I’d like to add to that title, “Zip Your Lips and Lower Your Expectations.”

No mom wants to raise her kids to be complaining, hard-to-please adults. And yet, moms (myself included) can unknowingly train their children to be nit picky complainers. How? By the example we set when our expectations are not met.

Frank Sinatra famously sang “I did it my way,” but for many of us, our theme song could be “I want it my way.” Everything and everyone should meet or exceed my expectations, and when they don’t, I let the world know. Either with direct, loud complaints or indirect sighs, eye rolls, and stony silences. Or perhaps with a rant on social media or scathing review online.

Our children are taking all of this in. They see how we sigh and cross our arms when the grocery store clerk stops her work to chat for a moment with the customer ahead of us. Little ears hear us complain about how the teacher didn’t return our email within 24 hours or the coach didn’t play our child enough or the worship leader doesn’t sing the right songs or our neighbor’s lawn isn’t green enough to suit us. It’s as if noticing and announcing what doesn’t measure up to our standards becomes our hobby, like we are creating multiple Pinterest boards of complaints for each area of our life, each event we attend, every meal we eat, each person with whom we interact.

Like thirsty sponges, our kids’ hearts absorb our attitudes. They soak it all up, and then when life squeezes them by not meeting all their expectations, out flows whatever we’ve displayed, for better or for worse.

Today’s culture encourages entitlement and rudeness. As moms, we must intentionally counteract our culture’s powerful undertow toward selfishness by disciplining our hearts, minds, and tongues toward unselfishness. We must do more than lecture our children on being unselfish.  We cannot simply say “stop whining” while we ourselves continue to complain from the yacht. We need to zip our own lips and lower our unreasonable expectations.

We need to love other people more than we love our expectations and what we believe we are entitled to.

First Corinthians gives us some guidance in this area.

[verse reference=”1 Corinthians 13:4-5″]Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. (NLT) [/verse]

While the thirteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians is often read at weddings, the apostle Paul wasn’t actually writing about romantic love. He was writing to Christians who were struggling to love other people well. The first century Corinthian church members were putting their own interests ahead of anyone else’s, and they sought the spotlight, the best, the biggest piece of the pie. They, like us, weren’t especially good at loving other people like God loves us. So Paul teaches them, and us, what real love, agape love, God’s love looks like.

And real love is courteous and respectful even when expectations are not met. Real love doesn’t keep long lists of complaints and review them endlessly at the dinner table — or on Facebook.

If you want to be a positive mom who raises her children to not complain, here are three tips:

  1. Quit complaining with your mouth. Just stop. Use duct tape if necessary. To make yourself more aware of how often you complain, begin your day by wearing a colored rubber bracelet or hair band on your right wrist. The first time you complain, move the bracelet to your other wrist. Continue moving the bracelet each time you complain, whine, grumble, murmur, roll your eyes, sigh, etc. (Wow, who knew how much joy we were sucking out of each day?!) Aim each day to reduce the number of times you move the bracelet. Throw yourself a party when the bracelet stays in place all day long.
  2. Quit complaining with your mind and heart. When you feel the urge to complain and treat others irritably, take a deep breath instead and ask God, “What is my unrealistic picture of perfection that I think should happen here?” And then let that picture go! Behind every irritable, rude outburst is an unrealistic vision of perfection. Let it go! Pray for God to give you discernment and strength in this area because letting go of our cherished unrealistic expectations can be like separating a teenager from her phone.
  3. Quit complaining with your behavior. Discipline your conduct to act respectfully toward everyone even if they have let you down. There are times we do have valid complaints that we need to address; however, a valid complaint does not give you a valid excuse for rudeness. Train yourself to display courtesy, to not cut people off mid-sentence because you disagree with them, to not roll your eyes in disgust. Yes, true injustice arouses in us a godly anger that motivates us to take corrective action, but is it really a complaint-worthy injustice that the breakfast buffet line includes floppy bacon when you prefer crisp? Could you perhaps choose sausage instead and direct your energy toward injustices that break God’s heart?