I exhaled loudly as the stoplight turned a definite red.
“What’s wrong?” my daughter asked.
“That guy was so busy texting he made me miss the light! I wish people would just get off their phones and drive already.”
“Remember what you said about complaining?” she asked.
I chuckled, disarmed by her apt assessment. “Of course. My bad.”
“Guess what?! You get to come up with three things you’re thankful for!” she said, a note of amusement in her voice.
“Three things…” I murmured thoughtfully.
We recently instituted this “three things” rule in our family as a way to curb the complaining. If someone utters a complaint, the complainer has to list three things to be thankful for in order to reset the tone of the conversation.
About a month ago, I recognized that I had a chronic complaining problem.
I unwittingly complained about all sorts of trivial (and not so trivial) issues—Distracted drivers, the weather, distracted drivers, politics, distracted drivers, messy rooms, daylight savings, poor leadership and whatever else (like distracted driving) happened to irritate me at the moment.
When my children complain, it’s usually about something I’ve already learned to endure. As a young child, I used to hate hiking. My parents wouldn’t allow me to dictate what we did or didn’t do as a family, so we hiked whether I enjoyed it or not. I am thankful they forced me to participate because I now take great pleasure in walking, hiking, and exploring. When my own children make rumblings about tired feet or body temperature, I get irritated because I want them to appreciate the sights and the exercise. It’s not as bad as they think it is, so why are they complaining?
Long car trips—once so boring in my childhood—are quite enjoyable now. We have audiobooks, games, movies in the car, and all sorts of fun things to look at outside. Apparently, colorful hills, long trains, and large mountains are only cool for a limited time, because after four or five hours, complaints start seeping in from the backseats.
“Are we in Arizona yet?”
“Is it time to stop?”
On a subconscious level, I tend to believe the things I complain about (i.e. texting drivers, politics, immorality) are of greater importance than “little” annoyances (i.e. eating vegetables, waiting in line, walking, etc) and therefore worthy of complaint…
Note from Elihu: This latest article ties in with the beginning of my series on complaining. In the next article, I will share some things I learned when I chose not to voice a single complaint for 24 hours!