consider that, too. Here’s Part Two of my conversation with Tricia Goyer.
Michelle: When someone would grumble or complain, how did that play out in the house? I mean, were you having someone grumbling/complaining over here while someone else would say: “Hey! So-and-so is…” I mean, was there any tattle-taling going on?
Tricia: Well, we told them they couldn’t.
Michelle: Oh, okay; that’s good.
Tricia: We told them: “You have to catch yourself. Don’t tell on each other.” I just knew that’s all it would be all day; they would just be telling on everyone else.
What I tried to do—after a couple of weeks, I’m like: “Just try to control yourself. Change your attitude.” What I realized, though—if I started praising them when they didn’t grumble, that worked a lot better than pointing out when they did;—
Tricia: —because there were times I’m like, “That sounds like grumbling,” or I would say something like that.
But if I started praising them—the one daughter, who would always grumble about her chores—who was the most difficult child we had—one day she was in there, and she was wiping down the kitchen counter. The kitchen’s a mess—I mean, we have a lot of people; there are always dishes and stuff everywhere. But this one part of the counter she had wiped down. I’m like: “Wow! You are so mature. You did such a great job wiping down that corner of the counter!”
Before, I would have been like: “You missed this,” “You forgot this,” “Don’t forget this.” Instead, I went in and just started praising her. All of a sudden, she like perks up; she starts wiping down the rest. She was moving stuff and she’s wiping stuff down!
Tricia: And then, the more I caught her doing that—she would say, “Mom! Come look at the kitchen!” I would go in there and say: “Wow! You are so mature now.”
She was the one who grumbled the most about her chores; now, she’s the one that does the best job on the kitchen. In fact, I’m so glad when it’s her day—her day is Saturday—because the kitchen gets clean/ cleaner than the rest of the week.
Tricia: It was me catching her and praising her.
The kids called me out on that; because before—when I would say: “You didn’t do this,” or “What about this?”—they would say, “You never say, ‘Thank you,’” or ‘You never say we’re doing a good job,”—because I’m always/you know, I’m running around, trying to get stuff done, making sure they get their chores done.
Now, I really try, every time I see them doing their chore: “Thank you for doing that.” You can just see that their attitude changes, and they perk up a little bit; because we all like to be thanked, and we all like to be appreciated—just being thankful and having gratitude for what they’re doing.
The other day, we all went to Bible study. On the way home, I realized like no one fought and argued the whole ten-minute ride. [Laughter] That’s pretty bad!!—I’m excited about ten minutes that no one fought and argued. [Laughter] I’m like, “Guys!” when we stopped the van; I’m like: “You guys didn’t fight or argue all the way! Great job! You guys are really maturing.” They are like, “Oh,” and they all got out of the car.
So just trying to catch when they’re doing the right thing—or when they say, “Thank you,” or when they’re grateful; or when they’re showing gratitude—it’s like, “Okay, this makes a difference.” It makes a bigger change, I think, than trying to catch them grumbling.
Michelle: Well, and it sounds like it was a mind flip, also, for you—
Michelle: —to be intentional about praising them and thanking them for who they are and what they are doing, and not necessarily looking out for what you can correct—
Michelle: —but training them that way—training them in a positive light.
Tricia: And it’s more effective—like everyone—it doesn’t really help them if you’re grumbling and complaining when they don’t do things right. Then they feel down about themselves. I mean, sometimes, they might try a little bit harder; but when you’re praising them when they do do something right, they love that. They love to know that they’re doing a good job and that mom’s noticing them/dad’s noticing them. John and I—we both try to catch them when they’re doing something right. That, probably, has been the biggest thing in our house that has made them have positive changes.
Michelle: Did you guys have like a chart or something that you were putting checkmarks by different people’s names or like to keep track of things? Did you guys do that at all?
Tricia: Yes, one of the things—I have a friend, who’s a life coach. She really helped me with this, because I feel like I’m stuck—like I’m supposed to be working on this, but I feel like I’m always stuck on all the things that are wrong.
She said: “This is an activity for you. Get a piece of paper, and fold it in half. On one-half of the fold, write all of the things that are going wrong, and then”—you know, after I had that list, it’s like 20 things. I’m like, “I could keep going,”—[Laughter]—she was like, “Twenty’s fine. On the other side of the fold, write, for each thing, write one small change that can happen.”
So: “The house is always a mess,”—I could help the kids organize so we have a good chore system. “I’m tired of being overweight,”—I could start getting up and walking for 30 minutes. It was all the positive changes. She said: “The first change or the first step might not be the right one, or maybe needs to be altered a little bit; but actually, get your brain thinking in the right direction.”
I actually spent like 20 minutes and made a chore chart. The older girls and the younger kids each rotate through different things. The older rotate between the living room, their upstairs bathroom, and the kitchen. Every day, one does the living room, one cleans the kitchen, and one cleans the bathroom. I laminated it, put it up there, and it’s been there for two-and-a-half years; and it has worked.
Michelle: That’s really neat.
Okay, so what did you see God do in your household in that year?
Tricia: Yes, that is such a good question. There were some months I’m like: “I don’t even know if we’re changing at all! I can’t see anything!” [Laughter]
Michelle: I bet!
Tricia: But when I started going back and working on the book—editing it, looking at different chapters—I’m like, “We have changed.” I realized, “Oh, this child used to grumble every time; now, she doesn’t.” Just different attitude things that I saw with the kids—I realized: “Oh! That person’s not doing that anymore.”
But I think the biggest realization was we had gone/all of us had gone to the mall for Build-a-Bear Day—
Tricia: —where you do $1 per your age. We were like: “This will be fun! We’ll all get a bear!” The line took forever; I thought, “Maybe a couple of hours,”—no!—nine hours later
Michelle: Oh, my goodness!
