Category: Doodles

Practical Tools to Help Stop Complaining in its Tracks

I have had several requests both in comments and emails for practical ways to apply a complaining fast (which I talked about in this post.) Our family is not yours and I would say the best thing to do is pray about it and ask God for wisdom before you start. The following are what work for us.
My kids and I are all visual learners–poor hubby is the only audio in the household. 🙂 This makes visual tools helpful and even necessary when trying to teach them–especially when trying to weed out something as deeply rooted as complaining. I have several reminders that I sketch out when the complaining starts. (I guess that I should also mention that avoiding tv is a great way to start–discontent is spread by tv commercials big time. We don’t have tv so it isn’t as much trouble though magazines are a discontent trigger around here.)

1. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

This applies as much to complaints as it does to antiques. You have likely heard it applied before –“Eat your vegetables, there are little children in your favorite country here who would love what you have.” As cliche as it is it is very true. You don’t have to point it out in the same manner that your parents did but pointing out that their best friend lives where there is NO SNOW is a very good way to remind the child who suddenly got snow when they wanted spring that they are blessed.

Finding a blessing in each complaint is an excellent way to go about this and puts the burden on the complainer instead of on the one trying to teach non-complaining (and there is no point in trying to teach it to your kids if you are a complainer–the whole plank in the eye thing applies here.) I have my kids draw their complaints and find five ways that their complaints could be considered blessings. (In fact, think about it, often the things you hate worst about another person are the things that you love most about them.)

2. Diagram your attitude.

In general, complaining stems from a selfish attitude. (Poor me/it’s all about me.) Yesterday we had a little lesson about this that helped my oldest visualize it and see why we are to focus on loving others instead of loving ourselves. In that case I used Rachel and all that she had complained about that day but for her sake I will use Alexander as an example. As you know from the story not only does Alexander have a terrible, no good, very bad day, but he also complains about it to everyone.


Now some of the things that happened to him were his fault and some of them weren’t but all of them made him grumpy because of his focus. Instead of thinking about others and how they were feeling he was focused on himself and how each thing made him feel.


What happens when you are focused on yourself and how things make you feel is that you start to collapse in on yourself. You stop thinking about others and how they are feeling and think more and more about yourself. It is the very reason complaining leads to depression. The more you coplain the more you self-focus, the more you self-focus the more you have to complain about .

What happens if you turn around each of these complaints and make the best of each?


Sure these things seem goody-two-shoes but this IS the way we are called to respond as Christians. And look what happens when those attitudes change:


We grow outward! Instead of collapsing in on our selves there is plenty of room to expand out towards others. You can always think more about others–there is only so much room for you to focus on your self. The cool thing is that when I was doing this illustration with Rachel I didn’t notice the collapsing/expanding part–she noticed it and it hit home.3. Count your blessings.

This one is kind of obvious. Sure, you may have something that seems like a curse but what about your blessings? Complainers tend to focus on the bad stuff and often need to make plenty of “thankful lists” before they break the habit. This is how God did it for me. Every time I started to complain I would battle it with a praise. After a while the complaining habit broke and it was replaced with a habit of praise. With my kids I have them write or draw it–and once they get started it is hard to stop.

4. Dying to self.

John 12:23-25

This illustration goes even further as we applied it to our life in Christ. We are called to die to ourselves and Christ uses a seed as an example. So, I used a seed to demonstrate this same concept.

Now, I grew up on a large space of land and we had lots of oak trees. That means we had TONS of acorns. A few of the acorns made it into the ground each year but more of them were stored up to be eaten or rot. Some acorns that were left behind would start to put forth shoots and grow roots, others would just stay acorns. My brother and I used to play all kinds of things with acorns and, in the spring, more often than not would find rotten ones full of worms.

The other ones, the ones that put forth shoots soon were no longer acorns. They didn’t rot at all instead they grew into tiny trees, and the ones that really persevered would grow into huge oak trees.

So for an acorn to stay an acorn meant it would eventually rot and get worms but the one that gave up being an acorn became a mighty oak tree. An acorns such a small, little thing but it is full of an amazing potential if it is willing to give up being an acorn. The same applies to us.

When we are caught up in ourselves and complaining all the time we are like a acorn trying to stay an acorn. When we stop looking at ourselves and think about others we can grow.

The Car Game

“All right. All three of you are spelunking. You each have some granola bars, some water, 20 ft. of rope and a flashlight. You are about 10 ft. into the cave and you hear a human shout ahead. You cannot tell which of the four caves ahead of you it is in. What do you do? ”

To any geek this sounds like a typical D&D campaign, or at least part of one. It isn’t–it is our car game. Instead of dice deciding–since the game master mom is driving I try to consider their solutions and decide whether it is possible that it might work. At each decision there is a chance that something will go wrong or “rocks fall everybody dies” but in general this is a much simpler (and much less deadly) version of the geeky game and one that fosters story telling and problem solving.

