In the family garden: weeding out junk behavior and growing concerns (part 1)

(This is the first post in a series on learning not to complain.)

I woke up this morning in the middle of a funny dream about a large family who were gathering for scriptures and one daughter and son who were arguing together. The daughter had a violin under her arm and was going to practice, and when doing her bow to begin practicing, bonked her head on the floor. In my dream, I thought that was so funny that her head could reach the floor, and so I “rewound” the dream in my head to watch that part over again!

With that image of children bickering and complaining in my head, I remembered some recent experiences I had that highlighted an important principle of family life: weeding out concerns and planting seeds of living without complaint.

My first recent experience was in our flower garden, when I went out to start some fall clean-up. Despite the sometimes dramatic changes of weather that we see in Utah in the fall–snow one day, sunshine and warm temperatures just days later–weeds had continued to grow. I have learned that if there is sunshine, there are weeds. They just grow all the time, practically year round! Our flowers might be dying, but the weeds will keep growing!

If anyone had a flower garden without weeds, it would be abnormal. Unheard of!

It appears that the same is true for family life. When family members live together, there are typically at least a few complaints (unless they have learned not to complain). Add in asking children to do work–particularly music practicing!–there is going to be some murmuring. It is normal. No need to be worried if a child complains about life. It is not the norm to have a child who doesn’t complain. (Don’t we all dream of that?)

I consider our family and how challenging it has been trying to get our children to practice their musical instruments. I wondered why it had to be something that came up for discussion sooooo much when they should have, by that point in their lives, known and remembered that in our family, we just do music. Period. They didn’t have to become professional musicians. It was just our milking cow: our way to learn discipline and work. Why did it have to be a fight?

But it was, day after day, week after week, month after month. Yet we persisted in explaining that yes, they had to practice. We weren’t always patient about it, as we were learning (as parents) these two principles: that murmuring is a normal, everyday “weed” in the family “garden,” and that when raising children, you can help to weed out complaining by:

  1. patiently listening to their concerns with love
  2. working with them to try to resolve concerns
  3. plant seeds of Christlike behavior by uncomplainingly living life and standing firm on established family policies while compassionately dealing with a child or spouse’s “junk behavior.”

“Junk behavior” is a phrase I learned in a positive parenting group I attended years ago. It describes the everyday “weed”-type behaviors that you can generally just ignore because they are just what we do as we learn more Christlike behaviors: complaining, defying, tantruming, bickering, etc.

I realized at some point in parenting that as Heavenly Father was raising me, I have to weed out work my own junk behaviors if I want to be able to teach my children to weed out their own junk behaviors. I can’t force them not to complain; I have to show them not to complain.

This reminds of me of how Heavenly Father is raising me. He gives me words in the scriptures to teach me the correct behavior, and then He gave me a brother, my Savior Jesus Christ, AND the Holy Ghost to show me how to apply those words.

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye konck; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

“For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and recieve the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3-5).


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