Tricia: Nine hours later!
Tricia: We were there for nine hours. Kids were getting snacks; we were running around. I’m like, “I will take you and go buy you any bear you want at Walmart.” [Laughter] But, no! They wanted the Build-a-Bear; they were like there for the Build-a-Bear. They stuck it through.
So we get there, and the last—we were at the threshold; like we were the next ones to go in—me and all this group of kids—after being there all day. We were hungry; we were tired. I could see that the manager came out and was talking with the security guards. I was like, “Oh, no!” The manager came over; and I’m like, “Are we going to be able to get a bear?” You could just tell something was going on.
Tricia: There is this huge line still behind us. The manager was like: “Ma’am, the mall closes in one hour; we have to get all these people out of here. This is taking a long time. Everyone will get a bear, but you’re not going to get it stuffed,”—which is like the whole thing about Build-a-Bear!
Tricia: So after waiting—and we are, literally, the next ones in—like we were on the threshold.
Tricia: So one of the littlest girls started crying. Some of the kids were like: “Let us go in! Make it stop at them [people behind them]!” [Laughter]
I’m like—in my mind, I’m like, “Grumble-free”; because we had been working on this. I said: “Guys! This is our opportunity! Remember the grumble-free year? When we’re tired/when we’re exhausted—like that’s when we’re most prone to grumble. So let’s turn this around. Let’s make it like, ‘We are the first ones to get flat bears!’” [Laughter]
So then I’m like, “Which one do you want?!” They started picking them out, and there was still like a little frustration; but there were like people behind us in line, cussing out the manager. [Laughter]
Michelle: I bet so!
Tricia: I was like: “Let’s have good attitudes! Let’s show—I mean, they’re tired, too.”
Tricia: So we went in there and, then, in the car, we did the “Best Day Ever” video and showed on Facebook Live—like: “Look at our flat bears!!” We made a joke out of it.
Tricia: Later/a couple weeks later, John took them back to the mall; and they were able to fill those bears. It was in that moment [of disappointment] where, I mean, if I would have grumbled or complained, all of the kids would have just melted down—
Tricia: —because we were already tired. We had been there all day; but it was like, “We can turn this around.”
Just that moment, I’m like: “Oh, my goodness! This has made a difference; because we’ve been working on it, and talking about it, and what to do differently when you’re tired, and exhausted, and hungry.” Because it had been part of our vocabulary and our language for—what?—nine months at this point, we knew that we could turn it around; and they did. So that was like, “Okay, this is so different.” If that had happened, like week one, it would have been a disaster! [Laughter] So it just made me realize, “Anything that we need to train our kids on—like with persistent work—it can make a difference.”
Michelle: Well, and it shows the power of God.
Michelle: This is something that you saw in His Word. You were like: “Okay; well, He’s convicting my heart. I better teach my kids this.”
Michelle: And you guys were just like, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do,”—and step one, step two, step three, step four—God is faithful.
Tricia: Yes, He is.
Michelle: Through your persistence and through you guys training your children, He is faithful. Now, do you still have grumble-free kids?
Tricia: They’re not grumble-free, but we are a lot better! I would say we are a lot better. And usually, I will say—because sometimes, it’s stuff like my little guy still can’t tie his shoes: “I can’t get these shoes on!” I’m like: “That kind of sounds like a grumble. How can you turn that around and ask for help?” So he’ll say, “Can you help me with my shoes?” It’s still making them aware of it.
Tricia: But I’m not like getting onto them like: “You’re grumbling! We have a book about this! You can’t grumble anymore.” [Laughter] It’s more just like maybe redirecting—a lot of it is: “Can you ask for help? Tell me about what you’re feeling bad about.”
Michelle: That’s a good point.
Tricia: So it like opens up the communication without picking on them, because they grumble. And then, sometimes, I still grumble. They’re like, “Mom!!” And I’m like: “Oh, yeah, right! Sorry!”—which is apologizing. I have to go back to them over, and over, and over again: “I am so sorry I was so grumbly this morning! Will you forgive me?”
Tricia: And that was a huge thing, too, because all of us were playing on an even playing field. It wasn’t me against them, or me training them; it was like, “I am working on this, too.”
Michelle: Wow! What a great reminder from Tricia Goyer on grumbling and complaining. How often do you grumble and complain? You know, I think, as we read the Bible, we think of the Israelites and how they grumbled and complained. And they get sort of a—I don’t want to say they get a pass, because they really don’t get a pass—but that’s who we think about.
But Jesus spoke about this, too. He said, “Do not grumble among yourselves.” And later on in the New Testament, Paul spoke against this; so did James and Jude. This is a bad habit to be mindful of. It’s not just a habit; it’s really a sin against God. You know, as Tricia had to go back to her children and ask for forgiveness, we need to go back to God and ask for forgiveness.
You know, as you look forward into the near future, maybe this is a New Year’s resolution. Maybe 2020 needs to be the grumble-free year for you; maybe this is the year that we turn our complaining into joy and thankfulness for what God has done. I want to leave you with this verse—it’s a verse by King David, in Psalm 68:19: “Blessed be the Lord. Day after day, He bears our burdens. God is our salvation.” You know, therefore, we have no need to complain or grumble in any circumstance. He’s got our backs, for now and for always.
Hey! Coming up next week, we’re going to be talking about preparing for Christmas with your pocketbook. Just how are you planning to pay for, you know, the remote-controlled helicopter that Joey asked for?—or the drone that your big brother asked for?—or maybe it’s the designer bag you asked for! We’re going to talk about that and more next week, so I hope you can join us for that.
Thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, who is grumbling no more; thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator, all who are not complaining anymore either.
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