St. Paul has an exhortation to the Philippians that is so good we should memorize it.
No doubt one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is guiding children as they learn to deal with life’s frustrations and build a habit of finding healthy ways to express their disappointments. Along the path of that major life lesson is a whole lot of whining.
Equally difficult is dealing with the near-constant bickering that comes along with siblings learning important social skills and virtues such as patience, understanding, and self-control.
There is no shortcut to get around the grace and work that these skills require. But one Bible verse — even better if the kids have it memorized — can be a constant help.
When big brother starts criticizing little sister, or vice versa, a simple question can help re-route the conversation: “Honey, are you thinking of what’s worthy of praise?” When things didn’t turn out as they hoped: “Dear, let’s try to focus on what’s been excellent.” When they are frustrated or angry with just about anything: “Sweetie, let’s try to think of what has pleased us lately.”
Some of my kids do, in fact, have this verse memorized already. And that in itself hasn’t put an end to the up-to-my-eyeballs level of whining and bickering. But I feel certain that constantly drawing their minds back to this verse will eventually help them form a habit of the heart. Anyway, that’s my hope.
What I love in particular about the advice in this verse is that it’s not directed merely at a change of behavior (outward behavior). It’s directed at changing our thoughts. That goes much deeper, and helps us to really point our whole selves toward becoming the creatures Christ wants us to be — with all the joy, and the lack of bickering, that comes with that!
From St. Paul, writing to the Philippians, Chapter 4, Verse 8:
Finally, beloved, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.