The kids enjoy coming up with possible solutions and have many opportunities to try again and test different theories. In this case it took about 20 minutes (half the drive home from Grandma’s) to come up with a solution to the problem. They managed to find and save the fellow spelunker who had fallen into a hole about 70 ft into the cave.

On the same car ride they managed to rescue a kite from a tree and find a way to get home should our car stop five miles from town (they were able to figure out where the car was stuck based on the direction and and chose the person who was closest to come and get them.)

The game is very similar to the role playing people tend to do with younger children but geared towards building their communication and problem solving skills ( most of the “rocks fall everybody dies” endings occur when the person planning isn’t clear about their solution and leaves out vital details like holding breath or turning on flashlights.)

I got to thinking about it (and playing it) today after talking to the kids about the passing of D&D game designer Gary Gargax while wandering around Borders Books today.

Saturday Photo Hunt:Wooden + If: Multiple

Somehow my two worlds collided and I ended up with an image that worked for both Saturday PhotoHunt–once again not a straight photo but a photo of a sketch I did of a wood, Fairytale Wood to be exact. It also fits rather well with the Multiple theme of Illustration Friday, so, there it is. Not a perfect drawing–used my watercolor pencils on regular paper–I didn’t plan on using water, then I decided to do a wash and well, its all right. I’m still tickled at the idea.

Little Red Riding Hood planned on going to Grandma’s house yet the multiple other choices tempted her down a different path.  In the future she would be known as “Red the Giant Killer”.

Close up of the signs.

A Day in Life 16: When Learning is a Choice plus Doodle-a-day 2-19-08

When something is a requirement it is hard for the rebellious nature not to rebel. When learning is a choice then the rebellious will choose it because they really do want to learn. And when a person really does want to learn something that person will find a way.

  • When we went to the library last week my son asked for Hooked on Phonics: level 1, my daughters asked if they could get books to read. I reluctantly agreed only because we pay quite a lot in library fines because they forget which they got out.
  • Before bed my son read a book with me because he wanted to learn to read it. He also asked if he could play the Hooked on Phonics game in the morning. I told him he had to get his work done first (Mondays he throws all their dirty laundry down the step, move it to the hall where he has to sort it, plus put away all the pots ad pans and plastic items from the dishwasher.)
  • He woke at 8:30 and before he got his breakfast he had done the dirty laundry, not only the upstairs but also all the dirty laundry from the bedroom and the bathroom and he did everyone’s dishes, not just his own. He then came and told me and asked if he could play his game. (He has played it before and knows the answers pretty well but he is a cautious child and wants to REALLY know things before moving on.)
  • He spent an hour playing the Hooked on Phonics game which moves you through reading all sorts of three letter words then asked to go outside after he ate breakfast.
  • He went off to visit our elderly neighbor, who loves having company and happily reads him books, plays restaurant with him, and watches as he builds amazing towers with her set of blocks.
  • He spent hours playing happily in his room with his magnetics, exploring the world of magnetism and time outside with one of his plastic swords fighting off the monstrous trees that have invaded our backyard in search of fair princesses who need rescued or pretending he is a tiny little man inside my father’s back hoe moving sand around our fire pit and covering and rediscovering matchbox cars.
  • He asked to play Number Rings with me (a math game put out by Discovery Toys that requires the players to add, subtract, multiply, and divide 3 dice in order to fill in all the numbers from 1-18.) He then proceeded to beat me with only a little help with multiplication from me.
  • At bedtime he read If You Give a Pig a Pancake with only little help from me.
  • The next morning he he asked if he could do his school work. He then proceeded to get out all his workbooks and do page after page of his phonics workbook–effectively teaching himself all the long a spellings and reading them on his own. This after spending some time outside and realizing it was too cold and putting away 20 items in his room so he could go outside in the first place.

This is the same child who, when told he HAS to do something gets very worked up and can’t possibly get anything out of it because he is too busy being upset. Each of my children are different and he is my methodical self-motivated child. This child would be in trouble constantly in school because he can NOT sit still and can NOT be quiet (he makes noise and moves around all through our church time and reading time although if he is engrossed in a project he can be still). When he works on workbook pages he talks constantly and then gets up and runs around the house jumping off the furniture and shouting cock-a-doodle doo (his latest noise discovery.)

Doodle-a-Day:2-18-08 plus some thoughts on unschooling

When I was a kid I was fascinated with the outdoors. I would spend all summer outside,carrying a backpack full of essentials including my favorite doll, a Tupperware cup full of homemade lemonade, colored pencils, book, and notebook. I am sure I had a first aide kit of sorts in there as well as some natural books and other things that seemed necessary to being out in the woods.Read More