Complaining; it is at the root of every homeschooling mother’s desire to tap into that box of wine by 3 p.m. Or Mike’s Cranberry Hard Lemonade…whatevers in your fridge chillin’.
Yes, I had a sucky Monday, which was not surprising because it’s impossible to start two weeks in a row off on the right foot. I’d like to not blame it on continuing to wake up before dawn and instead shift the blame to a horrible habit of complaining and whining that has already taken hold.
The kind of complaining that first gets you fired up and angry and emailing your husband expletives at work (and he has to question, “Are you just thinking these things or saying them to the children?” No, no honey, saving the sailor speak for just you.) It’s the kind of fussing that fuels more and more until no one is happy, everyone is short-tempered and the day is miserable.
And if I must be honest, it’s the type of complaining that wears me out and makes me question my homeschooling goals. It hurts to be told over and over that something I spend a ton of time and effort planing and organizing is bad. And while, when pressed, the children will admit to not really hating school, it still stings and forces me to wonder “Why don’t they love learning? Why aren’t they excited about what we’re covering? Why must it be SO HARD?”
Thankfully, yesterday is not everyday, in fact it’s not even most, or many days. But complaining and whining has been allowed around here for apparently too long and yesterday was the final straw. How do I break the habit of complaining?
I don’t think there is one magic cure-all, so it will definitely be an ongoing process. And first off, it starts with me, and my complaining. “Why aren’t you at your desk? Why didn’t you put your work in the box to be checked? Why do I need to keep repeating myself? blah, blah, blah…” I can spew complaints and sass at a mile a minute, and I feel very justified in doing so when the kids are breaking the rules, however my kids are picking up on my talk and throwing it right back at me. Granted, that is a behavior to be punished, but it would be a lot easier if I wasn’t teaching them the very habits we’re trying to curb.
Complaining is a habit not isolated to homeschooling children. How many “mature” adults in your life spend all their time complaining? I know people who have harped on the same problems for years and years; it’s all they can talk about, they feed off the attention. I’m sure you know a few martyrs. Nothing makes them happy, and frankly, it’s hard to be around them. They don’t want solutions, they just to hear the sound of their voice and sympathy. I don’t want my children to turn into such people! How could I stand to be around them?
My husband and I needed to outline very clear-cut rules for proper school behavior. Without them, it’s always a struggle of kids pushing and testing the boundaries of what is allowed. My husband amazed me last night by talking with the kids over dinner about our complaining habit by referencing the Mass readings from the last several weeks, especially Galatians 5:16-24, the Epistle from the 14th Sunday after Pentecost.
I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would.  But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,  Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,
 Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ’ s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Obviously, we glossed over some of the fornication and drunkenness parts, but focused on the fact that “wraths, quarrels, dissensions, etc.” are fruits of the flesh, or of the world, and that engaging in such things makes it hard to get to heaven, whereas fruits of the spirit include mildness, patience, and peace and draw us closer to God.
The next week’s Epistle also from Galatians adds
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying on another. Gal. 5:25-26
 For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. Gal. 6:8
You reap what you sow. Fruits of the spirit will yield a happier homeschool, whereas constant complaining, and other fruits of the flesh, will simply continue to wear us all down.
Of course the kids couldn’t argue with that. Our expectations were not arbitrarily picked to make their lives miserable. No, they were goals for our whole family to work towards, outlined by St. Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Ghost. We even discussed the proper way to approach difficult school work by also referencing St. Benedict’s rule:
If it happens that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a sister,
let her nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority with all meekness and obedience.
But if she sees that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the limit of her strength,
let her submit the reasons for her inability to the one who is over her
in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride, resistance, or contradiction.
And if after these representations the Superior still persists in her decision and command,
let the subject know that this is for her good, and let her obey out of love,
trusting in the help of God. -Chapter 68
With God, all things are possible, even the multiplication tables and long division.
So now, it’s a matter of working out an incentive or punishment system to help the kids, and ourselves, remember to stick with the fruits of the spirit and not slip back into the fruits of the flesh. Some suggestions I received via social media included doing extra chores, doing extra worksheets, giving the kids more say in their curriculum, empathy, time out, military school, and hard liquor. I’m leaning towards an incentive chart that will eventually allow us to all go out and get frozen yogurt, because currently I’m always looking for an excuse to eat some fro yo.
How do you discourage complaining?
Nice! I just did a post about complaining to/at those in ministry positions, and how discouraging it is. For me, I have found that the best way to “not complain” is to actually replace it with something nice to say. I try to give my children more compliments, and notice the good things they are doing. This helps set a nice tone. Well, that, and hard liquor in the back to school supplies 😉
After I saw your tweet yesterday, I went looking for a blogpost that I read on Complaining some time ago. (Here it is: http://psalm34-3.blogspot.com/2011/03/complaining.html)
it’s interesting…I grew up with a mom who complained a lot. And she never let us complain about anything — it was always about her. So, I’m kind of sensitive to complaining. My mother-in-law is a complainer and I see this quality in my oldest child. So, we try to curb it when we see it. I still have mostly smaller children, so the complaints are mostly, “I hate (insert dinner item) on my plate, it’s yucky.” or something like that. For the oldest, she likes to try and complain about her teachers at school, but my husband and I are quick to quash it when we hear her start. We’re not perfect, though, and it’s a struggle…sometimes the complaining goes on far too long before we are able to step in (because the more complaining you hear or do, the harder it is to pick it out). Good luck!!
Anyway, I really liked that blogpost and wanted to share.
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